Hi.

Welcome to
Transactions with Beauty.
Pour yourself a cup of coffee or tea and relax. 
Thanks for being here.
And remember, 
you are required to make something beautiful.

- Shawna

 

 

August and No Time for Despair

August and No Time for Despair

It’s August, loves, and there is no time. No time for despair. “What counts is fire,” says Julia Fiedorczuk in the following poem. It’s time to call on each other to be perilously lovely, fiery, and strong. Let’s write poems that howl and rage now. Let’s not despair. (She says, howling, despairing). I have to admit, I find it hard right now to insist on beauty, to insist on flowers. But let’s continue. 

 

Relentlessly Craving

by Julia Fiedorczuk

poem, poem be strong
like a shock wave, Grieg’s Concerto in A Minor
put down roots, find the source, bloom, bear fruit
come to life, poem, I need your blood  

poem, poem be as perilously lovely
as the drunken woman in the painting by Munch
what counts are only the base colors, yellow, black, red
what counts is fire

there is a time for hope
and a time for despair  

what counts is fire
if you have no flesh
you do not know love
nor do you know death

poem, poem be in the sun
in the eye of the world
in the turning of bread into motion
in the constant decay that is the condition of all synthesis
in the blood

fire, be  

there is a time for hope
and a time for despair
what counts is fire and ice

poem, poem be like the dark night of the soul  
 

Translations from the Polish by Bill Johnston


{source: World Literature Today}

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Because, as the next poem says, it’s difficult to be yourself and see only as you can see, but yes, now is the time. Let us see exactly and perfectly and fiercely, loves. 

 

XXVI

by Fernando Pessoa

Sometimes, on days of perfect and exact light

When things have all the reality they can,
I ask myself slowly
Why I even attribute
Beauty to things.

Does a flower somehow have beauty?
Somehow a fruit has beauty?
No: they have color and form
And existence only.
Beauty is the name of something that doesn’t exist
I give to things in exchange for the delight they give me.
It means nothing.
Then why do I say, “Things are beautiful”?

Yes, even I, who live only to live,
Invisible, they come to meet me, 
Men’s lies in the face of things,
In the face of things that simply exist.

How difficult to be yourself and see only what you can!
 

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Things are difficult but there’s no disputing that the world is a beauty. There’s no denying that we’re living with, we’re witnessing from afar, more than a touch of hell. 

 

The World is a Beautiful Place

by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

The world is a beautiful place
to be born into
if you don’t mind happiness
not always being
so very much fun
if you don’t mind a touch of hell
now and then
just when everything is fine
because even in heaven
they don’t sing
all the time

The world is a beautiful place
to be born into
if you don’t mind some people dying
all the time
or maybe only starving
some of the time
which isn’t half bad
if it isn’t you

Oh the world is a beautiful place
to be born into
if you don’t much mind
a few dead minds
in the higher places
or a bomb or two
now and then
in your upturned faces
or such other improprieties
as our Name Brand society
is prey to
with its men of distinction
and its men of extinction
and its priests
and other patrolmen

and its various segregations
and congressional investigations
and other constipations
that our fool flesh
is heir to

Yes the world is the best place of all
for a lot of such things as
making the fun scene
and making the love scene
and making the sad scene
and singing low songs and having inspirations
and walking around
looking at everything
and smelling flowers
and goosing statues
and even thinking
and kissing people and
making babies and wearing pants
and waving hats and
dancing
and going swimming in rivers
on picnics
in the middle of the summer
and just generally
‘living it up’ 
Yes
but then right in the middle of it
comes the smiling
mortician

 

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A Brief For The Defense

by Jack Gilbert

Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies
are not starving someplace, they are starving
somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.
But we enjoy our lives because that’s what God wants.
Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not
be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not
be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women
at the fountain are laughing together between
the suffering they have known and the awfulness
in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody
in the village is very sick. There is laughter
every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,
and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.
If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.
If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,
we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.
We must admit there will be music despite everything.
We stand at the prow again of a small ship
anchored late at night in the tiny port
looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront
is three shuttered cafés and one naked light burning.
To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat
comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth
all the years of sorrow that are to come.

 

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There is sorrow everywhere. Simultaneously there are blossoms. What do we even do with that? I often ask myself. But I think Gilbert is right and that we are equally obligated to attend to beauty as we are to suffering and to the atrocities that take place in the world and in our communities. I say that and immediately think, well, easy for you to say, you're not the one suffering. As Ferlinghetti says, the world is a beautiful place if you're not the one half starving. Yet, music exists despite everything. And so I go back and forth and back and forth, no answers. I shuffle between: yes there is suffering, yes there is beauty. The world is heaven, the world is hell.

It's the poet's job, perhaps, to find miracles, to look for them in every minute of everyday, and in the light and in the dark.
 

Miracles

by Walt Whitman

Why, who makes much of a miracle?
As to me I know of nothing else but miracles,
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,
Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge of the water,
Or stand under trees in the woods,
Or talk by day with any one I love, or sleep in the bed at night
with any one I love,
Or sit at table at dinner with the rest,
Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,
Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive of a summer forenoon,
Or animals feeding in the fields,
Or birds, or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,
Or the wonderfulness of the sundown, or of stars shining so quiet
and bright,
Or the exquisite delicate thin curve of the new moon in spring;
These with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles,
The whole referring, yet each distinct and in its place.
To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,
Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,
Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with the same,
Every foot of the interior swarms with the same.
To me the sea is a continual miracle,
The fishes that swim – the rocks – the motion of the waves – the
ships with men in them,
What stranger miracles are there?

 

We must keep insisting that the world is a beautiful place, or we lose it, even when in it. That we are here at all is a miracle. Let's keep reminding each other. Because all of it is every minute. The misery and the joy, the miracles and the injustices. I used to think that things would eventually balance out, at least that. I’m not so sure right now, the balance is so terrifyingly lopsided. Which is why we have to work all that much harder to bring about good, and beauty, and truth. Especially truth. 

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