I have had a meaningful relationship with the work of the great poet: Adrianne Rich, for decades. She wrote emphatically on the passion of words “fitting over meaning like a skin”. I have always found her hope for the world to be inspirational.
Allow me to bring attention to her best work: a work of editorial anthology, “The Best American Poems of 1996”. In this work of curation, she highlights the fight we all work through to achieve a meaningful self respect in spite of the life we are provided by the structures of the world.
Case and point: the opening poem of the anthology: I am not a witness. This poem talks of the loss of the less fortunate through the execution system. It cries. It’s a listing of the final meals by it’s preparer, the prison cook. All the while, a cadence of sorrow in repeated remarks to what could be different in the world.
Then there is the poem: The Cancer Garden. This short poem sings to grit and hope in the cancer ward.
All of the poems reflect not just Rich’s ardor, but our own, should we look to the skies rather than to the end, or to profit, or to anything at all transient. She is a poet no longer with us, but dammit, she has dignity.
Two Pablos from Catalonia: Casals & Picasso
When I consider excellence in adversity, I think to the master cellist Pablo Casals. So good a man, he supported his whole symphony during the German occupation of Europe. Pablo Casal’s genius was myriad: he assessed the anatomy of the forearm in order to better commit ‘energy’ to the instrument and also took mission to teach others. Just a warm story of excellence in the adversity of WW2. A truly great man.
Picasso, on the other hand, was quite a dick. He was massively talented, but a dick! His first daughter was convinced that his absence was due to being locked in a room askance from the household. Picasso needed to ultimately quit the hype of his persona and pay attention to his responsibilities.
Rothko: a great purveyor of personhood.
The Rothko painting, as you may have seen, is to me a very special invitation to the inside of yourself. By looking through the painting, your eyes tire of the generally neutral tone and as such grow to a blindness that is unique to his work. His studied notions of color exhaustion creates a field of neutral color in your vision that gives a hard-won reward of vision of humaneness. Your exact vision is dulled and your color peripheral vision takes hold. Unique on earth. You. Yet, shared. Rothko is master of this trick.
This is due to the color receptors of the eye being aggregated around the ball of the sclera of the eye (the white part) while exact vision is tone-sensitive rods within the precise vision surrounding your optical nerve. Rothko didn’t study anatomy that deeply, but found a relativist haven in color misperception.
And they are, and you are, truly unique and shared.