Wednesday, October 8, 2008

the principles of design

what you probably don't know is that a great many houses in my neighborhood, built as a working-class neighborhood in the early 20s, have a 'batchelder fireplace.' as i said, these were not built for rich folk, and they don't look like they were, but the variety and beauty of the decorative tiles on mantles around here make as least the hearths priceless.

this was all i knew or ever even thought of batchelder, ernest batchelder. until yesterday. i was browsing around as i am wont to do and i came across a design instruction book he wrote, where i found this page.

since he had been kind enough to give us a hint, i was quickly able to find the image to which he referred .

it didn't look anything like the style in his tiles, but it certainly did look like the nicholson (look in the background).

a little more poking around under the name of batchelder, coming across additional samples of his tiles, when i made a connection that made my jaw drop and a giggle come up my throat. as i further perused his book i came across this illustration which, since i had just been dealing with this stuff a couple of days earlier, looked very familiar.

i was amazed at the coin- cidence. at the same time, there was one other of the shunboku images that looked familiar.

i went poking through my back files and found the dow image i was looking for.

(i turned the japanese image sideways and flopped to make it even more obvious, but in any case i think it's clear.)

it turns out, i learn, that batchelder went to study art in boston when he was a young man. there he studied with denman waldo ross, who was a trustee at the MFA in boston dealing with the new and rapidly growing japanese art collection. at his side, though rather his competitor, but also a 'keeper of the japanese art' there at that time was arthur wesley dow. and there in their hands was the treasure from the 1730s: shunboku's book.

there are many sites which feature original or reproduction batchelder tiles; most of them can be found through the links page at the batchelder site. what began as a sort of 'sears catalogue' of fireplace tiles has, as interest in the design from this era grows, become a treasured commodity.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

library tumbling?

this was library. for centuries.


The great poet came to me in a dream, walking toward me in a house
drenched with August light. It was late afternoon and he was old,

past a hundred, but virile, fit, leonine. I loved that my seducer
had lived more than a century and a quarter. What difference

does age make? We began to talk about the making of poems, how
I craved his green cockatoo when I was young, named my Key West

after his, like a parent naming a child "George Washington." He was
not wearing the business suit I'd expected, nor did he have the bored

Rushmore countenance of the familiar portrait. His white tee shirt
was snug over robust chest and belly, his golden hair long, his beard

full as a biker's. How many great poets ride a motorcycle? We
were discussing the limits of image, how impossible for word

to personate entirely thing: "sea," ocean an August afternoon; "elm,"
heartbreak of American boulevards after the slaughter

of sick old beautiful trees. "I have given up language," he said.
The room was crowded and noisy, so I thought I'd misheard.

"Given up words?" "Yes, but not poems," he said, whereupon
he turned away, walking into darkness. Then it was cooler, and

we were alone in the gold room. "Here is a poem," he said, proffering
a dry precisely formed leaf, on it two dead insects I recognized

as termites, next to them a tiny flag of scarlet silk no larger than
the price sticker on an antique brooch. Dusky red, though once

bright, frayed but vivid. Minute replica of a matador's provocation?
Since he could read my spin of association, he was smiling, the glee

of genius. "Yes," he said, "that is the poem." A dead leaf? His grin was
implacable. Dead, my spinner brain continued, but beautiful. Edge

curling, carp-shaped, color of bronze or verdigris.
Not one, but two
termites—dead. To the pleasures of dining on sill or floor joist, of

eating a house, and I have sold my house.
I think of my friend finding
termites when she reached, shelf suddenly dust on her fingers,

library tumbling, the extermi- nator's bill. Rapacious bugs devour,
a red flag calls up the poem: Blood. Zinnia. Emergency. Blackbird's

vermillion epaulet. Crimson of manicure. Large red man reading,
handkerchief red as a clitoris peeking from his deep tweed pocket—

Suddenly he was gone, gold draining from the walls, but the leaf,
the leaf was in my hand, and in the silence I heard an engine howl,

and through the night that darkened behind the window, I saw
light bolt forward, the tail of a comet smudge black winter sky.

Honor Moore

"Wallace Stevens" is reprinted from Red Shoes by Honor Moore.
Copyright © 2005 Honor Moore.

and then the world changed and the gods invented internet.

when i was a child, the childish things i played with i've never put away; i sat cross-legged against the library window, hidden amongst the stacks, reading poetry books. then over the years, this moment in art history, as you know, took me over.

one day i walked into moe's bookstore, and there in the rare books store-within- a-store was a complete bound set of s. bing's 'artistic japan.' moe traded me ads in my magazine for that set, and i treasure it still.

and i can now give it to you, the last three volumes of six, anyway, and arthur wesley dow's teaching manuals, and copies of 'the studio ,' and dorothy lathrop books, and every gift a library might bestow.

libraries tumbled? no; just transferred, maybe, from paper to bolts of light, a comet smudge across a winter sky.

start here.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

let evening come

'Twas such a little -- little boat
That toddled down the bay!
'Twas such a gallant -- gallant sea
That beckoned it away!

'Twas such a greedy, greedy wave
That licked it from the Coast --
Nor ever guessed the stately sails
My little craft was lost!

© 2008 Emily Dickinson

Adrift! A little boat adrift!
And night is coming down!
Will no one guide a little boat
Unto the nearest town?

So Sailors say -- on yester- day --
Just as the dusk was brown
One little boat gave up its strife
And gurgled down and down.

So angels say -- on yesterday --
Just as the dawn was red
One little boat -- o'erspent with gales --
Retrimmed its masts -- redecked its sails --
And shot -- exultant on!

© 2008 Emily Dickinson

Let the light of late afternoon
shine through chinks in the barn, moving
up the bales as the sun moves down.

Let the cricket take up chafing
as a woman takes up her needles
and her yarn. Let evening come.

Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned
in long grass. Let the stars appear
and the moon disclose her silver horn.

Let the fox go back to its sandy den.
Let the wind die down. Let the shed
go black inside. Let evening come.

To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop
in the oats, to air in the lung
let evening come.

Let it come, as it will, and don't
be afraid. God does not leave us
comfortless, so let evening come.

© 2008 Jane Kenyon

Sunday, January 6, 2008

The Long and Winding Road


The long and winding road
that leads to your door
Will never disappear
I've seen that road before
it always leads me here
Leads me to your door

The wild and windy night
that the rain washed away
Has left a pool of tears
crying for the day
Why leave me standing here,
let me know the way

Many times I've been alone
and many times I've cried
Anyway you've always known
the many ways I've tried

And still they lead me back
to the long wind- ing road
You left me waiting here
a long, long time ago
Don't keep me standing here,
lead me to you door

But still they lead me back
to the long and winding road
You left me waiting here
a long, long time ago
Don't leave me standing here,
lead me to you door

John Lennon & Paul McCartney
© 1970