Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Looking for followers!

Happy New Year, everyone! In 2015 I am more intentional about looking for followers on this blog and Facebook. If you don't mind doing so, I will gladly reciprocate!  Thanks!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Can a picture connect various points of one's life?

Carol Worthington Levy  "Road to Assisi"

     I had heard of Assisi before I took an art history course in Italian Renaissance Art from Dr. Eugenio Battisti at Penn State in 1972. The animated professor, speaking in Italian-accented British English,  prepared me well for my first trip to Europe in 1973. Previously in my education art had been for those who could actually paint, draw, or sculpt. As Dr. Battisti moved us from Cimabue and Giotto onward, I learned how to appreciate art. When I went to Rome nad Florence, I knew what to see. 
      On my third trip to Europe in 1976, I actually spent some time in Assisi. A 200 Lira miniature of St. Francis of Assisi graced my office wall at UC-Irvine when I returned to the States, which gave my then Doktorvater proof that I had become Roman Catholic.
     I had long stopped writing poetry when my good friend Carol made us a present of the above picture. Too many sermons, papers, and what-not crowded my time; anyway the Muse was not speaking to me. But something about this picture made me write poetry again. 
     What poetry does a poet actually read? I picked up some books at the recent Local authors workshop in Columbia, South Carolina, recently. One of them was Henry Sloss' The Threshold of the New, University of South Carolina Press, 1997. Sloss had been an expatriate in central Italy for over a decade, and I was intrigued by the book. 
     Maybe all of this will inspire me to write again of Umbria and Tuscany. 

     Here is what I wrote about 14 years ago inspired by the painting. My students would tell you that is ekphrasis!  


Vineyards climb the hillsides, stretching to the sun
slender, towering trees surround the towered abbey
clear blue sky reaches to the Umbrian plain below.

There are several roads to Assisi; some quicker than others,
some easier to travel, some never taken
the way up from San Damiano is arduous
for both body and soul.

One pauses now and then up the mountain to rest
and to glimpse far off in the distance past the
vineyards and villages.

For now the city is the immediate goal
to look at the Giottos in a cool afternoon in the Duomo
but to where will one later be beckoned?
not the destination, but the journey, matters most.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Is "O Come, All Ye Faithful" ("Adeste Fidelis") subversive?

     If I had only know this when I was writing for my high school newspaper! This has been one of my favorite Christmas hymns, maybe because of the two years I spend learning Latin. I wondered if the author and composer, John Francis Wade, was an ancestor of Philadelphia station WFI's disc jockey Long John Wade. Although I am not British by ancestry, I do confess to being an Anglophile, and loved the tales and ballads about Bonnie Prince Charlie Stuart.

     A few months ago I even had two separate dreams about all of this, one of which I included in a poem. My wife shakes her head at all of this. She she is partially of Scots ancestry, I suppose she knows best. In one dream, I was plotting for the Pretender's (James "III's") cause. In the second I was with the Prince during the '45 trying to persuade him to take another route through England.

     Years later I learn this very stirring hymn was written to encourage Jacobites that there was an heir to the throne who would restore the Stuarts. I post a few links about that, and also a solo performance by Friar Alessandro.

     My UK friends and readers can safely sing this song without risk of treason against the Crown. the House of Hanover proved to be better rulers, but part of me will always wonder....... - about the gymn from the Daily Mail the Friar sings

Finally, my poem about the two dreams in one night:

Two Dreams in One
Somebody tell me the purpose of dreams!
Divine disclosure of mysterion,
Daytime fears shrouded in nocturnal forms,
Perhaps stagnated Freudian stages
Relentlessly chasing the recumbent
Ego within a seven-hour span.

Last week I guided a group to Berlin
On a high-speed train early in the day.
Like Vonnegut’s hapless Billy Pilgrim,
Suddenly I became unstuck in time,
Finding myself in a wig in London,
A Tory MP and deeply enmeshed
In Jacobite intrigue so that “James III”
Could leave the quotation marks in St. Germain
And not be the king across the water/

Although I prefer the train to treason
I would accept either one if only

Somebody tell me the purpose of dreams!

For the record, I would rather be in Berlin.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

1611 Wallace Street, Philadelphia

The Metropolitan of Wallace Street

A few Baltic households remained,
Interspersed throughout the barrio:
Bodegas and the Roberto Clemente Center
Between churches built by Russians,
Swedes, and Lithuanians two generations ago.

Re-gentrification rolled slowly from the west
Around the Art Museum, heading
Block by block toward North Broad,
Adding another ingredient to the mix.

In the 1600 block of Wallace Street
Gold-blazoned letters and Slavic cross
Announced the Holy Resurrection Cathedral
Inside the red-brick row house next to the
Vacant lot and music-blaring bodega.

From what once was a living room
The Divine Liturgy was served weekly to
Family and anyone who wandered in.
Metropolitan Trevor, Archbishop of Wallace Street
And renegade non-canonical Orthodox
Held forth with bargain-basement vestments,
A button-festooned miter and minimalistic icons

Late evening, humid or frigid, he walked
The nearby streets, consoling the
Derelict and drugged,
Pressing five dollar bills into hands,
Offering brief words of consolation,
A shooting star over a desperate earth.

During daylight standing with
Those who tried to temper abuse and
Ravages of urban living and
Herding the far-flung cats of
His nebulous jurisdiction.

On my last visit, again pleading with me to
Follow his course in any way I chose,
Standing with him at the altar for
The first and last time
Presiding over a dwindling flock on
A sweltering August morning.

When newsletters and notes no longer to
The Land of Enchantment came
I called to learn why, never expecting to
Hear how cancer short-circuited
Career and family to oblivion.
Halfway-reconciled to all he loved,
And to the God whose light nonetheless
Shone through the fully-human
Yet touched by the divine,
Metropolitan of Wallace Street
Asked for a cigar and soon
Passed from one life to the next.

Arthur Turfa © 2014

Friday, December 19, 2014

Winter Solstice song from Jethro Tull

Jethro Tull has one foot in the folk tradition. Dave Pegg of the Fairport Convention also played bass with Tull for several years. "Songs from the Wood", released in 1977, reaches beyond folk to the Celtic/British pagan tradition. While not my cup of tea at all, I do like the song so enjoy!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

"Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme" /"Sleepers Awake"

   Philipp Nicolai was a Lutheran pastor in Westphalia, Germany, during a time of plague. His poem, which he set to music (J.S. Bach based Cantata 140 on it later), has become a beloved Advent hymn. When I learned the hymn during my seminary days (more precisely in the basement of my fieldwork parish in St. Louis) I was astounded with the text. the music speaks for itself.

   My previous studies of the German Baroque, which was a hot topic back in the day for Germanisten, always were presented from the following point of view. There was some good poetry, but people had to adhere to dogma of the Reformation or Counter-Reformation, which diminished the poetic quality in all but a few instances.

   However, I began to see that was not the case, I present the original, an English translation, and a link to an organ instrumental. Whatever one believes or does not believe, my wish is that he or she can simply enjoy the artistry if nothing else. I shall place the music first:

1. "Wachet auf," ruft uns die Stimme
Der Wächter sehr hoch auf der Zinne,
"Wach auf du Stadt Jerusalem!
Mitternacht heißt diese Stunde!"
Sie rufen uns mit hellem Munde:
"Wo seid ihr klugen Jungfrauen?
Wohlauf, der Bräutigam kommt,
Steht auf, die Lampen nehmt!
Macht euch bereit zur Hochzeitsfreud;
Ihr müsset ihm entgegengehen!"
2. Zion hört die Wächter singen,
Das Herz tut ihr vor Freuden springen,
Sie wachet und steht eilend auf.
Ihr Freund kommt vom Himmel prächtig,
Von Gnaden stark, von Wahrheit mächtig;
Ihr Licht wird hell, ihr Stern geht auf.
Nun komm, du werte Kron,
Herr Jesu, Gottes Sohn!
Wir folgen all zum Freudensaal
Und halten mit das Abendmahl.
3. Gloria sei dir gesungen
Mit Menschen- und mit Engelzungen,
Mit Harfen und mit Zimbeln schön.
Von zwölf Perlen sind die Tore
An deiner Stadt, wir stehn im Chore
Der Engel hoch um deinen Thron.
Kein Aug hat je gespürt,
Kein Ohr hat mehr gehört
Solche Freude.
Des jauchzen wir und singen dir
Das Halleluja für und für.

Wake, awake, for night is flying;
The watchmen on the heights are crying:
Awake, Jerusalem, at last!
Midnight hears the welcome voices
And at the thrilling cry rejoices;
Come forth, ye virgins, night is past;
The Bridegroom comes, awake;
Your lamps with gladness take;
Alleluia! And for His marriage feast prepare
For ye must go and meet Him there.
Zion hears the watchmen singing,
And all her heart with joy is springing;
She wakes, she rises from her gloom;
For her Lord comes down all glorious,
The strong in grace, in truth victorious.
Her star is risen, her light is come.
Ah come, Thou blessèd One, God’s own belovèd Son:
Alleluia! We follow till the halls we see
Where Thou hast bid us sup with Thee.
Now let all the heavens adore Thee,
And saints and angels sing before Thee,
With harp and cymbal’s clearest tone;
Of one pearl each shining portal,
Where we are with the choir immortal
Of angels round Thy dazzling throne;
Nor eye hath seen, nor ear hath yet attained to hear
What there is ours, but we rejoice and sing to Thee
Our hymn of joy eternally.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Local Authors Workshop

Wonderful time at the Richland County (South Carolina) Public Library's Local Author Showcase! I made some new friends, bought some books, and picked up some tips for next year when I will be there.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Zappa and Beefheart "Torture Never Stops"

     The song could be ripped from this week's headlines, but it is of course much older. the song actually appeared on Zoot Allures in 1976.  In the light of recent revelations about post-9/11 "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques", the song bears deserves remembrance.
     On a personal note, had I not transferred US Army Reserve units in 2002, I would have been in Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad. There but for the grace of God.....

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Jim Morrison Birthday 8 December 1943

     Handsome as Adonis, destructive as Dionysus, but creative as Apollo: so can one sum up Jim Morrison of the Doors. Many speculate on what John Lennon, murdered this date in 1980, might have become. I also speculate on what might have been Morrison's future. Certainly he was well-read and talented. Most of what he wrote came in a burst of around 18 months. I suspect he would have had a few more bursts in him, had he not died in Paris right before my high school graduation in 1971.

    I always liked the lyricism of "The Crystal Ship" from the eponymous debit album from 1967. While there are certainyl songs that are played more frequently, this one always pleased me. Perhaps this side of Morrison might have appeared more often had he mellowed.

   Enjoy the song!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

More on Rilke

From the Sonnets to Orpheus, #3:   Original

A sample of the cycle at the close of the weekend.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Rainier Maria Rilke born 5 December 1875

Rainer Maria Rilke was born 5 December 1875 in Prague. I took a seminar on him at UC-Irvine ages ago, led by Egon Schwarz. I wish I remembered more about it, as I have come to a greater appreciation of Rilke. I did re-connect with Dr. Schwarz in St. Louis (he was visiting from Washington University) when I started seminary

   Rilke's Orpheus sonnets also have been influential for me, especially the concept of "singing is being/ Gesang ist Dasein"

   During that pivotal senior year in high school when I was permitted to spend a lot of time in the library (officially the Instructional Materials Center) I also read a dual-language version of his "Die Weise von Liebe und Tod des Cornets Christoph von Rilke/ The Lay of the Love and Death of Cornet Christoph von Rilke".

    During one of the times reading, one of the librarians came and demanded of me, "Arthur! What are you doing here? " I innocently answered, "Reading". I explained that my teacher allowed me to be there, and I had a daily study hall also. She was not impressed.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Poets Community will lead you to R.G. Kirk's great community!     Check it out!

Cover photo

Frank Zappa - 21 years since his passing

     Zappa died on 4 December 1993. I remember playing Hot Rats that evening; that was the first vinyl I could find in my collection. He died too early, and I often wonder what he would be doing musically and politically had he indeed lived.
     Elsewhere I have spoken about my meeting the band at Penn State in April 1973, which netted me an autograph from Frank. Tonight I want to speak about the picture.
     What is generally not known is how much of an influence and inspiration Zappa was in Eastern Europe, starting from the Cold War. Vaclav Havel, playwright-turned-politician from the former Czechoslovakia attested to this fact. Artists longing for freedom on all levels sensed a vitality and creativity unlike anything they had ever known.
     The picture is from the eastern part of Berlin. I would post my own picture, but the when I was in town for a seminar in 2011, time was tight and the only day I had to take the picture of the street from the Marzahn district was the day before I flew out. I spent most of the morning and early afternoon with some friends from the seminar touring the vast Museum of German History, and ending up going to a late lunch with them.  Ach, next time! The weather was nto so great then, anyway.

Reviews Are So Very Important to Writers, and So Hard to Get

      When my first poetry book was published seven years ago, I dutifully asked readers/friends to review it. That book, Places and Times, ...