Yevgeny Kharitonov: “All the Vibrations from the Best Moments of Your Life”

Photographers Unknown, All the Vibrations from the Best Moments of Your Life

I know what happens at the moment of death. Suddenly, after all your illnesses, you feel so improbably, so impossibly much better, that it is more than a man can take. All the vibrations from the best moments of your life, from all your impossible youth, come together in one mind-blowing instant, like the moment of your first love, like the hope of new love, like just before your first trip to Moscow, like all sorts of moments in your life; and it all comes together in a single minute, and it is more than you can bear, and your heart bursts, and you die. And everyone whom you loved and everyone who loved you, they all think of you at that moment, wherever they maybe on earth, or under the earth.

Yevgeny Kharitonov, Under House Arrest, 1997

Born in Novosibirsk in June of 1941, Yevgeny Kharitonov was a Russian poet, writer, playwright and theatrical director. In his literature, he was a chronicler of the LBGTQ culture of the Soviet period in the 1970s. Kharitonov described in his work the feelings that people of non-traditional orientation experienced, a subject that the government saw as taboo. 

Kharitonov graduated from the acting department of Moscow’s Gerasimov Institute of Cinematography (VGIK). After a brief acting career, he earned his graduate degree in filmmaking with the presentation of his thesis on the art of pantomime in the education of an actor. After graduation, Kharitonov wrote and directed the play “The Enchanted Island”, which was performed at Moscow’s Mimics and Gesture Theater with roles performed by deaf-mute actors. 

Yevgeny Kharitonov led the pantomime studio of the Moskovorechye Workers’ Club, a recreation center in Moscow, and did choreography for the rock band “Last Chance”. He also worked at the department of psychology at Moscow State University where he studied the problem of speech defects. In addition to his study and literary work, Kharitonov staged a production of the classical opera “Faust” for the Moscow Conservatory. 

Appearing at the crossroads of several movements in twentieth-century Russian prose, Kharitonov emphasized in his work an aloofness between the author and the literary subject, a characteristic which would appear in the later works by Russian writers Victor Erofeyev, founder of the literary magazine Metropol, and Vladimir Sorokin, author and recipient of the Russian Booker Prize. Kharitonov shared with writers Pavel Ukitin, Marcel Proust and James Joyce an indirect and cryptic approach to the placement of emotion in the descriptions of events. Acquainted with typography, he was well aware of the expressive properties of the typewritten text format and typed all his manuscripts himself. 

Because of the frankness with which he dealt with the theme of homosexuality in his work, Yevgeny Kharitonov had difficulty in getting his work published. The few works that were published in his lifetime were translations of German poetry, those works circulated in dissident Eastern Bloc periodicals such as the Mitin Journal, and a simple monologue entitled “Oven”. In the early 1980s, Kharitonov made an attempt to have his work printed in the “Catalog”, an American publication of unpublished Russian writers; this however  failed due to interference by the KGB.

Kharitonov is today recognized as a founder of modern Russian gay literature; his work can not be separated from his sexuality and the legal and cultural prohibition he worked under. Kharitonov was doubly vulnerable to state repression being both an underground writer and a gay man. In 1979, he was questioned by the KGB as a suspect in the death of his lover. As knowledge of his work spread through the general public, surveillance and harassment by the authorities became increasingly a part of daily life. 

On June 29th of 1981, Yevgeny Kharitonov, who had just finished his manuscript “Under House Arrest”, walked to meet his friend, the poet Tatian Scherbina, to show her his new work. He died on Pushkin Street in Moscow of a heart attack at the age of forty years old; his body is buried in his homeland of Novosibirsk. Following Kharitonov’s  death, his apartment was sealed by the KGB. His friends broke in the apartment to salvage and preserve his writings, however, most of Kharitonov’s written work was later recovered by the KGB during raids on their apartments.

After Russia’s period of perstroika, Kharitonov’s works began to get published in Russia. His play “Tink”, based on an interpretation of Odoevsky’s fairy tale “Town in a Snuffbox”, was published in the late 1980s and later performed in 1989. His “Under House Arrest”, a collection of autobiographical fictions which chronicled the difficult life of a homosexual in the Kafkaesque atmosphere of the Soviet Union, was published in January of 1997.

Note: An interesting article to read is Alex Karsavin and Mara Iskander’s 2017 “Language Under House Arrest”, which discusses queer Russian poets and the adaption of queer literature to the Russian political situation. The article can be found at the literary blog “The New Inquiry” website located at: https://thenewinquiry.com/language-under-house-arrest/

Hervé Lassïnce

The Photography of Hervé Lassïnce

Hervé Lassïnce is a French theatrical actor, screen writer, and self-taught photographer who grew up in Créteil, a culturally diverse suburb of Paris. Before he pursued his passion for photography, he had begun a career as a theatrical actor, a talent which he still continues. Lassïnce has performed with actors Jérôme Deschamps and Macha Makeîff and, in 2016, appeared in a Jean-Michel Ribes play at Paris’s Théâtre du Rond-Point.

Lassïnce began his career in photography with images of those closest to him, his family, friends and lovers. The strong emotional connection he had with these subjects, displayed in his initial work, is still evident in his most recent photographs. Generally, Lassïnce prefers to photograph subjects he knows as the sense of familiarity is stronger; however, he often photographs people he meets who catch his attention. As he considers his photography a story of friendship, Lassïnce still makes an effort to know his subject better before attempting the composition of the shoot.

Hervé Lassïnce photographs natural landscapes, an example of which is his large format photograph of water rushing over the cliffs of Niagara Falls. For many of his photographs, however, natural scenes serve as settings for his nude male subjects. In these shoots, Lassïnce presents natural and joyful images that show men as ordinary people comfortable in their skin. There exists in most of his nude compositions an unexpected, often curious, element that catches the eye and draws the viewer’s interest, such as tinted lighting, vased flowers, lit cell phones, or a cat sitting quietly nearby. 

Lassïnce first began showing his work through Facebook and Instagram. After seeing images of his work printed on fine art paper, he began to exhibit in galleries and sell editions to collectors. In 2015, Lassïnce’s first photography collection was published by Florian Gaité, entitled “Mes Fréres (My Friends)”. At this time, he also expanded his work as a freelance photographer by shooting personality portraits and illustrating articles for magazines. 

Among the influences on his work, Hervé Lassïnce has listed the work of American photographer Nam Goldin who became known for her exploration of the lives and intimacies within the LGBT subcultures. He was also influenced by the compositions and homo-eroticism in works by such painters as José de Ribera, Caravaggio, and Théodore Géricault, one of the pioneers of France’s Romantic movement.

Lassïnce’s photography has been the subject of several exhibitions including those at Paris’s Galerie P38 and Galerie Agathe Gaillard; the November 2020 exhibition at Villa Noailles in Hyères, France; the International Festival of Fashion and Photography in Los Angeles; the Offarch Gallery in Milan; the Philharmonie de Paris; and the 2021 “Gallery of Instant Love” exhibition at the Design Museum of London. 

Hervé Lassïnce’s website, which includes contact information and purchasable prints, can be found at https://h-photography.format.com

Kenneth Pobo: “I Colored the Paper Lavender”

Photographers Unknown, Parts and Pieces Making a Whole: Set Fifteen

After Langston Hughes

Professor, you tell us about
your nice wife and two children.
People should be nice. I’m nice.
Sometimes I’m smug. I have
bad days. You’re straight,
a perfectly fitted back door.
Gay, I don’t fit. Is it good
to fit? You say tonight
I should write a poem
about myself. I’ve written
a few before. They stay in
my notebook like condoms
in a wallet. I’ll pull one out.
It won’t be about wives
and kids and fitting in.
Is that OK? I could fake it
for an A. You wouldn’t
dock me for following
instructions, right?

So here’s my poem-
I colored the paper lavender
just for you.

Kenneth Pobo, Theme for English C, The Antlantis Hit Parade, American Journal of Poetry, 2019

Born in August of 1954 in suburban Chicago, Kenneth Pobo is a poet, essayist, critic and story writer. The only child of Louis Pobo, a chemist, and Myrtle Pobo, a housewife active in church activities and later.very supportive of her gay son and his partner. Both of Pobo’s parents were enthusiastic gardeners, a trait which he later emulated in his adult life. 

Kenneth Pobo began his early poetic work, influenced by his love of 1960s popular music, as an outlet for emotions he could not express as a gay child in the contemporary society. His first poem, written on July 4th of 1970, was an imitation of the 1969 song “Crystal Blue Persuasion” by Tommy James and the Shondells. As Pobo stated in the introduction to his 2002 collection entitled “Greatest Hits” , he used the bubblegum imagery of pop music as an overlay for emerging sexual feelings.

Pobo received his Bachelor of Arts in 1976 from Wheaton College in Illinois. In 1979, he earned his Master of Arts in English at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee where he studied under James Liddy, a poet both Irish Catholic and gay, who is best known for his collections, “A Blue Smoke” and “Blue Mountain”. Pobo’s creative writing thesis, later published with changes as a chapbook in 1981, was entitled “Billions of Lit Cigarettes”. Pobo was awarded his Doctor of Philosophy degree in 1983; his creative writing dissertation was entitled “A Vision Tested in the Flower: The Aaron Stern Poems”. 

Kenneth Pobo writes  in a wide variety of styles and poetic forms. His work contains references from all the things that enthuse his life, including music, gardening, his friends, astronomy, movie stars, naps, and martinis, among others. Pobo’s poetry covers many topics including politics and popular culture, as well as contemporary gay life with its love and passions. The majority of his poems are of medium length; however, great attention is paid to the smallest detail even though it might at first seem mundane.

The first collection of poetry by Pobo was the 1979 “Musings from the Porchlit Sea”. In this volume, he uses his knowledge of past literary verse and, by the addition of popular cultural models such as disco, gives the verse a new voice for contemporary culture. A prominent example is his poem “The Disco Version of the Love Song of  J.Alfred Prufrock” which took T. S. Eliot’s 1915 canonical poem and molded it into a campy exposé of contemporary life.

Pobo’s second volume of poetry, “Evergreen”, was published as a chapbook in 1985. Inspired again by Tommy James and the Shondells, the collection takes its title from a song on their 1969 “Cellophane Symphony” album. “Evergreen” features poems about plants, places, and people he admires; the volume includes the poem “Cass” about Mama Cass Elliot of the Mamas and the Papas band.  A fictional poem set during the Civil War is also included in this collection. Entitled “Joshua to Andy, Appomatox, 1865”, the poem tells the story of two soldiers who were lovers and, ironically, parted with the end of hostilities. Within this homage to previous war poems by such poets as Whitman and Melville, Pobo placed homosexual love and tenderness inside the world of warfare.

Kenneth Pobo’s 1986 chapbook “A Pause Inside Duck” contains overtly political poems that are composed in traditional poetic form. Contained in the 1991 “Ferns on Fire” is his angriest gay political poem, “Shasta”, which connects the centuries-long holocaust of Native Americans peoples with the lives of contemporary gay men. The 1996 “A Barbaric Yawp on the Rocks” contains the usual mundane details and pop references, such as The Cowsills and the Rolling Stones; however, Pobo uses these references more sharply in his depictions of both political and romantic modern gay life experiences.

Pobo is the author of twenty-one chapbooks and nine full-length collections. His most recent works include the 2011 chapbook “Ice and Gaywings” which won the Qarrtsiluni  Chapbook Contest; the 2012 chapbook “Save My Place”; a collection of both prose and traditionally composed poems entitled “The Antlantis Hit Parade” and “Dindi Expecting Snow”, both published in 2019; and the 2020 “Lavender Fire, Lavender Rose” which won the Stonewall Chapbook Competition. 

In addition to poetry, Pobo also writes fiction and essays which include “The Gay/Lesbian Teacher as a Role Model” for the March/April 1999 edition of “The Humanist” magazine and “But Can You Dance to It? Musical Imagery in the Poetry of Langston Hughes, Audre Lorde, and David Trinidad” for the October edition of the “Intercultural Writer’s Review”.

Kenneth Pobo taught English and Creative Writing at Widener University in Chester, Pennsylvania, for thirty years until his retirement in 2020. He shares his life with his husband, Stanley Slater, in Media, Pennsylvania.

Note: A reading by Kenneth Pobo of his poem “Sudden Fear”, titled after the 1952 Joan Crawford movie, can be found at the online crime poetry weekly, “The Five-Two”, located at: https://poemsoncrime.blogspot.com/2015/09/kenneth-pobo.html

Virgilio Pinera: “The Waves of Music We Made”

Photographers Unknown, The Waves of Music We Made

Can it be they are going to kill?
Will they pierce the heart with a huge knife?
And with the sharpest scalpel empty the eyes?
And with the steeliest chisel break the skull?
And with the most hammer of hammers crush the bones?

Can it be that on the exotic table
–table of sex, table of love–
my love, you and I,
being startled one night
your heart spoke
when you were under my blood?
Can it be the same as it was
when it was an oath, and even more so,
your work, your word bled,
soaked by the soft perfume of kisses,
so as not to deny, to be one indivisible?
And can it be so blindly believed,
so blindly, that all the suns go dark forever
while the soul travels in darkness?
Can it be there never was a soul despite the waves of music
we made?
Soul that never was though you might be for an instant?

Renenber that instant when you were a soul and adored
me,
and then your own monster came suddenly
to take you to the place where being you were?

Can it be that after you are no longer,
when not being is merely a mound of dried out kisses,
you wil be by not being, instead of being love?

Virgilio Pinera, Poem to be Said in the Midst of a Great Silence, The Weight of the Island, 1967

Born in Cárdenas, Matanzas, Cuba in 1912, Virgilio Piñera was an author, playwright, poet, and essayist known for his avant-garde work, caustic wit, acid tongue, and bohemian lifestyle. He lived under the dual repression of the Catholic church and reactionary government leaders such as Argentina’s Juan Perón and Cuba’s Fulgencio Batista. Piñera’s homosexuality and non-conformism led to his marginalization during a well-documented period of Cuban history when homophobia and petty bureaucracy stifled creative freedom

An avid reader from an early age, which included works by Marcel Proust and Herman Melville, Piñera drew his inspiration from different genres, a foundation which became fundamental to his distinctive work with its combination of Cuban vernacular and more refined language.At the age of thirteen, Piñera’s family moved to Camagüey, a municipality located in central Cuba, where he earned his high school diploma. After settling in Havana in 1938,  he received his Doctoral Degree in philosophy from the University of Havana in 1949. 

Piñera published in his poems in Havana’s literary magazine “Espuela de Plata” and, in 1941. wrote his first poetry collection, “Las Furias (The Furies)” and  his most famous play “Electra Garrigó”, which featured the choral structure of a Greek tragedy alongside distinctive Cuban elements. Staged both before and after the revolution of Castro and Guevara, this play later became a powerful symbol of the Revolution and was consciously performed before foreign and  notable public figures as  being emblematic of the transformed nation.

Following his founding of the magazine “Poeta” in 1942, Piñera wrote his collection of poems entitled “La Isla en Peso (The Weight of the Island)”. Drawing upon episodes in his personal life as well as the social interactions occurring inside Cuba, he explored the nebulous regions between sadness and beauty, and disillusion and reality. Published posthumously after Piñera’ death in 1979, “The Weight of the Island” was initially scorned by some poets and critics; however, the collection is now regarded as one of the classics of Cuban literature.

In 1944, Virgilio Piñera, along with writer José Lezama Lima and editor and critic José Rodríguez Feo, founded the prestigious literary and arts review “Origenes”, which provided a focal point for promising poets and critics in Cuba during the 1940s and 1950s. The journal published short stories, poetry, and critical essays on art, literature, music and philosophy. Among Piñera’s contributions were several poems, an essay on Argentinian literature, and an 1945 essay entitled “El Secreto de Kafka”, a work in which Piñera developed his theory on the creation of images into a literary surprise. 

Piñera lived in Buenos Aires, Argentina, for a twelve year period from 1946 to 1958; it was  during this stay that he developed his voice as a writer. He worked as a translator and proofreader at the Cuban Embassy and became friends with writers Jorge Luis Borges and essayist José Bianco, who would write the forward to Piñera’s collection of short stories “El que Vina a Salvarme (The One Who Came to Save Me)”. Along with other writers, Piñera worked on the translation of Polish author Witold Gombrowicz’s 1937 controversial novel “Ferdydurke” into Spanish. 

Virgilio Piñera wrote two plays in Buenos Aires,  “Jesús” and “Falsa Alarma”, a fast paced, absurdist play of humor and anguish, to which he lengthened with dialogue for a later 1957 staging. His first novel, entitled “La Carne de René (René’s Flesh)”, was published in 1952 and told the dark story of a twenty-year old protagonist forced into a merciless life. After the closure of his literary review “Origenes” and the founding of his final magazine “Ciclón (Cyclone)”, Piñera left Argentina in 1958 to settle permanently in Cuba, where he arrived shortly before the Revolution. His work appeared in the newspaper “Revolución” and other numerous journals. In 1962, with the Cuban revolution in full motion, Piñera’s  most autobiographical play, “Airo Frio (Cold Air)”, a very personal celebratory work supporting the ouster of dictator Batista’s police and army, opened in Havana. 

Shortly after the opening of “Airo Frio”, Fidel Castro’s government made the decision that there was no room for any views other than those completely sympathetic to the Revolution. Intellectuals and other luminaries, as well as the religious and those youths not conforming to the revolution, were to face persecution. Virgilio Piñera, although never public about his homosexuality, was arrested under the revolutionary government’s clampdown on the prostitutes, pimps and homosexuals. By 1971, he was ostracized by the Cuban government and the literary establishment. As his career declined into obscurity. Piñera continued to write at n increased rate; however, his plays were no longer performed. 

In 1968, Piñera received Latin America’s most prestigious literary prize, the Premio Casa de las Américas, for his play “Dos Viejos Pánicos (Two Old Panics)”. Despite the award and acclaim, the play would not have its first performance in Cuba until the 1990s.  Leaving behind more than twenty plays, three novels, volumes of short stories and a vast number of poems, Virgilio Piñera, who lived the last years of his life in poverty, died of a cardiac arrest on the 18th of August in 1979, without any official recognition of his death. He is buried in his native town of Cárdenas.

As a way to redress some of the wrongs committed against Piñera in the past, Cuba declared the year 2012 as “El Añ0 Virgiliano”. In the month of June, a group of thirty researchers from countries, such as the United Kingdom, Mexico, Spain and the United States, came together in Havana to discuss the life, work and legacy of Virgilio Pañera, one of Latin America’s prominent writers. His two best known plays, “Airo Frio” and “Dos Viejos Pánicos”, were performed and a new ballet by choreographer Iván Tenorio, entitled “Virgiliando”, had its premiere. 

Note: The University of Miami Libraries contains the digital Cuban Heritage Collection which includes material on Virgilio Piñera. Included in the material are correspondence exchanged between Piñera and Adolfo de Obieta during the 1940s and 1950s, as well as a typescript of Piñera’s play “Una Caja de Zapatos Vacía” that he sent to his friend Luis F. González-Cruz, who published it in Miami in 1986. This material can be found at: https://merrick.library.miami.edu/cdm/search?collection=chc5278

Albert Russo: “Dramatis Personae”

Photographers Unknown, The Parts and Pieces Making a Whole: Set Twelve

They call me Gianni
They call me Jim
But also Dominic
In both genders
In every guise

Whether it be Gianni, Jim or Dominic
In the present tense as in the past
First or third person
We’re talking of the same person
With the difference that each one
Speaks in another tongue
Confounding strangers
Claims the spiteful gossip

At time Gianni and Jim will be one and the same
At times they will oppose each other
Sometimes they might act as total strangers
And so it goes for both Dominics

The distance between them may be paper thin
Or else wide as the ocean
That which separates two languages
Or lies, mute, within the blood cells

Albert Russo, Dramatis Personae, The Crowded World of Solitude, Vol. 2

Born in February, 1943, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Albert Russo is a poet, short story writer, novelist and photographer. The son of a British mother and an Italian Sephardic father, he attended the high school in Bujumbura, a coastal city in Burundi, where he mastered four languages: French, English, Dutch, German, and vernacular Swahili. Russo earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration at New York University in 1964  He traveled to Heidelberg in 1965, where he earned a degree in German culture and literature at the Collegium Palatinum. 

Russo first began writing poems in English in 1964 during his years at New York University. In 1965, he settled in Milan, Italy, where he  worked at the family firm and continued his writing. His first novel entitled “La Pointe du Diable”, written in French, was published in 1973 in Brussels. For this work, Russo won the Prix Colette in Cannes and the Prix de la Liberté in Paris. 

In 1975, Albert Russo returned to New York for three years. During this period, he taught language classes and published several poems and short stories in a variety of international magazines, including The Literary Review, Culture Française, La Libre Belgique, and Revue Zaire. Russo also worked with UNICEF translating scripts for children’s documentary films. He returned to Europe in 1978  and settled in Paris. 

Albert Russo has written more than twenty-five works, translated into twelve languages. His main themes are the defense of individual and collective rights, including ethnic, gender and religious, and the fight against racism. Many of his works are centered around life in Africa; two of which are“Mixed Blood” and “Eclipse over Lake Tanganyika”, both published in 2000. Russo wrote a large two-volume series entitled “The Crowded World of Solitude”, the first volume which includes short stories, essays, and fables: the second volume contains forty year collection of poems. 

During the 1980s, through their common Congolese experience and love for Africa, Russo met and befriended Italian artist and philosopher Joseph Pace. Later in the 2999s, he became friends with poet and photographer Adam Donaldson Powell. Together they authored the 2009 “Gaytude”, a volume of poetry, with photographs by Russo, which dealt with the gay experience of life on five continents.

As a professional photographer, Albert Russo has earned several prizes, including winning a National Indie-Excellence award and a silver medal from a Gallery Photografica competition. His photographic work has been shown at Switzerland’s Musée de l’Elysée in Lausanne. In 2019, Russo won a UNICEF Award for his poetry oeuvre and, in 2020, an Artavita Certificate for his photography.

Friedrich Dürrenmatt: “What Will the Future Bring?”

Photographers Unknown, What Will the Future Bring?

“What is going to happen? What will the future bring? I do not know, I have no presentiment. When a spider flings itself from a fixed point down into its consequences, it continually sees before it an empty space in which it can find no foothold, however much it stretches. So it is with me; before me is continually an empty space, and I am propelled by a consequence that lies behind me. This life is turned around and dreadful, not to be endured.” 

–Friedrich Dürrenmatt, The Assignment: or, On the Oberving of the Observer of the Observers

Born in Konolfingen, Switzerland, in 1921, Friedrich Dürrenmatt was an author and dramatist who was a proponent of epic theater, a form of dramatic, political plays staged through documentary effects and audience interaction.  After studies in philosophy and German literature, he stopped his academic career in 1943 to become an author and dramatist. He became one of the more prolific writers in the German language on the crisis of the nuclear bomb and arms race.

Written when he was twenty-six,  Dürrenmatt’s first play. the 1946 “It is Written”, revolves around a battle, occurring in a city under siege, between a religious fanatic who takes scripture literally and a cynic who craves sensation. The play’s 1947 premiere resulted in fights and protests in the audience.  Between 1948 and 1949, Dürrenmatt wrote several sketches for Zürich’s anti-Nazi Cabaret Cornichon, a Swiss cabaret company opposed to fascism and Nazism. 

Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s first major success was the 1950 play “Romulus the Great”, an exploration of the last days of the Roman Empire presided over by Romulus, its last emperor. In the same year, he published a novel entitled “The Judge and His Hangman”.  Dürrenmatt’s 1956 play “Der Besuch der Alten Dame (The visit of the Old Woman)” was a strange fusion of comedy and drama about a wealthy woman who offers a fortune to the people of her hometown if they would kill the man who jilted her years earlier.

During his youth, Dürrenmatt hesitated for a long time between a career as a writer and a painter. Although he chose writing, he continued to paint and draw, which he considered his passion. Dürrenmatt had some exhiibitons of his work in Neuchâtel, Switzerland, in 1976 and 1985; he also had a show in Zürich in 1978. A permanent exhibition of his collective work, both artistic and literary, is on display at the Centre Dürrenmatt in Neuchâtel.

Throughout four decades, Dürrenmatt produced novels, novellas, radio plays, and theater performances. Among these were the radio plays “Incident at Twilight” in 1952 and “The Mission of the Vega” in 1954, the novella “The Pledge: Requiem for the Detective Novel”in 1948, and the 1962 play “The Physicists: A Comedy in Two Acts” which dealt with scientific ethics and mankind’s intellectual responsibilities. 

In 1990, Friedrich Dürrenmatt gave two famous speeches, the first in honor of Václav Havel, the Czech statesman and former dissident, and the second in honor of Mikhail Gorbachev, who moved his country to more social democracy and promoted the policy of glasnot, or openness. Later that year, on December 14th, Friedrich Dürrenmatt died from heart failure in Neuchâtel, Switzerland.

Middle Insert Image: Frederich Dürrenmatt, “Minotaurus. Eine Ballade VII”, 1984 – 85, Ink on Paper, 40 × 30 cm,  Centre Dürrenmat Neuchâtel

Bottom Insert Image: Sabine Gisiger, “Friedrich Dürrenmatt”, from Gisiger’s  2016 documentary film “Dürrenmatt: Eine Liebesgeschichte”

Yukio Miishima: “Someone, Somewhere, Had Tied Up the Darkness”

Photographers Unknown, Someone, Somewhere, Had Tied Up the Darkness

“Someone, somewhere, had tied up the darkness, he thought as he went: the bag of darkness had been tied at the mouth, enclosing within it a host of smaller bags. The stars were tiny, almost imperceptible perforations; otherwise, there wasn’t a single hole through which light could pass.

The darkness in which he walked immersed was gradually pervading him. His own footfall was utterly remote, his presence barely rippled the air. His being had been compressed to the utmost – to the point where it had no need to forge a path for itself through the night, but could weave its way through the gaps between the particles of which the darkness was composed.” 

—Yukio Mishima, Acts of Worship: Seven Stories

When Yukio Mishima committed ritual suicide in November 1970, he was only forty-five. He had written over thirty novels, eighteen plays, and twenty volumes of short stories. During Mishima’s lifetime, he was nominated for the Nobel Prize three times and had seen almost all of his major novels appear in English. 

While the flamboyance of Yukio Mishima’s life and the apparent fanaticism of his death, through the ritual rite of seppuku,  have dominated the public’s perception of his achievement, Japanese and Western critics alike are in agreement that Mishima’s literary gifts were prodigious.

A short biography of Yukio Mishima can be found on this site. For a more extensive biography on Yukio Mishima: https://www.bbc.com/culture/article/20201124-yukio-mishima-the-strange-tale-of-japans-infamous-novelist

Christopher Isherwood: “A Single Man”

Photographers Unknown, The Faces of Man: Photo Set Ten

“Staring and staring into the mirror, it sees many faces within its face – the face of the child, the boy, the young man, the not-so-young man – all present still, preserved like fossils on superimposed layers, and, like fossils, dead. Their message to this live dying creature is: Look at us – we have died – what is there to be afraid of?

 It answers them: But that happened so gradually, so easily. I’m afraid of being rushed.” 

—Christopher Isherwood, A Single Man

Christopher Isherwood’s 1964 novel “A Single Man” is considered by many to be his finest achievement. When it first appeared, it shocked many with its frank, sympathetic, and moving portrayal of a gay man in maturity. The novel,  which was Isherwood’s favorite of his own work, depicts one day in the life of George, a middle-aged gay Englishman who is a professor at a Los Angeles University. He is an outsider in every way, and his internal reflections and interactions with others reveal a man who loves being alive despite everyday injustices and loneliness. George, unable to cope with the sudden death of his younger partner Jim, encounters different people who give him insight into the possibilities of being alive and human in the world. 

“A Single Man” was adapted into the drama film of the same name in 2009. It was the directorial debut of fashion designer Tom Ford, and starred Colin Firth who, for his role in the film, was nominated for the Best Actor Academy Award. Matthew Goode plays Jim, his partner, seen in flashback sequences. Shot in twenty-one days, the film premiered on the 11th of September, 2009, at the 66th Venice International Film Festival, where it won the festival’s third annual Queer Lion Award, and then entered the film festival circuit. It had an initial limited run in the United States in December of 2009, and began its wider release in the early part of 2010. 

Yukio Mishima: “The Dark Nectar in the Little Room”

Photographer Unknown, (The Dark Nectar in the Little Room)

“Suddenly the full long wail of a ship’s horn surged through the open window and flooded the dim room – a cry of boundless, dark, demanding grief; pitch-black and glabrous as a whale’s back and burdened with all the passions of the tides, the memory of voyages beyond counting, the joys, the humiliations: the sea was screaming. Full of the glitter and the frenzy of night, the horn thundered in, conveying from the distant offing, from the dead center of the sea, a thirst for the dark nectar in the little room.” 

Yukio Mishima, The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea

Born in January of 1925, Yukio Mishima, pseudonym Hiraoka Kimitake, was an author, poet, playwright, actor, model and director. He is widely considered to be one of the most important Japanese writers of the twentieth century. 

Having failed physically to qualify for military service, Mishima worked for a Toyota factory, and after World War II, he studied law at the University of Tokyo. His first novel, “Kamen no Kokuhaku (Confessions of a Mask)” is a partly autobiographical work that describes with exceptional brilliance a young gay man who must mask his sexual preferences from the Imperial Japanese society around him. This work brought Mishima immediate acclaim, after which he devoted his full energies to writing.

Mishima followed up his success with several novels whose main characters are tormented with either psychological or physical problems, or obsessed with unattainable goals. Among these works are: “Ai no Kawaki (Thirst for Love)” published in 1950 and “Kinjiki (Forbidden Colors)” published in 1954. In addition to novels, essays, and short stories, Mishima wrote plays of Japanese Nõ drama which included “Kindai Nõgaku Shu (Five Modern Nõh Plays)” in 1956 and “Sado Kõshaku Fujin (Madame de Sade)” in 1965.

Yukio Mishima’s “The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea” was published in Japan in 1963 and translated into English by writer and scholar John Nathan in 1965. The novel explores the vicious nature of youth that is sometimes mistaken for innocence. The protagonist Noboru, a thirteen year old boy, is thrilled when a his widowed mother is romanced by a sailor, who Noboru idolizes as a rugged heroic man of the sea. When the sailor gives up life onboard the ship for marriage, rejecting what Noboru holds sacred, Noboru and his friends respond with violence.

Mishima was deeply attracted to the austere patriotism and martial spirit of Japan’s past, which he contrasted unfavorably to the materialistic Westernized people and the prosperous society of Japan in the postwar era. On November 25, 1970, after having that day delivered the final installment of his work “The Sea of Fertility” to his publisher, Mishima and four of his students, Shield Society followers, seized control of the commanding general’s office at a military headquarters near downtown Tokyo.

After giving a ten minute speech from a balcony to assembled servicemen below and getting an unsympathetic response, Mishima committed seppuku in the traditional manner, disemboweling himself with his blade, followed by decapitation at the hands of a follower. 

Notes: Photographer Eikoh Hosoe took the insert photograph of Yukio Mishima. The link that follows is a talk Hosoe gave at a Twentieth Masters Tribute to Yukio Mishima:  https://americansuburbx.com/2010/06/eikoh-hosoe-subject-matter.html

For a more extensive biography on Yukio Mishima: https://www.bbc.com/culture/article/20201124-yukio-mishima-the-strange-tale-of-japans-infamous-novelist

 

Frank Yamrus

Photography by Frank Yamrus

Born in 1958, Frank Yamrus attended Wilkes University, earning his BA in 1980, and Drexel University in Philadelphia, earning his MBA in 1986. A sensitive observer of his life and surroundings, he works in series to produce intimate, introspective photographs, creating suggestive visual narratives focused primarily on himself and his place in the world. 

In series form, Yamrus has addressed environmental issues in his carefully composed photographic still lifes of flowers, blocks of ice, and plastic water bottles. He frequently shoots self-portraits amid the natural landscapes that formed his experiences, allowing the insertion of himself into the scene to serve as proxies for his emotions. 

Frank Yamrus leaves his open-ended images largely unexplained, explaining that his photography has always been about process and not about resolution. Two of his previously shot series are the 1994 figurative-nature “Primitive Behavior” and the 2000  “Rapture Series” of facial- expressive portraits. In 2008, to mark the milestone of his fiftieth birthday, Yamrus shot ” I Feel Lucky”, a poetic series of self-portraits, at once overt and ambiguous, which conveyed the pivotal experiences that shaped his identity.

Mark Helprin: “Winter’s Tale”

Photographer Unknown, Winter’s Tale

“Winter then in its early and clear stages, was a purifying engine that ran unhindered over city and country, alerting the stars to sparkle violently and shower their silver light into the arms of bare up-reaching trees. It was a mad and beautiful thing that scoured raw the souls of animals and man, driving them before it until they loved to run..” 

—Mark Helprin, Winter’s Tale

The Twilights Linger

Photographers Unknown, The Twilights Linger

“That country where it is always turning late in the year. That country where the hills are fog and the rivers are mist; where noons go quickly, dusks and twilights linger, and midnights stay. That country composed in the main of cellars, sub-cellars, coal-bins, closets, attics, and pantries faced away from the sun. That country whose people are autumn people, thinking only autumn thoughts. Whose people passing at night on the empty walks sound like rain.” 

—-Ray Bradbury

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: “Wandrers Nachtlied”

Photographers Unknown, Fleeting Episodes

“As we walk through life, fleeting emotional episodes may keep on twinkling, curl up in the hive of our recollection and enrich our imagination. In the same vein, aesthetic allurement and poetic gracefulness may possess us, besiege our mind, light up our thinking and shape our future. ( “Über allen Gipfeln ist Ruh”)” 

—-Erik Pevemagle

“Wandrers Nachtlied (Wanderer’s Nightsong)” is the title of two famous poems written by German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. 

The manuscript of the first, “Der du von dem Himmel bist”, was among Goethe’s letters sent in February of 1776 to his friend Charlotte von Stein. The second poem, “Uber allen Gipfein”, is often considered the most perfect lyric in the German language. It is believed, according to a letter sent to Charlotte von Stein, that Goeth wrote it on the evening of September 6th in 1780, while spending the night in a gamekeeper lodge at the top of Kickelhahn Mountain on the edge of the Central Thuringian Forest.

German poet and translator Karl Ludwig von Knebel, a friend of Wolfgang von Goethe, mentions the “Uber allen Gipfein” manuscript in his diary; and the manuscript was documented by other friends, Johann Herder and Louise von Göchhausen. This manuscript was later published in 1800 and 1803, without authorization, by writer and publicist August von Hennings. An English version of “Uber allen Gipfein” appeared in London’s “Monthly Magazine”  in February of 1801. 

These two poems were first published together in Goethe’s 1815 “Works Volume One” under the headings “Wandrers Nachtlied” and “Ein Gleiches (Another One)”. Both works were set to classical music by Austrian composer Franz Schubert: the first “D 224”, published in 1821 as “Op. 4 No. 1” and the second “D 768”, published in 1822 as “Op. 96 No. 3”.

“Über allen Gipfein ist Ruh, In allen Wipfein Spürest du Kaum einen Hauch; Die Vögelein schweigen im Walde. Warte nur, balde Ruhest du auch.”

-Wolfgang von Goethe

“O’er all the hilltops is quiet now, in all the treetops hearest thou hardly a breath; The birds are asleep in the trees. Wait, soon like these thou too shalt rest.”

– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Brian Catling: “Gravity Filled the Moment”

Photographers Unknown, The Faces of Man: Photo Set Nine

“One solitary tear crept through the scars of his face, through the diagrams of constellations and the incised maps of influence and dominion. A liquid without a name, it being made of so many emotions and conflicts, each cancelling the other out until only salt and gravity filled the moment and moved down through his expression.” 

—-Brian Catling, The Vorrh

Arthur O’Shaughnessy: “We Are the Dreamers of Dreams”

Photographer Unknown, (Dreamers of Dreams)

“We are the music-makers,

And we are the dreamers of dreams,

Wandering by lone sea-breakers,

And sitting by desolate streams.

World-losers and world-forsakers,

Upon whom the pale moon gleams;

Yet we are the movers and shakers,

Of the world forever, it seems.” 

—Arthur O’Shaughnessy, Ode, Poems of Arthur O’Shaughnessy

Arthur William Edgar O’Shaughnessy was a British poet, born in March of 1844 in London to Irish parents. In June, 1861, he became a transcriber in the library of the British Museum, reportedly through the influence of English writer and politician Sir Edward Lytton. Two years later, O’Shaughnessy became a herpetologist in the museum’s zoological department. 

Always having a true passion for literature, O’Shaughnessy published his first collection of poetry “Epic of Women” in 1870, followed in 1872 by the poetry collection “Lays of France”.  In 1873 he married, at the age of thirty, Eleanor Marston, the daughter of author John Westland Marston. After the 1874 publishing of “Music and Moonlight”, his third poetry collection, O’Shaughnessy and his wife wrote and published a volume of children stories entitled “Toyland” in 1875. 

After the publishing of “Toyland”, O’Shaughnessy did not produce any more volumes of poetry during the rest of his life. His last collection of poetry ,“Songs of a Worker”, was published posthumously in 1881. Both of the children of the marriage died in infancy; his wife Eleanor died in 1879. Arthur O’Shaughnessy died in London on January 30, 1881, at the age of thirty-seven from a fever. He is buried in Kensal Green Cemetery in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in London.

Arthur O’Shaughnessy was strongly influenced by the Pre-Raphaelite artists and writers, among whom were his friends, painter and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti and novelist Ford Madox Brown. He was also influenced by the contemporary French poetry translations of Paul Verlaine, the poetry of Sully Prudhomme, and the works of Algarnon Charles Swinburne, known for the use of alliteration in his verse.

Known for his much anthologized poem “Ode”, Arthur O’Shaughnessy is chiefly remembered for his later transcendental work that was influenced by the French Symbolist movement. His “Epic of Women”, with its poems using repetitive initial consonant sounds and rhythmic pace, is considered by many to be his best work.

Image reblogged with thanks to https://thouartadeadthing.tumblr.com

Be Creative

Photographer Unknown, (Be Creative)

“Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery – celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.”

—-Jim Jarmusch, MovieMaker Magazine #53-Winter, January 22, 2004

Image reblogged with many thanks to: https://theskywaspunk.tumblr.com

Joseph Campbell: “The Love of Your Fate”

Photographer Unknown, (The Love of Your Fate)

“Nietzsche was the one who did the job for me. At a certain moment in his life, the idea came to him of what he called ‘the love of your fate.’ Whatever your fate is, whatever the hell happens, you say, ‘This is what I need.’ It may look like a wreck, but go at it as though it were an opportunity, a challenge. If you bring love to that moment–not discouragement–you will find the strength is there. Any disaster you can survive is an improvement in your character, your stature, and your life. What a privilege! This is when the spontaneity of your own nature will have a chance to flow.

Then, when looking back at your life, you will see that the moments which seemed to be great failures followed by wreckage were the incidents that shaped the life you have now. You’ll see that this is really true. Nothing can happen to you that is not positive. Even though it looks and feels at the moment like a negative crisis, it is not. The crisis throws you back, and when you are required to exhibit strength, it comes.” 

—-Joseph Campbell, A Joseph Campbell Companion: Reflections on the Art of Living

A. A. Milne: “. . .Caught Up by a Little Eddy”

 

Photographer Unknown, (Caught Up by a Little Eddy)

“And out floated Eeyore.

“Eeyore!” cried everybody.

Looking very calm, very dignified, with his legs in the air, came Eeyore from beneath the bridge.

“It’s Eeyore!” cried Roo, terribly excited.

“Is that so?” said Eeyore, getting caught up by a little eddy, and turning slowly round three times. “I wondered. . . .”

—-A.A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner

William Gay: “An Infinite Number of Lives”

Photographers Unknown, (An Infinite Number of Lives)

“Down fabled roads reverting now to woods Winer felt himself imprisoned by the dark beyond the carlights and by the compulsive timbre of Motormouth’s voice, a drone obsessed with spewing out words without regard for truth or even for coherence, as if he must spit out vast quantities of them and rearrange them for his liking, step back, and admire the various patterns he could construct: these old tales of love and betrayal had no truth beyond his retelling of them, for each retelling shaped his past, made him immortal, gave him an infinite number of lives.”
William Gay, The Long Home

John Steinbeck: “A Trip Takes Us”

Photographers Unknown, A Collection: A Trip Takes Us

“When I was very young and the urge to be someplace else was on me, I was assured by mature people that maturity would cure this itch. When years described me as mature, the remedy prescribed was middle age. In middle age I was assured greater age would calm my fever and now that I am fifty-eight perhaps senility will do the job. Nothing has worked. Four hoarse blasts of a ships’s whistle still raise the hair on my neck and set my feet to tapping. The sound of a jet, an engine warming up, even the clopping of shod hooves on pavement brings on the ancient shudder, the dry mouth and vacant eye, the hot palms and the churn of stomach high up under the rib cage. In other words, once a bum always a bum. I fear this disease incurable. 

I set this matter down not to instruct others but to inform myself….A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find after years of struggle that we not take a trip; a trip takes us.” 

—-John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley: In Search of America