Monthly Archives: April 2008

Mabel Lee

Soul Mountain is a literary response to the devastation of the self of the individual by the primitive human urge for the warmth and security of an other, or others, in other words by socialized life. The existence of an other resolves the problem of loneliness but brings with it anxieties for the individual, for inherent in any relationship is, inevitably, some form of power struggle. This is the existential dilemma confronting the individual, in relationships with parents, partners, family, friends and large collective groups. Human history abounds with cases of the individual being induced by force or ideological persuasion to submit to the power of the collective; the surrender of the self to the collective eventually becomes habit, norm convention and tradition, and this phenomenon is not unique to any one culture.
From Mabel Lee’s ‘Introduction’ to Gao Xingjian’s Soul Mountain (2000).

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Gao Xingjian

I must get out of this cave. The main peak of the Wuling Range, at the borders of the provinces of Guizhou, Sichuan, Hubei and Hunan, is 3200 meters above sea level. The annual rainfall is more than 3400 points and in one year there are barely one or two days of fine weather. When the wild winds start howling they often reach velocities of more than three hundred kilometers per hour. This is a cold, damp and evil place. I must return to the smoke and fire of the human world to search for sunlight, warmth, happiness and to search for human society to rekindle the noisiness, even if anxiety is regenerated, for that is in fact life in the human world.
Soul Mountain

The perennial and perplexing question of what is most important can be changed to a discussion of what is most authentic and at time can constitute what is known as debate. But let others discuss or debate such matters, they are of no consequence for I who am engrossed in my journey or you who are on your spiritual journey.
Soul Mountain

It is only when people refuse to accept that they shout out, even while not comprehending what they are shouting. Humans are simply such creatures, fettered by perplexities and inflicting anxiety upon themselves.
Soul Mountain

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Gabriel García Márquez

Let no one be deceived, no, thinking that what he awaits will last longer than what he has seen.
Memories of My Melancholy Whore

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Ecclesiastes

That thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done; and there is no new thing under the sun.
Ecclesiastes 1:9
King James Version

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Louise Erdrich

“I have never seen the truth,” said Damien, “without crossing my eyes. Life is crazy.”
The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse

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Barbara Kingsolver

She tried to put aside the misery of thinking too much.
Prodigal Summer

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William C. Brann

Too many forget that while the Lord made the world, the devil has been busy ever since putting on the finishing touches. Why, he began on the first woman before she was a week old, and he has been playing schoolmaster to her sons ever since. I confess to a sneaking respect for Satan, for he is pre-eminently a success in his chosen profession. He’s playing a desperate game against omnipotent power and is more than holding his own. He sat into the game with a cash capital of one snake; now he’s got half the globe grabbed and an option on the other half.
Brann the Iconoclast — Volume 12

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John Keats

A man’s life of any worth is a continual allegory– and very few eyes can see the mastery of his life– a life like the scriptures, figurative.
The Letters of John Keats, 1814-1821

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Chad Gifford

Poisonwood
by Chad Gifford

Fire at dawn, blaze on.
Horizon, sun rise.
That che-chem itch.

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Thomas Lux

A Little Tooth
by Thomas Lux

Your baby grows a tooth, then two,
and four, and five, then she wants some meat
directly from the bone. It’s all

over: she’ll learn some words, she’ll fall
in love with cretins, dolts, a sweet
talker on his way to jail. And you,

your wife, get old, flyblown, and rue
nothing. You did, you loved, your feet
are sore. It’s dusk. Your daughter’s tall.

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Jane Kenyon

Afternoon in the House
by Jane Kenyon

It’s quiet here. The cats
sprawl, each
in a favored place.
The geranium leans this way
to see if I’m writing about her:
head all petals, brown
stalks, and those green fans.
So you see,
I am writing about you.

I turn on the radio. Wrong.
Let’s not have any noise
in this room, except
the sound of a voice reading a poem.
The cats request
The Meadow Mouse, by Theodore Roethke.

The house settles down on its haunches
for a doze.
I know you are with me, plants,
and cats—and even so, I’m frightened,
sitting in the middle of perfect
possibility.

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Robert Hayden

Those Winter Sundays
by Robert Hayden

Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?

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Alicia Partnoy

Communication
by Alicia Partnoy

Yo te hablo de poesía
y vos me preguntás
a qué hora comemos.
Lo peor es que
yo también tengo hambre.

I am talking to you about poetry
and you say
when do we eat.
The worst of it is
I’m hungry too.

From Revenge of the Apple/Venganza de la manzana

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Barry Goldensohn

The Hundred Yard Dash Man
by Barry Goldensohn

I carried him lightly,
eighty pounds, my height,
half my weight
with enough body sense—
the old track star—
to work in my arms with the balance
of his remaining mass
as easy live weight.
It became his last voyage,
from living room to bed—
this carrying was comfort to both.
Morphine had ended months
of pain—he was genial now,
euphoric, enjoying himself,
with his daughter, and me, his son.
“You must have gotten stronger,”
he said, dismissing the loss
of body with a joke.
He knew he was on his way
out the door, and knowing was easy
though less clear for me
as I laid him down in bed
and laid myself in the twin
cold, rumpled, sour.
When hushed voices woke me
saying “He died last night,”
I couldn’t open my eyes
and lay there frozen
among the murmuring women.
He had slipped silently
through the door that now
he left open for me.

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Mary Oliver

The Poet with His Face in His Hands
by Mary Oliver

You want to cry aloud for your
mistakes. But to tell the truth the world
doesn’t need anymore of that sound.

So if you’re going to do it and can’t
stop yourself, if your pretty mouth can’t
hold it in, at least go by yourself across

the forty fields and the forty dark inclines
of rocks and water to the place where
the falls are flinging out their white sheets

like crazy, and there is a cave behind all that
jubilation and water fun and you can
stand there, under it, and roar all you

want and nothing will be disturbed; you can
drip with despair all afternoon and still,
on a green branch, its wings just lightly touched

by the passing foil of the water, the thrush,
puffing out its spotted breast, will sing
of the perfect, stone-hard beauty of everything.

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