What would that great poet of political engagement in the twentieth century have made of the current state of the world? Would it have brought out the ambivalently committed English socialist of the earlier years, or the Christian humanitarian Auden of maturity? Would he have understood that modern right wing populism is not quite the same thing as the fascism that he knew, and proceeded to dissect the differences and similarities with prophetic brilliance?
A partial answer to these impossible questions is provided for me at any rate by the still pertinent introduction to Faber’s 1979 selection of Auden by Edward Mendelson:
” In Auden’s unbroken vision of history, the ancient discontents survived in contemporary forms, but so did the ancient sources of personal and literary vitality. Modernism, disenfranchised from the past by its own sense of isolated modernity, could bring literary tradition into the present only as battered ironic fragments as in Eliot or by visionary heroic efforts like Pound’s to ‘make it new’. For Auden, it had never grown old. A laconic old English toughness survived in his poetry as did an Augustan civility…. Modernism tended to look back toward the reigns of a native aristocracy, too often it found the reflected glory of ancient tradition in political leaders who promised to restore social grandeur and unity through coercive Force. Auden’s refusal to idealize the past saved him from comparable fits of mistaken generosity. His poems and essays present the idea of the good society as, at best, a possibility never actually to be achieved, but towards which one must always work.’
Optic Nerve is a Blakean project based in South London. Largely self-funded they are producing fascinating videos about poetry and contemporary music. Especially the black mountain poets and the Objectivist poets of 20th century America. And from Britain material on Elaine Feinstein – her ‘Song of Power’. I also highly recommend the interview with ‘the last living Objectivist’ Carl Rokosi in the ‘current projects’ section. There is much excellent work here in progress much of it needing funding to continue…
High summer approaches. For me this time of year is very much associated with that most aetherial of birds, the swift. I’m waiting eagerly for them to arrive. Remembering sitting in the garden at peace on summer afternoons; looking upwards into depth upon depth of blue, where the screaming swifts are seen looping through the sky in their great, unhindered gyres. So sad that their numbers have declined in recent years, not enough people have proper wooden eaves under which they can make their nests anymore.
Welcome to Urthona magazine, taking its name from William Blake’s zoa or archetypal spirit of the creative imagination Urthona blends a Romantic concern with inner and outer spiritual freedom with the insights of the Buddhist East. Urthona appears once a year in 68 page full colour A4.
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NB The American Zen issue (35) is only a available as digital download due to Covid restrictions. Issue 35 explores the dynamic encounter between American culture and Buddhism, especially Zen in the mid 20th century. From John Cage, to Beat poets Ginsberg & Snyder plus Abstract Expressionist painters such as Mark Tobey. In fact many of the most iconic figures of American arts are on these pages. Contents includes: * The Crack of Vision: Buddhist influenced poetry in North America – Pound to Snyder. * Fine new poetry from Dhivan, Paramananda, Rachel Jagger, Penny Hope and many others. * Rothko: Horizons, Emptiness and Perfect Vision by Donal Mac Erlaine. * Zen and Abstract Expressionism. * Ginsberg and the Beats – a personal memoire of 50s California from Acarasiddhi. * Gary Gach on Bresson’s Diary of a Country Priest. * Fascinating abstract art from Abhayavajra in Suffolk…
If Romanticism did away with the notion of art as a mirror, D. T. Suzuki introduced another mirror to the discussion: the Zen mirror, an ubiquitous symbol of the clear mind reflecting reality as it is… Suzuki wants it both ways: he asserts the value of originality and creative particularity but insists that this should be neither personal, as the Romanticist claimed, nor social, as many contemporary thinkers argue, but should be based on an immediate access to and representation of reality that transcends the personal and the social.
This quote from David L. McMahon’s groundbreaking study The Making ofBuddhist Modernism sums up the encounter between a modernism still deeply indebted to Romanticism and a vision of Zen shorn of its normal cultural and ethical context. This attempt to discover the deepest truth of the everyday, of ‘this very life we are living’ in the words of John Cage, who was profoundly influenced by the writings of D. T. Suzuki, is the topic of our 35th issue. Here we explore the transformative encounter of Buddhism, especially Zen, with 20th century poetry and painting.
Urthona, appearing once a year, is a lavishly illustrated, 68 page, glossy magazine: with original and inspired poetry, fine art & photography features, reviews plus in depth articles on a fascinating theme chosen for each issue. Themes have included Indian Art, Romanticism, Art & Ecology, Writing as a sacred art…
We explore art, literature, culture and imagination from a modern Buddhist perspective. Our inspirations are William Blake and the Romantics, the zen poets of Japan, symbolists, psychonauts and radicals of all ages and climes.
Editor’s blog: musings on art, literature & spirit of place – scroll down this page.
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On top menu above: find links to feature pages for longer online essays / art features on many dimensions of art and the sacred for the 21st century.
This standing stone was spotted just outside Hatfield Forest, north east Essex. Although it has clearly been set up by a farmer just outside his farmhouse as an interesting feature, the stone itself does look very old and extremely weathered. It is some kind of conglomerate with many small pebbles ingrained in the rock. Surely someone trying to manufacture a megalith would not use this kind of stone as it doesn’t look especially mythic or impressive. However its shape is certainly very like some of the smaller standing stones at Avebury. So if a forgery a clever one…
PS I hear rumours of a church somewhere in Essex that is supposed to have a ring of buried megaliths all around the edge of the grave yard. I hope to report on this properly at some point in the future. Any pointers gladly received…
tracks to nowhere, the iron bridge, memories of the fair…
Stourbridge Common is the nearest piece of semi-rural land to where I live in Cambridge. It is only a five minute cycle ride away but on dark winter afternoons it can take on an epic doom-laden appearance… The straight track across its centre becomes a walk into the infinite instead of a few hundred yards towards the railway bridge.
Some fine water colour paintings by Buddhist artist Sudhi S. Pooniyil. He finds inspiration in the village life of his native India, as well as scenes in the UK. More on his website at https://sudhispooniyil.com