what does the poet see?

Visual language is poetry in its own right, yet when a poet with the capacity to view a painting without bringing the common interpretation of its language to bear, other, deeper and wider dimensions of perception can arise.  Poets sometimes employ another – usually visual – work of art as an entry point to their own creative expression and there’s a name for this form: ekphrasis.  Often the resulting poems convey a deeper symbolism than is obvious; they can open up a surprising new dimension of meaning.  (I wrote more about ekphrasis in this post about Howard Nemerov‘s poem, Vermeer.)

The work of haiku poet Gabriel Rosenstock has been featured on this site several times – he’s almost our unofficial poet-in-residence. (You’ll find links to his other pages below.) Well-known for his collaborative haiga with photographer Ron Rosenstock, Gabriel recently sent me these examples of his ekphrastic haiku. He includes three versions of his haiku – Irish, English and Japanese. (The latter are translations by Mariko Sumikura.)

The artworks are by Marc Chagall and Rene Magritte – details are included at the foot of the post.

 

Chagall-Rosenstock haiku 1

 


 

Chagall-Rosenstock haiku 2

 


 

Magritte-Rosenstock haiku 1

 


 

Magritte-Rosenstock haiku 2

 


 

Magritte-Rosenstock haiku 3

 


 

Magritte-Rosenstock haiku 4

 


 

Magritte-Rosenstock haiku 5

 


From top:
Marc Chagall, Le Violoniste Bleu,1929
Marc Chagall, Cover, Souvenir Program for Ballet Russe, ca 1945
Rene Magritte, Le Mal du Pays (Homesickness), 1940
Rene Magritte, Golconda, 1953
Rene Magritte, L’Inondation (The Flood), 1928
Rene Magritte, The Pleasure Principle, 1937


Books by Gabriel Rosenstock

Blog: roghagabriel.blogspot.ie


disappearing in the haiku moment

a glimpse of a god

rosenstock & rosenstock

being in love with light


 

pop goes the perceiver…

For those of us whose interest in the mechanics of perception and the arising of visual experience runs deep, contemporary Dzogchen teacher Jackson Peterson offers a pithy lay summary. What are the implications for us as ‘artists’? What are we actually attempting to express? Are we furthering the illusion of a solid-state world or are we inquiring into its genesis? What can we express about the ubiquitous “knowing sentience”? And where does this leave us as viewers of both art and the world we feel is so unquestionably ‘real’? Fasten your seat belts!

Perception is an acquired phenomenon.
– E H Gombrich


 

Understanding our visionary world experience of ordinary perception as being a mental or brain/mind construction arising instantaneously, from moment to moment, is a profound insight. The Source creates visionary experience through a human brain. Having a human brain is the only way to have uniquely human experience.

 

Glass Brain Project visualises brain activity in 3D

 

Perceptions, as neurological, electro-chemical signals, are processed and immediately appear as virtual 3D images like a movie. Along with that arising of a movie-like experience is the arising of a perceiver. It’s not that there exists a pre-existing observer that ‘views’ the various movie-like perceptual images, but rather the ‘perceiver’ perceiving arises with the perceptual vision, as a part of the projection.  The perceiver is imagined.

This is identical to what occurs when we dream at night. The dreamed self-identity is not a pre-existing entity that then ‘views’ the separate dream scenery, rather the perceiver of the dream scenery is equally a simultaneous projection of a subconscious creativity. The ‘perceiver perceiving’ is a mental projection. The same is true in the waking state. There is no actual separate ‘perceiver of perceptions’ other than an imagined one. The ‘me’ is merely a projection of karmic propensities. There is no actual aware entity within that milieu of projected me-thoughts, me-sensations and me-beliefs. What that ‘me’ does or intends is purely determined by karmic or brain conditioning. So free will loses all meaning. There is no ‘me’ entity that chooses or decides anything.

 

Human Connectome Project

 

There is no stable and objective universe ‘out there’. There is only the world and universe manufactured by your brain/mind at any, and every, given moment. There is however a vast and infinite quantum electro-magnetic informational field that moves or waves through the body’s perceptual organs, which becomes the basis for the 3D movie that appears in consciousness. And actually the movie doesn’t appear ‘in’ consciousness, but consciousness appears as the 3D virtual movie along with its artificial ‘viewer’. All events are occurring only within the brain.

 

Human Connectome Project

 

Light is not bright nor colorful. Light is invisible. The brightness and colors we see in our ordinary vision only exist in the brain/mind. Brightness is a brain manufactured phenomena, along with all the objects we seem to see. Again the perceiver of objects, brightness and colors is also a mentally manufactured entity made up of neural conditioning and conceptual designation. There is no actual entity that ‘sees’. When we fall asleep at night that entity disappears and is replaced by a new dreamed entity that also thinks it’s seeing pre-existing dream scenery. It’s constructed to think that, the same as our waking state ‘self’ thinks that it is seeing a pre-existing world.

 

Human Connectome Project

 

Sound only exists in a brain. The universe is silent. Movements of molecules cause the ear drum to vibrate, which creates electro-chemical signals from which the brain creates the inner neurological experience called sound.

We think we smell the fragrance of a flower, but instead no “scent” enters our nostrils, only odorless molecules. The brain then creates the fragrance as a neurological experience from odorless molecules.

Taste is the same. Foods contain no flavours; only brains do.

Sensations of pressure and heat and cold are the same as well.

Seeing that the experience and substance of our dream visionary experiences is identical to our day time ‘waking state’ visionary experience, in that both are both equally 3D brain/mind manufactured projections, is a profound insight. Neither the viewing subject nor the scenery viewed are other than subconscious projections occurring in the brain/mind. There is no real person ‘in there’ having experiences. That whole ‘me’ story is also just a projection of electro-chemical neural activity. The entire notion of being a real individual person, an autonomous self, is pure, brain generated fantasy.

 

Human Connectome Project

 

But a quality of knowing sentience pervades all experience equally. It’s not viewing the dream, but rather the dream or experience is what ‘knowingness’ is. It’s like the reflections that appear in a mirror. The brain and its functioning are also reflections appearing in the mirror of knowingness. But the mirror is never a person with an identity or personal story. That entity is merely a holographic reflection that appears and disappears completely from moment to moment with no continuity. There is no personal self except as an assemblage of neurological signals arising in the holographic, 3D movie that we call ‘our life in the universe’.

By noticing the inherent presence of knowing sentience to be within and AS all experience equally, that ‘noticer’ itself will dissolve into its changeless mirror-like, transparent awareness without border or center.

No one realized anything. No state became stable. That ‘me’ as a seeker just disappeared, dissolved, like a foggy mist that naturally evaporates in the morning sun.

– Jackson Peterson


See Jackson Peterson’s website – The Way of Light

He is also very active on Facebook, which is where I sourced this article. It has received only minor editing. Thank you Jax!


The top image is from the Glass Brain Project.

“This 3D brain is not a model — it’s a real human brain, firing electric signals as it thinks. “We are not just recording brain activity in real time, but also visualising it for people to experience how the brain functions,” says neuroscientist Adam Gazzaley of the University of California San Francisco, who built the Glass Brain project along with the Swartz Centre at UC San Diego.”

Visit the link to play with the model – it’s a wonder in every sense of the word.

The remaining images are from the gallery at the Human Connectome Project.

“Navigate the brain in a way that was never before possible; fly through major brain pathways, compare essential circuits, zoom into a region to explore the cells that comprise it, and the functions that depend on it.

The Human Connectome Project aims to provide an unparalleled compilation of neural data, an interface to graphically navigate this data and the opportunity to achieve never before realized conclusions about the living human brain.”

You will never think of so-called grey matter in quite the same way again. Or, indeed, your world.

The only thing worth expressing is the inexpressible.
– Frederick Franck


the Face of faces

seeing without shadows


on mindfulness, contentedness and a tin mug

 

The contemplation of things as they are,
without error or confusion, without substitution or imposture,
is in itself a nobler thing than a whole harvest of invention.

– Francis Bacon, 16-17th century English philosopher

 

Robert Spellman - Two Cups

Robert Spellman – Two Cups, acrylic on canvas

 

On his MoonBlog, painter Robert Spellman speaks of the challenge of contemplating “things as they are”. He points out that Bacon’s words above are a “good description of what meditators sometimes call “non-fabrication”, seeing things without opinion or subjective conceptual overlay”. Yet as all meditators know, this is easier said than done. Spellman observes:

It is one of the maddening things of artistic practice to not know what you are doing. It’s easy enough to come up with a scheme and easy enough to draw conclusions about what has been done, but clarity in the moment of doing is elusive. This, by the way, is why mindfulness practice holds my interest: it turns out to be quite difficult to steady the mind; it’s always on its way elsewhere. I suspect that this flitting quality of the mind is why artistic practice is both useful and surprisingly demanding.

Elsewhere he mentions in more detail how engagement in an art practice is not only useful for taming the monkey-mind, but also that it can lead to a sense of contented completeness:

… artistic practice of the most ordinary sort can lead to a recognition of wholeness, completeness. If you feel complete, you don’t consume so much. If you feel whole it seems natural to be curious about people and things and not so much about your self. This is no small thing if you multiply it by the billions of us on the earth right now. Our needy habits are neither fulfilling nor necessary, and are proving to be catastrophically expensive.

Recently I’ve been revisiting one of my favourite writers – Marion Milner – and I continue to be in awe of her persistent experiments with the processes of her thinking and perceiving. In A Life of One’s Own she sets out to grapple with the question “What do I really want from life?” and discovers that certain ways of attending, of looking, of moving, can bring surprising joy and contentment. Her professional background was in science rather than the arts, although she was a serious painter. To my knowledge she wasn’t a formal meditator, but I think that she and Robert Spellman are riding the same moonbeam when it comes to their diversely gained insights into the workings of perception.

One of her ongoing experiments involved simply sitting with a mundane object – for “it was obvious that I had so often failed to get the most out of whatever I did because my attention was always wandering to something else. So I began to try, and the result was a sense of new possibilities in richness of thought.” She turned her attention to a lump of coal on her hearth:

From having been aware of it simply as something to burn I began to feel its blackness as a quite new sensation, to feel its ‘thingness’ and the thrust of its shape, to feel after its past in forests of giant vegetation, in upheavings of the land passing to eons of stillness, and then the little men tunnelling, the silence and cleanness of forests going to make up London’s noisy filth.

Then I chose a small tin mug. It was an ugly object. Nevertheless I tried to keep my thoughts fixed upon it for fifteen minutes. This time I did not become concerned with its origin but simply let its form imprint itself upon my mind. Slowly I became aware of a quite new knowledge. I seemed to sense what I can only call the ‘physics’ of that mug. Instead of merely seeing its shape and colour I felt what I described to myself as its ‘stresses and strains’, the pressures of its roundness and solidity and the table holding it up. This sense did not come at once and I suppose it might never have come if I had not sat still and waited. But from this few minutes’ exercise on a tin mug I had found a clue which eventually led me to understand what was the significance of many pictures, buildings, statues, which had before been meaningless.

By a simple self-chosen act of keeping my thoughts on one things instead of dozens, I had found a window opening out across a new country of wide horizons and unexplored delights.

She expands this view with a beautiful account of the way her senses were restored from fragmentation to wholeness, bringing deep contentment:

I sat motionless, draining sensation to its depths, wave after wave of delight flowing through every cell in my body. My attention flickered from one delight to the next like a butterfly, effortless, following its pleasure; sometimes it rested on a thought, a verbal comment, but these no longer made a chattering barrier between me and what I saw, they were woven into the texture of my seeing. I no longer strove to be doing something, I was deeply content with what was. At other times my senses had often been in conflict, so that I could either look or listen but not both at once. Now hearing and sight and sense of space were all fused into one whole.

– Marion Milner, A Life of One’s Own


Have you ever sat with a mundane object – even something you would normally consider “ugly” – for fifteen minutes, with a mind totally empty of narrative? With no interest in its value, its history or its future? With what some meditators call “beginner’s mind”?

If yes – were you surprised at what revealed itself?

If no – please have a go… you wouldn’t want to miss out on those “wide horizons and unexplored delights” would you?


Robert Spellman and Marion Milner are also featured on pages in this site:

Robert Spellman at the artisans’ gallery

Marion Milner: knowing with the whole body


Marion Milner: A Life of One's Own

A Life of One’s Own


You might also be interested in

David Bohm and Rouault’s clown


the measure of a moment

Artisans and artists whose work is an attempt to express the inexpressible will often speak about their practice as a settling into the moment, a relaxing in the now, or even as a dissolving into wild unknowingness – and creating from that far side. Years ago I came upon a way to explore the intimate and fleeting moment; I began painting the exhalation of my breath. I reckoned that the length of one exhalation – as laid down in one simple brushstroke – was a pretty good portrait of a moment in my life, and a measure of my essential ‘beingness’.

 

Miriam Louisa Simons - Breathscribe Series - Desert Breath

 

But when I read Ruth Ozeki’s novel A Tale for the Time Being, I had to rethink my moments. Turns out that in the Zen view of time one exhalation of my breath would amount to not one, but hundreds of moments. In a revealing note at the end of the book (Appendix A: Zen Moments) Ozeki fleshes out the Zen view of time. It’s mind-scrambling, like most things Zen:

The Zen nun Jiko Yasutani once told me in a dream that you can’t understand what it means to be alive on this earth until you understand the time being, and in order to understand the time being, she said, you have to understand what a moment is.

In my dream I asked her, What on earth is a moment?

A moment is a very small particle of time. It is so small that one day is made of 6,400,099,980 moments.

When I looked it up afterward, I discovered that this was the exact number cited by Zen Master Dōgen in his masterwork, the Shōbōgenzō (The treasury of the True Dharma Eye).

Numerals resist the eye, so let me spell it out in words: six billion, four hundred million, ninety-nine thousand, nine hundred and eighty. That’s how many moments Zen Master Dōgen posited are in one day, and after she rattled off the number, old Jiko snapped her fingers. Her fingers were crazily bent and twisted with arthritis, so she wasn’t very good at snapping, but somehow she got her point across.

Please try it, she said. Did you snap? Because if you did, that snap equals sixty-five moments.

The granularity of the Zen view of time becomes clear if you do the math*, or you can just take Jiko’s word for it. She leaned forward, adjusting her black-framed glasses on her nose and peering through the thick murky lenses, and then she spoke once more.

If you start snapping your fingers now and continue snapping 98,463,077 times without stopping, the sun will rise and the sun will set, and the sky will grow dark and the night will deepen, and everyone will sleep while you are still snapping, until finally, sometime after daybreak, when you finish up your 98,463,077th snap, you will experience the truly intimate awareness of knowing exactly how you spent every single moment of a single day of your life.

She sat back on her heels and nodded. The thought experiment she proposed was certainly odd, but her point was simple. Everything in the universe is constantly changing, and nothing stays the same, and we must understand how quickly time flows by if we are to wake up and truly live our lives.

That’s what it means to be a time being, old Jiko told me, and then she snapped her crooked fingers again.

And just like that, you die.


Ruth Ozeki, A Tale for the Time Being


 

The Awakened Eye - Willy Tjungarrayi

 

Will I ever be able to look at the paintings of the Western Desert artists the same way again? If one fingersnap equals sixty-five moments, surely one dot would amount to something similar. So, how many moments are portrayed in a work like this one above, by Willy Tjungurrayi? Or the one below, by Lily Kelly Napangardi?

 

The Awakened Eye - Lily Kelly Napangardi

 

I know this much – one of my exhaled breathstrokes is equal to around seven fingersnaps. That means each complete painting portrays many days’ worth of moments. Was I present at every miracle moment? I doubt it.

But something in me suspects that those Aboriginal artists were, and are, and that they would agree 100% with old Jiko, and Zen Master Dōgen.


 

Today

I
do not
want to step so quickly
over a beautiful line on God’s palm
as I move through the earth’s
marketplace
today.

I do not want to touch any object in this world
without my eyes testifying to the truth
that everything is
my Beloved.

Something has happened
to my understanding of existence
that now makes my heart always full of wonder
and kindness.

I do not
want to step so quickly
over this sacred place on God’s body
that is right beneath your
own foot

as I
dance with
precious life
today.

– Hafiz

Translation by Daniel Ladinsky

See more at Poetry Chaikhana


* 1 fingersnap = 65 moments and 6,400,099,980 moments = one day, so 6,400,099,980 divided by 65 = 98,463,077 fingersnaps per day.


Zen Master Dōgen


the way of nen


 

look with fresh eyes

It’s rare to come upon an extraordinarily creative artist who also has a wise and poetic way with words. And to find that this artist has brought together her two skills within the covers of a book that is not only a visual delight but an inspiration for the contemplative creative, is such a joy. Her name is Karen Divine, and she hails from that hotbed of creativity, Boulder, Colorado.

Karen joins the Colorado crew – Jordan Wolfson, Robert Spellman and Lisa Gakyo Schaewe (have I missed anyone?) at the artisans’ gallery. I’m delighted to welcome her. She has opened my eyes to the astonishing creative possibilities of iPhone art.


Our world is filled with internal dialogue, judgments, assumptions and analysis.
We choose these perspectives over having a “direct experience”.
When we view the world with these perspectives, we do not see at all.
We live in a world where certainty and familiarity are most important.
There is another way.

Karen Divine: 16. Harmony. From "A Small Amount of Courage"

16. HARMONY
(LOOK WITH FRESH EYES)

LOOK with fresh eyes at the play of COLOR,
FORM, and TEXTURES that surround you!
This is the most heartfelt approach to embracing
each and every moment. By CONNECTING with HEAVEN
and EARTH you can bring the whole
UNIVERSE into your HANDS

As Rilke expresses beautifully in Letters to a Young Poet: Depict your sorrows and desires, your passing thoughts and beliefs in some kind of beauty, depict all that with heartfelt, quiet, humble sincerity and use to express yourself the things that surround you, the images of your dreams and the objects of your memory.

I have learned to step out of my way, quiet the critic and allow the process to happen, revealing to me a story.

I just shoot my life, stay present and watch what develops.
The opportunities are endless.

– Karen Divine


The image above is from Karen’s book A Small Amount of Courage, which features her iPhone art

“… which you must see to believe. In her book, Karen says, “As an artist, tapping into your own creative spirit is, first and foremost, a matter of developing awareness. This inner awareness allows you to quiet the senses and allows the unconscious to reveal rich imagery.”

Karen used the I Ching as the starting point for each of her images, and her creative process flowed through her meditations, yoga practice, and inspiration from Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet. The result is 64 images, each accompanied by a short verse, that offer profound insights into the most basic human experiences – those that you are more likely to see in the mirror than on the news.

Karen is an internationally recognized artist with more than a dozen prestigious awards for her iPhone art. After one glance at her work, it’s easy to see why – each image in her book is a composite of many images that feature color, lines, and balance. It is whimsical with a touch of melancholy and offers much for the eye to explore. The verses express Karen’s interpretation of the accompanying image and leave you with much to consider. A Small Amount of Courage is a masterwork that belongs on the bookshelf of all who appreciate art and how it can inspire self-realisation.”
– Jeanne Hansen, editor.

A Small Amount of Courage


Karen Divine at the artisans’ gallery


artisans
artisans’ gallery