It's been a hectic but satisfying week. In the last ten days, I've managed to catch:
a) Three Philadelphia Orchestra concerts (in addition to the Penderecki, I also attended a performance of the Lutoslawki Piano Concerto by Krystian Zimerman - have I mentioned that Lutoslawski is my enthusiasm of the month? - and a performance of Berlioz's Romeo and Juliet)
b) Six films at the New York Film Festival (the highlights being Agnes Jaoui's delightful Let it Rain, Kazakh director Sergei Dvortsevoy's charming and bittersweet Tulpan and a screening of Oshima's surreal yet incredible The Man Who Left His Will on Film; low points were Oshima's Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence - why, why would anyone make a movie starring David Bowie? - and Jaime Rosales entirely pointless Bullet in the Head, a film that confirms all one's worst stereotypes about experimental cinema being self-indulgent and tedious.)
c) A performance by the Emerson String Quartet
d) An adaptation of Dostoyevsky's Grand Inquisitor for the stage
e) A performance by the Parsons Dance Company, which I may get around to ranting about one of these days
f) A screening of Juan Antonio Bardem's Death of a Cyclist.
g) A cello recital (followed by an evening spent obsessively listening to alternate versions of Beethoven's Third Cello Sonata, trying to make the impossible choice between Casal's furious, growling rendition with its menacing first movement and explosive finale, and the experience of hearing Du Pre transform that first movement into pure song, the sound so exquisite it moves me to tears; and I haven't even got to the Rostropovich-Richter recording yet. Sigh)
Good times. Good times.
Reading's been taking a bit of a back-seat this week (see above) but did manage to read Reginald Gibbons' new collection Creatures of a Day, which is on the shortlist for this year's National Book Award in poetry. It's not a particularly exciting book (I suspect Silliman would describe it as School of Quietude) but in many ways it's a sublime one, its quiet, meditative poems sneak subtly up on you until you find yourself unexpectedly moved.
The pick of the poems in the book is undoubtedly 'Fern-Texts', a glorious palimpsest of a poem in which Gibbons weaves together his own memories and extracts from Coleridge's notebooks to create an almost fugual exploration of youth, poetry and political engagement; a poem about the meaning of dreams and the dream of Meaning; about the inevitable and endlessly repeated betrayal of both what we thought we stood for, and what we felt but could not say. Describing Coleridge's views on poetry, Gibbons writes that C. saw poems as being "at heart / a dreaming, with states and shifts / of feeling and image and / narratives moving with that / peculiar syntax of con-/ nections that lie beneath what / we think we think." And that's exactly what 'Fern-Texts' is: not thought made transparent, but the movement of the mind captured on the page.
There's also the lovely 'Ode: I had been reading ancient Greeks', in which images of water, a young girl's suicide and the Antigone myth come together in a poem of dark yet artesian power; and the pitch-perfect evocation of an urban landscape in 'Where moon light angles through'. All in all, a book well worth the read.