Speaking of ears, here are some sketches of chonchons, those peculiar creatures from Chilean folklore. Borges described them at some length in his Book of Imaginary Beings; here’s a shorter account, from the Dizionario dei Mostri (ed. Massimo Izzi, L’Airone, Roma, 1997), in my translation:
Vampire composed of an isolated human head with enormous ears, which function as wings for its nocturnal flights in search of victims. It is invisible except to witches, and they can only detect its presence from the strange cry that it emits: tué tué tué. If it is rendered powerless with the proper magical rites, it falls to earth, and can no longer fly unless another chonchon comes to its assistance.
Tags: *Sketchbook · C
Ears are strange looking things. Here are some studies of ears.
Tags: *Sketchbook · E
Black Scat Books has published a trade paperback collecting the three issues of Oulipo Pornobongo, a curious little publication devoted to smut written under formal constraints, edited by Norman Conquest. I contributed six pieces (a song, an acrostic, an alphabet, a univocalism, a comic strip on a scenario by Derek Pell, and a homophonic transliteration). I also translated a short story by Alphonse Allais, which used no constraints, but is included to acknowledge Allais’s position as an “anticipatory plagiarist” for Oulipo.
The other contributors are Alain Arias-Misson, Paulo Brito, Norman Conquest, Rusty Cuffs, Farewell Debut, Tom La Farge, Larry Fondation, Paul Forristal, Ryan Forsythe, Eckhard Gerdes, Harold Jaffe, Roger Leatherwood, D.S. Macpherson, Samantha Memi, Ellen Nations, Opal Louis Nations, Andy O’Clancy, Lance Olsen, Derek Pell, Shane Roeschlein, Thaddeus Rutkowski, Maria Schurr, Lucy Selleck, Kebob G. Shoon, Tara Stillions Whitehead, and Giovanni Zuniga.
Available from the inimitable Black Scat Books!
Tags: *Words · O
Here’s another excerpt from Sleepytime Cemetery (available, remember, from Black Scat Books). An attempted suicide turns to slapstick, all in ABAB quatrains. This is how it begins…
I laid a razor at my wrist,
So I would be no more.
I closed my eyes, and sneezed, and missed,
And dropped it on the floor.
I heard it fall; I heard a ping;
And yet the floor was bare.
I couldn’t find the pesky thing,
It wasn’t anywhere.
I got down on my hands and knees
And felt along the ground.
I found a nickel and some keys,
But that was all I found.
It might have fallen in a crack,
And so be out of sight.
So I arose, and stretched my back,
And went to get a light.
I fetched a flashlight, flipped the switch,
And tried to trace the fall.
I found the blade within a niche
Between the floor and wall.
Tags: *Words · R
This little tale concerning the perils of cultural appropriation can be found in my collection Sleepytime Cemetery, available from Black Scat Books. Here’s how it starts; for more, buy the book!
THE YODELING DUTCHMAN
Rembrandt van Rijn stepped out of his picturesque cottage and into the crisp October air. I should make it clear at the outset that this Rembrandt van Rijn is not the same as the famous painter, whose works are prized by museums and fetch such high prices at auction. He wasn’t even a painter. To clear up any confusion, I should give him a different name.
Johannes Vermeer stepped out of his picturesque cottage and into the crisp October air. He filled his lungs and started yodeling.
“Oh layee layee oh,” he yodeled, waving his arms in rhythm.
A stout woman bustled out, her poplar klompen clattering on the walkway. She was Catharina, his wife.
“Johannes! Johannes!” she exclaimed. “Stop that infernal racket!”
“I’m yodeling,” he explained.
“I can hear that,” she replied. “But this is Holland, not Switzerland.”
“But we Dutch have no folk tradition of extended vocal technique, like Swiss yodeling, Tuvan throat singing, or Balkan outdoor singing.”
“True,” admitted Catharina.
“Many Dutch jazz bands play music from the African American tradition,” he said. “Why shouldn’t I appropriate the glottal stops of our Alpine neighbors?”
“Because they’re Alpine,” Catharina said. “When they yodel, it echoes. There’s no echo here. The Netherlands are as flat as a pancake, or, to put it in our native tongue, a pannekoek.” (This was before the spelling reform of 1996, which changed the spelling to pannenkoek.)
Tags: *Words · Y
It’s distressing when somebody says something offensive. Your face flushes; your heartbeat goes up; it’s like getting mild exercise, or drinking coffee. Here’s a song for those occasions.
Tags: *Music · S
The fifteenth issue of The Black Scat Review is out! This one is subtitled “More Utter Nonsense,” and includes my poem “Pan and Kettle,” as well as my translations of two monologues by Charles Cros, “The Man with His Feet Turned Around” and “The Man Who Made a Discovery.” The other contributors are Edward Ahern, Paulo Brito, Giada Cattaneo, Norman Conquest, Falconhead, Farewell Debut, Jhaki M.S. Landgrebe, Michael Leigh, Jason E. Rolfe, Mercie Pedro e Silva, and Carla M. Wilson.
It’s available from Black Scat Books: $18 for a print copy and $5 for a digital.
Tags: *Words · B
A piece for viola and piano; an octatonic theme harmonized and turned into a canon.
Tags: *Music · Z
A drowsy little piece for piano, recommended for nap time. The title comes from Keats. Thanks, Keats.
Tags: *Music · M
From my conservatory days, an idea for a graphic score notated on flipbooks. I did this for my freshman composition class, and it made a cheery racket.
Tags: *Music · F