Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Tuesday Poem - from THE STARS, an artist's book by Vija Celmins & Eliot Weinberger

Today, a small excerpt from a rare book gifted to me some months ago by a dear friend. A letter accompanied the book; in it, the words 'Since artists take sustenance from other artists, feast here. . ." Feast I did. And feast I do. This book - The Stars - makes my fingers itch for graphite, spaciousness and simplicity at a time when such things seem like curiosities from another life; mystifyingly elusive.  

                ". . . they are, they simply are;
                                    the stars are an enormous garden, and if we do not live
                                    long enough to witness their germination, blooming,
                                    foliage, fecundity, fading, withering, and corruption, 
                                    there are so many specimens that every stage is 
                                    before our view;
       we and all the stars we see are just one atom in an infinite ensemble:
          a cosmic archipelago; 
                     the sky is like a millstone turning, with the stars like ants
                        walking on it in the opposite direction;
                                            the sky is like the canopy of a carriage, with the
                                               stars strung like beads across it;
                 the sky is a solid orb and stars the perpetual illumination
                     of the volcanoes upon it;
                                                 the sky is solid lapis lazuli, flecked with pyrite, 
                                                     which are the stars;
             each star has a name and a secret name;
                               the only word we hear from them is their light;
     men will never compass in their conceptions the whole of the stars; 
                                       under a starry sky on a clear night, the hidden power
                                         of knowing speaks a language with no name;
           goodness and love flow down from them.
              if we were not located in a galaxy we would see no stars at all; 
               . . . " 

       from The Stars by Vija Celmins & Eliot Weinberger. 

from the book's flyleaf

"The New York artist Vija Celmins has made many images of the night sky - paintings, drawings, and prints of gorgeous richness. In The Stars she and the essayist and translator Eliot Weinberger devote an artist's book to the theme. Celmins has created three prints for the project, which she has also designed. One print, inspired by the worn binding of an early-twentieth-century Japanese book, becomes the volume's mottled deep-blue cover. The second is a negative image of the night sky - dark stars on a pale ground. The third etching suggests an open screen composed of sky and stars. For the text, Weinberger has assembled a catalogue of descriptions of the stars drawn from around the world, and from an array of historical, literary, and anthropological sources, This mythopoetic charting of the night sky evokes the vastness of the human imagination's response to a space itself  vast and unknowable. Appearing in English and also in Arabic, Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, and Maori, the text supplements Celmin's images visually as well as verbally.

. . . The translators of the text are the Iraqi novelist Sinan Antoon (Arabic), the poet Bei Dao (Chinese), the translator and author Siddharth Chowdury (Hindi), the translator, author, and editor Hiroako Sato (Japanese), and the translator and Maori-language advocate Piripi Walker (Maori)."

 Vija Celmins on YouTube - Desert, Sea and Stars
C2108 - Life on Mars

- and for Simon Grant's Tate Online interview with Vija Clemins, click here

For more Tuesday Poems, please click on the quill. 

This week's TP editor is Harvey Molloy with The Book of Equanimity Verses by Richard von Sturmer.


  1. That's a beauty of a poem. It made me recall Van Gogh's Starry Night.

  2. i love the way she talks about the process, that it is her knowledge, hers alone, of building up the (unseen) layers that gives the painting depth. and gives her happiness.

    a treasure; thank you, claire.

  3. Gorgeous work, Claire. It's hard to imagine another word being written about stars--the metaphors seem ancient and modern and as they enclose (though that's impossible) galaxies upon galaxies. xo

  4. Just a quick check-in. I'll be back to pay attention. Leaving heart-shaped pebbles of support and love,

    Marylinn (((<3)))

  5. Thinking of you today, claire....and I took a look at Celmin's artwork. She is something else, isn't she? I see such an affinity betw her work and yours....



  6. Hi dbs/think.stew - - - it's a beauty, isn't it! Potent and - yes, like van Gogh's painting - intoxicating. (I'm glad that you have come - am so enjoying your blog!).

  7. Dear Susan - Cremin's relationship with her work (such integrity and surrender) is glorious. Her ownership and surrender (that wonderful dance between conscious involvement and trusting the wisdom and directorship of the unconscious) imbues her work with startling depth and resonance. Love to you in S. Portland - thanks for understanding the 'timbre of now', its strangeness. C xx

  8. Dear Melissa - have you 'tackled' the stars? If not, I'd love you to. . . xo

  9. Marylinn dear - thank you for your heart-shaped pebbles; warmly, gratefully received. I am off to the beach now, where I will appreciate the ocean's offerings. Every time I go there I recall your words 'a finger in a tide pool brings us all together...' Love to you, Claire xo