Thursday, December 31, 2009

W. S. Merwin on Hawaii

By Jack

Anniversary on the Island

Poem: "Anniversary on the Island," by W.S. Merwin from The Rain in the Trees (Random House).

Anniversary on the Island

The long waves glide in through the afternoon
while we watch from the island
from the cool shadow under the trees where the long ridge
a fold in the skirt of the mountain
runs down to the end of the headland
day after day we wake to the island
the light rises through the drops on the leaves
and we remember like birds where we are
night after night we touch the dark island
that once we set out for
and lie still at last with the island in our arms
hearing the leaves and the breathing shore
there are no years any more
only the one mountain
and on all sides the sea that brought us

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Zen Nights Dharma Days

ni Swing 
(photo by Jack)

Zen. Sublimity.  There are few words to conjure the world of Kalani Honua, a place of rhythms and life. Fortunate are the happy souls who come here, intermingle, and experience such contact with earth, air, volcanic fire, and water-- the ocean and the waterfalls, and the pools of clear healing water. People here connect to the land in a holistic way difficult to imagine on the mainland of the U.S. Everything flows in a harmony that resonates in those who live and work here.

It is easy to photograph the flowers, the pristine beaches, the steam from Kiluea, from Pele. It is easy to imagine, to recall, the joy of sitting in the swing pictured here, gazing at the ocean for whales, for the spume as they catch their breath, dolphins, black crabs scurrying over the black lava rocks. Life is exquisite here, like a rare orchid. The lizard on the sunny sill has found enlightenment.

--Jack Miller

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Spirit of Hawaii

Candice on the Shore
Photo by Jack

How do I convey the primeval spirit of this island in the center of the Pacific Ocean? Stereotypical images of the Islands of Hawaii must first vanish. After dispelling the commercial attributes of Honolulu and Waikiki, imagine the birth of a volcanic island complete with swaying coconut palms, billowing nimbus clouds from which lightning bolts from cloud to cloud. Picture flame trees, hibiscus, orchids sprouting in full bloom from shrubs, and the sounds of doves, coqui frogs, and rain on tin roofs. Imagine a sparkling natural water pool with a naked Adam and Eve diving in. Long stretches of black sand and white sand beaches round out the landscape and seascape.
Kalani is a place altogether beyond commercial Hawaii; even the food is spiritual: fresh mango, blueberries, Kona coffee, fresh Ahi Tuna...Everything outdoors in the breeze from the Pacific. 

Is all of this description too idealistic, too  unaware of the realistic down side of existence on the Big Island? Perhaps so. Yet, after this morning, watching the sunrise through towering clouds, the lightning, the cleansing rain, and having breakfast served by Darryl as the sun bathed the lawn and flowers in warm light, how could I be otherwise?



Sunday, December 13, 2009

Fallen Leaves

So pleased to see W. S. Merwin, among other poets, quoted with reference to one on my favorite themes:

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Call Me Jack (What's in a name?)

Jack in Hilo
Photo by Dar

Having a name is odd. Our first bit of identity is chosen before or right at the moment of coming into being. Why don't we get to create it later, the way we do our religion-- Oh wait, most of us get immersed in that right away too. Yet, the latter is easily enough altered, not stamped on our birth certificate, forever.

So, call me Jack, the name my parents gave me. Call me a Savannah boy, since I was born there and lived there until I went to college. That's how one starts, right? The colleges certainly are an essential part of my identity-- here's the list: U.Va., Sewanee, Tulane, Emory University are the major ones. Left Va. for Sewanee in order to change majors (math to philosophy) and for reasons of love and sexual identity. Degrees? B.A., M.A., M.Ln., Ph.D. in Philosophy (Tulane). My Doctoral Dissertation was on the Philosophy of Art

( and My Master's Thesis was on D.H. Lawrence, whose homes I visited in Taos, NM, Hampstead Heath, north of London, Land's End in Cornwall, and Lake Chapala, Mexico.

Suffice it to say that in the areas of literature and philosophy my interests range from Shakespeare to the Beats, and from Plato, Descartes and Berkeley, to the existentialists, especially Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. Oh, there are others too: the Romantic poets to Michel Foucault. And that doesn't even touch on the art and artists I love...

I've had a long career in teaching and librarianship: Two universities, two art colleges, two high schools, and the High Museum of Art along with other oddities like Law Librarian at the Georgia State University Law School. Teaching for 17 years at the Atlanta College of Art was especially rewarding. During those years I wrote articles and reviews for Art Papers, and other publications. I met wonderful students who are still making art today. Kara Walker took two of my classes. And many students and colleagues are now among my Facebook friends.

It was also during this time that I collected much of the art I now own, the Larry Connatser paintings, for instance, and the photographs of my friend Paula Gately Tillman.

Since the age of 18 I have kept journals. My first trip to Europe in 1970 was as formative as any college course. I spent three months there, writing Journal 5, traveling by Eurail pass, soaking up art and history as never before. This blog is testament to how much I love Europe and have continued to bask in the culture and civilization there.

This is not the place for the history of my relationships and the back and forth I did, like the train trips in Europe from country to country, across the landscapes, bodyscapes of sexuality. Suffice it to say, I was every inch a Hippie in the 70's and thank Dionysus for it. Savannah, New Orleans, Mexico, and San Francisco, with frequent jaunts to New York and New England, were my playgrounds and home during the 70s. Those were the days of meeting Allen Ginsberg, W.S. Merwin, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti-- the time when I met the wonderful actor and my close friend, Joe Mydell.

Today, I am married to a man, my husband  Darryl Gossett. We have a nexus of relationships with others. Our travels and life together fill many of the pages of this Blog. He is a talented editor and writer. we have  lived in our townhouse in Atlanta 18 years. My aim now is to shift from critical writing to more creative writing, such as my "Art Memo" and several reviews in The Gay and Lesbian Review, Worldwide, (another link to the essay is here: click). I plan to continue writing poetry, and to create a photographic vision in sync with my writing, as in my other blog: Apricots.

But enough about me...

Here's to my friends and loved ones: 

To the chief intensity: the crown of these
Is made of love and friendship, and sits high
Upon the forehead of humanity.

Keats-- Endymion.


note: this was written 4 years ago. Quite a lot has happened since then; but the vector is the same. The photographs of the people in my life (above) reveal much, confirming Sartre's and de Beauvoir's views of the importance of   Le Regard...

Jameson 7/13

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

My Doctoral Dissertation cited

Pleased to see I'm quoted and cited in a recent (2007) Master's Thesis from the University of Victoria by Catherine M. Nutting:

 She writes: " Jack Miller, in “Herbert Read’s Philosophy of Art,” argues that Read’s aesthetic theory is a coherent system because it contains a clear definition of art, provides a basis for criticism, and
explains how art relates to the psyche and to society.19"

Abstract of My Dissertation:

Dissertation Abstracts: Citation
Your Search: ti:(herbert read's philosophy of art)
DEGREE:PH.D. | TULANE UNIVERSITY (School code: 0235) | Date: 1980.
NOTES:00182 pages. | UMI order no.: AAI8028501 | Print index reference: DAI 41-06A: 2643

ABSTRACT: The central thesis of the dissertation is that a coherent, consistent philosophy of art, which meets specific criteria, informs the work of Herbert Read. The examination of these criteria reveals further the unity and importance of Read's thought upon art.
A philosophy of art requires a clear, adequate definition of art. The dissertation examines Read's meeting of this criterion first by means of an internal definition--an inductive study of each fine art making up the general category. Next, it presents his external definition--a comparative view of art among several cognitive forms. Read claims that art, as a symbolic form, conveys knowledge unattainable by any other form. Further, he sees art as essential to the evolution of other forms of cognition--science, for example. Read goes beyond Ernst Cassirer and Susanne Langer, the latter, whose understanding of art as embodiment of feeling, Read finds inadequate. Read's exploration of the full meaning of feeling leads to a thorough analysis.
This analysis involves the elaboration of the second criterion of a philosophy of art, namely, that it study the relationship between art and the psyche. Read extends his neo-Kantian definition of art as a symbolic form to the understanding of art as an embodiment of archetypes. Read applies theory from Carl Jung directly to art, amending psychology to account for a wide range of traditional and contemporary art. The dissertation presents Read's evaluation of art as essential to self-knowledge.
The third criterion the dissertation sets is that a philosophy of art account for the relationship of art and society. Read fulfills this requirement by an examination of such problems as the shifting source of patronage, the need for art in education, and the role of art in balancing the needs of a civilization. Read consistently extends into the area of society discoveries made in his study of art and the individual.
An examination of the link between art and nature is the fourth requirement of a philosophy of art. This criteron is central to Read's philosophy and completes his study of the meaning of feeling in art. Read argues that art embodies the full range of felt experience, including that of nature. He considers art as a continuation of natural processes and as a means to connection between man and nature.
Fifth, a philosophy of art, to be thorough, must consider the role of art criticism as well as provide a basis for such criticism. The dissertation examines how Read's work meets both needs, presenting a view of the vital part played by the critic and offering a philosophical groundwork for evaluating particular works of art.
Finally, seen critically in the light of these criteria, Read's philosophy emerges as a unified overview of the meaning and value of art. The dissertation concludes with a review of these criteria and an evaluation of Read's place in modern art theory.