say what?

― for David W. Affeld        

„Die Kunst muß erst recht wieder verachtet, für ganz unnütz gehalten werden, ehe wieder was daraus werden kann, oder sie muß auch recht einseitig auf alles angewendet werden. Es ist ein vergeblicher Wunsch, daß uns das Publicum recht verstehen soll.“
“Art must be despised and considered to be completely worthless before anything can be derived from it again, or else it must be applied to everything. It is therefore ridiculous to try for any kind of personal success.”

« Quand j’aurai inspiré le dégoût et l’horreur universels, j’aurai conquis la solitude. »
“Once I have inspired universal disgust and horror, I will have conquered solitude.”

« Ma carrière n’avait pas été un échec, commercialement tout du moins : si l’on agresse le monde avec une violence suffisante, il finit par le cracher, son sale fric ; mais jamais, jamais il ne vous redonne la joie. »
“My career had not been a failure, at least commercially: if you assail the world with sufficient violence, it ends up spewing its filthy lucre; but never, never does it give you back any joy.”

                      ÇA ?

                                                                              What ?…                                                            

Des essais ? — Allons donc, je nai pas essayé !
Étude ? — Fainéant je nai jamais pillé.
Volume ? —Trop broché pour être relié
De la copie ? —Hélas non, ce nest pas payé !

Un poëme ? — Merci, mais jai lavé ma lyre.
Un livre ? — … Un livre, encor, est une chose à lire !…
Des papiers ? — Non, non, Dieu merci, cest cousu !
Album ? — Ce nest pas blanc, et cest trop décousu.

Bouts-rimés ? — Par quel bout ?… Et ce nest pas joli !
Un ouvrage ? — Ce nest poli ni repoli.
Chansons ? — Je voudrais bien, ô ma petite Muse !…
Passe-temps ? — Vous croyez, alors, que ça mamuse ?

Vers ?… vous avez flué des vers… — Non, cest heurté.
Ah, vous avez couru lOriginalité ?…
Noncest une drôlesse assez drôle, — de rue
Qui court encor, sitôt quelle se sent courue.

Du chic pur ? — Eh qui me donnera des ficelles !
Du haut vol ? Du haut-mal ? — Pas de râle, ni dailes !
Chose à mettre à la porte ? — … Ou dans une maison
De tolérance. — Ou bien de correction ? — Mais non !

Bon, ce nest pas classique ? — À peine estce français !
Amateur ? — Aije lair dun monsieur à succès ?
Estce vieux ? — Ça na pas quarante ans de service
Estce jeune ? — Avec lâge, on guérit de ce vice.

ÇA cest naïvement une impudente pose ;
Cest, ou ce nest pas ça : rien ou quelque chose
Un chef-d’œuvre ? — Il se peut : je nen ai jamais fait.
Mais, estce du huron, du Gagne, ou du Musset ?

Cest dumais jai mis mon humble nom dauteur,
Et mon enfant na pas même un titre menteur.
Cest un coup de raccroc, juste ou faux, par hasard
LArt ne me connaît pas. Je ne connais pas lArt.

                                   Préfecture de police, 20 mai 1873
                                                          — Tristan Corbière

                        SAY WHAT?

                                                                                         ÇA ?
                                                                      Tristan Corbière

A treatise? You don’t say! I haven’t treated squat!
A study? Slothful wretch, my culture fetid rot.
A volume? Random heap, sheets stacked in disarray.
Good copy? Not with me enmired in the fray.

A poem? Not today, my lyre is being cleaned.
A book? Of fusty tomes far better to be weaned.
A song? Would that it were, my ear is made of tin.
Fun pastime? Sordid den, dire boredom dwells within.

A cadence? Rhythmic flow is broken by dull grind.
A product? I divide what others multiplied.
A story? Handicapped, my lame and laggard Muse.
Clear proof? My mind is fraught by grief and lit by booze.

High fashion? Wealth and style inform nowhere my dress.
Grandstanding or grand mal? My spasms fail to impress.
Evicted from the hall, I lurk behind the stage,
In transit, poised to choose: a joy house or a cage.

Too old? But to retire, my tenure won’t suffice.
Too young? My hectic life will rid me of this vice.
A sage, a slob, an ace, a master, and a clown,
A stud without a flock, a king without a crown.

THIS is without pretense, and yet a blatant pose.
It’s life and nothing but, confessed in deathless prose.
A masterpiece? Could be, I never made one yet!
A farce? A waste? A bomb? Decide and place your bet!

I bet… and I shall sign herewith my humble name;
My child shall overcome each tainted libel claim.
Through chance it will prevail, its fate a stroke of luck
Art knows me not at all — and I don’t give a fuck.

                      — traduced by MZ, 6 September 2005

3 thoughts on “say what?”

  1. I can’t help but think that you put much too much nonstop self-assertion into what you do and say. A lot of people say a man knows himself less by studying himself as himself, which is an endless labyrinth that can be read any number of ways, than by looking to what’s above him — God, the Form of the Good or whatnot — and then forming his understanding by reference to that more comprehensive and ultimate thing. In fact, I think you’ve put up some quotations to that effect. That has its difficulties, of course, but to my mind it seems the best bet. Among other things it helps put oneself and others in a common world and avoid extremes.

    Best wishes though.

    1. much too much nonstop self-assertion

          About 18 years ago, I attended a performance by the Kipper Kids, which involved Harry and Harry Kipper, starting out alongside each other, separated from their audience by identical paper screens, simultaneously breaching them with orifices through which they thrust forth their beaks and cocks, proceeding thenceforth with an exhibition of unmitigated scatology.

      Was their act much too much? Not from my perspective. Would it have been improved by measuring their penes and probosces against the Platonic ideals perched above them? Not to my liking.
          There are times and places that cannot be properly served by anything short of the extremes. Under the circumstances, I can only be thankful for measuring up to the tasks at hand with my own God-given nozzles.

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