Limited

Up, and having sent for Mr. Gawden he come to me, and he and I largely discoursed the business of his Victualling, in order to the adding of partners to him or other ways of altering it, wherein I find him ready to do anything the King would have him do. So he and I took his coach and to Lambeth and to the Duke of Albemarle about it, and so back again, where he left me. In our way discoursing of the business and contracting a great friendship with him, and I find he is a man most worthy to be made a friend, being very honest and gratefull, and in the freedom of our discourse he did tell me his opinion and knowledge of Sir W. Pen to be, what I know him to be, as false a man as ever was born, for so, it seems, he hath been to him. He did also tell me, discoursing how things are governed as to the King’s treasure, that, having occasion for money in the country, he did offer Alderman Maynell to pay him down money here, to be paid by the Receiver in some county in the country, upon whom Maynell had assignments, in whose hands the money also lay ready. But Maynell refused it, saying that he could have his money when he would, and had rather it should lie where it do than receive it here in towne this sickly time, where he hath no occasion for it. But now the evil is that he hath lent this money upon tallys which are become payable, but he finds that nobody looks after it, how long the money is unpaid, and whether it lies dead in the Receiver’s hands or no, so the King he pays Maynell 10 per cent. while the money lies in his Receiver’s hands to no purpose but the benefit of the Receiver.
I to dinner to the King’s Head with Mr. Woolly, who is come to instruct me in the business of my goods, but gives me not so good comfort as I thought I should have had. But, however, it will be well worth my time though not above 2 or 300l.. He gone I to my office, where very busy drawing up a letter by way of discourse to the Duke of Albemarle about my conception how the business of the Victualling should be ordered, wherein I have taken great pains, and I think have hitt the right if they will but follow it. At this very late and so home to our lodgings to bed.

I know what I know
to be false

how things in the hand refuse us
gives me comfort

a thought should be worth
one wing


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 6 October 1665.

Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave’s writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

Apophasis

Up, and saw and admired my wife’s picture of our Saviour, now finished, which is very pretty. So by water to Greenwich, where with Creed and Lord Rutherford, and there my Lord told me that he would give me 100l. for my pains, which pleased me well, though Creed, like a cunning rogue, hath got a promise of half of it from me. We to the King’s Head, the great musique house, the first time I was ever there, and had a good breakfast, and thence parted, I being much troubled to hear from Creed, that he was told at Salsbury that I am come to be a great swearer and drinker, though I know the contrary; but, Lord! to see how my late little drinking of wine is taken notice of by envious men to my disadvantage. I thence to Captain Cocke’s, [and] (he not yet come from town) to Mr. Evelyn’s, where much company; and thence in his coach with him to the Duke of Albemarle by Lambeth, who was in a mighty pleasant humour; there the Duke tells us that the Dutch do stay abroad, and our fleet must go out again, or to be ready to do so. Here we got several things ordered as we desired for the relief of the prisoners, and sick and wounded men. Here I saw this week’s Bill of Mortality, wherein, blessed be God! there is above 1800 decrease, being the first considerable decrease we have had.
Back again the same way and had most excellent discourse of Mr. Evelyn touching all manner of learning; wherein I find him a very fine gentleman, and particularly of paynting, in which he tells me the beautifull Mrs. Middleton is rare, and his own wife do brave things. He brought me to the office, whither comes unexpectedly Captain Cocke, who hath brought one parcel of our goods by waggons, and at first resolved to have lodged them at our office; but then the thoughts of its being the King’s house altered our resolution, and so put them at his friend’s, Mr. Glanvill’s, and there they are safe. Would the rest of them were so too! In discourse, we come to mention my profit, and he offers me 500l. clear, and I demand 600l. for my certain profit. We part to-night, and I lie there at Mr. Glanvill’s house, there being none there but a maydeservant and a young man; being in some pain, partly from not knowing what to do in this business, having a mind to be at a certainty in my profit, and partly through his having Jacke sicke still, and his blackemore now also fallen sicke. So he being gone, I to bed.

no creed
pleased me like music

though my own road
is a wound

I saw mortality touching all things
but the night

not knowing is an art—
a black one


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 27 September 1665.

Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave’s writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

Self-uniting marriage: wedding vows

self-uniting marriage certificate

self-uniting marriage certificate

A self-uniting marriage license is a relative rarity, available only in a few states in the U.S., including here in Pennsylvania, where some county clerks are reluctant to issue them to anyone other than Quakers, for whom they were originally intended. The courts have ruled, however, that they must be made available to any couple that’s eligible to marry, regardless of religious affiliation — which has created a need for non-Quaker wedding vows to be recited by the bride and groom in a self-uniting ceremony.

Quaker vows typically read: “In the presence of God and these our friends I take thee, ______, to be my husband/wife, promising with Divine assistance to be unto thee a loving and faithful wife/husband so long as we both shall live.” Neither Rachel nor I were comfortable with the mention of God, and the use of the verb “take” did not appeal. To us, the central gesture of a truly egalitarian marriage should be giving, not taking.

Our starting point wasn’t the Quaker formula, however, but a set of Unitarian vows (scroll to the bottom), credited to Rev. Edward Searl, Unitarian Church of Hinsdale, Illinois, found on The Knot. If you compare them, you’ll see that while we made some significant changes, we also borrowed quite a lot. We just really loved the whole bit about respecting the other’s uniqueness and recognizing the limits of knowledge, which appealed equally to our feminist beliefs and our apophatic (cf. “Via Negativa”) instincts. I added the sentence about being the best listener I can because that’s something I do personally need to be mindful of, while Rachel, who is already an excellent listener, felt that a bigger challenge for her, relationship-wise, is patience. We also liked the “till death do us part” bit from traditional vows, re-cast into contemporary English. Our ceremony began with us each reading a poem (me an e.e. cummings thing, she a Shakespeare sonnet), following which we asked my best man (my brother Mark) to flip a coin to determine which of us would read our vows first. Rachel won the toss.

At any rate, if an internet search has brought you here, please feel free to adapt the following vows however you like, and best of luck in your own journey.

[Groom’s name], I acknowledge with the deepest respect your own individuality and uniqueness. I promise to share the full range of my thoughts, emotions, and experiences, but I am also aware that I may share but not know, for in knowing I deny the full person that you are.

I give myself to you to be your wife. I promise to share my hurts, my passions and interests, my sorrows and my joys. I pledge to be as patient as I can. I will comfort you and be comforted, and share with you in all things meaningful to me and to you, until death parts us.

*

[Bride’s name], I acknowledge with the deepest respect your own individuality and uniqueness. I promise to share the full range of my thoughts, emotions, and experiences, but I am also aware that I may share but not know, for in knowing I deny the full person that you are.

I give myself to you to be your husband. I promise to share my hurts, my passions and interests, my sorrows and my joys. I pledge to be the best listener that I can. I will comfort you and be comforted, and share with you in all things meaningful to me and to you, until death parts us.

the wedding kiss

Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave’s writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

Seeker

Up, and being ready then abroad by coach to White Hall, and there with the Duke, where Mr. Coventry did a second time go to vindicate himself against reports and prove by many testimonies that he brought, that he did nothing but what had been done by the Lord Admiral’s secretaries heretofore, though he do not approve of it, nor since he had any rule from the Duke hath he exceeded what he is there directed to take, and the thing I think is very clear that they always did take and that now he do take less than ever they did heretofore.
Thence away, and Sir G. Carteret did call me to him and discourse with me about my letter yesterday, and did seem to take it unkindly that I should doubt of his satisfaction in the bargain of masts, and did promise me that hereafter whatever he do hear to my prejudice he would tell me before he would believe it, and that this was only Sir W. Batten’s report in this business, which he says he did ever approve of, in which I know he lies.
Thence to my Lord’s lodgings thinking to find Mr. Moore, in order to the sending away my letter of reproof to my Lord, but I do not find him, but contrary do find my Lord come to Court, which I am glad to hear and should be more glad to hear that he do follow his business that I may not have occasion to venture upon his good nature by such a provocation as my letter will be to him.
So by coach home, to the Exchange, where I talked about several businesses with several people, and so home to dinner with my wife, and then in the afternoon to my office, and there late, and in the evening Mr. Hollyard came, and he and I about our great work to look upon my wife’s malady, which he did, and it seems her great conflux of humours, heretofore that did use to swell there, did in breaking leave a hollow which has since gone in further and further; till now it is near three inches deep, but as God will have it do not run into the bodyward, but keeps to the outside of the skin, and so he must be forced to cut it open all along, and which my heart I doubt will not serve for me to see done, and yet she will not have any body else to see it done, no, not her own mayds, and so I must do it, poor wretch, for her. To-morrow night he is to do it.
He being gone, I to my office again a little while, and so home to supper and to bed.

where in the clear hereafter
is the Lord’s lodging

I do not find him in nature or malady
flux or break

God will not keep
to the outside of the skin

forced to open a heart
to see anybody else


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 16 November 1663.

Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave’s writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

Anticreed

Up betimes, and Creed and I by water to Fleet Street, and my brother not being ready, he and I walked to the New Exchange, and there drank our morning draught of whay, the first I have done this year; but I perceive the lawyers come all in as they go to the Hall, and I believe it is very good.
So to my brother’s, and there I found my aunt James, a poor, religious, well-meaning, good soul, talking of nothing but God Almighty, and that with so much innocence that mightily pleased me. Here was a fellow that said grace so long like a prayer; I believe the fellow is a cunning fellow, and yet I by my brother’s desire did give him a crown, he being in great want, and, it seems, a parson among the fanatiques, and a cozen of my poor aunt’s, whose prayers she told me did do me good among the many good souls that did by my father’s desires pray for me when I was cut of the stone, and which God did hear, which I also in complaisance did own; but, God forgive me, my mind was otherwise. I had a couple of lobsters and some wine for her, and so, she going out of town to-day, and being not willing to come home with me to dinner, I parted and home, where we sat at the office all the morning, and after dinner all the afternoon till night, there at my office getting up the time that I have of late lost by not following my business, but I hope now to settle my mind again very well to my business.
So home, and after supper did wash my feet, and so to bed.

no change in the law
they believe is good

a soul with so much innocence
might pray to a stone

God is forgive me other-
wise

wine and night settle my mind
I wash my feet


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 30 May 1663.

Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave’s writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

Primates

Up by four or five o’clock, and to the office, and there drew up the agreement between the King and Sir John Winter about the Forrest of Deane; and having done it, he came himself (I did not know him to be the Queen’s Secretary before, but observed him to be a man of fine parts); and we read it, and both liked it well. That done, I turned to the Forrest of Deane, in Speede’s Mapps, and there he showed me how it lies; and the Lea-bayly, with the great charge of carrying it to Lydny, and many other things worth my knowing; and I do perceive that I am very short in my business by not knowing many times the geographical part of my business.
At my office till Mr. Moore took me out and at my house looked over our papers again, and upon our evening accounts did give full discharges one to the other, and in his and many other accounts I perceive I shall be better able to give a true balance of my estate to myself within a day or two than I have been this twelve months.
Then he and I to Alderman Backwell’s and did the like there, and I gave one receipt for all the money I have received thence upon the receipt of my Lord’s crusados. Then I went to the Exchange, and hear that the merchants have a great fear of a breach with the Spaniard; for they think he will not brook our having Tangier, Dunkirk, and Jamaica; and our merchants begin to draw home their estates as fast as they can. Then to Pope’s Head Ally, and there bought me a pair of tweezers, cost me 14s., the first thing like a bawble I have bought a good while, but I do it with some trouble of mind, though my conscience tells me that I do it with an apprehension of service in my office to have a book to write memorandums in, and a pair of compasses in it; but I confess myself the willinger to do it because I perceive by my accounts that I shall be better by 30l. than I expected to be. But by tomorrow night I intend to see to the bottom of all my accounts. Then home to dinner, where Mr. Moore met me. Then he went away, and I to the office and dispatch much business. So in the evening, my wife and I and Jane over the water to the Halfway-house, a pretty, pleasant walk, but the wind high. So home again and to bed.

We turn to the forest
(and other things

worth knowing
by not knowing)

to look our full
at all we fear,

our estate like a bauble
bought with trouble,

mind a pair of compasses
to walk home.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 20 June 1662.

Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave’s writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

The power of negative thinking


Watch on YouTube

A lovely little animated trailer for a new book, The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking, by Oliver Burkeman. I sort of feel as if I don’t need to read it, because I’ve been saying this sort of thing all my life — ever since my high school launched a Power of Positive Children (POP-C) propaganda campaign, complete with motivational messages on the intercom every morning, when I was in 11th Grade. I think drug and alcohol use and teen pregnancies actually increased as a result — it was such obvious bullshit that you could will your way to success. Especially in a school system as nakedly classist as ours was, where Stanford-Binet IQ test results were arbiters of fate and teachers did all they could to discourage poor kids from thinking they’d ever amount to anything. I realize now that that campaign wasn’t for us, really. It was for the teachers and administrators, so they could reassure themselves that anyone who stumbled or didn’t get ahead had only themselves to blame for having bad attitudes and being negative.

In other news, I’m looking forward to spending another summer in the U.K., surrounded by cynical, sarcastic alcoholics. My people.

Hat-tip: Brain Pickings.

Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave’s writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

White Christmas

snowy trail

Nothing is more innocent than snow.
It says: I am not of your world.

We wonder: What child is this,
what wool, what milk?

Then we look back & see our footprints
multiplying behind us.

Maybe this is nothing but a white flag.
But whose turn is it to surrender?

New snow falls & fills the footprints in.
We feel we are being measured for immaculate shoes.

Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave’s writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

(note to self)

(watch on Vimeo)

Be sure to expand this to full screen — it’s beautiful footage. I can say that because I didn’t shoot it myself. It’s from the free stock video site Beachfront B-Roll and is licensed under the Creative Commons (Attribution Unported license). But I did go to the trouble to save and upload a true HD version, for once. It actually didn’t take much more than an hour to upload, so maybe I’ll do that more often from now on and stop subjecting y’all to crappy low-resolution videos.

UPDATE 7/8/12: I’ve completely revised the soundtrack to include a somewhat livelier soundscape than the one included in the original video, as well as a more natural reading. Freesound.org is a marvelous resource.

*

(note to self)

don’t be so eager to find yourself

the deer rolls her eye in panic
at your approach
birds take flight
the rabbit’s pelt quivers

consider the possibility
that they’re right about you
those whom we trust to predict earthquakes

stop trying to dot your i’s
broken columns
from a Greek temple
where no one now remembers
the name of the god

Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave’s writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

Thirty Years in the Rain: Nikiforos Vrettakos as translated by Robert Zaller and Lili Bita

Thirty Years in the Rain Thirty Years in the Rain: The Selected Poetry of Nikiforos VrettakosNikiforos Vrettakos; Somerset Hall Press 2005WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder 
Diamond-like and deceptively simple: that’s how Rachel described the dozen or so poems I had time to read to her from this book today. I concur. These poems combine the plain-spoken lyricism of, say, José Martí’s Versos Sencillos, the fierce affirmation of Jorge Guillén’s Cántico and the pellucid quality and light-drenched landscapes of Eugénio de Andrade’s best work.

Now, you may be saying to yourself, “Who the hell are Eugénio de Andrade and Jorge Guillén?” If so, you’re hardly alone: poetry in translation is an extremely minor concern of American publishers, and few Anglophone poetry fans seem aware of much beyond our own linguistic borders, save for a few luminaries such as Neruda, Rilke and Lorca. That’s a shame, because Greece alone has produced many great poets this past century: C.P. Cavafy, George Seferis, Yannis Ritsos, Angelos Sikelianos, and Odysseas Elytis all deserve a place on any poetry-lover’s shelf. Add to that roster Nikiforos Vrettakos, a member of the “Generation of the 30s” evidently as revered in Greece as any of the others I’ve just listed, but unknown here until Robert Zaller and Lili Bita began to collaborate on the English translations collected in Thirty Years in the Rain. I hadn’t heard of him myself until just last month, when I happened on this blog post:

January 1st marked the centenary of the birth of the Laconian poet, fiction writer, essayist, translator, Athens Academy member, and Nobel Prize Nominee, Nikiforos Vrettakos. Therefore the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and tourism has declared 2012 Nikiforos Vrettakos Year.

Since he didn’t win a Nobel Prize for Literature like his two contemporaries Odysseas Elytis and George Seferis, Nikiforos Vrettakos is less-known abroad. In Greece though, he is a poetry giant, taught in schools, and many of his poems are set into music. People go back to his poetry for “his tenderness and boundless humanism”.

Working my way through Thirty Years in the Rain, I found many things to admire. Vrettakos returns again and again to the rugged massif of his childhood, the storied Taygetos. As a nearly life-long dweller in the considerably less rugged Appalachians, naturally I appreciated this kind of imagery. His most direct treatment comes in “Stone Petals”:

“Taygetos isn’t a mountain.” I didn’t
discover it, but found it beside me
when I was born. It stood by. Later
I dreamt of it as a kind of church—
at the center of the earth.

Its bells chiming, scattering
petals over the nations.

This short poem also demonstrates two other things I liked about the book: Vrettakos seems very comfortable with religion as a repository of mystery and wonder (without necessarily being a believer himself, I gather), and his poetry betrays a certain attraction to the via negativa — which wouldn’t be at all surprising for someone from the Eastern Orthodox homeland. This latter tendency expresses itself in his nuanced appreciation for darkness and silence, which is all the more striking for its contrast with his general heliotropism. Take for instance “Liberation”:

My soul dances today, winged,
looking to alight on a branch
of light, to hear, see, say
whatever can be heard, seen, said.
It’s good to know, and know well,
that the thing you are
was hatched out of darkness.

As for silence, he imagines in one poem, “Beside the Others,” an entire “volume of silence” among his collected works. (Vrettakos was apparently a very prolific author.)

In it is everything I hid
and everything within me that
hadn’t had time for the long journey to the light.
The pages are huge, too heavy
to lift. No one will read it.
God will take it as it is
and put it in his heavenly library.

Nor is silence without its perils:

If silence spoke,
erupted, exploded—it would level
every tree in the standing world.
(“Chorale”)

And in “Inexplicable,” the eyes of an unnamed beloved contain “A silence / filled with what can and can’t / be deciphered.”

Vrettakos was a leftist, like most Greek intellectuals of his generation, but departed from the party line on many issues. I particularly appreciated the poems on peace, which he often seemed to equate with poetry as a natural impulse of all life:

I’m immersed in each brook on whose flow
the word Peace runs like a psalm.
(Because the waters are a thinking sun).
(“Address to a Peace Conference”)

But his apophatic instincts led him to decry the fetishization of peace, too:

All that’s left of peace
is an empty word, a shed garment.
It’s scrawled everywhere, as if
to mock its own countenance:
the divine plenitude, the sap that flows
from flower to flower, the poetry.

Yet still I wouldn’t want
to find it among my own pages,
like a white corpse in a casket.
(“The Empty Word”)

Vrettakos himself describes his work best: he is an overflowing cistern whose waters come “half from / earth’s grief, the rest from its miracle” (“Cistern”). Toward the end of his life, he wrote:

I’ve said my piece,
it’s enough to know that
here and there, now and then,
I’ve added my song to the birds’.
(“All I’ve Said”)

I think I want to be Nikiforos Vrettakos when I grow up.

Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave’s writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).