Friday, October 15, 2010

haikus and small cthulhus

a haiku by Buson:

      The lights are going out
in the doll shops --
      spring rain.

My whole childhood is held in these words. There is the antique shop somewhere in Britain where my grandfather bought me my first china doll, named Marigold, a little doll with a sober face and brown silk ribbons on her dress, on an afternoon I remember as being gray and grim, and the dollshouse shops with tiny baskets full of flowers hanging from minute wrought iron curliques and four-poster beds resplendent in glass boxes. There is A Little Princess, the movie of which I never saw and so kept my own gray-golden gaslight impression of a London forever in the rain untouched, and the delicate and sentimental illustrations of The Story of Holly and Ivy  (though oddly enough Google Books presents me with a book called "Wall Street and the Security Markets" when I search for it, which almost makes sense on an allegorical level -- the one viciously spiked, the other dangerously inclined to take things over and choke them slowly to death? -- but sadly lacks the dainty post-Victorian aesthetic.) And a thousand other faint and luminous layers of half-dreamed images, falling away inside me to be fitted tenderly into the case of my heart.

all the tools work...

I spent a lot of time alone when I was young. I liked it that way; I like it that way now. I like haiku for its relationship to solitude, its intense evocativeness. (And why is evocative only an adjective, evoke only an active verb, and no noun exists to characterize the evocative essence of things, that which evokes?) It opens little doorways into worlds, one small painter's box of words containing a beautifully unbounded space inside, a mutable universe.  

A haiku is what my father once called a toy: "Every toy is a microcosm, a miniature model of the universe. Like the great cosmos, the toy has a spark of life or motion that acts from inside out. But it's a toy because it's small and comprehensible, a thing we can grasp, a thing so trivial it can be handed to a child. The toy gives me the world in a form I can hold." My other words for this are trinket, amulet.

Those vast worlds held close in amulaic things -- small bottles, boxes, certain words and talismans, a stone, a spice -- share for me certain colors. Those of my my childhood seems steeped in a way of seeing that takes the light directly from Impressionism but fills it with a sadder rain. (Even John Singer Sargent, who should have known better, being British, fills his paintings with such dappled warmth...) James Tissot's portraits, though, especially of women, come somewhere near the rainy, lamp-lit and delightful melancholy of my youngest reveries....

And so too, uncomfortably enough, does Thomas Kinkade:

My childhood was not all treacle, though, and there is this wonderful painting to counteract the manufactured syrup of The Painter of Light (TM):

Ah yes, Cthulhu. Insipid landscape painters beware.At this size on my screen, a couple inches square, this too becomes a talisman: what is more wonderful than a very tiny monster?

No comments:

Post a Comment