White Out

Filmmaker Djuna Zupancic captured Mark di Suvero’s sculpture, Beethoven’s Quartet, on film during a snowstorm at Tippet Rise. Inspired by the film, Tippet Rise co-founder Peter Halstead wrote the poem, “Storm.” It is here along with e-mail correspondences between filmmaker and poet.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Dear Djuna,

I wanted to tell you how amazing your blizzard movie of Beethoven’s Quartet is, so I wrote a poem on the film and what it meant to me.

Here it is, with its explanation.

A very big mahalo to you,
Peter and Cathy


The white of snowfall muffles
All, although it hides
A thread inside, a key
To a labyrinth that guides
Lost travelers back home,
The way a blank page shuffles
Everything unsaid
Into versions of infinity,
A hidden dome, an offing
Where revolves and grows,
Like waves at night, the aura,
The overtone of things unseen,
Shapes of the unknown,
That surround a hand, a string
Quartet, the aurora
Borealis,  - filigrees
Made obvious by night,
The universe’s bright debris
Hanging in the sky, a stalactite
Traced by energy,
Like iron filings by a magnet.
Mystery at the heart of things,
Mystery is the way
Underlying worlds set
Their deeper orbits into play,
The invisible but also huge
Trellises that spawn
A storm’s impelling centrifuge
Where drifting lives are drawn
Into nature’s whirling sieve,
The page’s human white where
Only cosmic dreams can live.

This is the opposite of the “picturesque” phenomenon, where people brought framed mirrors into the Yorkshire Dales, turned their backs on nature, and framed the desired view of the world in the mirror. By “framing” a sculpture in snow, the border opens up the secrets of the periphery. Nature becomes the frame, and the frame itself a mirror, a tabula rasa, where the periphery is peopled with our imagination, left blank for us to fill in.

In the film “Forbidden Planet,” the monster of the id was seen only when shot by the energy of lasers on the stair of the ship.
Mark di Suvero’s sculpture, Beethoven’s Quartet, spinning slowly, almost whited out by a blizzard, in a film by Djuna Zupancic, becomes a blackboard on which we write our lives, our dreams, in the cosmic swirl of sky.

Like overtones which can’t be heard, or gamma rays which can’t be seen, our monsters and our angels are illuminated only by the miracles, the accidents of gravity, the way iron filings are organized by magnetism, or the Northern Lights are shaped by gravity.
Scientists have recently announced that bodies carry around with them auras, penumbras of dust, disease, and, I suppose, starlight, so magnetism, gravity, the invisible energy grid of the universe shape our destiny into fictions written by invisible facts. Our lives are written in the margins, in the hidden boundaries just over the edge of the world (where be monsters), in the blank canvas of a blizzard. Mark di Suvero’s sculpture, Beethoven’s Quartet, revolving silently in that storm is both engine and mirror of the cosmic energy that underlies our lives.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Dear Peter,

Incredible :)

This brought tears to my eyes, I feel so honored. To be wound in the aura of you and Mark in this moment is a complete delight to me.  I love that your commentaries are as compelling and energetic as your poems. Hidden forces creating a transparency of potential fictions, what a beautiful observation and how beautifully you have written it. You and Cathy have my deepest gratitude. You have given me a great gift beyond the beautiful work of Tippet and the relationships that I have had the fortune within which to whirl.

This poem is precious to me.

Deep bow,

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