Posts Tagged ‘G. Thoughts’

Emerging from the Fire…

February 15, 2013 1 comment


beautiful figures; they have a Sumerian quality to them

(the royal tombs of Ur, maybe) …  RT

(reposted from Claudia McGill)


Emerging from the Fire….

december wrapped up

December 20, 2012 Leave a comment

a lovely post… RT

Confessions of a Disorganized Poet

November 9, 2011 5 comments

Defining moments, at least in my life, often arrive by way of a cluttered apartment. Projects draw me inward, I work on and finish them, and am faced by new projects and the debris of my earlier work. Stacks of paper on my “junk” ironing board, my desk covered in an unseemly number of scraps and bits and full pages and bills and advertisements…bring out my clean-up-the-mess champion, Confessions of an Organized Homemaker. Toss the odds and ends out, clean your space up!

And here’s a sure-fire tip: Clutter does not encourage creativity!

It’s an uphill battle, of course–I find an intriguing bit of writing I thought I had abandoned or (worse) something I thought I had lost. My answer: put it all in a special folder to be sorted through later. Much more is involved than that, but even so, at times I’ve gotten close to an organized and attractive space…

RT’s advice: keep working on it!


Photo: Postit; Author: Nevit Dilmen; WikiCmns; Licence: CC 3.0 Unported.


September 30, 2011 Leave a comment

This collage of portraits demonstrates how varied the appearance of people of Indian descent can be. I have experienced this myself in the time that I’ve lived in West Virginia; I have heard that WV has more people of Indian descent than any other state east of the Mississippi, and I personally have met a wide range of folks with Indian blood in Martinsburg and its surroundings. In fact, the Cherokee nation is by far the largest of the Indian tribes–it numbers about a million members–half of all Indians in the United States. A remarkable people and a remarkable survival.   RT


Photo: Collage; Wikipedia; Public Domain.

Idiolects, Poetry, And Why You Need Time Off for Writing

September 21, 2011 5 comments



This is a vast topic. The subject of this post is nothing less than the genius of the human spirit: our need to compose poetry.

Let’s put it another way: poetry is what makes us human. You heard me right: the silly little past-time of love-besotted teenagers and ivory-tower types looking at a pile of eviction notices on their desk is actually something that everyone needs to know if they are to master the intricacies of living a happy life.

Here’s why:

To see how this might be, we should remember the distinction the Rag Tree has made in a previous post between the first mind and rational mind. The first mind is the mind that we inherited from the animals and is capable of intuition, the wordless understanding of what is happening in our immediate surroundings. The rational mind is capable of reason and deduction, the manipulation of abstract concepts and ideas to solve generalized problems.

Unfortunately, intuition doesn’t have the best reputation; we associate it with guessing—that is, making deductions without enough information, or with hard-wired responses acquired in childhood. But in producing a mute feeling, intuition often winnows out the background to arrive at the most important facts of our surrounding—Gosh, it’s a warm night, but what about the shadow that’s moving over there?

The world is music. One need only listen to trees rustling in a breeze or watch deer in a field to know this. Of course, individual events and moments in nature can be highly distressing, but every action is intricately bound to all the rest. It is this balanced music that the intuition listens to.

Being human means harmonizing the rational and first minds—this harmonization is poetry. That is to say, language bridges the gap between the rational and the intuitive. It makes the rational beautiful and the intuitive reasonable. Every poem lies somewhere on the spectrum between music and meaning.

Every thought is a compromise between our need to abstract pattern and to respond physically to the environment—to remain part of the world’s movement. Language creation happens when someone’s intuition of the world differs from most people’s—possibly there is something physically different about him or her, or they grew up somewhere else. Their native sense of things is different, and so they begin using an idioglossia (i.e., they create and speak their own language).

Yes, idioglossia is relative. After all, there is no such thing as perfect communication. But, at the more creative end of the spectrum, an idioglossia will begin to attract listeners by its beauty and clarity. Especially in a situation where there are rival cultures and languages warring for control, an idioglossia can evolve into a Creole (and all languages, at bottom, are creoles).

Poetry, on the other hand, is a kind of idiolect—a person’s unique use of the common language. Idiolects are always evolving because people constantly experiment with their words and speech. When the process proceeds undisturbed, it will produce a local dialect. But poetry is closer in spirit to idioglossia—it is a more radical rehandling of speech and is closer to outright language creation—just look at all the phrases that Shakespeare bequeathed to us. (And think of the competition between Anglo-Norman and Middle English that produced the variety of dialects available to the Bard).

Every act of language creation is a moral act intended (at some level) to help people understand themselves and the world more clearly—and to enjoy it more. There is something deeply intentional in this act of intuiting the right words. A great poet deserves her (or his) laurels.

True to its intuitive roots, language flourishes best in a restless or transitional society. Too many rules, although intended to help preserve the language’s clarity, have the paradoxical effect of stifling speakers. Words, and the thoughts and experiences they represent, are spontaneous. Perhaps this is why so many cultures have had a language of literature and study and a language of daily use. Poetry belongs with the quotidian, the music of the moment. Keep your ears pricked on any street corner, and you may hear it.   RT


Photo: Alaskan Mask, Tunghak–Yupik; WikiCmns; Dallas MOA; Public Domain.

Translators are writers

August 14, 2011 Leave a comment


Some sage words on the translation process from a fellow WP blogger: Translators are writers.

Moon Walk

July 23, 2011 2 comments


DNA evidence suggests that mankind’s exodus out of Africa began 70,000 years ago. We are still at it, and in the next couple of centuries may settle Mars. Then someone or another will overturn (or more likely, complete) Einstein, and we will be hopping from star to star…


Photo: Buzz Aldrin on the Surface; WikiCmns; NASA; Public Domain.

Happy Bastille Day!

July 14, 2011 2 comments

On the morning of July 14, 1789, a crowd of less than 1,000 people stormed and took the moribund Bastille prison. Though the event had no military significance, it marked the moment when the French Revolution, up until then largely a political crisis, became a popular revolt. The storming of the Bastille also set the stage for the National Assembly’s dramatic Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, issued in August 1789. The brief and powerful Declaration helped sweep away the Old Regime and its aristocracy and gave the principles of revolution and republican government that had been recently enacted in America its first political expression in Europe. Here is the Declaration, and Vive La Revolution!

Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen

(adopted by the National Constituent Assembly, 26 or 27 August 1789)


  1. Men are born and remain free and equal in rights. Social distinctions may be founded only upon the general good.
  2. The aim of all political association is the preservation of the natural and imprescriptible rights of man. These rights are liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression.
  3. The principle of all sovereignty resides essentially in the nation. No body nor individual may exercise any authority which does not proceed directly from the nation.
  4. Liberty consists in the freedom to do everything which injures no one else; hence the exercise of the natural rights of each man has no limits except those which assure to the other members of the society the enjoyment of the same rights. These limits can only be determined by law.
  5. Law can only prohibit such actions as are hurtful to society. Nothing may be prevented which is not forbidden by law, and no one may be forced to do anything not provided for by law.
  6. Law is the expression of the general will. Every citizen has a right to participate personally, or through his representative, in its foundation. It must be the same for all, whether it protects or punishes. All citizens, being equal in the eyes of the law, are equally eligible to all dignities and to all public positions and occupations, according to their abilities, and without distinction except that of their virtues and talents.
  7. No person shall be accused, arrested, or imprisoned except in the cases and according to the forms prescribed by law. Any one soliciting, transmitting, executing, or causing to be executed, any arbitrary order, shall be punished. But any citizen summoned or arrested in virtue of the law shall submit without delay, as resistance constitutes an offense.
  8. The law shall provide for such punishments only as are strictly and obviously necessary, and no one shall suffer punishment except it be legally inflicted in virtue of a law passed and promulgated before the commission of the offense.
  9. As all persons are held innocent until they shall have been declared guilty, if arrest shall be deemed indispensable, all harshness not essential to the securing of the prisoner’s person shall be severely repressed by law.
  10. No one shall be disquieted on account of his opinions, including his religious views, provided their manifestation does not disturb the public order established by law.
  11. The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man. Every citizen may, accordingly, speak, write, and print with freedom, but shall be responsible for such abuses of this freedom as shall be defined by law.
  12. The security of the rights of man and of the citizen requires public military forces. These forces are, therefore, established for the good of all and not for the personal advantage of those to whom they shall be intrusted.
  13. A common contribution is essential for the maintenance of the public forces and for the cost of administration. This should be equitably distributed among all the citizens in proportion to their means.
  14. All the citizens have a right to decide, either personally or by their representatives, as to the necessity of the public contribution; to grant this freely; to know to what uses it is put; and to fix the proportion, the mode of assessment and of collection and the duration of the taxes.
  15. Society has the right to require of every public agent an account of his administration.
  16. A society in which the observance of the law is not assured, nor the separation of powers defined, has no constitution at all.
  17. Since property is an inviolable and sacred right, no one shall be deprived thereof except where public necessity, legally determined, shall clearly demand it, and then only on condition that the owner shall have been previously and equitably indemnified. ♦


Photo:  July Fireworks in Paris; Celeste Hutchins; WikiCmns; CC 2.0 Generic.

Audience Gifts from Tablet VIII

July 10, 2011 3 comments

As the completion of Tablet VIII looms ever closer, it’s time for me to keep my promise and post an excerpt from the material. I’ve chosen the list of audience gifts (that is, burial goods) included in Enkidu’s tomb.

The list, which has been only partially reconstructed, is important not only for the individual items it lists, but also for the light it sheds on ancient attitudes towards death. In ancient Sumer,  one’s position in the afterlife very much depended on the tribute one received from the living; Hell, as Heaven, was a reflection of our earthly existence, and Gilgamesh’s concern with eternal fame was for him necessary if he was to continue receiving the sacrifices of material goods that ensured his well-being in the House of Dust. Then, as  now, our conduct in life was largely responsible for our fate in death.

And here it is, sections iv and v from Tablet VIII, the audience-gifts:


iv. Possessions of the Dead


When two weeks had passed since Enkidu’s death,

a worm dropped out of the rotting cadaver’s nose.

Sickened, the king resolved to master his dread,

entomb the body swiftly and with singular respect.

He must prepare Enkidu, convey him with rich gifts.

Gilgamesh could no longer delay his friend’s funeral.


Gilgamesh opened, ransacked his cavernous treasury;

he broke the seal and entered the enormous vault.

There were stored the booty of his many campaigns

and tribute from peoples far-distant and wealthy.

He selected the rarest luxuries for the departed,

items to win him honor and advantage in the shadows:


Gems unmatched, the most precious he provided—

carnelian, turquoise, agate, ruby, lapis lazuli,

pearls, quartz—all these he gave to his friend.

Neither did he keep back the most valuable gold,

reject objects useful for comfort and idleness,

begrudge objects needful for status and esteem:


   Ten rings of gold he gave his companion,

   a mask of the departed’s face in red gold,

   A belt of silver superbly worked and fitted,

   ten cups of glass rimmed with mountain rubies,

   a couch of oak, its cushions of fine wool:

   All these he gave with thanks to Enkidu.


   A dagger of obsidian, its shaft of bone;

   An axe of bronze, its handle ebony;

   A bow of polished ash, its grip of rope;

   A quiver of ostrich hide holding fifty arrows;

   A shield of five skins, studded with bronze:

   All these and more he gave with gratitude.


   An ostrich egg in gold; a lyre of wood and bone;

   A bull and a ram carved in oak and cedar,

     each with eyes of shell and lazurite, golden horns;

   Two snakes of wisdom, their teeth of crystal;

   A bear in filigree, its eyes of topaz:

   All these he dedicated with heartfelt tears.


v. Offerings for the Great


For the Morningstar:

For the radiant Queen Inanna:

   A javelin of boxwood, sleek and polished,

   pointed with bronze, gold, and copper.

The javelin he presented to the Sun, saying,

“May the Queen of Stars accept this javelin,

cherish and guide my friend.”


For the Queen of Dusk:

For Ereshkigal, Ruler of the Dead:

   A flask of lapis lazuli,

   patterned with gold, stopped with glass.

The flask he presented to his Champion, saying,

“May the blessed Ereshkigal accept this flask,

instruct and guard my friend.”


For the Shepherd:

For gentle Dumuzi, beloved of the Night:

   A slender flute of carnelian,

   its music sweet and wistful—

Presented to Utu the Hero:

“May Dumuzi accept this flute,

serenade and refresh my friend.”


For the Great Steward:

For wise Namtar, Steward of the Dead,

   A headman’s chair in silver;

   A staff of polished olivewood—

Presented to Utu the Just:

“May Namtar accept the chair and staff,

guide and guard my friend.”


For the Lady of Winnows:

For Qassu-Tabat, who holds the Flail of Death,

   A golden necklace, its clasp of silver,

   A silver bracelet with bangles also—

and to Utu the Great Friend:

“May Qassu-Tabat, the exalted, accept these gifts,

receive and esteem my friend.”


For the Lady of Rakes:

For Ninshuluhha, who cleans the House of Death,

   A chest of alabaster, inlaid with serpentine,

   its top patterned with sodalite and coral.

and to Utu the Far-Seeing:

“May Ninshuluhha the humble accept this chest,

acknowledge and honor my friend.”


For the Attendants and Guardians:

To many others in the House of Death

Gilgamesh offered gifts:

   Hushbisha the Stewardess, Bibbu the Butcher,

   Urmahlullu, the lion-centaur, Neti, the gate-keeper:

each received a proper present, an offering

to earn Enkidu good-will.


For the Gods Gilgamesh prepared the richest meat;

he slaughtered the fattest ox, the tender lamb;

he piled up the sizzling cuts for their feasting.

The Sun inspected, sampled the food, blessed it.

The priests of his several temples came at dusk,

carried the offering to the rulers of the Dead.


© 2011, Eric Quinn


Photo: Golden Funeral Mask from the Svetitsata  Tumulus (King Teres); National Archaeological Museum, Sofia; WikiCmns; CC 2; Author: Ann Wuyts.

Semantics: Can You Make it Sting Some More?

June 26, 2011 15 comments

The Dragons of Grammar have been restive lately, sending out long plumes of smoke from their remote, rocky caves; making the occasional exploratory flight around the islands that they inhabit; sending me little love notes scratched on the back of any handy rock; and generally wanting to know why I’ve forgotten them.

Well, man does not live by blog alone, and the real world (American style) has been intruding on my thoughts of late. Prescription costs, much overdue maintenance on my apartment, and some trekking about in the thankfully cool Spring to meet old friends are among the items that have kept my attention elsewhere; so, I offer apologies to my scaly coterie!

And in particular, there’s that multifarious beast called Semantics, which is the study of meaning in signifiers, which include words, phrases, signs, and symbols.

1) In the context of the humble word, for instance, semantics draws the distinction between denotation and connotation–between a word’s literal meaning and the emotions and other meanings that the word suggests (and please note, this is a distinction understood by poets practically from the moment of birth 😉 ).

In other words, a word is never just a word, but a group of meanings and feelings triggered by a principle meaning. Or we could say that a word, once learned, does not remain static, but grows as we acquire its cultural associations and individual emotional responses to its use. One way to understand this is to think of how an acupuncture point works–my acupuncturist having pointed out to me on more than one occasion that there is no single point that she aims for, but an area about the size of quarter. You know you’ve hit pay dirt, she says, when the patient says, “Gee, that stings! Can you make it sting some more?”

Let’s look at this simile more closely. Suppose that when we learn a new word, we do not activate a single neuron, but a cluster of neurons. At the center is the neuron(s) containing the principle word; surrounding it are neurons that will contain closely related words. For example, a principle word might be “big,” and associated words, “large,” “giant,” “great,” “important,” and “formidable.” Thus, when a person hears any of these words, the entire cluster of meanings is stimulated.

We can say more. The needle of meaning also triggers an emotional response. Somehow, the cluster of a word’s meanings is associated with more basic emotions. I can imagine our meaning neurons lying on top (and perhaps grows out) of the primordial emotion neurons–which in turn may lie on top of even more primordial neurons associated with action. Thus, words can be seen as the topmost board of a game of 3-D chess (Mr. Spock will win the game, of course).

For instance, a person hears the word “bully.” A cluster of meanings is triggered, most negative, but which may include Teddy Roosevelt and the Bull Moose Party. Depending on how much you’ve been thinking about early 20th Century American politics lately, the word may frighten you and perhaps stimulate a “fight or flight” response. Wow!

2) Then there is the issue of the way that meanings (denotations, in this case) relate to the sounds that represent them: a) homonyms (same sound, different meanings, as in row the boat and a row of cars in a parking lot); b) synonyms (different sounds, same meaning, as in “buy” or “purchase” the tomatoes); and c) antonyms (opposite and mutually exclusive meanings, such as male and female). And how about that curious critter, metaphor, in which one idea simply stands for another, as in “grasp your meaning.”

3) I won’t hide from you the fact that semantics can be a rather abstruse dragon, often bent over a book with its reading glasses perched neatly near its eyes ; its remit includes such daunting concepts as parsing (the diagramming of sentences in natural languages); truth values (the relationship of a proposition to truth); and thematic relations  (the role that a noun phrase plays in regard to the verb in its sentence).  But it is best to remember that semantics is above all a gentle creature, which easily yields up its mysteries and meanings…and invites further explorations of the amazing assortment of ways that sound and meaning interact.


OK, team leader RT admits to being a wee bit tired at the moment–it’s time to bring our visit to rocky locales to a close for the day. But have no fear, though we’ve explored many of the amazing beasts associated with grammar, there are still more to come. Stay tuned!  


Photo: Chinese Barefoot Doctor Performing Acupuncture; author, D. Henrioud, World Health Organization; WikiCmns; Public Domain.