Transcribed from vocals by Ethel Waters, recorded 5/1922. From Ethel Waters 1921 - 1923, The Chronological Classics, vol. 796.

The following text of "That Dada Strain," with accompanying recording , makes a curious & little noticed connection to the European Dada activities that immediately preceded it. The melody, minus words, became a traditional jazz standard that persisted over the next several decades. The composers, when credited, are generally given as Mamie Medina (lyrics) & Edgar Dowell (music). More recently I used the title for a series of poems & performances, but without reference to the lyrics themselves. It should be noted, however, that the otherwise undefined “Da-Da” parallels precisely the invention by Hugo Ball, Tristan Tzara, Kurt Schwitters, & others of what was then a radically new sound poetry – a twentieth-century poetry without words. For the full Ethel Waters recording check the following: http://www.filestube.com/b453bf669d4c5a3d03ea/details.html, among other sites on the web. (J.R.)

Have you heard it, have you heard it,
That Da Da Strain?
It will shake you, it will make you
Really go insane.
Everybody's full of pep,
Makes you watch your every step.
Every prancer, every dancer,
Starts to lay 'em down,
Everybody when they hear it
Starts to buzzing 'round;
I get crazy as a loon,
When everybody hums this tune:

Da-Da, Da-Da,
Da-Da, Da-Da,
Because the feeling
Sets your brain a-reeling;
Just like you're falling,
That runabout refrain, [?]
When everybody starts to
Da-Da, Da-Da,
Da-Da, Da-Da,
I want to do it once again,
I'm simply wild about that Da-Da,Da-Da Strain!

Oh, Da-Da Da-Da
Da-Da Da-Da,
Because this feeling
Sets your brain a'reeling,
Just like you're falling,
That runabout refrain, [?]
When everybody starts to Da-Da,Da-Da, Da, Da-Da
I want to do it once again,
I'm simply wild about the Da-Da,Da-Da Strain.

Da, Da-Da, Da-Da,
Da-Da, Da-Da,
Da-Da, Da-Da,
Because that feeling
Sets your brain a-reeling.
Just like you're falling,
That runabout refrain, [?]
Oh, Da-Da, Da-Da,
Da-Da, Da-Da,
I wanna do it once again,
I'm simply wild about that
Da-Da, Da-Da Strain!


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FROM A BOOK OF DIVINATIONS

on the shining stone
a face
the prince of oil
‘s in oil
(a child says) red
the light glows
like the shadow of
his face he saw
in moon light
knew he wouldn’t die
that year
& called him
prince of lights

1
Mondays
at five
The Sun
& Moon
2 Angels

2
A fast before rain
Dream-questions

3
Seven
Three

4
At this door
“Death
“Departs

5
Apples
Cakes
Eggs
on which the names had been written
with light

6
Demons
Latrines

7
Knots

8
Back to eight

9
As Judah’s face
was green
& queer

10
A mirror
A pan
2 dogs fucking

11
Large
Letters

12
Sixth day
Left nostril

13

Names
13 Names


A BIRTHDAY HABDALA FOR BASIL BUNTING

wine in our mouths
the friend asks
“do they drink to get drunk
“or for a blessing only

I answer in the voice of
some old rabbi
was screaming in his cups

messiah
holiday
hallah
o mine double-flamed
candle in wine
mine fat moustached women


examines his fingernails’
shadows
where the prince of thumbs waits

& knows no blessing without madness

[These poems from the early to middle 1970s were recovered, along with numerous others, for Retrievals, a volume of Uncollected & New Poems 1955-2005, to be published in January 2011 by Mark Weiss & Junction Press. Sixteen previous installments have appeared since 2008 on Poems & Poetics. Habdala, the Jewish ritual of separation, marks the end of the Sabbath, for which the ritual implements are wine, a lighted candle, & a container of sweet-smelling herbs. Bunting’s visit with us, if I remember correctly, coincided with his seventy-fifth birthday, & was followed by a reading (with wine) at the Whitney Museum of Art.]

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Leaving on September 24 for visits and readings in France, Germany, and the UK. My public schedule, to which other events may still be added, is:

October 10, 5:00 p.m.: Reading, with Gary Lawless, as part of Poetzone International World Poetry Festival of the DAI (Deutsch Amerikanisches Institut), Sofienstraße 12, Heidelberg (booking via the DAI website: http://www.dai-heidelberg.de/content/index_eng.html).

October 14, 7:00 p.m.: Reading, with Jacques Darras, at International Conference “Poets and Publishers Circulating Avant-Garde Poetry (1945-2010),” Université du Maine in Le Mans.

October 19, 6:00 p.m.: Reading with Allen Fisher and Maggie O’Sullivan, plus a group reading for Poems for the Millennium, volume 3, with Jeffrey Robinson and others, at The other Room, International Anthony Burgess Foundation, Manchester, U.K.

October 20, 7:30 p.m.: Reading, Rose Theater, Edge Hill University, Liverpool, U.K.

October 21, 7:00 p.m.: Group reading for Poems for the Millennium, volume 3, with Jeffrey Robinson, Tom Leonard, Aonghas Macneicail, Peter Manson, Alec Finlay, others, at Center for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow.

October 26, 7:00 p.m.: Reading, with Kazim Ali, for Poets Live at The Highlander Pub, 8 rue de Nevers, Metro Pont Neuf or Odéon, Paris.

Thereafter, from October 30 to November 6, we’ll be spending the week in New York, and I’ll be reading and talking on “Experimental Romanticism & the Roots of Contemporary Poetics” in the Passwords series at Poets House, November 5 at 7:00 p.m.

Return date to San Diego is November 6, after which we’ll relax at home until the next trip comes up.

Poems and Poetics will continue on schedule even while I'm away.

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Habib Tengour: Maghrebian Surrealism [Essay & Manifesto]

Posted by Lidya Endzo Kun iLLa On 6:39 AM 0 comments
Translation from French by Pierre Joris

MAGHREBIAN SURREALISM
SURREALISM IN THE MAGHREB
SURREALIST MAGHREB
THE MAGHREBIAN SURREALISTS
MAGHREBIAN SURREALITY
THE SURREALIST REVOLUTION IN THE MAGHREB
SURREALIST MAGHREB PRESS SERVICE
SURREALISM IN THE SERVICE OF THE MAGHREB
Etc.

— Given an audience of intelligent participants
— Into a red chechia without a ponytail place nine ping-pong balls numbered from 1 to 9.
— Shake the chechia for the one minute needed to create silence.
— Draw a ball
— The number on it determines the title of the essay.
…except that, well, the balls have disappeared.
Which proves that a chechia is as good as a top hat.

The Maghrebian, “that inveterate dreamer, daily more discontent with his destiny, has trouble assessing the objects he has been led to use” (objects that are few, one has to add, because a subtle lack surrounds his gaze and turns him away from “real life”), “objects that his nonchalance has brought his way, or that he has earned through his own efforts, almost always through his own efforts, for he has agreed to work, at least he has not refused to try his luck (or what he calls his luck!).” This luck is not a Straight Way: it is uncertainty — like the piece of clothing one no longer takes the pains to mend. However, he values this luck he has awaited at the end of a cold weapon, he hopes for at a border crossing. For it, he has accepted all kinds of exile. “At this point he feels extremely modest,” but nobody should be fooled: it is a loaded silence!
Who is this Maghrebian? How to define him?

The woods are white or black” despite the gone-to-earth nuances. Today definition impassions because of its implications. A domain for going astray. Political jealousy far away from the exploded sense of the true. Indeed there does exist a divided space called the Maghreb but the Maghrebian is always elsewhere. And that is where he realizes himself.

Jugurtha lacked money to buy Rome.
Tariq gave his name to a Spanish mountain.
Ibn Khaldûn found himself obliged to hand over his steed to Tamerlaine.
Abd el Krim corresponded with the Third International.

An excessive taste for history and controversy chains him ironically to a hastily exploited hagiography. As to the Tragic, he only grasps its throbbing and banal spark. He turns his back to the sea and mistrusts the sun, knowing its terrible burns. “The mere word freedom is the only one that still excites him. (…) It doubtlessly satisfies [his] only legitimate aspiration.”

There remains madness.” Around here it is common. It circulates. Sometimes it gets locked up, by accident. For the rest of the time one prefers to tame it in order to enjoy it in the margins of the NORM. Because from very early on everyone learns how best to exploit it. Knowing that “hallucinations, illusions, etcetera, are not a source of trifling pleasure.”

I council the reasonable man to go sit by the river and he will see pass by all the madmen he ever wanted to meet; provided that he live long enough. All Maghrebians know the subversive power of madness; their artists (with rare exceptions) know it less well than they do, as shown by the sugary and luke warm use they make of it in their works trying to compel the unbearable limits of a dailyness so difficult to bear.

The madman, the mahbûl, the medjnûn, the dervish, the makhbût, the msaqqaf, the mtaktak, etcetera, belongs to folklore, alas. This reduction reveals the narrowness of the outlook.

It happens, however, that the jerky flood of fire and mud illuminates the word: Nedjma bears witness to this just as some of Khaïr-Eddine’s bursts carry its disorder.

On the screen, madness remains a moving picture. Maghrebian moviemakers – the Algerians in particular – are seduced by the image of the madman: he is thought to speak what had been silenced. In most cases we are dealing with postcard-madmen (colonial exoticism was fond of this sort of postcards), boring and pompous. Zinet’s in Tahia ya Didou does grab me, maybe because of its naïve clumsiness.


Of the dream and the marvelous, the Maghrebian knows the weight: it is a nod of the head and a long sigh.

In the morning the one who has dreamed tells someone close: I had a dream. Then shuts up. The other one has to answer: oh well, by the grace of God. Only then does he tell his dream.

I have let many dreams pass by for not having been able to say the hallowed formula in time. I have also known many Maghrebians said to be married to Djinnies or Rûhanies – floaty creatures between the human and the angelic. According to their entourage things weren’t any worse than for other couples: quarrels and reconciliations, broken dishes and careful housekeeping.

In the Maghreb the ancestors often visit the living for the sheer pleasure of appearances.
For a long time the Maghrebian has been a surrealist without knowing it. Take for example the following statement by Ibn Arabi:

“In what I have written I have never had a deliberate purpose, like other writers. Glimmers of divine inspiration illuminated me and nearly overcame me, so that I couldn’t free my mind of them except by writing down what they revealed to me. If my works show any kind of formal composition, this form is not intentional. I have written some of my works on the behest of Allah, sent to me during my sleep or through a revelation.”

But Breton has defined surrealism “once and for all”:

“SURREALISM, n. Psychic automatism in its pure state, by which one proposes to express – verbally, by means of the written word, or in any other manner – the actual functioning of thought. Dictated by thought, in the absence of any control exercised by reason, exempt from any aesthetic or moral concern.”

“ENCYCLOPEDIA. Philosophy. Surrealism is based on the belief in the superior reality of certain forms of previously neglected associations, in the omnipotence of the dream, in the disinterested play of thought. It tends to ruin once and for all other psychic mechanisms and to substitute itself for them in solving all the principal problems of life. (…)”

During the twenties, some Maghrebians in exile “performed acts of Relative SURREALISM.” It was difficult for them to do otherwise: the family was a lack they wept over in front of a post office window, the fatherland a confiscated identity and religion a recognition.

Today the twenties are long gone, drowned in the gaze. The “fish” have dissolved and fat rats are enthroned as critics. “The Magnetic Fields” lie fallow. Only the battlefields are exploited.
The “act of ABSOLUTE SURREALISM” remains to be done.
Premonitory signs announce it.
“………………………………………………………………………

……………………………………………………………………….
……………………………………………………………………….
....................................”
“Etcetera.”

The passing Maghrebian is surrealist in Djeha.
Nafzawi is surrealist in sexual revelation.
Ibn Khaldûn is surrealist in intrigue.
Sidi Ahmed ben Yussef is surrealist in cursing.
Mejdûb is surrealist in anguish.
Feraûn is surrealist in Si Mohand.
Kateb is surrealist in the tradition.
Dib is surrealist in the drift.
Mrabet is surrealist in his joints.
Sénac is surrealist in the streets.
Khaïr-Eddine is surrealist in his alcoholic delirium.
I am surrealist when I am not there.
Tibouchi is surrealist in certain verses.
Baya is not surrealist despite Breton’s sympathy.
Etcetera.

I would like to stress this point: they are not always Surrealists (…) because they did not want to serve simply to orchestrate the marvelous score.” This “marvelous score” we find it in the game of the boqala, in the threnody of the professional mourner, in the rhymed recitation of the meddah, in the invocations of amorous magic, in blasphemous insults, etcetera. Speech and gesture are not dissociated from the perpetual movement of the natural elements that encumber the waking dream. Superb and indifferent echo, assonances. The lines are established, bent to the severity of chance: there is nothing to prove.

The Maghrebian artists, however, are often obsessed by their image, they want to prove something: that they have “talent.”

A left bank Parisian publisher confided confidentially that he did not like to do business with Maghrebian writers because they all think they are Rimbaud. So what! It is certain that he, Rimbaud, didn’t give a damn about being a Maghrebian in the Harrar and that the publisher in question is a cad despite his undeniable qualities.

Today this obsession with “talent” keeps most Maghrebian artists from being “modest recording instruments.” Kateb is to my knowledge the only one who denies “the ‘talent’ which has been lent to [him],” but he has lost his resonance. His suicidal position enchants only the drifters closing in on him. I would have loved to hear him exclaim: “The haste some show to see me disappear and the natural taste I have for agitation alone would be enough to dissuade me from vainly shuffling off this coil”…

The Maghrebian artists have plenty of “talent” – but not enough to dare say “We have no talent, (…).” One had to be rotten through and through with culture and have a moral rigor above suspicion in order to lance the boil. “(Even) the simplest surrealist act” demands a considerable subconscious disposition. One does not go “into the street” on a whim and, in order to make art fade away one has to be a familiar of its arcana.

We will certainly manage to melt ourselves into the surreality of our space in order, finally, to be.

Right now the “recording instruments” are somewhat gummed up. “There still exists at this hour throughout the world (Isn’t the Maghreb the beginning and the end of the world? It is said that Atlas is wearying under his load. It is also said that the world is a miniature Maghreb but that everyone does their best to ignore this fact), in the high schools, in the workshops, in the streets, in the seminaries and in the barracks young, pure beings who refuse to fit in.”

One of those “young beings” went to Tunis high school. To a French Literature exam question on “qu’est-ce qu’un beau vers?” (what is a beautiful verse?) he answered: “un beau vers est un ver à soie” (a beautiful verse [vers] is a silk worm [ver]). But since then he has had the unhappy naivety to take himself for an inspired poet! … This often happens and is, when all is said and done, less problematic than the case of the “pen pimps” who set themselves up as censors of taste. That’s because many “corpse(s)” don’t give up the hope of “making dust.” I’ll leave them to their sordid haggling, necrophilia not being one of my pleasures.

It is finally into Maghrebian Sufism that surrealist subversion inserts itself: “Psychic automatism in its pure state,” “amour fou,” revolt, chance meetings, etcetera. The mistrust Sufism inspires and the multiple attempts at recuperating it incite me to be more attentive towards a phenomenon it is wrong to hastily catalogue as retrograde. A judgment based on ignorance! There always exists a non (?)-conscious smidgen of Sufism in the Maghrebian writer who is not a clever faker – just reread Kateb or Khaïr-Eddine, for example. The Maghrebian rarely errs concerning the derailment of his Sufis: in this domain, mystification is not easy. There where the exterior observer sees only heresy, sexual dissoluteness, coarse language, incoherent acts, etcetera, he asks himself:


— Yes?
— Yes!… No.
It's obvious, “Existence is elsewhere.”
Thus goes “belief in life (…)”…
When the Sufi Master is not present, the initiates don’t dance.
You will have understood, or at least I hope so, that despite my perverse attachment
to art, it is “elsewhere” that I hope to sojourn.

The Surrealist Revolution is total and “in matters of revolt none of us can have need
of ancestors
.”

Constantine – March 7, 1981.

TRANSLATOR’S NOTE:
Born in 1947 in Mostaganem, Eastern Algeria, raised on the Arab and Berber voices of marketplace storytellers, Habib Tengour has lived between Algeria and Paris ever since, both incarnating and, in his work, speaking to the nomadic & (post)-colonial condition of his countrymen. Trained as an anthropologist and sociologist, he has taught at universities in both countries, while emerging over the years as one of the Maghreb’s most forceful and visionary francophone poetic voices of the post-colonial era. The work has the desire and intelligence to be epic, or at least to invent narrative possibilities beyond the strictures of the Western / French lyric tradition, in which his colonial childhood had schooled him. Core to it is thus the ongoing invention of a Maghrebian space for and of writing, the ongoing quest for the identification of such a space and self.

Besides a range of lyrical works ranging from Schistes de Tahmad 2 (1983) to the recent Traverser and Épreuve 2 (2002) — works that always stretch the imagination of what the lyrical can be —, Tengour’s main books are the poetic narratives Le Vieux de la Montagne, called a “Relation” (1983), Sultan Galiev (1985), L’Epreuve de l’arc (1990), Gens de Mosta (1997) and the novel Le Poisson de Moïse (2001).

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Charles Bernstein: De Campos Thou Art Translated (Knot)

Posted by Lidya Endzo Kun iLLa On 6:11 AM 0 comments
[December 2003, published in the Poetry Society of America's Crosscurrents]

I do not guide because I do not guide because I can not guide and don't ask me for mementos just dwell on this moment and demand my commandment and do not fly just defy do not confide defile for between yes and no I for one prefer the no in the knowing of yes place the no in the ee of me place the no the no will be yours to know.
-- Haroldo de Campos, tr. A. S. Bessa

Haroldo de Campos is a defining figure for the poetry of the Americas. His work is essential not just to an understanding of Brazilian poetry but also to the geography -- conceptual, intellectual, cultural, and social -- of postwar poetry in the world at large. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say -- the world at small, for de Campos is determinately peripheral to the large-scale cultural and economic forces that have, more often than not, wrecked havoc on the possibilities for poetry’s indomitable sprit as local, resistant, rebarbative, intractable, radiant; as infra- and cross-cultural rather than pan-cultural; as intellectual fire rather than sentimental noise.

Haroldo de Campos died on August 16, 2003, at the age of 73, just months before a planned trip to the U.S. However, he was able to see the manuscript of Novas, a selection of his poems and essays, edited by A. S. Bessa and Odile Cisneros, which is forthcoming from Northwestern University Press.

On January 12, 2002, Bessa and Pablo Helguera brought a group of us together at the Guggenheim Museum, which was then presenting its gigantic show of art from Brazil, to talk about de Campos’s work. The following remarks are adapted from that talk.

De Campos is best known as one of the inventors of Concrete poetry in the 1950s. But concrete, or visual, poetry is only one aspect of de Campos’s work and his identification with this movement may obscure his overall achievement. The dynamic of this overshadowing, however, is a central part of the social meaning of his work. De Campos wrote literary and political essays, which often appeared in São Paulo’s daily newspapers. He also created poems in many new and old forms, including abstract lyrics (resembling in some ways the early work of Clark Coolidge, such as that collected in Space) and a new form of prose poetry that he called Galáxias, which is characterized by the pervasive use of portmanteau words (along the lines of late Joyce) and absence of periods, and is possibly his greatest literary achievement. Yet perhaps de Campos’s most resonant work was his writing about, and his practice of, translation, what he called transcreation. Indeed, the poetics and politics of trans- and re-creation informs not just de Campos’s incredible range of translations into Portuguese -- Genesis and Ecclesiastes, Homer and Dante, Joyce and Pound, Mallarmé and Mayakovsky -- but his work overall.

De Campos believed that translation was a key issue for Brazilian modernism. And Brazil itself is a necessary starting point for consideration of de Campos as poet and transcreator. I approach this topic with both enthusiasm and trepidation, for what I know about Brazil is determined, to a great extent, by what has been exported; indeed, what’s available to me in translation.

The problem is translating de Campos without losing the Brazilian. According to de Campos, the literary work in Brazil starts full-blown with the Baroque and you can experience this in a very striking way at the Guggenheim show. After ascending through floors and floors of Baroque art, all of a sudden you end up in a display of formalist modernism. There is practically no transition. Speaking today amidst this profusion of Brazilian art, we can see that de Campos is both Baroque and anti-Baroque. For de Campos, however, it is perhaps more cogent to speak of polyglotism, or what might also be called the syncretic. Indeed, the tensions among the polyglot, the multilingual, and the syncretic is a manifestation of the overlay of a reductive yet elegant modernist formalism superimposed on a Baroque foundation. And indeed this is the back story of de Campos’s poetry.

At the Guggenheim, such cultural contradictions were displayed in the most dramatic way in the conflict between the Norman Rockwell show, in the new side wing of the museum, and the Brazil show in the main atrium. The Rockwell show suggests a vision of America which is opposite to the syncretic and polyglot: an art of America not the Americas. Rockwell is constantly reiterating a unified and idealized image of what American (United States) culture can be; looking at these images brings this America into being. On the Brazilian side, there is no similar singular image of national unity.

The first book of poetry published by a Brazilian author was Música do Parnasso by Manuel Botelho de Oliveira (1636-1671); it was written in four languages -- Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, and Latin. If one reads that book as a virtual ground for de Campos’s project, it puts into play a very different framework than for those of his North and South American contemporaries who conceive of poetry as monolingual. But de Campos’s polylingualism is not simply a measure of his internationalism -- for both the apparent extroverted internationalism of Concrete poetry and of transcreation has another, intensely introverted, dimension, which is a crucial dynamic of de Campos’s work.

In the Brazilian modernism of the early 1920s, there was a focus on the specificity of Brazil but also on the fact that Brazil -- its culture, its art -- was unknown to the outside world. And at this point a fundamental conflict emerges between exporting and refusing to export “Brazil.” The fear of exporting culture is that one may end up extracting, reducing, translating (away), sacrificing the heart for a hollow representation. Moreover, there is the sense that one must have a culture in order to be in dialogue with other cultures; so, first, there is the need to build your culture into something substantial. Dialogue, in other words, export, comes into conflict with self-development. Or put it this way: Internationalism comes into conflict with willed isolation, the insistence on cultural solitude, which necessarily entails remaining unknown to the outside world. This issue, so central for de Campos, and other Brazilian poets, was addressed, in the 1920s, by the Brazilian poet Oswald de Andrade (1890-1954), when he writes of anthropophagy or cannibalism. Cannibalism is a way to deal with that which is external. While related to both translation and assimilation, cannibalism goes further: by eating that which is outside, ingesting it so that it becomes a part of you, it ceases to be external. By digesting, you absorb.

In 1952, when he was twenty-three years old, de Campos co-founded the Concrete poetry movement, the most visible Brazilian international literary export up until that time, and, as a result, also very well known, even if initially controversial, inside Brazil. Simultaneously, he was writing neo-Baroque poems, poems that remain unknown outside Brazil. Concrete poetry was a successful Brazilian export: it became part of, insofar as it could be assimilated to, the international modernist style. You can look at a Concrete poem and get the sense you understand it, without knowing Portuguese or anything about Brazil, or indeed anything about the author. The design of the words on the page, the evident lyric wit, made de Campos’s Concrete poems tremendously appealing. In its initial guise of minimalist reduction, these poems look international, suggesting a utopian possibility for postwar literary modernism, connected, for example, with both the architectural style and left politics of Oscar Niemeyer. The fact that a radically experimental visual poetry has been Brazil’s best-known poetry export, and as a result achieved a significant measure of acceptance within Brazil, reverses the dynamic in almost all other places, where comparable forms of innovative poetry work have been the among the most marginalized.

The situation of Concrete poetry echoes the double-bind of Russian Futurist Velimir Khlebnikov’s zaum (transrational) poetry. On the one hand, zaum was able to transcend language barriers, as a kind of Esperanto. Everyone would be able to understand transense or made-up words because nobody could understand them. In other words, like Concrete poetry, it appears to needs no translation. On the other hand, in its materializing of the word, zaum is completely opaque: untranslatable. It is this other side of the coin that is related to de Campos’s turn from his earlier sleek international modernism to Baroque transcreation, as he moved toward a capacious opacity by a process of absorption and cannibalization. Within the light of de Campos’s subsequent work, his Concrete poetry takes on a double life, for its very lucidity is the surface reflection of its refractory, ludic otherness; it’s like the sun shining on the surface of a body of water whose depth has not yet been sounded. Indeed, in many of de Campos’s poems, an immediately appealing play of sound, on the order of sound poetry for the non-Portuguese-speaking listener, doubles with a semantic complexity unavailable in the sounds themselves.

In other words, I keep coming back to that phrase, in other words we have to translate even, especially, de Campos’s translations. The words alone are not enough, what is required is an act of cultural transcreation and poetic exchange. If I were to situate de Campos within an American poetry context, the contemporaries of his that would come to mind immediately would be Robert Creeley, Jackson Mac Low, Susan Howe, Jerome Rothenberg, and David Antin.

In considering Brazil’s export culture, among the best known work is the bossa nova, as created in the magnificent rhythmic asymmetries and lyric understatement of Antonio Carlos Jobim (1925-1994) and Vinicius de Moraes (1913-1980), both roughly contemporary with de Campos, and continuing on with what has come to be called MPB (Música Popular Brasileira). Indeed, de Campos’s movement away from assimilatable export, as he backed away from the window onto (or out of?) Brazil provided by international abstraction, might be contrasted to the Tropicalismo of that most gifted singer/songwriter/poet Caetano Veloso (born in 1942), who has achieved a phenomenal international success over the past two decades.

Haroldo’s brother, and fellow Concrete poet, Augusto de Campos created a small storm among Brazil’s innovative poets by once suggesting the Tropicalismo was more interesting than any of their work. I don’t know what Haroldo thought of this, but I read his approach as being quite different. For Haroldo, the 1950s crystallized a moment of political possibility, of utopian extroversion; after that, he turned toward a non-utopian grappling with social complexity -- what he called "sign materialism." Sign materialism provides a way to read his journey from Concrete poetry to linguistic concretion by means of transcreation. Translation then becomes a bridge, going back to his earliest work and drawing on his interest in Pound’s, Zukofsky’s, and Benjamin’s radical approaches to translation. What de Campos calls transcreation is, in effect, re-creation: in translating the poet (cannibalistically) creates an original work in his or her own right, one no longer beholding to the source.

Thinking of this in terms of dependency, and in terms of Brazil, trancreation/re-creation becomes a metaphor for refusing dependency. The poet resists exporting; resists, that is, becoming dependent on what’s exportable. At the same time, the poet resists importing; resists, that is, developing a subsidiary relation to the powerful literatures beyond. Trancreation is a means of appropriating and remaking in one’s own right. In the process, the work made becomes refractory, opaque. It must itself be translated and yet it can’t be translated. De Campos’s translations are not subsidiary or secondary to some original but have themselves become original work. De Campos’s elaborations and extensions around a shifting center are the Baroque element of his work, with its insistence on the materiality of its languages and holding to its own specific gravity. It comes to this: de Campos’s work resists translatability through its cultural and linguistic thickness. In this way, de Campos reverses any reductive understanding of his internationalism. The work exemplifies what de Campos calls concretion, in contradistinction to "concrete": a neo-Baroque complexity that stands with its back askew to the internationally absorbable simplification represented by his best-known work, his primary export item, "Concrete Poetry." The work of de Campos is a dream of and by translation, but with no bottom language.

De Campos thou art translated (knot).

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“Je Est Un Autre”: Ethnopoetics & The Poet As Other

Posted by Lidya Endzo Kun iLLa On 6:58 AM 0 comments
[The following was delivered as a talk at the Modern Language Association meetings December 29, 1989 in Washington D.C., and excerpts were published in American Anthropologist, volume 96, number 3, in September 1994. It was never published in its entirety in English but has appeared in Portuguese translation in Etnopoesia no Milênio, Editorial Azougue, Rio de Janeiro, 2006, and in a forthcoming selection of my prose writings from Editorial Ardus in Mexico, translated into Spanish by Heriberto Yépez. (J.R.)]

Today I want to proclaim my own otherness & proclaim it for what it is.
[Pointing to head & heart.]
There are many "others" in me.

[Pause.]

Before there was ethnopoetics there was the world.

I mean to say that we emerged from the second world war & knew that it was bigger than that. The world, I mean.

The world as Europe was not the world the mind now knew.

And something had happened that let the mind know many worlds — each one of which was "other" to the mind.

Europe was also "other."

America was "other."

What was exotic & what was near to hand were "other."

You & I were "other" to ourselves, our minds.

The mind the mind knew was a final otherness: a habitat of minds & worlds.

(This emerged. The world emerged it.)

What you know is what you are. What the mind can hold is what the mind is.
Enough, the mind says. There is a politics in this & yet there is no politics.
There is a knowledge here that mixes real & unreal, that opens.
There is also the trembling headiness of a world in which, Rimbaud told us, "I" is an "other."

What did he mean by that?
What do I mean?
"I" is "other," is "an other," is "the other."
(There is also "you.")

If the mind shapes, configures the world it knows or holds, is there an imperial/colonizing mind at work here, or is this mind as shaper & collager still pursuing its old work: to make an image of the world from what appears to it?

And what appears to it?

The world.

In 1965 our fellow voyager, Charles Olson, read to an assembled festival at Berkeley a poem that drew directly from a translation — was itself a translation — of a Hittite tablet from a millennium or more before the common counting.
It was the kind of "other" that was already coming into his mind & thus his work.

(Olson was, as we all know, a man of many means.
As we are all endowed with many means.
I mean, we all.)

He had been reading from The Maximus Poems before that, & someone (not identified in the transcript) asked him, referring to the Hittite: "Why do you go to another culture to get your myth?"

Now, for Olson, for whom the world had opened up & for whom there was no turning back, the question triggered an answer that was quick & sharp.
(There was no ethnopoetics then for Olson, but there was a world.

And that world knew both an "I" & "other," that in The Maximus Poems became a world of many means.

"I" is an "other"; "other" is absorbed in "I"; is only known through such absorption & such re-creation.

Making new.)

What Olson said was this:

"Well, you knock me out when you say that" is what he said. "I just thought I bridged the cultures." (Here the transcript says he laughed.) He said: "I don't believe in cultures myself. I think that's a lot of hungup stuff like organized anything. I believe there is simply ourselves, and where we are has a particularity which we'd better use because that's about all we got. Otherwise we're running about looking for somebody else's stuff. But that particularity is as great as numbers are in arithmetic. The literal is the same as the numeral to me. I mean the literal is the invention of language and power the same as numbers. And so there is no other culture. There is simply the literal essence and exactitude of your own. I mean, the streets you live on, or the clothes you wear, or the color of your hair is no different from the ability of, say, Giovanni di Paolo to cut the legs off Santa Clara or something. Truth lies solely in what you do with it. And that means you. I don't think there's any such thing as a creature of culture."

[And the Hittite? I wondered.
The Hittite must have been there too.
That other "literal."
The Hittite.
The Algonquin.
The Sumerian.
The Norse.
The Mayan.
The geographic & archaeological.
The Olson multiples.
Those he had caught. Appropriated.]


And then he went on: "I think we live so totally in an acculturated time that the reason why we're all here that care and write is to put an end to that whole thing. Put an end to nation, put an end to culture, put an end to divisions of all sorts. And to do this you have to put establishment out of business. ... The radical of action lies in finding out how organized things are genuine, are initial ... [that the Imago Mundi] is initial in any of us. We have our picture of the world and that's the creation."

It is a fine irritation with categories that comes through here as Olson's version of that "intensity / disgust" the Dada poet Tristan Tzara named for us.

A perception too that the older categories — primitive & civilized, barbaric, savage, cultured & natured — are insufficient for our present uses, even false.
That "I" & "other" are also false, are traps to keep us from the poem.

Or put it a different way: that "I" becomes or is the deepest "other": that inner thing you can't touch, the life that always gets away from you.

[At this juncture too I began to explore the Jew in me, as instance of an “other" in this world but also thought to be my self. Inside me.

And the words of Kafka soon came back to me: "What have I in common with Jews? I hardly have anything in common with myself."]

How exotic I am today, I mean. How pale the others are.

But with Olson, too, a miscalculation comes into the picture. For the cultures, even as he denies them, come back with their own demands, their voices & visions emerging from the disintegration of that imperium that made his own voice audible.

Ethnos is the brightness & the terror that confronts us at the turning in
the road. Right now.

But an ethnopoetics stripped of Olson's intensities, say, stripped of the culture-of-the-individual & the yearning to "put an end to nation," "to culture," "... to divisions of all sorts," would leave us only with the terror. With the brightness turned aside.

The ethnopoetics that I knew was, first & last, the work of poets. Of a certain kind of poet.

As such its mission was subversive, questioning the imperium even while growing out of it. Transforming.

It was the work of individuals who found in multiplicity the cure for that conformity of thought, of spirit, that generality that robs us of our moments. That denies them to the world at large.

A play between that otherness inside me & the identities imposed from
outside.

[It is not ethnopoetics as a course of study — however much we wanted it — but as a course of action.]

"I" is an "other," then; becomes a world of others.

It is a process of becoming. A collaging self. Is infinite & contradictory. It is "I" and "not-I."

"Do I contradict myself? Very well, I contradict myself. I is infinite. I contains multitudes."

Said Rimbaud/Whitman at the very start.

It is from where we are, the basis still of any ethnopoetics worth the struggle.
For those for whom it happens, the world is open, & the mind (forever empty) is forever full.

There is no turning back, I meant to say.

Here the millennium demands it.

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I

He sees her urgent face.
.
Lakes folded into the palm of the hills.
.
Large twolegged passersby.
.
Sky gods
earth gods
gods of the air
legions of angels.
.
In the land
where everyone does everything backwards.

II

Imagine the moon between its arms
like the sky, or
the down on a woman’s legs. There’s
a cactus here, a kind of
prickly pear with down where the spines should be.
Hand
full of tiny spines.

III

The black spot on the dove’s neck.
The ill-favored son of the loveliest of men.
The tough lyricist
the desert dancer
barefoot among the cactus.
.
Quiet. Slow.
Serpent-knowledge in the hollows of rocks.

FROM “A PROVISIONAL POETICS”

I never set out to write a poem. I will jot things down in my notebook, sometimes ideational, sometimes not, sometimes from the environment, or misheard, or from a dream, and occasionally a phrase will have a rhythmic urgency that compels me to jot something further, and then I'm lost in process and have no idea where I or the poem is going. This is a liminal state fraught with both joy and terror, and it is processual. The process may extend over few or many lines and take a few moments or days and months. It lasts until one emerges at the other end, back into the everyday, arrival signaled by the loss of urgency.

And then one cleans up the mess of blind alleys, dishonesties and false starts. What’s left is the record of the process. in which the poet is reinvented and the poem discovered.

What I’m describing is a particular form of possession. I think of poor Yeats in “Among School Children,” realizing that, despite the watchful eyes of the nuns and his desperate desire to behave properly, he is falling into a sexual revery about a little girl. And suddenly he gives into the revery and finds himself transported to a brutal figuration of generativity and destructiveness, of the erotic refusing to be tamed to the appropriate. The life built by the public man can be torn apart in a second, and the whole world with it. It's Red Hanrahan, the hero of his early stories, being carried off by the fairies all over again, the victim of their purity of impulse. And where does that leave you?

I suspect that all poetry is a form of possession. There's the sense that no matter how we try to train ourselves we can become at best receptive--the poem seems to come when it wants to and to leave when it wants to, unless we try to constrain it to our preconceptions, in which case we certainly lose it. And it's no respecter of occasions, so that those who have the dubious fortune of being on the receiving end often find themselves less than well-fitted to the world of time-constraints.

I’m not talking about a loss of choice. For one thing, the field in which our possessed selves operates is the field we bring to the experience. And the momentary changes and impulses are directed by what comes before, but also by the changes in a bodily chemistry whose stability is always fragile. We learn, we enlarge the field, but it's still the field, and the physiology, we brought to the game.
Even in sleep we make choices. On the crudest level, it's no accident that Freudians have Freudian dreams, Jungians have Jungian dreams, and Pharaohs dream about sheaves of wheat. What we relinquish is the conscious awareness and direction of choice.

Rituals, whether parlor-game tarot readings or the I Ching or the more serious commitment of the otherwise decorous old woman in a New York or Havana barrio who becomes the horse of Shango and insists on throwing up her skirts to show the crowd how much bigger her cock is than theirs, are about choices faced in what Van Gennep called a liminal or marginal state--between statuses, in transit from known to knowable, a place without rules. The known and the knowable are always under siege, because it's not so much that we're on occasion in a stable place as that the rate of change on occasion slows down. Change is the constant. The poem is situated in that awareness, and to the extent that we have the courage to stay there it inhabits the liminal, which is by its nature formless. And the poem grounds itself in the particular because that's all there is to hold onto, and the only clues offered.

It's the willful relinquishing of resistance to liminality. And it differs from the ritual practice of possession because, unlike the ritual, which, if done properly, always brings the participant out the other end (imagery of rebirth is inevitable here), it has no preordained pattern, no life-rope, no social structures surrounding it that announce when the participant has
reached the new place and what place that is.

This may sound like the fugue state of psychosis, but in fact the crazy rarely will themselves to relinquish the inhibitions to behaviors seen as crazy and to the internal states that drive those behaviors. They really know that they may not be able to come back. I once asked a group of for-the-moment stable schizophrenics about a fantasy. They exchanged a few panicky glances and then assured me, one after the other, in the manner of well-behaved school-children, that they didn't have fantasies.

Somewhere the poet has the sense that there's an internal structure to escape to, and it's that faith that gives him the courage to dive in when he's able. Yeats, for instance, knows that he's not about to throw himself on that little girl, although he may allow himself to court the danger. The internalized self-definition as Poet, which contains within it the privilege to depart from the everyday to bring back news from the margins, is a part of that structure.

Here’s how I’ve been making poems these last 15 years.

For a period of three years, from 1981 thru July 1983, I experienced seizures, on average four days a week, as many as four in one day. They were what is called partial seizures--a kind of petit mal--which in my case took the form of bizarre internal language events followed by a half hour of aphasia. Although they were no fun they had their comic side: in the first phase if anyone spoke to me I would hear his speech as ironic use of psychobabble. At first this seemed appropriate, if unusual--the first several occurrences happened while talking to my students, all psychology majors, in office hours after a psychology course I was teaching. When Carlos, my step-son, then 13, did the psychobabble routine I thought, my, he's become sophisticated. Then a Chinese waiter did it while taking my order, and then a singer on a salsa jukebox in a Puerto Rican greasy spoon.

The effect, more from the antispasmodics than the seizures, was that whereas previously I had written mostly self-contained work with something like a beginning, middle and end I could no longer sustain the linguistic energy--the best that I could do was fragments in my notebook. I thought my life as a poet was over. Then, on a drive across country, I began to realize that there was something magical happening--the fragments across time were not only forming their own fragile coherence, but they were more fully expressing all of my concerns and something like a shadow-sketch of the world as I experienced it. Parts of my way of being and seeing, notably irony, found themselves included in ways they hadn't been before, along with ideas, shopping lists, linguistic and cultural detritus. When I got to Tucson I spent an afternoon reading to a friend from my notebook. In the act I realized that I was involved in the process of a long poem occasioned by the crossing.

I think I'm engaged in what I understand as composition by field. Or perhaps composition of field. The field defines the observer, much as the light space around a darker mass creates the sense of depth in painting. The observer--the poet--becomes he who saw/selected these things and not others from the limitless world, and chaos becomes information. In this way of writing it’s rarely necessary to announce one’s emotional states or even one’s politics. The posited field and the data it contains comment in themselves, much like the data in dreams. A psychologized "no ideas but in things?"

Subsequently I have realized that much of what I had done for the previous 20 years had been moving in this direction.


. . . . . . .

[The preceding is from Mark Weiss’s collection, As Landscape, published earlier this year by Chax Press. A substantive review by M.G. Stephens appeared in Jacket 40, available on-line at http://jacketmagazine.com/40/r-weiss-rb-stephens.shtml]

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Uncollected Poems (16): Five Baroque Sonnets

Posted by Lidya Endzo Kun iLLa On 5:59 AM 0 comments
[These poems from the early to middle 1950s were recovered, along with numerous others, for Retrievals, a volume of Uncollected & New Poems 1955-2005, to be published in January 2011 by Mark Weiss & Junction Press. Translated from Italian & Spanish, they represent, along with two previously unpublished imitations of Emily Dickinson, the end of my experiments with traditional closed forms & terminally rhyming verse. Fifteen previous installments from Retrievals have appeared since 2008 on Poems & Poetics. (J.R.)]

1
SONNET AGAINST CUPID

Three thousand years ago man first adored
a feathered, armed, and oh! blind Love, since when
he’s grown deaf too; and sounds of others’ pain
(now charity’s thrown off) pass by unheard.

Glutton of gold, he masquerades his once
plain, boyish nakedness in clothes of brown,
and changed into a sly old man, throws down
his golden arrows for new-fangled guns:

till coal, flint, thunder, flames and burning lead
infect men’s bodies with their hellish wounds,
robbing the greedy mind of every sense.

But still an echo strikes my trembling head:
“Yield, sightless, scarred, deaf beast” (it sounds)
“to that high love of Holy Innocence.”

after Tommaso Campanella

2
Alone and timorous, my peril great,
who in the wars of love had met with fear,
I fled that tempest and at last drew near
my better fortune at this surer gate.

But in my journey’s center, doubts so great
obscured the path, which sloth let enter here,
that love, who in your eyes was passenger,
pummeled my heart in its defenseless state.

Yet scarcely could I praise the sweet disease
which wore me down, when one whom envy spurned
had carried you away and left me damned,

as once the Parthian fled the Euphrates
in siege, that nimble charger overturned,
its fierce commander sprawling there, unmanned.

after Hernando de Herrera

3
This marble like a broken, ancient thing,
flaunting its portraiture of once high hearts;
these arches splintered into separate parts,
grim towers rising in a helpless ring;

reveal to the rude mob how blind a thing’s
old error, which the spirit’s loss imparts.
And only I, immersed in wicked arts,
must seal my eyes against light’s entering.

I think: let my ambition fabricate
a house of stronger stone; and though I see
its overthrow in time, lust binds my will.

Sad waste of sense in one so obstinate
he lets desire murder sanity,
and shown his errors, pursues that greater Hell.

after Fernando de Herrera

4
“Where hast thou fled, cruel murderess? Restrain,
detain those steps that mark my loss, for I
in dark despair have uttered such fierce cry
an endless stream pours from my throbbing vein.

“Oh listen to my grief’s too sad refrain
and thousand times repeating self-same sigh,
that you may prove less fierce and proud, though I
have never moved you yet through my much pain.

“Turn toward me with your eyes where lightnings break,
before my blind cloud robs me of my sight,”
I said, deranged by dreams that fed my fears:

then turned and was alone upon a peak,
my day dissolving in a sea of night,
and metamorphosed into flaming tears.

after Fernando de Herrera

5
I never see that day return when He
was born Who (being God) willed to descend
into poor flesh, and in that web amend
our father’s sin against His sovereignty,

without recalling the deceptive way
that Love, when he had spread his net between
two fair eyes and a smile, caught me within –
those eyes so distant now for many a day;

and without feeling that old love impale
my lusting heart on his high lance, so deep
and tender was the entry that he made,

that if pure reason, garmented in mail,
did not ward off the thrusts of sense, my grief
would grow so bitter that none could give me aid.

after Gaspara Stampa

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[The following excerpts have often been seen before but are presented here as the first announcements in English of a new experimental poetry.]

William Wordsworth: from “Advertisement” for Lyrical Ballads

It is the honourable characteristic of Poetry that its materials are to be found in every subject which can interest the human mind. The evidence of this fact is to be sought, not in the writings of Critics, but in those of Poets themselves.

The majority of the following poems are to be considered as experiments. They were written chiefly with a view to ascertain how far the language of conversation in the middle and lower classes of society is adapted to the purposes of poetic pleasure. Readers accustomed to the gaudiness and inane phraseology of many modern writers, if they persist in reading this book to its conclusion, will perhaps frequently have to struggle with feelings of strangeness and aukwardness: they will look round for poetry, and will be induced to enquire by what species of courtesy these attempts can be permitted to assume that title. It is desirable that such readers, for their own sakes, should not suffer the solitary word Poetry, a word of very disputed meaning, to stand in the way of their gratification; but that, while they are perusing this book, they should ask themselves if it contains a natural delineation of human passions, human characters, and human incidents; and if the answer be favorable to the author's wishes, that they should consent to be pleased in spite of that most dreadful enemy to our pleasures, our own pre-established codes of decision.

Readers of superior judgment may disapprove of the style in which many of these pieces are executed. It must be expected that many lines and phrases will not exactly suit their taste. It will perhaps appear to them, that wishing to avoid the prevalent fault of the day, the author has sometimes descended too low, and that many of his expressions are too familiar, and not of sufficient dignity. It is apprehended, that the more conversant the reader is with our elder writers, and with those in modern times who have been the most successful in painting manners and passions, the fewer complaints of this kind will he have to make.

An accurate taste in poetry, and in all the other arts, Sir Joshua Reynolds has observed, is an acquired talent, which can only be produced by severe thought, and a long continued intercourse with the best models of composition. This is mentioned not so much with so ridiculous a purpose as to prevent the most inexperienced reader from judging for himself; but merely to temper the rashness of decision, and to suggest that if poetry be a subject on which much time has not been bestowed, the judgment may be erroneous, and that in many cases it necessarily will be so.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge: from Biographia Literaria

During the first year that Mr. Wordsworth and I were neighbours, our conversations turned frequently on the two cardinal points of poetry, the power of exciting the sympathy of the reader by a faithful adherence to the truth of nature, and the power of giving the interest of novelty by the modifying colours of imagination. The sudden charm, which accidents of light and shade, which moon-light or sun-set diffused over a known and familiar landscape, appeared to represent the practicability of combining both. These are the poetry of nature. The thought suggested itself (to which of us I do not recollect) that a series of poems might be composed of two sorts. In the one, the incidents and agents were to be, in part at least, supernatural; and the excellence aimed at was to consist in the interesting of the affections by the dramatic truth of such emotions as would naturally accompany such situations, supposing them real. And real in this sense they have been to every human being who, from whatever source of delusion, has at any time believed himself under supernatural agency. For the second class, subjects were to be chosen from ordinary life; the characters and incidents were to be such, as will be found in every village and its vicinity, where there is a meditative and feeling mind to seek after them, or to notice them, when they present themselves.

In this idea originated the plan of the Lyrical Ballads; in which it was agreed, that my endeavours should be directed to persons and characters supernatural, or at least romantic, yet so as to transfer from our inward nature a human interest and a semblance of truth sufficient to procure for these shadows of imagination that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith. Mr. Wordsworth on the other hand was to propose to himself as his object, to give the charm of novelty to things of every day, and to excite a feeling analogous to the supernatural, by awakening the mind’s attention from the lethargy of custom, and directing it to the loveliness and the wonders of the world before us; an inexhaustible treasure, but for which in consequence of the film of familiarity and selfish solicitude we have eyes, yet see not, ears that hear not, and hearts that neither feel nor understand.

With this view I wrote the ‘Ancient Mariner,’ and was preparing among other poems, the ‘Dark Ladie,’ and the ‘Christabel,’ in which I should have more nearly realized my ideal, than I had done in my first attempt. But Mr. Wordsworth's industry had proved so much more successful, and the number of his poems so much greater, that my compositions, instead of forming a balance, appeared rather an interpolation of heterogeneous matter. Mr. Wordsworth added two or three poems written in his own character, in the impassioned, lofty, and sustained diction, which is characteristic of his genius. In this form the Lyrical Ballads were published; and were presented by him as an experiment, whether subjects, which from their nature rejected the usual ornaments and extra-colloquial style of poems in general, might not be so managed in the language of ordinary life as to produce the pleasurable interest, which it is the peculiar business of poetry to impart.

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