Wednesday, October 12, 2016

"Red and Yellow and Hills," by Eli Siegel

It's autumn, and here in the northeast the days and nights are getting cooler. One of the things I love is seeing fallen leaves on the ground, blowing a little in the breeze now and then. This poem by Eli Siegel comes to my mind at this time of year.

The trains I see and hear are NYC subways as they cross the Williamsburg Bridge, and not those suburban or rural trains likely meant in the poem. And hills are not nearby, though they're welcome sights on a weekend drive. All of these are part of an autumn composition, viewed on a clear day, or a brilliantly glowing evening.

Red and Yellow and Hills
Often, you know, when trains in autumn,
Pass near hills full of dead leaves, gone long from trees,
The trains move the leaves, and winds help the trains.
By hills in autumn, in smoky autumn, smoking trains go,
Fast; and leaves drift listlessly down hills near speedy, dashing trains.
The hills are red and yellow; and the speedy, dashing train is black;
      and white smoke comes from the train; and the train whistles wildly,
      piercingly, and leaves, dead, autumn leaves drift listlessly down old hills.
Cry, train, cry, leaves, cry, hills.
Train, dash wildly.
Leaves, die.
Autumn's here and the hills are.
Autumn's here, and haze and smoke in sky, and sultrily, faintly red sun
     goings-down in autumn.
Smoke's in the sky, quietly, lazily.
Trains and trains go by, whistling wildly, piercingly.
Dead leaves drift along lazily.
Autumn's here and quiet, and red and yellow and hills.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Sheldon Kranz: Report on lecture by Eli Siegel about Satire

Like nearly every teacher of literature, I've had the pleasure of speaking with my students about satire. Crucial in the study of satire is seeing that there is a huge difference between the kind of mockery that goes on in ordinary life and the kind that comes from wanting to have the world and people be better. I learned very much about this from a report by poet and critic Sheldon Kranz of the lecture by Eli Siegel. Here are two paragraphs from the report:
Satire at its best, [Mr. Siegel said,] has three forms: satire of one person, as we find it in Sinclair Lewis's Babbitt; satire of a group like the Rotarians or the D.A.R. Gilbert and Sullivan in their operetta Patience were satirizing the aesthetic movement of the 1890's; and third, there is a satire of mankind in general. Here Swift's Gulliver's Travels is one of the best examples in literature. In all of these, Mr. Siegel went on, it can be seen that satire is always about pretense, about how persons will choose what is false in order that their vanity be undisturbed. We have a picture of ourselves which truth will destroy; and so to protect that picture of ourselves, we will accept what is untrue and unimportant. Satire changes a bad thing into a good thing, an untrue thing into a true thing. Satire makes us laugh to make the ugly more apparent.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

"It Will Be Annabel November"
—a poem by Eli Siegel

A poem whose music I have loved since I first read it years ago is "It Will Be Annabel November." Now, in November 2014, I am looking at it freshly, and am moved by it again.

Eli Siegel said, in a note to this 1926 poem in his first collection Hot Afternoons Have Been in Montana: Poems:
Annabel is a person; also a way of being. I found that feminine names could stand for, indeed, had to stand for, a way of the universe and a way of taking the universe: it all arises from the primitive and historical tendency to see femininity as logic and abstraction.
Here's how the poem begins:
We shall have, Annabel,

In November this,

With the changing of trees,

And the changing of skies,

And the changing of sun,

And the changing of all.

You will smile other, Annabel,

Feel other, Annabel,

Look on the past other, Annabel....

This Annabel IS a woman—and more. She is affected by, stirred by, the surrounding world—a world of evenings, trees, leaves falling to earth. And she becomes a quality of reality itself, and adjective describing what reality is and has: "it will be Annabel November." With so much more to say about this richly musical poem, I simply want others to know of it. You can read the whole of it on the Aesthetic Realism Online Library.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

"Education—What For?" An Urgent Seminar
for Teachers, November 6 in NYC

Teachers all over the US and Canada are rightly outraged at the state of education in our schools today. Reading about the increasingly organized teachers' coalitions now combating the corporate-imposed, legislatively-sanctioned culture of testing is inspiring, and I respect them very much!

Still, the central question about teaching and learning must be asked—and answered—in order for education to succeed in the fullest sense: in order for students to love learning.

This will take place at an urgently needed seminar at the Aesthetic Realism Foundation in New York City on November 6: "The Aesthetic Realism Teaching Method Succeeds, & Answers the Question "Education—What For?" I'm proud to have used this exciting, practical method in my English classes for nearly 30 years, and I can say with confidence that it can change what goes on in every classroom for the good of students and teachers alike.

The announcement for the seminar begins:
AMERICA’S SCHOOLS are in tremendous turmoil, and in this desperately needed public seminar you will hear the solution. You’ll hear the convincing answers to questions which plague students and which teachers dread: “Why should I learn long division? What do I need history for?”—or earth science—or Shakespeare? Amidst new “standards” and relentless testing, a boy repeating 4th grade in the Bronx asks himself, “What’s the matter with me? Am I dumb? Will I ever be able to learn?” A frustrated 3rd grader asks her mother, “Am I learning math just to pass an exam?”

New York school teachers, using examples of actual classroom lessons, will show how the Aesthetic Realism Method enables young people to succeed—to learn with true pleasure, and also meet the feared “rigorous” academic standards with greater ease.

That is because Aesthetic Realism explains definitively the what for? of education, its purpose. "The purpose of education," Eli Siegel, the founder of Aesthetic Realism, explained, "is to like the world through knowing it." And he identified the greatest impediment to learning: contempt, "the addition to self through the lessening of something else."

This is the groundbreaking principle on which the Aesthetic Realism method is based: "The world, art, and self explain each other: each is the aesthetic oneness of opposites." At this event, NYC teachers will give examples from their classes of how lessons based on this principle make learning come alive!

 To read the entire announcement, click here. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

How a Woman Hopes to See & Be Seen

I'm very glad to point readers to a recent issue of the periodical The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, which publishes one of the kindest instances of writing about what women hope for as to the way we see ourselves as both body and mind: the essay by Eli Siegel "The Everlasting Dilemma of a Girl." The way he describes a young woman—with thoughts about herself, her mind, her attractiveness, her effect on men—is beautiful, and as I read it, I felt understood.

In her commentary introducing and placing the cultural value of this important essay, Aesthetic Realism Chairman of Education Ellen Reiss writes:

...The essay was written half a century ago. In these decades there have been big improvements as to how women have been encouraged to use our minds. Women today are certainly more able than once to be expressed in every field, from law to medicine to policing to government to space travel. Yet the dilemma Mr. Siegel writes of is with us still, as tormentingly as ever. A woman today may want to look as attractive as she can and also be as educated as she can—yet she does not see these two possibilities of herself as deeply coherent, of a piece, of the same unified self. She does not see them as having the same purpose.

Here I quote, with enormous gratitude, something Mr. Siegel said in an Aesthetic Realism lesson many years ago. It is about a matter connected with the “everlasting dilemma of a girl”: it is about the opposites of body and intellect. He was speaking to a man I had to do with then, who was confused by both me and himself, as I was. Mr. Siegel said:

In the field of corporeal expression or enjoyment, or sex, we hope to be proud and pleased at once. Ellen Reiss hopes to be proud about her manner of taking earth—in the same way as she would take the page of a book. The difference between the two things is felt by man and woman: I’m a different person making love from him or her who goes after knowledge. Do you think if Ms. Reiss could solve this problem of somatic expression and cerebral expression, you could? Do you think, then, that the fate of man depends on the fate of woman?

Aesthetic Realism makes possible, for both man and woman, what has eluded people for centuries. It makes possible at last the proud feeling that what we’re after as body and how we use our intellect go together, are an integrity....

This matter, I know from my own life, doesn't stop affecting a woman after she's no longer in her glorious and often confused youth. I'm a happily married woman, interested in love and all that goes with it, as well as intellectual pursuits. Studying Aesthetic Realism has had me feel more integrated than I ever could have been, and feel I'm the same person thinking about literature and being with my husband Alan. I know I can feel this more and more.

I want every woman, and every man hoping to understand women, to read this great issue of The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

What Good Will REALLY Is! A Holiday Event in NYC on Sunday, December 22

Tomorrow's Thanksgiving celebrations kick off the holiday season. It can be a joyous time, a chance to spend time with people who mean a lot to us.

What is it people are really hoping for at this time of year? When someone speaks about this as a time for good will, what do they mean by that? Aesthetic Realism explains that good will is not the mushy thing people take it to be. It is, Eli Siegel showed, "the desire to have something else stronger and more beautiful, for this desire makes us stronger and more beautiful."

If you're planning to be in the NYC area on December 22, you can learn more about the meaning of good will at a special dramatic and musical event, including holiday songs, arias and choruses that have been loved by millions, a lecture on Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," and more. Find out more here.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Aesthetics of Mobile Devices

In her commentary in a recent issue of the periodical The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, the editor, Ellen Reiss, writes "on a big aspect of current life: the use of mobile devices." As a person who's come to depend on mine, I love what she explains here. She shows that, at their best, these devices have an aesthetic purpose: they put opposites together. Ms. Reiss writes of them: 

They’re wonderful, of course. And their goodness has to do with the fact that through them, we can be better related to the outside world, less separate from it. To be able, at any moment, to text a person a thousand miles away makes a one of what’s close to us and what’s distant. That is related to romanticism, because one of the large, new things the romantic writers did was present what seemed strange and distant as also close to oneself, of oneself. Byron, for example, swept English readers by writing about his intimate personal turmoil and at the same time far-off places he was visiting: like Lake Geneva or the Roman Colosseum.

Those opposites, the close and distant, personal and vast, familiar and wondrous, are one in all art. They were joined in a bigger, fuller, more elemental, also wider way in romanticism. But it happens that they are in Twitter too. Through tweets we feel that words which have come close to us—we may see them on a device held in our intimate hand—are being seen by perhaps scores, hundreds, thousands of people we don’t know. And to be, along with many other people, the swift recipient of a tweet, and then retweet it, is to feel the world coming close to us and our going out to it.

We can use the smartphone or tablet we carry close to us to find out (for instance) the holdings of a library in Ankara, Turkey. As we do so, the intimate and distant, familiar and strange, are together...."

And Ms. Reiss also explains that, in addition to people's using handheld devices to know the world better,
"they can also be a means of that entirely anti-art purpose: to grab the world through aspects of it; have people and things quickly, on one’s own terms. It’s good to get information speedily, and mobile devices can assist that. However, there is a huge tendency to think that what one can find out quickly is all one needs to know."
Read the entire issue, which includes a portion of Eli Siegel's lecture Romanticism and Guilt.