November 15, 2009


Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2 by Marcel Duchamp 1912

In 1909, with the first Cubist show in the works, the Futurist Manifesto in the papers, Three Lives self-published and The Waste Land being penned, what Pablo Picasso, Juan Gris, F.T. Marinetti, Gertrude Stein and T.S. Eliot were doing was ‘Making the New’.  Ezra Pound moved to Europe to become the chief cheerleader for this, the Modern Movement.  Hard to pinpoint exactly, Modern stared primitively from canvases, ran multi-footed from printing presses, danced heavily to strange bassoon notes.  Max Jacob and Guilliame Apollonaire wrote Cubist poetry inspired by the art and Wyndam Lewis used Vorticist writing as a muse for his painting.  Tristan Tzara headed to Switzerland to take nothing to a whole other level, and James Joyce dictated endless sentences to the most patient of ears, streaming thoughts Freud himself couldn’t codify.

Lee Miller's Neck by Man Ray

Speaking of Freud, I guess you want me to get to the sex part, huh?  I mean, it does come first in my tagline, doesn’t it?  One hundred years ago, Freud was developing his manly Pleasure Principles, noting “…the vulva is a void while the phallus is a presence….”

Well, here I am, one hundred years later, finding myself in bitter agreement.  In man, Freud saw two things- the drive for life and the drive toward death.  The life drive – survival, propagation, hunger, thirst, sex- he called the libido.  Notice my blog isn’t called Modern Soup or Ego?

In 2009, with my marriage ended, my business bankrupt, my father’s cancer finally cashed in and my fortieth birthday a distant memory, what I am doing is ‘making the new’ out of my new disillusionment.  Much like my compatriots of the previous fin de siecle, I seek meaning in this meaningless world.  But what if there isn’t any?  That was really the question a century ago.

I like art that touches my emptiness.   I like poetry that surprises me mid-sentence.  I like literature that speaks to me when it knows I’m hard to reach.  But I like sex more than any of those things.  I think that was really the point a century ago, too.

Lee Miller by Man Ray


We were very tired, we were very merry-

We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.

It was bare and bright, and smelled like a stable,

But we looked into a fire, we leaned across the table,

We lay on a hill-top underneath the moon;

And the whistles kept blowing, and the dawn came soon.

We were very tired, we were very merry-

We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry;

And you ate an apple, and I ate a pear,

From a dozen of each we had bought somewhere;

And the sky went wan, and the wind came cold,

And the sun rose dripping, a bucketful of gold.

We were very tired, we were very merry,

We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry,

We hailed “Good morrow, mother!” to a shawl-covered head,

And bought a morning paper, which neither of us read;

And she wept, “God bless you!” for the apples and the pears, 

And we gave her all our money but our subway fares.

                                         -Edna St. Vincent Millay


SUGGESTED READING:  Makers of the New: The Revolution in Literature, 1912-1939, Julian Symons (1987)