Even your mind can only imagine the present.
cosmic dream radio , Episode 17
Let’s check into the Hotel Eden to relax in the eternal now. Apollinaire will carry our bags, and gossip about the many poets and imaginative follies at this grand hotel des arts. “Rowing in Eden” by Erik Anderson Reece is from the anthology A Convergence of Birds, a collection of work inspired by Joseph Cornell’s bird boxes.
what on earth was I thinking?
This poem feels like a Cornell box. It plays childishly on a strange ledge over a vista of time, longing, and lyricism.
There are two french words in the text which I pronounce very badly: lilas and pensée: lilacs and pansies. Memory and thought are the rooms on the either side of ours on the eighth floor. Outside our window we’ll watch ballet on the tip of an obelisk. Cornell loved ballet, particularly Swan Lake. He made a box for his favorite ballerina in honor of her performance as the Swan which included feathers from her costume. I imagine Reece knows a lot about Cornell’s pleasures and influences. They surely determine the sights and inhabitants of this Hotel Eden. A New Yorker article from 2003 says of Cornell: “…it was the larksome Cubist poet Apollinaire…whom he placed high among modern poets,” explaining why Apollinaire is the name of the bellhop who takes us to our room. “Frighteningly well read…he [Cornell] had a particular affection for Emily Dickinson and Rimbaud…and wanted to emulate them.” Who is the well-dressed American poet sitting in the French Garden? Emily could be the woman in white rowing to the Hotel de l’Etoile. Or is that one of Cornell’s fées, the enchanting wan “fairy” girls he would momentarily fall for as he flâneured New York City? Like this woman in white, Cornell might have preferred the Hotel de l’Etoile to the Hotel Eden, too. He made multiple boxes with that label, boxes spare (here or here), and celestial (here, here, here, here). Orpheus sings there from the place in his heart where Eurydice is lost. Cornell knew love as mostly fantasy, too. And his art was better for it.
Link to the The New Yorker article is below. It very much gives a sense of New York in the 40’s and 50’s and how it engaged Cornell’s imagination— a magical place of pie shops, poetry books, diners, and ballet which became the little mystery reliquaries that are his boxes. “Rowing in Eden” encapsulates Cornell’s imaginative imagery in a box that is a sheet of paper (or the three and a half minutes you will spend listening to me read it to you). It is not made from cut-outs and trinkets, but with words.
Read the poem on this blog.
Here’s the book I read from.
New Yorker article on Joseph Cornell.
sing, woman, sing. deer crash through windows. hell hounds want to play. this crappy bar? you've been here before. nothing's changed. let's turn this basement into a club. everyone's looking for someplace to go.