As 2009 turns into 2010 - a new year, a new decade, a blank page for History to fill up with war and death and suffering and oppression, and art and beauty and struggle and scientific progress, with the oppression sometimes shaping the scientific progress and the suffering transformed into and art beauty by the brute strength of the human spirit - we have this day to stop and breathe and take stock of what time has done to us, and is doing.
Brodsky and Auden are two of my favorite poets - very different artists, but quite fond of one another in real life - and they both wrote some phenomenal rhapsodies about what the New Year means to the human soul. Or spirit. Or consciousness. Scroll past the pics for something from each of them.
Joseph Brodsky, excerpt from Watermark - his brilliant prose love poem to Venice, published in 1992)
“I always adhered to the idea that God is time, or at least that His spirit is. Perhaps this idea was even of my own manufacture, but now I don’t remember. In any case, I always thought that if the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the water, the water was bound to reflect it. Hence my sentiment for water, for its folds, wrinkles, and ripples, and – as I am a Northerner – for its grayness. I simply think that water is the image of time, and every New Year’s Eve, in somewhat pagan fashion, I try to find myself near water, preferably near a sea or an ocean, to watch the emergence of a new helping, a new cupful of time from it. I am not looking for a naked maiden riding on a shell; I am looking for either a cloud or the crest of a wave hitting the shore at midnight. That, to me, is time coming out of water, and I stare at the lace-like pattern it puts on the shore, not with a gypsy-like knowing, but with tenderness and with gratitude.”
A New Year Greeting
After an article by Mary J. Marples
in Scientific American, January, 1969
On this day tradition allots
to taking stock of our lives,
my greetings to all of you, Yeasts,
Aerobics and Anaerobics:
A Very Happy New Year
to all for whom my ectoderm
is as Middle-Earth to me.
For creatures your size I offer
a free choice of habitat,
so settle yourselves in the zone
that suits you best, in the pools
of my pores or the tropical
forests of arm-pit and crotch,
in the deserts of my fore-arms,
or the cool woods of my scalp.
Build colonies: I will supply
adequate warmth and moisture,
the sebum and lipids you need,
on condition you never
do me annoy with your presence,
but behave as good guests should,
not rioting into acne
or athlete’s-foot or a boil.
Does my inner weather affect
the surfaces where you live?
Do unpredictable changes
record my rocketing plunge
from fairs when the mind is in tift
and relevant thoughts occur
to fouls when nothing will happen
and no one calls and it rains.
I should like to think that I make
a not impossible world,
but an Eden it cannot be:
my games, my purposive acts,
may turn to catastrophes there.
If you were religious folk,
how would your dramas justify
By what myths would your priests account
for the hurricanes that come
twice every twenty-four hours,
each time I dress or undress,
when, clinging to keratin rafts,
whole cities are swept away
to perish in space, or the Flood
that scalds to death when I bathe?
Then, sooner or later, will dawn
a Day of Apocalypse,
when my mantle suddenly turns
too cold, too rancid, for you,
appetising to predators
of a fiercer sort, and I
am stripped of excuse and nimbus,
a Past, subject to Judgement.