One of the things I like best about the work of Fairfield Porter is his sense of everydayness. Stuff on a table after a meal is as fine a subject for a masterpiece as face of a 16th century princess.
Porter was part of a New York crowd that included a number of poets who devoted their work to the everydayness of life: Jimmy Schuyler, Frank O’Hara and John Ashbery among others less known. O’Hara’s most famous poem places a compellingly sad moment in the context of the humdrum pleasures of N.Y. C. It’s about the death of Billie Holiday.
The Day Lady Died
It is 12:20 in New York a Friday
three days after Bastille day, yes
it is 1959 and I go get a shoeshine
because I will get off the 4:19 in Easthampton
at 7:15 and then go straight to dinner
and I don’t know the people who will feed me
I walk up the muggy street beginning to sun
and have a hamburger and a malted and buy
an ugly NEW WORLD WRITING to see what the poets
in Ghana are doing these days
I go on to the bank
and Miss Stillwagon (first name Linda I once heard)
doesn’t even look up my balance for once in her life
and in the GOLDEN GRIFFIN I get a little Verlaine
for Patsy with drawings by Bonnard although I do
think of Hesiod, trans. Richmond Lattimore or
Brendan Behan’s new play or Le Balcon or Les Nègres
of Genet, but I don’t, I stick with Verlaine
after practically going to sleep with quandariness
and for Mike I just stroll into the PARK LANE
Liquor Store and ask for a bottle of Strega and
then I go back where I came from to 6th Avenue
and the tobacconist in the Ziegfeld Theatre and
casually ask for a carton of Gauloises and a carton
of Picayunes, and a NEW YORK POST with her face on it
and I am sweating a lot by now and thinking of
leaning on the john door in the 5 SPOT
while she whispered a song along the keyboard
to Mal Waldron and everyone and I stopped breathing.
Porter’s New York crowd included many New York avant garde painters such as Willem de Kooning and Franz Kline.
Elaine de Kooning painted a marvelous portrait of Porter:
Bruce MacEvoy has a wonderful essay on Porter right here.
The Croton Aqueduct or Old Croton Aqueduct was a large and complex water distribution system constructed for New York City between 1837 and 1842. It brought water by the force of gravity along 41 miles (66 km) from the Croton River in Westchester County into reservoirs in Manhattan, where local water resources had become polluted and inadequate for the growing population of the city. Although the aqueduct was supplemented and largely superseded by the New Croton Aqueduct, which was built in 1890, the Old Croton Aqueduct remained in service until 1955.
The man who designed and built the Croton Aqueduct was John B. Jervis (1795-1885), who is the subject of Harry Confusio’s portrait. HC told me, via email, that he just admires persons who work themselves up from laborers to leading engineers. Jervis was such a man. Whilst working as an axeman on the Erie Canal, Jervis studied on his own the principles of engineering. He later designed bridges and railroads and the steam engines that ran on the railroad.
HC says, in another email, that Jervis was the epitome of the great tradition of American exceptionalism–HC’s idea here is that Jervis never expiated upon exceptionalism:; he merely exemplified it. Jervis’s last words before he expired were “Water is life.”
Today’s soup was made with a feeling of informed spontaneity, by which I mean that I made today’s soup without setting out to follow a recipe.
Usually I have a soup in mind, and I shop to gather all the right ingredients. Today, however, I decided to use merely what was available in the house.
Now, last night, my wife made her wonderful meatloaf, which always provides two leftovers: meatloaf and fatty liquid that baking the meat provides. That liquid set in a jar overnight in the fridge separates to a savoury jelly below and a layer of hardened fat above. Well, I removed the fat and used the aspic and some of the meatloaf. I added the various broths from the fridge and some vegetables to hand. I created a meatloaf soup.
1 yellow onion, large and minced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup meatloaf savory jelly
2 cups beef broth
2 cups chicken broth
2 tbsp bacon fat
4-6 oz leftover meatloaf (or any left over meat)
1 can red beans (or any other you have around the house)
1 can green beans
1 can diced tomatoes
5 medium potatoes, julienned
2 tbsps minced garlic
1 tsp ground rosemary
Sauté onion in olive oil (about ten minutes).
Add the broths, bring to boil. Lower to simmer.
Add bacon fat and meatloaf (broken into various sizes).
Add green beans, tomatoes, and potatoes. Bring to boil, then lower to simmer.
Qi Baishi, the Chinese artist who painted Seven Men in Dragon Mountain, was born in 1864 and died in 1957. His reputation acknowledges a commitment painting so focused that he was unencumbered by the momentous political affairs during the time he lived–such as the fall of the Qing Dynasty, the creation of the Republic of China, and Two World Wars.
The seven men of the title are said to be the seven poets who were part of the poetry group established by Wang Zhong Yan, who was a poet and a friend of Qi Baishi.
The painter expressed his central aesthetic idea in the following words:
The excellence of a painting lies in its being alike, yet unlike. Too much likeness flatters the vulgar taste; too much unlikeness deceives the world.
And one can see in the painting the likenesses of fir trees and the strangeness of the mountains, which retreat like growing gray clouds of potatoes or like steel coils unraveling as they stand further away.