The Planet is a Hummingbird

The stream & the poem, & no-sky,
what I write, worn down, in the apt
in the dust. & every piece of paper &
every nub of ink & every key of the type
writer is a bird (8). – Robert Seydel, The Book of Ruth

IMG_2699I spent some of my work hours these past few days assisting (in a very minor capacity) in the hanging of the Robert Seydel show soon to be shown in the Neilson Library at Smith College. Seydel’s The Book of Ruth (2011) was being published at the time of the artist and poet’s unexpected death. It is a beautiful, moving, and poignantly whimsical novel (broadly construed) of Seydel’s alter-ego Ruth. Ruth lives with her brother  Sol (or Saul); she is friends with Marcel Duchamp and Joseph Cornell (she is in love with Cornell); she is full of stray thoughts collected into a nest of her rather lovely soul.

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I’ve been studying my hat. Men twitch at it, very clearly, or they don’t, in the street. So odd, feathers on a woman’s head. Sometimes I imagine all sorts of things. When i walk *** the pavement tilts up to me, to delineate my way. A sensation then of glory sometimes.  A STaR at my forehead. Roussell-vision. Ruth of the tents. Boulevard Queen. But a rabbit more likely (on my path). Hare under hat. Mine’s no longer so lustrous. Does Joseph notice? (116)

I love everything about that passage. Its stark femininity: woman, Queen- that’s Boulevard Queen, thank you very much! rabbit- Ha! yes – more likely…and oh don’t I know a thing or two about lusterless hair?!…Seydel poetically conjures his aunt: a woman, clearly, of profound sensibility, described by her nephew: a man of complex artistry. The confluence is a visual wonder, and a moving narrative of the heart as told by the mind.

The mind runs poorly but is still sweet (66).

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The book is beautiful, and the show of Seydel’s work (notebooks, collages, pieces of Book of Ruth) is extraordinary in its comprehension of the power of Seydel’s voice and vision.

Art is fodder for the day I need. Flushing is next to heaven, Joseph: Park Way to the star. I love you. Love my lob-stir art. The green things near the store sprout. Sol shld be sun unto himself. Let me dance, moon to sun, crossing w/ my picture. The rabbits /are/ the stars.

or let’s be as someone sd Americans are
AMATEURS OF THE IMPOSSIBLE. (137)

I was struck by so many of Seydel’s lines, sucked into an eddy of philosophical musings (a weakness of mine, I’ll admit)…just one, which gives this post its title, was on page 66, “The planet is a hummingbird.” Yes, I think to myself, and I can’t help holding the bird’s animated image in my mind while pondering that line, and yes, we flutter and hum, we are at constant motion, looking for something sweet, all a shimmering blue and green, fragile, pulsing planet….we are the planet, we are a hummingbird.

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* Robert Seydel: The Eye in Matter exhibition in the Book Arts Gallery of Neilson Library, Smith College, September 2–December 15, 2014.

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4 responses to “The Planet is a Hummingbird

  1. Love the poem. It’s got objectivity—Impressionist i.e. words as objects, not symbols. And subjectivity; it requires my empathy almost against my will, the “I don’t need more of this shit” v. the mimesis/catharsis thing. The art’s good too.
    The book sounds interesting ( enough so that I just bought it online/used of course). A story of fictional female alter ego of a male artist who’s a friend of a real male artist, Duchamp, with a female alter ego, Rrose Sélavy.
    I didn’t know Cornell assisted Duchamp with “Box-in-Valise” which is one of my favorite Duchamp’s. Thanks for the tip.
    This nonfiction book “Joseph Cornell / Marcel Duchamp…In Resonance” is about that. Maybe I’ll read it when I’m done with the fictional version, the co-lab is not surprising, given the similarity of their work, certainly less so than the co-lab of Benton and Pollack.

    • Oh fascinating…I may look for that as well. Yes it is a wonderful little book – and I love your sentence “requires my empathy almost against my will” haha – beautifully revealing of the work and perhaps you as well?
      The only thing that is lost (regarding the art as experienced in the book) is the three dimensionality…some of it is 2-D collage, but some of it protrudes or curves up off the flat surface, and it is quite lovely….

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