Reading: Beauty by Tony Hoagland

Saddened by the death of Tony Hoagland (1953 – 2018), the sharp and witty American poet, I read one of his poems today.

When the medication she was taking
caused tiny vessels in her face to break,
leaving faint but permanent blue stitches in her cheeks,
my sister said she knew she would
never be beautiful again.

After all those years
of watching her reflection in the mirror,
sucking in her stomach and standing straight,
she said it was a relief,
being done with beauty,

but I could see her pause inside that moment
as the knowledge spread across her face
with a fine distress, sucking
the peach out of her lips,
making her cute nose seem, for the first time,
a little knobby.

I’m probably the only one in the whole world
who actually remembers the year in high school
she perfected the art
of being a dumb blond,

spending recess on the breezeway by the physics lab,
tossing her hair and laughing that canary trill
which was her specialty,

while some football player named Johnny
with a pained expression in his eyes
wrapped his thick finger over and over again
in the bedspring of one of those pale curls.

Or how she spent the next decade of her life
auditioning a series of tall men,
looking for just one with the kind
of attention span she could count on.

Then one day her time of prettiness
was over, done, finito,
and all those other beautiful women
in the magazines and on the streets
just kept on being beautiful
everywhere you looked,

walking in that kind of elegant, disinterested trance
in which you sense they always seem to have one hand
touching the secret place
that keeps their beauty safe,
inhaling and exhaling the perfume of it—

It was spring. Season when the young
buttercups and daisies climb up on the
mulched bodies of their forebears
to wave their flags in the parade.

My sister just stood still for thirty seconds,
amazed by what was happening,
then shrugged and tossed her shaggy head
as if she was throwing something out,

something she had carried a long ways,
but had no use for anymore,
now that it had no use for her.
That, too, was beautiful.

A precise narrative poem. I like the rich picture he paints of the girl who ‘perfected the art of being a dumb blond’. The superficiality of her beauty and how it was over so suddenly.
And that description of spring! Isn’t it gorgeous, climbing up on the mulched bodies of our forebears to wave our own flags in the parade?

Being done with beauty seems to denote a higher truth here, an acceptance of the circle of life and love. And the disinterested trance of the ‘other’ women who continue being beautiful. Isn’t it the same trance as the sister experienced when she throws out beauty, to the secret place that keeps it safe?

Reading: Beauty by Tony Hoagland was originally published on Meandering home

Beauty Flarf

Is Double Cleansing Really Necessary? Norwegian-born supermodel Frida Aasen has a special glow to her skin. I think we can all agree that the first jet lag mask from Summer Friday’s was not disappointing. We’re exposed to hundreds of thousands of bacteria every single day. Most of these 24 makeup mavens are bilingual. Facial hair growth in women is not usually anything to worry about. And big makeup brands are honing in on online beauty stars. According to Healthline, excessive hair growth on women’s bodies and faces, however, is called hirsutism. From there, she quickly warmed up her eyelids with a wash of the “Come and Get It” shade from the Moroccan Spice eyeshadow palette, starting from the outer corners and working her way toward the nose. According to Moore, other potential causes of newly grown facial hair in women can include Cushing syndrome, congenital adrenal hyperplasia, certain tumors and even some medications. And for those who can’t resist a little sparkle, definitely take Rih-Rih’s advice and sprinkle a bit of the CLF Edition Freestyle Highlighter to the inner corners of the eyes. But, if sudden menstrual irregularity is coupled with new hirsutism, your doctor may test for more serious conditions, such as tumors of the ovaries, pituitary or adrenal glands.

Beauty Flarf was originally published on Meandering home

Meditation on Beauty

Begin with breathing, as usual. Today we think about beauty. Let us be aware of all the preconceptions and just look at them in our mind. Symmetrical patterns. Some sort of similarity with things we expect to give us pleasure. An evolutionary side effect like a peacock feathers that for the female peacock are not beautiful but merely a trigger for reproductive behavior. Breathe again.

Let’s apply an operation we like when we feel we are stuck in static thinking. We understand our concept as a verb. We say not: something is beautiful, but: something beauties us. We want the aspect of time, of development. What we are saying is that beauty is structured like a narrative, a story. That is a wild speculation so let’s have a glass of water before we continue.

A story must engage us to invoke any emotion. We are going to make vague arguments that would require an entire book, but we don’t have time for the book. Yet, we are not rushing either. A story is told by another mind, we intuitively know this mind has the same expressive capability as we do. It is in the same way limited as we are: we cannot think its limitation. We breathe. This would be a complicated argument that we will leave for another time. Beauty is also a story that must be told in a language that we experience as universal.

Let’s think of traditional art forms like a symphony, a classicist painting or a sonnet. We find beauty in them as long as the story engages us. When we become aware of the limitations of their language, we might start to find it trivial and incapable of an aesthetic predicate. Once we talk about the limitations of tonal music, realist painting or formal poetry, we oblige ourselves to extend the domain of beauty. A theorist who is fully aware of these things might find beauty in Schönberg, Warhol or Ginsberg. This doesn’t invalidate the beauty of Beethoven, Rembrandt and Shakespeare, it just adds new ideas for situations where the limits of the old aesthetics become visible, much like Einstein’s theory of relativity didn’t invalidate Newton’s laws in their limited domain.

Breathe. We can read a book about the history of philosophical aesthetics and to which ‘school’ we belong. What is it we are saying? That aesthetic relativism is a serious challenge (a scandal even) that we must continually address. We can’t eliminate the notion of aesthetic relativism because things change and new limits become visible. Relativism can never be total either, because there are certain characteristics of ‘beautying’ (or ‘uglying’) that we can derive from its structure as a story.

Artwork by Ian Bourgeot

Meditation on Beauty was originally published on Meandering home