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  • Kenneth Cook

Drunk as drunk

When I was at college, I tried to take one non-science course each term. I called them my "keep me sane" courses. I took Creative Writing, where I met some cute women and heard a ripping story about sliding around on mountains of tuna in a canning plant. I nearly failed First Aid, so don't look at me if someone starts bleeding. I couldn't figure out why it was standing-room-only in my Art History class, until I learned the professor was Wayne Thiebaud. After enrolling in a Medieval Studies course, I started telling people at parties it was my major, because, after all, it sparked far better conversations than saying "Electrical and Computer Engineering."

Taking more Spanish was a good investment.

Sometimes all I could manage was a 2-unit literature course, but even if reading "Six Characters in Search of an Author" didn't keep me sane, at least it made my insanity far more interesting.

One back-handed advantage to not having a rigorous liberal arts education is that an entire world of literature still waits to be discovered. This seems especially true with poetry. Around ever corner, there seems to be a poet waiting to surprise me with some juicy phrases or whiplash line break. So I've delighted to discover Pablo Neruda. I found him driving around Santiago, Madrid, Mexico, doing his political, diplomatic thing, and then going home at night to crack open the universe. My view of him is fresh and naive, and it's fun for now. There is much more to learn.

Pablo Neruda

With admiration and wonder, I've attached snips of his translated phrases to some of my works. The titles "Drowsy and tangled we drifted" and "The net of our kisses" come from his poem, "Drunk as Drunk", with its second stanza

Pinned by the sun between solstice And equinox, drowsy and tangled together We drifted for months and woke With the bitter taste of land on our lips, Eyelids all sticky, and we longed for lime And the sound of a rope Lowering a bucket down its well. Then, We came by night to the Fortunate Isles, And lay like fish Under the net of our kisses.

The series of paintings entitled "The strait through aching windows" points to his sonnet "Till then my windows ache." or Sonnet LXV.

De puro taciturno el techo escucha

caer antiguas lluvias deshojadas,

plumas, lo que la noche aprisionó:

y así te espero como casa sola

y volverás a verme y habitarme.

De otro modo me duelen las ventanas.

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