Never Finished

2019-03-07

Last weekend I went to an exhibit related to Leonardo da Vinci at the Demver Museum of Nature and Science. Amidst the reconstructions of his inventions and at the entrance to a whole room about the Mona Lisa I came across this quote: "Art is never finished, only abandoned." Although it's not clear to me if Leonardo actually said that (Vasari mentions something similar in his Life of Leonardo), I like the sentiment.

Lately I've been revisiting the short books I've written on Rand, Epicurus, Thoreau, and Nietzsche, improving the wording here and there (as described in a blog post entitled "Poetry as Code", in 2017 I did the same thing with my collection of poems and poetry translations). One great thing about self-directed, online publishing is that it's easy to keep tweaking: just check some changes into GitHub and a minute or two later the world sees a better version.

Consider, for example, my poem "Twilight Dance" in Songs of Zarathustra. It's about Nietzsche's love of both life and wisdom, so I wrote it in Sapphic meter. Unfortunately, the original version had clunky rhythms and didn't really sing. Let's compare the second stanza to see what I mean. Originally it went as follows:

These two loves of mine are very much alike:
They're changeable, untamed, wicked, even false --
A fountain of delight and shower of pain
To my highest hopes.

Here's the improved version:

These two loves of mine are very much alike:
Fickle, wicked, mocking, coy, unconquered, cruel --
Fountains of delight and showers of distress
To my highest hope.

I especially like the second line: seven instances of the "k" sound in eleven syllables. That really packs a punch!

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