Entries in Aquarius (8)


LEE HOIBY 1926 - 2011


 New York Times obituary   


"Where the Music Comes From" words & music by LH

"Evening"  from 'Evening without Angels' by Wallace Stevens

"Jabberwocky" by Lewis Carroll











Aquarian poet Elizabeth Bishop

            Born on February 8, 1911, a hundred years ago last week, Elizabeth Bishop wrote about her sudden, sickening childhood identifications with the sky-permeating female scream, and the dizzying awareness of her unavoidable fate: being human, "one of them," accompanied by "the sensation of falling off / the round, turning world / into cold, blue-black space." Of this never forgotten inward trauma, her cosmic fall into identity and time, she solemnly notes the date in these lines from her poem "In the Waiting Room":  "I said to myself: three days / and you'll be seven years old. . . ./ And it was still the fifth of February, 1918."             

          The poet's first conscious creative act, then, was to establish the birthdate as synecdoche of origin, identity and fate. This fetishistic attitude toward the birthdate is in a sense universal and unavoidable, and a source of both the attraction and the antipathy to astrology.

          Thirty years later Bishop commemorated her orphan's birthday with a stoical dejection ode, pivoting hopefully only on the very last word.

          Some readers take Bishop’s prized, meticulous objectivity for the obverse of confessionalism, a betraying concealment of the authorial self in shambles. Her fingerprints: geographical dislocation, abrupt changes of scale and perspective, eccentrically perched vision and spiraling irony, any-and-all adduced to an adrift identity.

          I did a quick search for qualifiers to the term "Self" in some recent books about Elizabeth Bishop, and came across "dismantled,"  "disunified,"  "shipwrecked,"  "fluid and unfixed,"  "unstable,"  "only arbitrarily bounded,"  "denied,"  "questioned,"  "lost,"  "obfuscated," "decentered,"  "abnegated," and  "fractured".

           The poet's famous attentive objectivity originates in self-effacement. The motives for effacement are well-known: female, homosexual, alcoholic, chronically ill, the American gothic childhood. Fortunately, directly opposite confident, sun-ruled Leo, Aquarius deplores egotism. Not so much a self as a constellation of problems, Bishop dedicated herself at whatever cost to a true poet's life of "no regular hours, so many temptations," reading, writing (mostly letters), affections, drinking, and travel.

          Bishop's cold-blooded menagerie, her semi-alive lichen and moss, her wraith-like atmospherics, measure alienation from a solid core of solar identity. With Aquarian Hugo Hofmannsthal she would agree "We are no more than dove-cotes." Her multi-hued mineral grains, the iridescences, her attention to every color playing no favorites, and the triple rainbow epiphany which is central to her reputation, are shining peripheries of hope, the refraction of unendurable singularity.

                   *                 *                 *

        Aquarius, centrifugal of the autocratic heart, circulates democratically, directs the oxygenation of the blood, and identifies with all aspects of the atmospheric cycle  Thus Bishop's asthma , which chronically threatened her life, but stimulated her highest identification. Her work is crafted in a death struggle and is as necessary as cortisone. She breathes easiest when uncrowded before the detailed panorama. Continents, rivers, waterfalls, harbors, mists, moonlight, cities are seen from the slopes.

--- Mark Shulgasser, The Blue Zenith


From Best American Poetry blog.

See Astrological Profiles there for my pieces on Sagittarian and Capricorn poets as well.


Poet James Dickey, 2/2/23: He moves among stars. 

Here are some excerpts from James Dickey's wonderful long poem The Zodiac, published in 1976.

He moves among stars.

                                    Sure.      We all do, but he is star-crazed, mad

            With Einfuehling, with connecting and joining things that lay their meanings

                        Over billions of light years

                                                            Eons of time--Ah,

                        Years of light:   billions of them:   they are pictures

                        Of some sort of meaning.   He thinks the secret

                        Can be read.   But human faces swim through

            Cancer   Scorpio   Leo   through all the stupefying design,

And all he can add to it or make of it, living or dead:

                        *                        *                        *

                                                            Only one way beyond

The room.

                        The Zodiac.

                                    He must solve it   must believe it   learn to read it

                        No, wallow in it

As poetry.

                        *                        *                        *

            He has to hold on to the chair: the room is pitching and rolling--

                        He's sick   seasick with his own stars,

                        Seasick and airsick   sick

            With the Zodiac.  .  .  . 


                        He knows he's not fooling himself    he knows

                                    Not a damn thing of stars   of God   of space

Of time   love night death sex fire numbers signs words,

Not much of poetry.   But by God, we've got a universe


                        Those designs of time are saying something

                        Or maybe something or other.


                        Night tells us.   It's coming--

            Venus shades it and breaks it.    Will the animals come back

            Gently, creatively open,

            Like they were?


            The great, burning Beings             melt into place

            A few billion-lighted inept beasts

            Of God--

                        What else is there?   What other signs   what other symbols

                        Are anything beside these?   If the thing hasn't been said

            This way,   then God can't say it.

                        *                        *                        *

                        What animal's getting outlined?

                        All space is being bolted

            Together:   eternal blackness

                                                            Studded with creatures.


                        Beasts.   Nothing left but the void

                                    Deep-hammering its creatures with light-years.

            Years made of light.

                                                            Only light.


                        *                        *                        *

            Look, stupid, get your nose out of the sky for once.

There're things that are close to you, too. Look at that!

                        Don't cringe: look right out over town.

Real birds. There they are in their curves, moving in their great element

            That causes our planet to be blue and causes us all

                        To breathe.  Ah, long ghostly drift

            Of wings.

                                                Well, son of a bitch,

                                                                        He sits and writes,

                        And the paper begins to run

                                                                        With signs.

                                                But he can't get rid of himself enough

                        To write poetry.   He keeps thinking Goddamn

                                    I've misused myself   I've fucked up   I haven't worked--

I've traveled and screwed too much,

                                                But   but by dawn, now    NOW

            Something   coming   through-coming   down-coming   up

To me   ME!

                        His hand reaches, dazzling with drink   half alive,

            For the half-dead vision.   That room and its pages come in and


Of being.   You talk about looking:  would you look at that

Electric page!  What the hell did I say?   Did I say that?

                        You bastard, you. Why didn't you know that before?

            Where the hell have you been with your head?

You and the paper should have known it, you and the ink:   you write


                                                Everybody writes


With blackness. Night. Why has it taken you all this time?

                                    All this travel, all those lives

                        You've fucked up? All those books read

            Not deep enough? It's staring you right in the face.    The



            Is whiteness.   You can do anything with that.   But no--

                        The secret is that on whiteness you can release

                        The blackness,

                                                The night sky.  Whiteness is death   is dying

                        For human words to raise it from purity   from the grave

                                    Of too much light.   Words must come to it

                        Words from anywhere   from   from

Swamps  mountains  mud  shit  hospitals  wars  travels  from


From the Zodiac.


            You son of a bitch, you! Don't try to get away from yourself!

I won't have it! You know God-damn well I mean you! And you too,

            Pythagoras! Put down that guitar, lyre, whatever it is!

You've driven me nuts enough with your music of the spheres!

                        *                        *                        *

                                    You know that from the black death,

                                                            The forest of beast-

            Symbols, the stars are beaten down by drunks

Into the page.

                                    By GOD the poem is in there   out there

                        Somewhere    the lines that will change

                        Everything, like your squares and square roots

                                    Creating the heavenly music.

                        *                        *                        *

                                    the stars are gasping

                        For understanding.  They've had Ptolemy,

                        They've had Babylon

                                                            But now they want Hubbell

            They want Fred Hoyle and the steady-state.

                                                            But what they really want   need

                                                            Is a poet   and

            I'm going to have to be it . . . .



                        In all this immensity, all this telescope-country,

                        Why this microscopic searching

                                                Of the useless human heart?




Aquarians question Identity

Broken Obelisk, Barnett Newman (Jan 29, 1912)
de nobis ipsis silemus
(Of ourselves we are silent.) Francis Bacon 22 Jan 1561

"Subjective, objective -- what's the difference? William Burroughs February 5, 1914

“WHAT AM I? NOTHING.” Lord Byron 22 January 1788

"Who in the world am I?" asked Alice. "Ah! That's the great Puzzle."
Lewis Carroll 27 January 1832

Thus the famous theory of the *I* is essentially without a scientific object, since it is destined to represent a purely fictitious state.

Individualism is the disease of the Western World. Auguste Comte 19 January 1798

Behold a universe so immense that I am lost in it. I no longer know where I am. I am just nothing at all. Bernard de Fontenelle 11 February 1657

None of us possesses his own self: it is wafted at us from without, escapes us for long periods and returns to us in a breath. We are no more than dove-cotes. And self indeed! The word is very little more than a metaphor. 

 Hugo von Hofmannsthal February 1, 1874

 The first-person singular is my favorite figure of speech.

Charles Lamb   February 10, 1775

"I" is the true shibboleth of humanity. Stendhal January 23, 1783

Is me her was you dreamed before?
Was then she him you us since knew?
Am all them and same now we?

Whence it is a sloperish matter, given the wet and low visibility (since in this scherzerade of one's thousand one nightinesses the sword of certainty which would indentifide the body never falls) to indentifine the individuone.                           James Joyce 2 February 1882

Ego! It is the great word of the twentieth century. . . Everything we
have done in this century, from monumental feats to nightmare of human
destruction, has been a function of that extraordinary state of the
psyche which gives us authority to declare we are sure of ourselves when
we are not. Norman Mailer January 31, 1923

It was when I read the first of the books I found in my house that I saw
the word "I." And when I understood this word, the book fell from my
hands, and I wept, I who had never known tears. I wept in deliverance
and in pity for all mankind. Ayn Rand February 2 1905 from her novel Anthem, which portrays a dystopian future where the first person singular has been abolished)

WE, a 1924 novel by the soviet writer Evgeny Zamyatin February 20, 1884, about a dystopian future where the first person singular has been abolished)

WE, the autobiography of Charles Lindbergh February 4, 1902

I, etcetera. a book of short stories by Susan Sontag January 29, 1933

And identity is funny being yourself is funny as you are never yourself to yourself except as you remember yourself and then of course you do not believe yourself. The minute you or anyone else knows what you are you are not it. You are what you or anybody else knows that you are and as everything in living is made up of finding out what you are it is extraordinarily difficult really not to know what you are and yet to be that thing.

I am me because my little dog knows me. Gertrude Stein February 3, 1874

She would make him stand with her in front of the looking glass and ask him why he barked and trembled. Was not the little brown dog opposite himself? But what is “oneself”? Is it the thing people see? Or is it the thing one is? So Flush pondered that question, too . . . Virginia Woolf (25 January 1882): Flush, a Dog

Before her death Virginia Woolf planned a next novel to be called

"In revising his youthful poems, Georg Trakl (3 February 1887) substitutes everywhere for the
lyrical and personal "I" metaphoric disguises such as "the stranger," "a thing putrified," "a dead thing," "the murderer." .. . . the poet has abstracted everything unesssential, including the personal pronoun "I"
from his existence . ."

The self is only the shadow which sin and error cast by stopping the light of God—and I take this shadow for a being. Simone Weil 3 February 1909



Aquarius and the Rainbow

Stellar spectra

Color associations to the signs and  planets are not rigidly assigned, and are based on subjective psychological affinities. Some are no-brainers, like red being associated with the planet Mars and the sign Aries (which is “ruled” by Mars)  -- the war god evokes blood, anger (seeing red), the red planet, even the iron (oxide) of weaponry, which is also the source of blood’s color. Then the Moon and its associated sign, Cancer the Crab, suggests silver or white, also the moonlike pearl and nacre, esthetic essence of the crustacean.

Some signs have less definite color associations, but sun-ruled Leo, the Lion, one of the 3 PRISM I, Gerhard Richterfiresigns, is obviously related to gold, yellow, orange, and  to sunlight itself, if that can be called a color. Aquarius is the sign directly opposite Leo in the zodiac and the two signs are poles of a larger  system. Hence, as Leo is sunlight, Aquarius is the spectrum of frequencies of which sunlight is composed, i. e. the rainbow. As Leo speaks of the Sun complacently imagining itselfPIXEL, Gerhard Richter, b. Feb. 9, 1932 the center of its universe, Aquarius reminds that each of the infinite stars is itself a sun. (And each star has its unique spectral analysis, or rainbow variant.)

This metaphor generates a whole rainbow of antinomies. Leo is the autocrat, Aquarius the anti-authoritarian rebel, democrat or collectivist; Leo the individual, Aquarius the species; Leo the Self, Aquarius the group; Leo egoistic subjectivity, Aquarius detached, scientific objectivity. Leo is the heart/sun/nucleus, Aquarius the circulatory system/orbiting planets/electronic current. Aquarius is a political sign, the rainbow a joyous symbol of the coalition of minorities, yet Aquarius can also be conservative in characteristic ways,  embracing a libertarianism in revolt against an oppressive consensus. Norman Rockwell, 2/3/94; Jackson Pollock, 1/28/12 
Altho an air sign, Aquarius, in ruling circulation, is associated with rivers and streams (whence the flowing symbol of the waterbearer), and more abstractly, with the cycle of ocean, vapors, winds, clouds, rain, river, ocean.  The rainbow (an unpredictable, uncanny event in that cycle) is associated with promise and hope, and Aquarius is associated with futurity: the first 10 signs cover the known past and present, Aquarius, the 11th, the airy, insubstantial future, or a cyclical (rather than linear) concept of time, an Eternal Now, the epiphanic Instant, the electrical zap, the accident, the gratuitous, the lightning strike, the thunderclap. With respect to the future, both utopia (for instance the neotribalism of “Age of Aquarius” hippiedom) and super-rational distopia are offered. Aquarius is thus particularly associated with both the threat and promise of ever-increasing scientific objectivity, the very concept a transcendent abstraction called Knowledge, Truth or Mind.


          " . . . R is Rubretta and A is Arancia, Y is for Yilla and N for greeneriN. B is Boyblue with odalisque O while W waters the fleurettes of novembrance. . . . Winnie, Olive and Beatrice, Nelly and Ida, Amy and Rue. Here they come, all the gay pack . . ."                    The 7 Rainbow Girls, a cavorting daisy-chain of colored                                                           scarves and flowers, in Finnegans Wake (Ch. 9)                                                                     by James Joyce (b. 2 Feb. 1882)


Stendhal on astrology

Any announcement of future events is an infringement of the rule, and involves this danger—that it may change the event, in which case the whole science falls to the ground,  and becomes nothing more than a childish game.  

The Charterhouse of Parma, Chapter 8


Palin: There's no there there

 Aquarian Gertrude Stein’s comment about her hometown, Oakland CA,  “There is no there there.” points to the distinctly Aquarian imprint of Palin’s personality: daffy, wacky, spacey, airhead. This variation of unformedness of personality is the demeanor of a particular female Aquarian stereotype: disconcerting, saucer-eyed, strange-voiced, unblinking. Mia Farrow, Carol Channing, Tammy Grimes, Farrah Fawcett, Vanna White, Paris Hilton, with Palin’s own distinctive spunk, and telegenic skin.

 Palin’s got fully five of the seven bodies of the classical solar system located in the single sign of Aquarius. Gertrude Stein had a sizeable imbalance of Aquarius as well. Recall that she wrote her life story in the third person and in the guise of the autobiography of someone else. Her lesser known sequel was a book called “Everybody’s Autobiography”. Aquarians try to wiggle out of acknowledging there’s a Self there. Their sense of self is weak, they may diffuse their selves to include multitudes, or they may defend to the death against their oceanic insecurities, with a kewpie doll (or bow-tie) persona, or a shiny new, pre-fabricated belief system. Radical Aquarian Norman Mailer narrates his experience in the third person as a character named Aquarius in “Of a Fire on the Moon”; Chapter one is called “A Loss of Self”. Reactionary Aquarius historian Henry Adams narrates his great autobiography in the third person too. Two radical Russian distopias by Aquarian writers envisioned worlds in which the “I” is banished: Ayn Rand in “Anthem” and Zamyatin in “We”. [1924.  SciFi collectors: Banned by the Soviets, it first appeared in English translated by Gregory Zilboorg. I have a rare copy of the first edition at whokilledkenny books.]


Sarah Palin's Horoscope

            Sarah Palin was born in Sandpoint, Idaho on February 11, 1964. Her horoscope is being devoured by internet astrologers, but there is no certainty yet about her time of birth.   Regardless of the time of day she was born, she’s got the Sun in close, ugly conjunction to Mars and Saturn (the Lesser and Greater Malefics, respectively). The conjunction is quite close; the three bodies are found within a span of four degrees, in the sign of Aquarius.

            If a client presented with this configuration in her birthchart, I would heave a sigh and say a prayer. I would immediately search for amelioration.  Today’s humanistic astrology doesn’t want to say that a configuration is simply ‘bad’. Many ordinary people with nearly the same configuration will lead lives  damaged or merely emphasized by Energy (Mars) and Necessity (Saturn), in other words, hard work: manual laborers, soldiers, prison guards, trained athletes, even “energetic people who are able to overcome the greatest difficulties”.

            In the chart of a powerful political leader, however, the grim imagery of Mars, the War God, and Saturn, the Reaper, joined with the conscious Solar Ego, evokes a ruler who presides over devastation. McCain’s age and melanomas cannot be ignored; if he is elected there is a strong possibility that Palin will succeed him. Similar configurations to hers appear in the charts of Francis Joseph of Austria (who led the Austro-Hungarian empire to collapse), also Herbert Hoover (who ushered in the Great Depression), also less remembered figures, like Carlos I of Portugal, who saw his nation go bankrupt twice and was assassinated.  The Hamburg Astrology school’s lexicon provides the phrase “To be cause of death” for the association of these three planets, with Mars at the midpoint as here.  Clearly a hawk, having killed her moose and championed “barbaric” aerial hunting of wolves and bears, she casually suggested we go to war with Russia. Her short political history in Alaska is an accumulation of administrative brusqueness. There is joking talk of pit bulls. Her state-trooper brother-in-law tasered his eleven year old step-son. Joking aside, there is a fatality towards destruction, an affinity for strife, and a cold, hard hand in the triple conjunction of Sun, Mars and Saturn that might make an astrologer shudder.

            On the birthdate the Moon passed from Capricorn to Aquarius at 9 am. Therefore the chances are 5 to 3 that the Moon is in Aquarius. If not, it’s in Capricorn and we have Abraham Lincoln’s Sun/Moon combination, which ought to give a slow, methodical political climb with plenty of opposition, and a somber demeanor. But the chances (and the rumored 4:40 pm birthtime) favor the Aquarius Moon, which to my mind is more apt, and could hardly be more dire. For, in addition to the fatal triple conjunction in Aquarius, the planet Mercury is also found in that sign, plus the Moon gives us five, fully half of the ten modern astrological bodies located in just one of the twelve zodiac signs. Pulling back a layer, and more weightily, all five are among the classical seven planets. This is an extreme and unusual imbalance, made much more dangerous by being in Aquarius, the sign of extremities, eccentricities, and downright weirdness. Herman Kahn, the futurologist who was the model for Dr. Strangelove, was an Aquarian. It is all too likely that under the gravest immediate stress Sarah Palin would launch destruction “without blinking.”