Catch an Expeditious App and Put It In Your Pocket!

Geolocation is integrated into Fodor's City Guide apps.

Six cities have updated wanderlusting apps from Fodor’s Travel, who has announced the re-launch of their City Guide apps for iPhone and iPad (Nook and Android versions are in the works). The free apps now integrate partner functionality from Expedia, OpenTable and Ticketmaster, and are available for New York City, Paris, London, Rome, Barcelona and San Francisco. They offer geolocation features and interactive offline maps, which are powered by developer Red Foundry’s new Fusion Platform, the world’s first network uniting app developers and publishers with service providers.

Travelers can book hotels through the Expedia Affiliate Network, make dinner plans with OpenTable, and buy show and concert tickets through TicketsNow, Ticketmaster’s resale marketplace. The geolocation features allow sojourners to see what is nearby by interest—categories include what to see, what to eat, shopping, nightlife/arts, and where to stay.

Arthur Avenue in the Bronx is a trendsetter's alternative to Little Italy in Manhattan. Photo by Paul Clemence.

I decided to take the New York City app for a test drive on my iPad, and it nailed my location quickly. I agreed with many of the “what to see” listings it put up, several of which I would recommend for tourists visiting NYC who want more than the usual suspects of places to see. One of which was Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, which my pal and architectural photographer Paul Clemence has photographed so eloquently, as the above photo proves.

Fodor's City Guide Apps Offer OpenTable Reservations.

The “what to eat” suggestions were a bit all over the place but I did ask for the best recommendations in New York City without determining a culinary style, and the fact that they could narrow it down as tightly as they did impressed me! Shopping brought up everything from Betsey Johnson in SoHo to Beads of Paradise in the Flatiron District and the Bedford Cheese Shop in Brooklyn, which I have frequented (and give the app a high five for referencing).

The oh-so-edgy tiki bar Painkiller wasn’t listed under “Nightlife & the Arts” (though I’ll admit, it would probably cause anyone who is less than an intrepid traveler to freak out when standing on the street in front of the bar’s address and see no discernable sign of a party until someone entering or exiting opened the graffiti panel serving as the venue’s door)-steamy! Pegu Club is there—excellent sourcing by featuring this mixology-driven venue, Fodor’s.

The Lower East Side has its own version of a hip, Parisian cafe for writers and filmmakers to hang.

Kudos to the travel experts for listing the Pink Pony on the Lower East Side. Any café with a mural of Arthur Rimbaud on the wall and a tagline like “Café Littéraire & Ciné Club” is high on my “kicky and quirky venues” list, which we locals pride ourselves in compiling for those times we want something out-of-the-ordinary. The Field Notes section is great—the perfect place for accumulating the lists you’d like to share with friends who will be visitng the same city or for resourcing your highlights the next time Hērmēs, the god of travel, wings you to the same town.

Sax in the City has only one request of the developers: I would like to have seen an easier search function for places by name. Those of us who travel frequently, especially travel journalists who are writing about cities, often go armed with recommendations for venues to experience. This app only allows search by previously determined categories unless it’s not obvious and if it’s not obvious to me someone using this level of technology for the first time wouldn’t likely find it. That said, these apps are definitely well worth the time it takes to download them. Off I go to Paris (if only)!


The Rebel as Poet

By the Table; Verlaine is far left and a young Rimbaud is seated facing him.

“By the Table”; Verlaine is far left and a young Rimbaud is seated facing him.

During my time in Paris, I visited the Musée d’Orsay, drinking in the architecture of the former railway station from blocks away (and understanding why the museum bills the building, which was erected for the Universal Exhibition of 1900, as its first work of art). The locale on the banks of the Seine opposite the Tuileries Gardens is its second triumph. And its art collections, spanning from 1848 to 1914, is its pièce de résistance.

One painting in particular was pilgrimage-worthy for me: Henri Fantin-Latour’s By the Table. I’ve been fascinated with it since I can remember because the subjects in the composition are men gathered at the Salon of 1872, including Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud—an almost cherubic Rimbaud sitting facing his friend at the time. It was Verlaine, a more mature poet, who would eventually contribute to Rimbaud’s disillusionment, causing him to put down his pen at the age of 20. What a loss for poetry! One of my favorite quotes has been attributed to Rimbaud, though I have never managed to track down the source: “I’d rather be the poem than the poet,” he was reported to have said. I feel that sums up the level of dedication a true poet would have to his or her craft.

If you’ve never read Rimbaud’s story, it’s worthwhile. He didn’t have an easy life, and he wrote what he produced at such a young age, I can only imagine the quality of work he would have produced had he been writing as a mature poet. A great place to start if you also happen to like rock-n-roll is Wallace Fowlie’s book Rimbaud and Jim Morrison: The Rebel as Poet. He compares the two renegades who did share a passion for stirring things up. I give you Rimbaud’s “Sensation,” a poem he wrote in March of 1870, nearly a century and a half ago:

Through blue summer nights I will pass along paths,

Pricked by wheat, trampling short grass:

Dreaming, I will feel coolness underfoot,

Will let breezes bathe my bare head.

Not a word, not a thought:

Boundless love will surge through my soul,

And I will wander far away, a vagabond

In Nature—as happily as with a woman.

Arthur Rimbaud

And as Morrison says in “L.A. Woman”: …Midnight alleys roam…


Love and #LetsBlogOff

The tomb of Heloise and Abelard at Pere Lachaise in Paris.

The tomb of Heloise and Abelard at Pere Lachaise in Paris.

I’m in Paris at last and I’m heading to Pere Lechaise, the famed cemetery, in a few minutes to visit the tomb of Heloise and Abelard, the doomed lovers whose story has stood the test of time because nothing could stop them from their longing to be together, even though they spent years apart and lonely in that vast devastation. What signifies love more than two people who never give up on their feelings for each other, even when everything in the physical realm is conspiring against them? I give you a poem today by my poetry professor at Vermont College, Tom Absher.

It’s from his book Forms of Praise, which holds a series of poems written in their voices–missives to and about each other–that meld into one heartbreaking litany of unrequited passion.

II Living Alone


After working all day in the fields

helping prepare the earth for seed,

I return to my room and wait for sleep.

I have almost given up on reading.

Watching the fading light soften the edges of things

I begin to let go of my loneliness.

A chair sends forth its thin shadow

like a thinker thinking of himself.

The sky runs through its last hues

and miraculously the chair, the room,

we vanish together.

Gradually I hear the monks talking in sleep—

they speak of their fathers, of women, of miracles.

I make the cross in the darkness

and may God forgive me I think only of you.

                             Tom Absher (from Forms of Praise)

Behind Every Curtain

The Actor Artaud in "The Passion of Joan of Arc" in 1928

The Actor Artaud in “The Passion of Joan of Arc” in 1928.

If you’ve been following me on Twitter or Facebook, or subscribed to my blogs, you’ve likely been bombarded by my gushing about the fact that I’m writing a memoir, which I post weekly on The Road to Promise to coincide with #WriterWednesday on Twitter! Wednesday has come around yet again and I put my 60th post online today, one that finds me reading an article by Bruce Weber about Richard Ford’s ability to create unique characters.

It was 1988 and the novelist was one of the hottest rising stars in American literature at the time. Weber quotes Raymond Carver in the piece. He was a close friend of Ford’s, and he says about his work, “Sentence for sentence…Richard is the best writer at work in this country today.” I have a love/hate relationship with Ford’s fiction, but I’m a solid fan of Carver’s work, especially his poetry. If I’m ever stymied in my own work, I often pull Carver’s A New Path to the Waterfall off my bookshelf and read a few poems. There’s something about his voice that has a way of kick-starting me when I need a good push.

Today, I thought I’d share this poem from his book because its subject figures significantly in my history as a writer, a history that is being plotted on The Road to Promise as I continue to follow the material along.


Among the hieroglyphs, the masks, the unfinished poems,

the spectacle unfolds: Antonin et son double.

They are at work now, calling up the old demons.

The enchantments, etc. The tall, scarred-looking

one at the desk, the one with the cigarette and

no teeth to speak of, is prone to

boldness, to a certain excess

in speech, in gesture. The other is cautious,

watches carefully his opportunity, is effacing even. But

at certain moments still hints broadly, impatiently

of his necessarily arrogant existence.


Antonin, sure enough, there are no more masterpieces.

But your hands trembled as you said it,

and behind every curtain there is always, as you

knew, a rustling.

Raymond Carver (from A New Path to the Waterfall)

Carver’s poem references the theories put forth in Antonin Artaud’s book The Theater and Its Double, one that I read during graduate studies at NYU when I had the great fortune of having William Packard lead me through a semester devoted to the aesthetics of writing. In Artaud’s chapter “No More Masterpieces,” he writes, “Masterpieces of the past are good for the past: they are not good for us. We have the right to say what has been said and even what has not been said in a way that belongs to us, a way that is immediate and direct, corresponding to present modes of feeling, and understandable to everyone.”

I’m heading to Paris next week so France is on my mind. I’m going to have more time to explore my deeper creative work during this trip as I hang out in the cafes where some of the greatest writers of all time have sat and scribbled their ideas, Artaud among them. I’ll be working on a book of poems and a play, and I hope my work will be infused with the level of immediacy and directness that he champions. I also hope to achieve something akin to Artaud’s brand of revitalization, even if it’s in the tiniest way.

He proposes that literature and the dramatic arts induce a trance just as the dances of Dervishes induce trance: “There is a risk involved, but in the present circumstances I believe it is a risk worth running. I do not believe we have managed to revitalize the world we live in, and I do not believe it is worth the trouble of clinging to; but I do propose something to get us out of our marasmus, instead of continuing to complain about it, and about the boredom, inertia, and stupidity of everything.”

I will feel him looking over my shoulder as I write (say) what has been written (said) in a way that belongs to me, ever hopeful that some aspect of my work might someday have an impact even while I realize that it will by then be “of the past” and therefore only good for the past. As to whether I’ll ever produce masterpieces, that’s for a future generation to decide, I suppose. I’ll be long gone but may the work live on! Happy roaming everyone! I’ll be posting from the City of Lights next week: stay tuned!


Cleto Munari’s New York Debut (Finally!)

Detail of Lawrence Ferlinghetti's Table: Can't Beat That!

Detail of Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s Table: Can’t Beat That!

There is something to be said for waiting patiently for “the next big thing.” That said, I have absolutely no patience when it comes to postponing visionaries being celebrated in our American design milieu, which in so many ways lacks the spark that I’ve been seeing in Europe. We’re about to get an important infusion of that brilliance when Cleto Munari finally debuts the talent he’s fostered for over four decades in New York City on February 2nd, and I believe this exhibition will prove Munari’s lasting impact on the world of design.

Here’s some background on the man I like to refer to as the “Modern Design Poet”: In 1973, through his close friendship with Carlo Scarpa, Cleto Munari began collaborations with a stellar list of international architects and artists that resulted in functional items of beauty such as furniture, rugs, glassware, jewelry, watches and pens. Scarpa and Munari produced cutlery and sterling silver tableware, and Munari went on to design products with Aulenti, Botta, Portoghesi, Ito, Sottsass, Hollein, Mangiarotti, Tusquets, Paladino, Siza, Mendini, R. Meyer, Graves, Isozaki, Hoppenheim, Shire, Eisenmann, Venturi, Tigerman, Pelli, Bellini, Sipek, Thun, and Zanuso.

Cleto Munari in the Proust Chair

Cleto Munari in the Proust Chair.

In 1980 Munari created a silverware and gold jewelry collection, called Masterpieces, with contributions by more than 50 architects and artists from around the world. The collection has been exhibited in 120 museums, and is included in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Munari has now collaborated with Alessandro Mendini for over 30 years.

Together they have been responsible for silver accessories, jewelry, a pen dedicated to Toni Morrison (from the Book of 5 Pens Collection), and a new 2008 collection of furniture, rugs and silver sculptures. Munari had only briefly worked with furniture in the past and has just recently felt ready for the challenge of creating new collections, including a line he designed with Mendini in 2008, which expresses the architect’s lyrical way of looking at life and includes etchings taken from his personal drawings that he refers to as “decorative doilies.”

Munari does not understand how anyone can live with furniture devoid of color. He has told me that each time he enters his house he has the impression that he is “invaded by the music of all the colors.” To him, it is poetry. His newest collection is entitled “I Magfinci 7,” a series of tables designed by Cleto, the beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, poet Mark Strand, painter Sandro Chia, artist Mimmo Paladino, architect Mario Botta, and Mendini.


At this lone hour…

Villa Roccabruna (back in the day)

Villa Roccabruna (back in the day)

I’m taking a tour of Italian properties, one of which is CastaDiva in Lake Como. I arrived this afternoon to crisp air and a faint haze hovering around the undulant slopes that ring the beautiful body of water. I’ve been reading Percy Bysshe Shelley, who spent some time with Lord Byron in Lake Como one summer. The idea that two such great poetic minds would have come together in such a delicious setting has always fascinated me and I feel blessed as a writer to get to soak in the atmosphere, thinking for a moment that I’m channeling the energy that feeds the future of the poetic arts.

Shelley, who left England with his second wife Mary in 1818, was mesmerized by Italy and toured many of the country’s greatest cities. He wrote “Adonais” and “Prometheus Unbound” while traipsing from town to town before he drowned in the Bay of Spezia on July 8, 1822, aboard his boat “Don Juan” during a storm.  As I was flying into Milan today, skimming above the Alps in a plane, I began a poem, a work in progress, that felt incredibly good to write.

I’ll be penning more practical reports of my time here, of course, but for tonight (it is evening here), I’m sending you these heartfelt lines that soothed me after a non-stop filled-to-the-brim-with-activity trip to London to see Johnny Grey’s launch of his new kitchen furniture line at Decorex. Shelley made the same trek I made this morning, though he didn’t fly from London, of course. During his first spring in Italy, remarks John Lehmann, who wrote Shelley in Italy, “each step he took seemed to increase his enthusiasm, and also his power of description…He began by thinking of staying in Como, the first Italian scene to be celebrated in his poetry (in Rosalind and Helen).” In the poem, Shelley’s protagonist warns, “Remember, this is Italy,/ And we are exiles.” Oh, but to be exiled here!

Ode to the Alps

Mountains heave themselves

toward haze-capped shelves of azure,

the highest peaks aglow

as the sun effervesces the snow.


Green valleys lumber through gorges

punctuated by grids of sienna

as the edge of the range gives way

to a concerto of crags—

white billowing down the slopes

and heaped inside the tallest pockets,

mouths gaping to the sky.


Roadways are sliced into mountainsides—

snail-like wanderings as they zig and zag

toward the high terrain.

The sculpted fringe of the highest peaks

are stiff, fluted cuffs

on an ancient poet’s sleeves—

the frozen fabric deftly starched taut.


The plane of crops square-dance up to

the hulking walls of stone, some of which loom

above the horizon and into a dowsing of blue

holding in its grasp a ghostly moon.

In Lake Como the mountains hunker down,

their backs hunched against the beauty

of a gemmed lake they cannot take.

-Saxon Henry

If you want a rather contemporary take on the subject of Byron’s and Shelley’s days in Lake Como, Haunted Summer is a fun flick to watch for imagining what the two bad boys in their age might have been up to!


Swan Song…

Ah, it’s a rainy morning in New York, and though I’d love to be roaming and discovering, deadlines and the drenched weather keep me nestled into my warm, dry digs. So, what’s a writer to do on Writer Wednesday when she’s all hyped up and has nowhere to go? How about a poem inspired by a little incident that happened in Sparta (in Greek Mythology) ions ago and resulted in the birth of the great Helen of Troy?

I posted a poem by Richard Aldington on my Facebook Page yesterday and piqued the interest of one of my favorite Tweeps. Aldington was a close friend of Hilda Doolittle (H.D.) and a fellow Imagist poet, which brought to mind H.D.’s poem “Leda,” one of my favorites. I’m also very fond of Dylan Thomas’ nod to one of the most revisited rapes in mythology. Which poem do you prefer?

A masterful copy of Leonardo Da Vinci's rendition of Leda and the Swan.

A masterful copy of Leonardo Da Vinci’s rendition of Leda and the Swan.

The Morning, Space for Leda

by Dylan Thomas

The morning, space for Leda

To stir the water with a buoyant foot,

And interlude for violins

To catch her sailing down the stream—

The phrases on the wood aren’t hers;

A fishing bird has notes of ivory

Alive within his craning throat—

Sees the moon still up,

Bright, well-held head,

And, for a pivot,

The shadows from the glassy sea

To wet the sky with tears,

And daub the unrisen sun with longing.

The swan makes strings of water in her wake;

Between the moon and sun

There’s time to pluck a tune upon the harp,

Moisten the mouth of sleep

To kiss awake

My hand with honey that had closed upon a flower.

Between the rising and the falling

Spring may be green—

Under the cloth of trees no sorrow,

Under her glassy dress no limbs—

And winter follow like an echo,

The summer voice so warm from fruit

That clustered round her shoulders,

And his her uncovered breast.

The morning, too, is tune for love,

When Leda, on a toe of down,

Dances a measure with the swan

Who holds her clasped inside his strong, white wings;

And darkness, hand in hand with light,

Is blind with tears too frail to taste.


Mid-Century Madness This Weekend!

Mid-century Meditations in an Emergency?

Mid-century Meditations in an Emergency?

In anticipation of the fourth season of Mad Men, which debuts on AMC this Sunday (July 25) at 10 p.m., Design Within Reach is launching a contest that will have one fortunate fan winning a room full of Mad Men-inspired furniture. Click here for details. Need we even say that if you love mid-century modern furniture, your toes are probably curling right about now?

Take Betty Draper’s perch in therapy: it’s a Barcelona Chaise, no less! One of my favorite episodes had Don Draper, Betty’s gallivanting husband, reading Frank O’Hara’s Meditations in an Emergency. In his “Ode,” O’Hara wrote, “An idea of justice may be precious,/ one vital gregarious amusement…” I’m of the opinion that a room filled with great furniture is one way to get in on that gregarious amusement.

Will justice be served this season for this tempestuous couple who saw their world disintegrate during the last season? Guess we’ll have to watch and wait; at least the wait is almost over!


New York State of Mind

The Fountain at Lincoln Center

The Fountain at Lincoln Center

Hey everyone: I’m deep in the midst of my transition back to New York and I thought I’d share this poem I wrote a while ago. I was reminded of it when I was waiting on the train last evening at Union Square. My posts are going to be sporadic until I get settled the first week in July. Stay tuned for lots of NYC news once I’m unpacked and nested!


“Fallen, fallen is Babylon the Great!…God has remembered her iniquities…

 …mix a double draught for her in the cup she mixed…”   Revelations 18

The wind lifts spray from a lit fountain above

a gouged bench on a platform for the 1 and 9,

where raucous girls—one with orange matted hair

and a ditzy brunette in a poodle coat—

disregard stares and laughter.

An anxious woman in a fur

watches the board at Penn Station

while her escort checks his watch again,

as if his need for a hit of culture has been sated

by an operatic rush and a voluminous meal.

When they board the express train for Babylon

do they return to an avenue of brick houses

poised on the brink of the Great South Bay?

As they careen from the tunnel into the vaulted language of night,

how long will they stare out the window, silent as sentinels?

© Saxon Henry

Published in the New York QuarterlyIssue 59/ June 2003