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Archive for January, 2015

IanJanuary2015
Ian late last night

ClosingShot
Closing shot of “Cracking the Killer’s Code (2012)

Dear Friends and readers,

I can no longer keep up the disciplined schedule I once did. I used to do a lot of literary work, study films, write to an inner schedule consonant with promised papers, reviews, coming teaching, and yet participate in reading for listservs and beyond that read or watch movies for pleasure. Now I don’t get started on my projects until well after noon.

From my translated poetry out of Vittoria Colonna:

Parmi che’l sol non porga il lume usato

Gone brightness from the air, a light I knew,
gone from the sun and his sister, the moon,
gone from earth; gone Venus silvery star,
gaily whirling rings of shimmering light.

Gone his brave heart, hardened by endurance,
gone the chivalric soul, its beauty and
integrity with all his virtues gone;
the trees are bare, the fields without flowers.

I see troubled waters and air like pitch;
fire has no warmth, the wind lacks freshness;
all things have lost their purpose and meaning.

Since he I love is gone into the earth,
nature’s laws are confused–or else my grief
is such reality is gone from me.

Nella dolce stagion non s’incolora

Gone the gentle colors of the earth’s spring,
gone from her new-born flowers and green leaves,
the lovely scarlet dawn pale, faded, leaves
the serene star-filled sky faintly glimmering …

I find I like sleep — at some point in my 40s I began to see it not as a waste of time, but as a longed-for retreat. I’d cover my head with the blankets and sink back to rest; one day I told my beloved that I felt that tired of life I was beginning to understand how death was a release. I remember he didn’t quite like that. Now sleep is something like oblivion. While I sleep I lose consciousness, and most of the time do not remember my dreams. Each night I dip into a bottle of pills; when trazadone does not work, there’s temazepam.

When I go to bed I hug my body
my arms crossed tight. There is not a minute
in daytime I’m not aware you are not here.
In the gym talking, hearing these women.
Gone from me your presence which lent me peace.
In this silence you’re not coming back from.

L’alta piaga immotal che m’assicura

The dart inflicts the wound that cannot heal,
it widens as the years come and go: spreads,
blood seeping into the skin.

Morte col fiero stral se stess offese

Death, with her savage wild dart, hurt herself
So, angry at me, she picked up her dart,
but saw I’d take the bitter blow silently,
so she gives no more: and I live with her.

I learn what war of life is,
what strange troubles haunt us. She invents
absurd unheard-of pitiless getting
back –abandons me–a life bereft–

Each day I manage around 4 hours of what I call my work. Usually after noon and before 5 when the hard hours arrive. I do find myself looking forward to Yvette’s return. I know I should go for a walk, but do not. Sometimes I can read more, but it must be a genuinely true directly felt text. Need not be a novel. Criticism will do, nowadays especially of film. Poetry by women, occasionally by a man, and Jim’s favorites. I am grateful each time I find a woman’s novel that can absorb me. I got myself Jhumpa Lahiri’s Lowland ….

The inner strength, inner-motivated
gone from me. So I stumble along lurch
from and to this and that. Wishing I could,
waiting until I, stop altogether.

I do a little, when absorbed my mind
forgets, it’s as useful as sleep that way
I’m unaware of time passing I look
up and the clock says you’ve gone though

four more hours. I feel Clary clutching
at my sweater, pants, her paw is outstretched
while I bond with Anna Maxwell Martin
inhabiting Elizabeth Bennet
and as Susan in The Bletchley Circle

Wondering when I will get there at last
Join him by simply being what I’m
    becoming.

Part of this three week’s routine at Dance Fusion Workshop:

Thefour
There is a there there: Far shot; Rachel Stirling as Millie, Sophie Rundle as Lucy, and Julie Graham as Jean, and Susan from the side … she is often seen from the side in this series

Sylvia

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Tampa-Florida-Map

Dear friends and readers,

Back from subtropical middle western Florida where most of the time I was there the degrees were 60 to 70 (and above) Fahrenheit, with a building humidity, and the skies blue and sunny, the land flat, and the Gulf of Mexico and other waters soft green in color. I left in the freezing rain, and about two hours after I was home, the cold rain, sleet and ice pellets began again. Yet on the whole I was relieved to be home, and not just because I’m happiest and nearest some peace at home. I’d rather live here, cold seasons, autumn hurricanes, summer squalls and all. I love a snowy landscape — albeit from my window. But I do not prefer where I am just for the varied weather and hills.

What did I most enjoy? Most unexpectedly my friend’s sister-in-law phoned a friend or co-worker, Penelope Bodry-Sanders, she had not seen in twenty years and wrangled an appointment to get a sort of private tour of the lemur sanctuary that has been set up near Myakka City. A building housing a library, with a place for students to learn, people to study and talk about lemurs stands next to a 9 acre woodland in which three types of lemur families and groups live. They are pre-siminian, not quite primates, and live in groups headed by a mother, with a father hanging around not far off — and to us walking there they seemed sweetly playful. We watched a ring-tailed group interact,

Optimized-Ringtailed_lemurs

and stood near “red rough lemurs” climbing trees. In another cage, more sadly, we saw a group of lemurs who are dangerous, aggressive: it seems these are lemurs mistakenly made pets of by human beings and when the lemurs grow older and seek sexual partners with their humans and are rejected, they become upset, unruly, and socially impossible (to the people). So they are rescued, and kept in as good health as possible while they live their single thwarted lives out (prevented from having any further lemurs).

I learnt a lot about lemurs in the conversation afterwards with Penelope Bodry-Sanders (Herself!), a thin youthful (grey-haired pageboy hairstyle) woman in jeans and T-shirt, writing an essay on the center and good people who helped get it accreditation, funding, and students. She said as how it was “very good of us” to take time out from our vacation to see the sanctuary. I replied, on the contrary, that afternoon was a high point for this holiday for me. She then spoke my name (remembered it). I now want to see a documentary film called Lemurs of Madagascar and (on her advice) have bought a book by Alison Jolly on the world of the lemurs.

My friend and I also took a long walk in Myakka State Park. We saw alligators and Amish men fishing, birds of all sorts, herons, seagulls, pink spoonbills:

spoonbillandduck

climbed up a wooden structure to where we could see over the wood, across a swaying bridge

Myakkabridge

where we could look down the many Palmetta trees, whose trunks resemble pineapples and leaves are stalk-like fans

palmett2o.

My friend meant to show me a good time at a famous beach (said to be #1?), Siesta is it’s name: white lovely sand, stretched out blue waters, but I found myself shocked by a an experience of STUG (sudden tremendous upsurge of grief) as I suddenly realized that I had not been on a beach for a at least a couple of years and the last time was with Jim. I remembered how in summers when we were in our twenties and had our dog, Llyr, on Tuesday and Thursday mornings we’d buy croissants, take a tall thermos of coffee and drive to far Rockaway to a beach where dogs were allowed, and spend time there. How one summer when we stayed in a Duke’s hunting lodge (Landmark Trust rental), near Chichester, he drove me and Yvette twice to a beautiful rocky beach near a pier and the two afternoons there playing by the water. I felt for him he was missing out, I who had grown tired of beaches I thought. I felt so bad that we had stopped going.

I suggested we try again a second time at some other famous place (I had ruined the good time, my grief not been understood), this time a beach by a pier and restaurant called Shaky where there is much fishing — schools of dolphins are seen.

yellowtail

I hoped the initial strong had worn off some, and wanted to sit on the beach and stare out in silence as a kind of commemoration to what was. My friend and I have known each other since I was 16 and she 17; we’ve not seen each other for years at a time, but never quite lost touch nor lost our New York accents; we got our first jobs as secretaries together; we went back to college around the same time, both went on to do Ph.Ds (but she in economics and made a lot of money, her husband a bank examiner); I was a bridesmaid at her wedding, Jim and I and she and her husband went out together some while we all lived in Manhattan; she had one son around the time I had Yvette (she when she was 36, I when I was 37, so her son born two years before my Yvette); well she too has been widowed, this past August. We walked onto a dog beach and along the wet sand. She first and then I took shoes off and stood at the edge of the water wetting ourselves up the calves.

We also went out to dinner to a restaurant that was cowboy-like; it’s old and by a river, and has an extraordinary fish menu, with a tall-tale about an alligator as its founding myth. It too said to be famous or at least celebrated; too bad I am bad at remembering well-known names (and showed my propensity to mispronounce and keep mispronouncing once I got the word wrong). At night we watched on her wide-screen flat TV (I have one just like it), the first season of The Bletchley Circle (all 3 episodes over a couple of nights); she had a version of one of the episodes of Elementary, very good, with Jonny Lee Miller as the Sherlock, a kind of Dragnet-intellectual witty melancholy man wandering amid desperate poverty and beautifully-appointed apartments,

While you Were Sleeping

which I had not been able to watch because so over-larded with commercials, we shoverdosed by watching back-to-back the first episode of the first season of Cumberbatch-Freeman’s Sherlock.

Those were the high points. I also saw a Florida I don’t belong in at all.

Esplanade-at-Lakewood-Ranch
An Esplanade sales center — the structural elements are characteristic

Gated-communities of houses built in harmony with one another, many overlooking bodies of water from a linai (huge screened porch filled with flowers, if you like a hot tub) all looking so clean and prestigious (in good taste), inside which blocks and blocks are golf areas, pools, tennis courts — not a black or minority person in sight. The supermarkets did have black and minority people working and shopping in them, and I saw many of the same chain stores in the malls as we have here in the Virginia, DC and Maryland area (including the expensive Whole Food chain). No surprise that the vote in these places is conservative Republican; all for Romney, they saw him as an admirable businessman (successful in making money, tons of it), and his infamous speech about 47% of the country as simply true. I couldn’t make conversation without giving myself away somehow and finding myself up against suspicious tones. The Internet much scoffed at — all the while clearly centrally part of these people’s lives. My friends, it will go hard with us if Jebb Bush wins. He will not regard the Internet as a utility, nor a place for liberty of communication, access for information for all.

As I wrote Caroline when this afternoon from my home computer, I was slightly astonished to discover the HOAs at such places are just as neurotically class-conscious, ridiculous over perceived symbols as those where Caroline lives (which I had snobbishly attributed to lower middle class anxieties). Among other things, in the Florida community of rich houses and gardens, you are not allowed to park your vehicle outside your garage if it looks too much like a truck. Neighbors spy on one another and tell the HOA committee heads. Could it be they think property values are threatened? that it brings down the neighborhood. No. “So unsightly.” To my credit I listened silently to defenses of these rules. I took heart — I don’t know quite why — when I got home and looked up the estimated price and taxes of the houses there and those where I live and found the ones where I live are priced higher. I admit I meant to be mischievous when I admitted (openly) that I have a clothesline in my backyard where I hang laundry. I was told laundry is “especially prohibited” in your linai. (You can never tell what people will get up to.) It made me remember Mr Woodhouse hearing Frank Churchill say he knew of people who threw open windows in autumn nights, “well, he never, but then he has lived such an out-of-the-way life.”

For the first time I identified with Miss Bunting in Downton Abbey and began to imagine the distress she probably felt when she returned home from having been berated by Lord Grantham, loudly singled out by him as not wanted there, not to omit her real sense (I am willing to credit her with sincerity) of the injustice of the social and economic arrangements all around her (admittedly not felt as hard in this reactionary costume drama). How do you talk to someone whose outlook is so fundamentally totally at odds with your own unless you erase yourself. And why should you not speak out against harmful prejudiced and just plain wrong assertions at you. Not that Miss Sarah Bunting would not (also) have lectured me, questioned me, made suggestions about how to stop the pain of this ravaged ripping away from me half my self in him, his being gone, I find scarcely endurable.

Sarahbunting
Miss Sarah Bunting (Daisy Lewis)

My friend told me the character in Downton Abbey she identified with is Tom Branson, for she is originally working class.

It’s not that I did not see from the car another Florida — we drove far and wide to reach different places. I saw fields of people living in trailer camps; old and poorer small houses (home-built some of them), a high school I was told was “all-black” (I have to admit my immediate association was Birmingham it’s 100% Muslim — a new Fogle’s Bookshop opened there other day) and maybe it was. Sarasota is a varied city, with an opera house, a theater, movie-houses (a vast cineplex playing trash and junk mostly, but it has HD ballets from London), a large library, plenty of fast-food places, tall apartment houses. I saw people some call red-necks too, tatooed, country folk. Victor Nunez people.

My friend has a sweet cat, Sophie, grey and white, rescued from a life of abuse, wary and unable to play much, hiding away, but at night coming out, to crawl into my friend’s lap, very sweet and cuddling for love and affection. At night we did have long enough reading times, beginning around 9 a couple of times. Copies of The Economist were about, and I found it easy reading, intelligent, filled with information, many reports and reporters from around the earth. I was able to use my ipad and relieved to watch Amy Goodman and Democracynow.org, and read novels. I finished and think superior Winston Graham’s first historical novel, set in Cornwall, 1898, The Forgotten Story, about which I hope to blog separately.

I was very nervous about traveling back, overwrought again over the boarding pass (which again did not appear in my email), over getting there (as no cabs could easily come into this gated community, buses unheard of), absurd of me. My friend drove me back easily on time, and told me to phone her if I had any trouble and she’d come and help. I needed no help; everyone all courtesy, my bag x-rayed but otherwise I was hardly looked at. But it is ever hard to do, hard to breathe through, to be from home and my sleeping pills did not work as well as they usually do, and I had to resort to two one night to find some peace.

*****************************

While there in the dawn I’d write sets of verses I put on this blog and have deleted; I have now made a selection from these, toned-down:

For me the hard hours
are between four and five
late afternoon, awake
after many hours
I’ve done what work I could.

I feel his absence in
the silence. I long
to turn to him for
strengthening talk, comfort,
relief, his fun. Stillness

all around me. I can’t
figure out why having
gone out alleviates
this. One cat puts his paw
on my knee and jumps up.

I’m forced to realize
he’s nowhere on this earth.
I let people burn his corpse
and put the ashes in a urn
he chose. What was to be
gained by a corpse
rotting in the ground,
I asked myself. Stony
cold in these freezing rains

For me the hard hours
are when I’m far from home,
marking time until I
can get back. Safe from
contingency, instant

dependence where there’s no
barrier to keep stings
at bay.
       What can I sing?
Memory what’s meaningful.
What is there for me to embrace?

On the beach two days ago
for the first time since he died
and I was overcome with sadness
for him missing the water, the sky,
how long it had been since we had
gone to a beach; the last time in
England, near Chichester.
How many years since we took
Llyr, our poor dog to far Rockaway
on summer mornings.
It is so terrible that I should
be alive somewhere on this earth
and he not with me, looking out.

I was at a lemur sanctuary
today. Friendly families
of lemurs with their unfair
nickname, sloth,
living on 9 acres.
Taken good care of.
How vulnerable they seemed.
For now together.

I find peace in my workroom
when the computer works,
I reach net-friends, in writing,
from somber undeluded
intelligence in books
movies, music with
strong ordered harmonies
to flow through my pulses.
Now that he’s gone who was
the blood that flowed through
my heart.
       Literally too,
for twice he gave blood
Type 0, to replace the Type A
the hospital staff transfused
throughout my body.
My hope to die before him was
not hopeless. I had
some statistics on my side.

I long for deep true endless
sleep. My pain’s source, can be
my buffer against cant
offering wrong advice
I must stop listening to.
Being with others
physically; trips,
scene changes as what’s
tranformative, not so
for me.

I do not think Miss Bunting will marry at all.

Sylvia

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JohnSingerSargentoutofhiswindowGenoa
John Singer Sargent — a watercolor of his room in Genoa — a friend put it on face-book

If we had a keen vision of all that is ordinary in human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow or the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which is the other side of silence — George Eliot, Middlemarch

Dear friends and readers,

Last night I received an email from Expedia, the on-line buying service I thought I was so clever to use to buy an airplane ticket to Tampa, Florida, where I hope to visit a friend for a few days. I waited for reading what needed to be done until Yvette could stand by me and this morning she did.

We found that I could not reach any information without signing in, and have finally figured out that I managed to buy my tickets (for this trip and another) without opening an Expedia account. I can’t find my “6 character flight booking code” which is needed to check in on-line. Somehow I reached the spot where I did buy my ticket from Expedia originally, and was reassured I have a ticket. If the airline does not contact me to print a boarding pass, I will have to hope I can print one out at the airport. I worry terribly about this: Will I have to cancel the booking I made with Expedia for LA this coming March and instead try to buy straight from an airline at whatever cost? If I can’t get my money back for the LA, I’ll call the lawyer I used to help me at the DMV; I gave her a retaining fee which means I can call her for other troubles. Meanwhile, how do I get the boarding pass for Tampa?

I never used an on-line booking service before. I did it because I was so puzzled by all the buying choices online and when I tried to contact an airline by phone, I could not reach one. I sat here in my chair for over an hour not knowing what to do, and finally not doing anything until my friend told me about online buying services like Expedia. Then a few days later Yvette helped me buy two sets of tickets through Expedia, the first to go to and from Tampa this week, the second to go to and from LA to ASECS in March (where I’m scheduled to give a paper on the importance of screenplays in filmic art). Ought I to have contacted a travel agent? The last time I did that (many years ago) I discovered I had talked to someone who was going to cheat me out of $3000 somehow or other. Somehow Jim and a friend’s daughter who was a lawyer showed me (and him) what to do to stop this. So I hesitate at contacting a travel agent.

This is just one of many puzzling to distressing experiences I’ve had since Jim died. I must assume he must have had them on our behalf without telling me for all the years we were married — or versions of them that existed pre-on-line existence.

*****************

IanatBreakfast
Ian at breakfast

Before enduring this latest set of tricks (that’s what capitalism is, a constant set of tricks put before you which set up barriers and ways those you are dealing with are using to extract information and more money from you — I found this when I tried to buy a CD set of talking books from Audible.com; the Obamacare website is yet much much worse), earlier this morning, around 7 am when the light came into my room, I was thinking to myself, how complacent I was before Jim died. I fancied I felt for people, fancied I understood how deeply lonely, thwarted, difficult, wretched or tragic many existences are, but now I know that I often came across people who told me a bit of their story that I failed to appreciate, and thus failed in some way to acknowledge, that I failed to offer the compassion in my heart for them I should have because in my own good luck and security I didn’t enter into their case. I was complacent. I am no longer. Now I hear other people loud and clear.

Since he died then, experience has changed fundamentally for me. I look round me and see continually the wrought nature of being alive, it’s like that great roar on the other side of silence that George Eliot talked about. I wonder to myself if others saw and heard it, and realized that I didn’t; if I hurt people’s feelings by my own careless remarks. I know many do not see and hear it, if they come close, they turn away and it is the very basis of their sanity that they refuse to acknowledge what is in front of them.

During this long month and the cruel time of the winter solstice season where one has to read all these expressions of joy, comradeship, family love (!?) others experience or claim to on the Net and elsewhere, with the concomittant fierce censorship of anyone who denies all this occurs or is real, I spent most of my time in my workroom with my cats. It’s been very cold outside, and my skin aches when I’m out there. I have been told the world is filled with people who do not have one deep true intense love for another friend-lover who returns the emotional support and meaning. If this is so, how hard existences are: people turn to friends, to their adult children, to work — Trollope repeated over and over this from Macbeth: The labor we delight in physics pain. That’s why it’s so important to me to choose works of art (books, movies, music, pictures) that are valuable, not rooted in corruption, presenting real truths about life in beautiful (beauty does not have to be pretty at all) ways. How does this experience of art speak to people, is it truly good and useful to them in some way, strengthening, solacing, amusing too (in all senses of that word)

I had one of my realistic dreams last night, or early in the morning as I woke out of it at 5 am, my lower leg or calve (from knee to ankle) in wrenching pain. I jumped out of bed and began to walk and walk to get rid of the intense strain and tension I was gripped by in my leg. In my dream Jim was here and he had sold this house. He did sometimes do central things affecting our lives without telling me first and then would explain to me his motives as if I didn’t need to be consulted, and he had not thought of it; most of the time I did accept his reasoning, and go along with it, but not always. Well this time the thought the house was sold was too much. For a few minutes as I was walking I didn’t realize it all had been a dream and he was dead and the house not sold.

Maybe I should call this Expedia Perplexities; or, the terrors of being a widow.

My favorite time of day is when I wake and my Clarycat leaps lightly onto my bed, walks around me, and comes over to my right shoulder, snuggles down to get between my shoulder and my arm so this area of my body becomes a human basket for her to lie down in. She licks me, and we lie there together waiting for another day to come into the house for us to live through together. Her soft fur and to me sweet little legs and paws, and her ears are endearing to me.

ClarissaPussycatonmydesk
Clary mid-day

Sylvia

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Charlie Hebdo magazine shooting
The outskirts of the Jewish supermarket in France where one of the seiges, hostage takings, and killings occurred this past week — it rains there too, is cold and windy

Dear friends and readers,

This incident has been on my mind since it happened last week, and having seen Selma with Yvette yesterday I’m prompted to tell it.

Last Sunday Yvette and I were putting our groceries away in my car trunk outside our local supermarket. It was cold, windy, rainy. (We had a frigid week afterwards, today freezing rain so it’s dangerous to go out in a car.) An elderly black man obviously working for the supermarket came over to take our cart and put our shopping bags into the car if we needed help. His introductory phrase stays with me: “I don’t mean no harm to you.” It was spontaneously uttered.

How could he think we would assume he might mean harm to us. He had few teeth, was old, a raggedy-jacket, boots, clearly working out there because he needed the money. While we stood there for a second, cars were whizzing by. One of us said “Watch out!” — a car driven by someone carelessly, not paying proper attention (there are no lines in parking lots, no lights) was careening along. I remarked how dangerous parking lots are. The man agreed.

That man should not be out there working that way in the first place – he’s too old, and here he was saying to me, he didn’t mean me any harm. How could he possibly think I would assume that? How have we in the US come to this? Is it that if this was another state in the US where carrying concealed guns is permitted, she or I might have had a gun and he was afraid of us? More than a week ago now a foolish woman had a loaded gun in her purse while in a supermarket; her less than 2 year old riding in the cart, opened the purse, took out the gun and shot her dead. I was moved by Selma and by this weekend’s outpouring of (in effect) protest and standing together on behalf of liberty in France — as I saw it — against barbarity (even if their police did some of it). The French don’t murder each other daily the way US people do. No murders twice a week of minority dark-skinned people by the police. It’s no use talking about the NRA — how did they get to be so powerful; they must have backers among the US population wide enough.

Sylvia

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Image: FRANCE-ATTACKS-CHARLIE-HEBDO-SHOOTING
Street scene in France yesterday

Dear friends,

I have not been posting on political issues, but thought I might post an alternative wider view on the killing of 12 people at the Charlie Hebdo headquarters, and then the next days the killings in retaliation and hostage taking because I have hardly seen this perspective on the news media and discussions on the Net.

On Amy Goodman’s DemocracyNow.org, she has had two different Muslim French people to argue while of course this killing was so wrong as to beyond speech even. Human beings like us, beloved by friends and family members, precious and destroyed. It was a travesty of Islam, one man, a Muslim French cleric said. He also talked about the how Muslims do poorly in French society, and attempted to show Charlie Hebdo was not aimed at everyone: he had some numbers to show hardly ever is a Jewish person or even mocked, rare Christians, though by no means wide statistics. Everyone talked in terms of impressions. He was strongly debated with when he argued it was the afflicted being afflicted. The other man, a Muslim French scholar, likened Charlie Hebdo to South Park (they mock sheerly to mock; they provoke without a serious agenda) and talked (as one should have heard elsewhere) of the hundreds of people murdered by drones, since 9/11 other mass murders involving the deaths of Muslims, the incident at Norway, what has happened in Afghanistan and Iraq. Gilbert Ashcar, yet another called the two days the result of clashing barbarisms.

What struck me was the sight of France as combed with fiercely armed soldier-police, not as feroicious and not as heavily armed as we saw Boston, but along the same lines. There does not appear to have been a curfew (as there was in Boston in the night and day), so the situation again was not as bad, but the French police-soldiers did not hesitate to kill as a kind of retaliation. So we had police-soldiers killing suspects — who did flee; another situation emerged in a Jewish supermarket where hostages were taken and four died. These scenes really taking place are of murder begetting murder in the context of world-wide murders. Boko Hamar murdered hundreds of people the other day, nearly 2000 in one report; the head of that state supported by the US does nothing. He’s complicit.

There was a bombing in an old NAACP building in Colorado two days ago; no one killed but it got hardly a mention anywhere in the public media; Al Sharpton brought it up on his half hour on MSNBC.

The role of satire could be said to be the irritant, and the cartoonist himself murdered as well as the long-time chief of the magazine, but it is true (as these two murders show) that the Hebdo slaughter was a professional job — so it could be the organization supporting these men wanted to ratchet up the conflict in France which has a strong anti-immigrant party and where many Muslims are assimilated. To give Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff some credit on PBS they had a 20 minute segment on how badly Muslims are treated in Marseilles where they are a very large minority and they interviewed a French man who inveighed against feeling swamped (a la Mrs Thatcher) and Muslim woman who in a supermarket has been the target of hostile gestures, and mockery partly because she wears a burka and is originally French; that is, she is a convert to Islam.

Finally anti-semitism. If it’s true Hebdo almost never satirized Jews, the context here is this past summer’s slaughter of Palestinians. Just now Israel is withholding huge taxes from the Palestinian people for themselves because they have dared to be recognized as a state. Art Seigelman was on Amy Goodman and he could not come up with one satiric cartoon on Jews: he made a forceful presentation on the importance of cartoon satire.

Goodman has someone on her hour who appears to know the Hebdo cartoons well and he said the day after Charles de Gaulle’s funeral Hebdo mocked it as one person died yesterday (like one satiric jibe headline two summers ago on the fuss made about “Kate’s” or the Duchess of Cambridge giving birth to the presumed heir to the British throne: “Woman gives birth”), then the offices were briefly closed.

Satire set this off but was it about satire?

Just an alternative view I have not heard much; only on two nights DemocracyNow.org (Goodman had Tarif Ali talking too) and on one segment on PBS reports.

Miss Drake

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Munch_DanceOfLife
Edvard Munch, The Dance of Life

That bookshop where the Longleys and I,
drifting among the levels and chambers
of its peristatic convolutions
on the last morning of the festival
were lured in different directions, sucked
and digested in the dreamy caverns,
until we lost sight of each other and
they disappeared — or, as it seemed to them,
I disappeared — (backtrack as we might
here was no reuniting under that roof),
but now itself, apart from its online
phantom, vanished. As they do. As they do.
— Fleur Adcock (one of my favorite modern women poets)

A friend is another self, a self far more than the self one is — my own play upon some Renaissance words on friendship,

Dear friends and readers,

We are told in some traditions this is Twelfth Night. Well, by way of observing this date, during these hard three weeks I came across this video of people in the streets of Connecticut somewhere:

I write though not because it’s the 6th of January, nor because it’s deeply frigid out there after a snow storm that did bring Caroline for a visit (she was stranded in non-moving traffic) while Yvette stayed home in the morning; nor because I found Adcock’s poem about the disappearance of wonderful used bookstores for people to get lost in, find friends and new experiences in the forms of unexpected books.

No, I feel impelled to write from an experience I had in reading today: I’m making my way through a frequently irritating and unconvincing book for professional review (which will go untitled — how I miss Jim’s voice making fun of its nonsense, its continual support of elitism and wealth in order to justify elite lesbians of the 18th century) and came upon a deeply moving section about elegies and mourning.

pain, pleasure and death are no more than a process for existence. The revolutionary struggle in this process is a doorway open to intelligence” ― Frida Kahlo, The Diary of Frida Kahlo: An Intimate Self-Portrait

A number of critics and philosophers (from Cicero to Derrida to Jodie Greene, a female editor for an issue of GQL) writing about friendship have shown that elegies have been intensely important as genres for gay people and also anyone deeply in love with someone who has died –- for LGBT people because when the person dies, immediately the biological family takes over and they are often excluded from all recognition, all rites (rights too) after a lifetime of frequent hiding where there has been no ability to live the life you want in dignity, peace, ordinary daily fulfillments, and for anyone who loved deeply because most societies do what they can to demand something called “healthful consolation” after a relatively brief period. For me it was a moment of important insight to read that those who write mourning poems before the person died (and I translated 600+ poems of Vittoria Colonna, most mourning the death of her husband, and some 90 by Veronica Gambara, many doing the same thing) are expressing their intense attachment now and the fears it brings.

So many poems come clear: Gray’s Elegy in a Country Churchyard perhaps only one of the more famous; his profound loss in his sonnet on the death of his friend, Richard West.

In vain to me the smiling mornings shine,
And redd’ning Phoebus lifts his golden fire:
The birds in vain their amorous descant join;
Or cheerful fields resume their green attire:
These ears, alas! for other notes repine,
A different object do these eyes require:
My lonely anguish melts no heart but mine;
And in my breast the imperfect joys expire.
Yet morning smiles the busy race to cheer,
And new-born pleasure brings to happier men:
The fields to all their wonted tribute bear;
To warm their little loves the birds complain:
I fruitless mourn to him that cannot hear,
And weep the more, because I weep in vain.

I thought of the film Yvette and I saw several years ago where Colin Firth played a homosexual man, professor left to solitude after his (male) beloved has died and he is cut off from all memories of him, A Single Man, and yes, he does kill himself.

These writers and the tradition of elegy suggest that what one is doing by memorializing is also not just keeping the person alive but attempting to speak to him (or her); that overcoming is not sought, but rather remembering all the friend was, what he wrote (or read) or thought, and this kind of recuperation is central to the experience of friendship and love too. Why we do all we can (those who love) to support the beloved’s inner life; and the terrible thing afterward is the inaccessible spirit and mind of the beloved –- we cannot reach them; the sources the author quotes (about men or by them) have it the person grieving wants the physical relationship back (certainly I hated cremating Jim), but it is more that they lived together and the relationship itself as well as the person’s mind/heart/character that it is so unendurable to lose and should not be forgotten -– all explains so many elegies and melancholy mourning poetry in general (famous and not famous).

So, for example, this week I was reading in Anthony Hecht’s Essays in Criticism, his final piece on landscape and great country houses: Jim read some of these and liked the poetry of Hecht very much. The essay is on the deeply ambiguous realities of the existence of these country houses, the poetry about them, how they have been portrayed as central symbols in all sorts of English genres: it seems to me to comment on the course I followed this summer on the Literature of Country Houses (of course that feeble thing did not know of Hecht’s essay nor were any poems but Jonson’s Penhurst quoted from it):

ANCESTRAL HOUSES

Surely among a rich man’s flowering lawns,
Amid the rustle of his planted hills,
Life overflows without ambitious pains;
And rains down life until the basin spills,
And mounts more dizzy high the more it rains
As though to choose whatever shape it wills
And never stoop to a mechanical
Or servile shape, at others’ beck and call.
Mere dreams, mere dreams ! Yet Homer had not sung
Had he not found it certain beyond dreams
That out of life’s own self-delight had sprung
The abounding glittering jet; though now it seems
As if some marvelous empty sea-shell flung
Out of the obscure dark of the rich streams,
And not a fountain, were the symbol which
Shadows the inherited glory of the rich.
Some violent bitter man, some powerful man
Called architect and artist in, that they,
Bitter and violent men, might rear in stone
The sweetness that all longed for night and day,
The gentleness none there had ever known;
But when the master’s buried mice can play,
And maybe the great-grandson of that house,
For all its bronze and marble, ‘s but a mouse.

O what if gardens where the peacock strays
With delicate feet upon old terraces,
Or else all Juno from an urn displays
Before the indifferent garden deities;
o what if levelled lawns and gravelled ways
Where slippered Contemplation finds his ease
And Childhood a delight for every sense,
But take our greatness with our violence?
What if the glory of escutcheoned doors,
And buildings that a haughtier age designed,
The pacing to and fro on polished floors
Amid great chambers and long galleries, lined
With famous portraits of our ancestors;
What if those things the greatest of mankind
Consider most to magnify, or to bless,
But take our greatness with our bitterness?
— William Butler Yeats

A burlesque of Downton Abbey (based on a great house dream): these entr’actes are multiplying as season follows season.

Burlesque
PoorEdith holds her own … Mrs Hughes switches from Scots to posh (accents)

I’ve been continuing my reading of texts about widows too. Last night it was Doris Lessing’s masterpiece, “An old woman and her cat.” Unbearably moving — and great, one of the world’s many great short stories. Once Hetty’s husband dies and her four children marry and move far away, the two creatures, she and “poor Tibby” (her cat who wanders out-of-doors but comes home to sleep with her and eat with her, providing the occasional pigeon) are ignored by their society except continually to eject them, from wherever they are; they move into smaller and more derelict places, the old woman starves more; Hetty is rescuing her cat as from about the middle, as it’s clear if the authorities get their hands on him, they’ll kill Tibby. When she finally dies and is found two weeks later, the foolish cat (himself in a bad way) hoping they’ll help him, allows himself to be found. You know the ending. As my good friend (mirable dictu) wrote, it’s terrifying because it could happen to any woman or cat.

blindcat
A blind cat rescued in one of these new cat cafes — how vulnerable this creature really is …

Lessing’s greatest writing is on cats.

As to eating, I eat what I can get myself to eat.

Sylvia

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