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Terreson Profile
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Re: You Are What You Read


Having read back some distance through the thread I find posts not yet reckoned with. Pretty amazing what reading does to the reader. Ransom once said, in effect, that killing off poetry would amount to a serious abridgement of the human experience. The same is true of a certain class of reading, yes?

So much of my reading is so bloody heavy headed. And probably boring to most. Where did the instinct or urge come from? From where does the urge to know come for any of us? It's a rum thing. I remember being 11 or 12 and my mother making me sit down in the living room for an hour every summer day and reading through The World Book Encyclopedia. At first it was a drag. Then I got into it, looked forward to that hour which soon became two. The woman was pretty extraordinary. Born in 1914 she had to leave school in the 8th grade to care for the other, younger children. During the man shortage of WW2 she was smart enough to teach high school English. For her I think that set of encyclopedias was a Bible. Knowledge for her was essential to being human. Maybe I got the habit from her. And a habit, or a fix, it is for all readers.

Another all time favorite book and one that changed how, as a man, I related to women forever. Anne Sexton's retelling of the Grimms brothers fairy tales, Transformations. Damn, but her poems opened me up.

It was the summer of '73. I was living in a basement apartment on a hill overlooking railroad tracks owned by the old Southern Railroad company. I was recently married and working in a bookstore. I see me sitting on a picnic bench and I see the book of her poems open. I feel the kiss of summer. It is all co-mingled. The poems, the breeze, the yellow sun, the train whistle.

How did she do it? How did she pull so much essential woman truth out of those fairy tales? How did she let herself go like that? How did she dive so far down and so effortlessly, fish gill breathing all the while? What a conception she had in hand! Execution impeccable. Perfect and impeccable. By God, by the Goddess, she took me down with her and I wanted to go there and I knowing nothing about nothing. Just a rube. I fell in love, hard over heels, with Anne Sexton that summer. What was it that spoke to me as closely as a moist whisper in the ears? I don't know. Or maybe I'ld rather not say. But she opened me up in a way no man-tale of heroics has ever.

I did not know then what I know about Sexton now and that is a good thing. What a screwed up person she was. I get just this slight side of hammering arm chair critics who crit her. We all know the sort, the sort that would find fault with Joan of Arc and for similarly petty reasons. But Sexton centered me with her tales of transformation. She spoke to my young man body the way critics never do, never can.

A year later I was in Switzerland. It was October. I read the brief news report of her suicide. Reading it I went blind. I walked for miles that day trying to shake off the sorrow. Sorrow still not shaken. Maybe I wanted to save her from herslf. Maybe I wanted to have the chance to thank her for opening me up to an underwater region swimming in which has made all the difference since. Sometimes motive is impossible to know. But I do know Anne Sexton opened me up.

Tere
Oct/3/2010, 4:52 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
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Home from work today. Lounging in bed this morning I remembered a sweet, slight book. A novel. She Came To Stay by Simone de Beauvoir.

About ten years ago I read a biographical account of the partnership between de Beauvoir and Jean Paul Sartre. A fascinating story. A real partnership, intellectual and otherwise, and an abiding love between two equals. Lawrence once said there can only be love between equals. I agree with him. Possibly more than anything else, inequality is what dooms most loves, becomes the irritant, the acid eating away at love. Stendhal, mentioned above, pretty much came to the same conclusion. It was why he railed against the lack of educational opportunity for the women of his time.

Anyway, the story of their partnership is fun reading. It is all there. How they intellectually nudged each other. How they worked together politically. And, of course, the affairs, with Sartre starting off. In my retirement I have maybe one regret. Not ever having had a partnership like that with a woman. Oh and the narrative is written by a wife and husband team: Kate Fullbrook and Edward Fullbrook. It is where I found a bon mot of Sartre's. "Of course I prefer the company of women. They are more intelligent."

The authors mentioned a novel by de Beauvoir. They say it is the story that inspired Sartre to write his thick headed, almost unreadable philosophical masterpiece: Being and Nothingness. Of course I am intrigued by the notion. So I get an antiquarian book dealer in Seattle to find a copy of it for me, since, it is long out of print.

The story is of a love triangle set in pre-war Paris. The man is a playwright. The woman is a professor. The man brings into their relationship a young girl, a jeunne fil. He is entranced with her. The woman is accepting but a little wary. The man's entrancement with the girl has to do with how perfectly amoral she is, always thinking of herself only, never worrrying about the consequences of her actions, perfectly free of guilty feelings. To the man the girl represents perfect freedom of action. The existential thing. The woman takes the girl in eventhough she is suspicious of the girl's effects on the partnership she has. One day, as the title says, she's realized the girl has come to stay, a prospect to her intolerable. In a quick moment the solution to the problem comes to her. It is clear and conscious and deliberate. Most of all, having come to the solution, she is also fully accepting of the responsibility of the action she is about to take. Also the existential thing. She cleanly and simply murders the girl and the story ends.

What blew me away about the novel is that de Beauvoir says everything I just said about it without ever once saying it. The story tells itself. The storyline itself is the philosophy. And so simply understated that what de Beauvoir was after never interferes with the narration. Remarkable. Absolutely remarkable. The work of a master. She even shows how even to the older woman the attraction of the girl, what makes her attractive, comes through.

This is how it is done. This is how truly great story writing goes.

Tere
Oct/4/2010, 2:47 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
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What the heck. It is not exactly a book story but it reads like one. Sartre and de Beauvoir bring it to mind. The story of Peter Abelard and Heloise, possibly the world's greatest love story.

I read Abelard's philosophy before age 25. I also read his own account of what he called his misfortunes. It was either Cocteau or Artaud who said of Abelard that he swatted at God as if swatting at a gadfly. He kind of did. This in the 11th C. It got him into trouble with the Church. Mostly his philosophy amounted to a simple question amidst the insane scholastic jabber walkie of the time: what is real and what is unreal. That was what he asked and the Church could not tolerate it. One churchman especially hounded Abelard. A man I could easily hate. St Bernard of Clairvaux. Eventually Abelard would have to recant his teachings. And he would end up a broken man. He wasn't only an incisive thinker but a gifted teacher in the first, heady days of Europe's university systems. In Paris. Then, teachers were directly paid by students, not by the university. On the strength of his lecturing he was a wealthy man. He was that popular. He was also a merciless debator, pummeling his opponents with his arguements. This last I ascribe to the fact he was born of a warrior, aristocratic class in the west of France.

In his thirties he took rooms from a sexton (I think) of the Cathedral de Notre Dame. In the sexton's home he met and seduced a girl of 18. Heloise. Here is where the story gets rich. He saw in Heloise a keen and unrelenting intelligence. (Her later letters to him prove the point.) And so he taught her all he knew. She not only became his most gifted student but, in my opinion, she would eventually out-Abelard Abelard. Again, I've read her letters to him and her power of reasoning was nothing short of exquisite. Close. Razor blade sharp. The story gets richer. Their affair was an open secret in the students' streets of Paris. Here uncle, the sexton, may have been the only one in the blind. Now for part of my attraction to the story. Abelard, besides being an incisive thinker, was also a gifted poet. And his songs to Heloise were carried through out the streets by students. In those days there was a group of poets called Goliards. They worked in Latin. They produced the last lyrical flowering of poetry in latin. Scribes, wandering scholars, students, university men. They wrote of love, carnal love, of spring, of drinking, of taverns, and, most dangerously of all, of Church hipocrisies. Time and time again these Goliards (poets of the tribe of Golias or Goliath), had injunctions placed against them through the cities of western Europe. I love their poetry. Every fiber in my body responds to it. As one editor put it they were writing with the perceptions of a much younger Europe when the celebration of spring's arrival was not a conceit or a cliche but viscerally felt every sacred year.

Abelard was not counted as a Goliard. But in all the books of Goliardic verse there are his love songs to Heloise. My kind of man for sure. And the students of Paris loved reciting them in the streets.

I can't exactly remember which came first. I think it was the castration. The uncle, finally aware of what was happening underneath his roof, hired a gang of ruffians. They surpised Abelard one night and denatured him, left him bleeding in his rooms. Not long afterwards Bernard finally got Abelard cornered before a Church tribunal. Cornered. Unable to bring his forensic skills to his own defense. The choice was simple: excommunication or the recant. I hate Bernard. He who would eventually become canonized.

Abelard would distance himself from Heloise. He was still a wealthy man and so he set her up in her own monastery where she would become its abbess. I've always liked the notion to which she devoted her order. She devoted it to the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, the third face of God. A face that for me has always been God's feminine face. How is that for poetry of action? I seem to recall their love produced a child, a boy. Heloise I think gave birth in the safety of Abelard's family estate. In the still wild, west of France.

When Abelard produced his self-story of misfortunes Heloise read it. My sense is that it infuriated her. I think she hated seeing the greatest man of his Age broken. Without question he was the greatest thinker of his Age, what with his simple question: reality is either this or that. The question all dominant orders hate the most. Fear the most. More closely I think she was made furious by his recanting of their love, by how he said he had sinned and accepted God's punishment(s). I know a woman who had an affair with a married man for 5 or 7 years. Eventually he broke it off, having decided he had sinned. Sometime later they met by chance in a restaurant I think. Feeling contrite, and having become a born again Christian, he asked her to forgive him. Her exact words to him: "You bastard." This is something I know about a proud woman when she has loved. And I can't help but feel Heloise felt doubly betrayed.

She started writing letters to Abelard. Not plaintive letters. They were letters in which she used what he had taught her about the nature of things, about God, and about what constitutes sin. Her argument was that they had not sinned in motive. And since sin stems from motive, ergo they had not sinned. This is what Abelared had taught her. I've read the exchange that ensued. I've heard the letters recited by Claude Reines and Claire Bloom. The contrast is striking. In effect, Abelard keeps trying to beg off, hide away in the robes of the Church. Heloise is as relentless as he once was in debate. She will have no truck with false piety. (Keep in mind she is a very devout woman and an abbess.) Letter after letter she argues her case. The reasoning is delicate and to the point. She argues for the sacredness of their love and for the rightness of her own thinking. Think on it. A woman having been taught to think, not how to think, but to think will not betray her own capacity for thinking. That is huge.

Here is how personal reading can get. I thought I knew the story well. And I did, have for all of my adult life. Let's see. In 2004 a friend, now deceased, sent me a book. Heloise and Abelard: A Twelfth Century Romance. It is the whole story and it has, if not all, certainly most of the letters. Reading it I got that I hadn't fully taken into account Heloise. Heloise the woman, the thinker, the human being. I was in a bad relationship that year. Reading the story anew, getting to Heloise, decided me on a course of action.

There are so many depictions of Heloise and her Abelard. Tapestries, paintings, even sculptures. My favorite is the tomb built in 1817 in Paris, in the Pere Lachaise cemetery, and in which the lovers' remains are placed together. Reposed, at rest. They say it is a favorite haunt of lovers, especially of new lovers. I say I can think of no more profound a political statement than is their love story. The freedom to love between equals, to think, and to proceed. As endangered now in the streets of Tehran, in the streets of any American city, in the streeets of Bejing, as it was in 11th C Paris.

Tere
Oct/4/2010, 5:17 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
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Re: You Are What You Read


I've heard that story, Tere. It is chilling. Can't believe it hasn't inspired a poem or two(?) I can envision it written around or incorporating quotes from their correspondence over the years.

Chris
Oct/4/2010, 6:38 pm Link to this post Send Email to Christine98   Send PM to Christine98
 
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Actually, and from me at least, it has incited a poem. In Ateliers I have my most recent collection called Bottom City Blues. Towards the end is a suite of poems called The Green Girl Suite. In the series is a poem called My Questioning Girl. And there it is.

Thanks for reading. A chilling story indeed.

Tere
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Chris, I like your idea of poems written around or incorporating those 11th C letters. I remember listening to Claire Bloom reading from Heloise letters for the old Caedmon Records. I was struck by the verve and by the passion. And keep in mind they would have been composed long after the love affair and when she would have been a well established Abbess.

Looking at my shelves I see another old book taking me back to the 70s, or again when I knew nothing about nothing. A time I sometimes miss. The author's name is Walter Kaufmann. He was a poet/philosopher, a teacher, and best remembered for his Nietzsche translations. The book is called From Shakespeare to Existentialism.

Centuries before, Hegel had defined Western Civ. a Christian Romantic Civilization. Even in the 20th Century writers such as T.S. Eliot continued to call Western Civ a Christian Civ. Kaufmann's thesis was to demonstrate a different sort of tradition or current running through Western centuries. For him Shakespeare was not a Christian, by which I mean his concerns were this-worldly and not other-worldly. And certainly one of the closest observers of human nature the world has ever known. Then Kaufmann drew a line forward running through the likes of Goethe, Nietzsche, Freud, Rilke, and the German philosophers Jaspers and Heidegger. What a great way to have gotten introduced to the thinkers and artists mentioned, especially to Goethe, the culture hero who still passes all of my tests.

But the discovery for me was huge. The sea change wasn't immediate and maybe because I didn't know enough yet to realize what a radical departure it all amounted to. But sea change it was. It changed everything in my perspective(s). I wouldn't have yet known all I've learned about the many European traditions of pre-Christian religious rites. I would not have read Campbell's comment to the effect that the Christianization of Europe amounted to pseudo-morphology, a cultural graft that never took root, as has been repeatedly demonstrated. But it all started with Kaufmann, a thinker and a poet thinking on his own.

Since then I've realized the sheer number of thinkers and artists that could have been added to Kaufmann's list, whose beliefs, even whose sacral sense, were else-wise focused. Emmerson, Blake, Jung, Twain, Whitman and perhaps America's greatest philosopher, William James. The list extends into tedium. I can't remember when it was. Sometime in my 20s. But it all finally crystalized for me. Western Civilization was never a Christian civilization. Western Civilization developed, flowered, matured, and, as the way of all civilizations, decayed in spite of Christianity. And the thought process started with picking up a strangely titled paperback in a bookstore somewhere, I seem to recall, in a D.C. suburb. Arlington maybe.

This is something to think about in these last gasp days, increasingly violent and disallowing, of religious fundamentalism as played out in four of the world's five dominant religions. I could easily go Nietzsche-like on the topic, extrapolate, take an associative leap and opine that civ has always flowered, ripened and matured in spite of all the dominant religions. But that would be going to far into left field.

The Kaufmann read was determining.

Tere
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A couple of books you should have read as a child and feeling enriched for having eventually found.

Green Mansions by the Venezulean born, British naturalized author of American parents, W. H. Hudson. Hudson was a Naturalist and an Ornithologist. His (one?) novel is Green Mansions. Story is set in the 1840s or so. It involves a failed revolutionary, a white man, who goes into the interior. He comes across an old Spaniard who has a granddaughter. Rima is half-wild. Her grandfather has managed to teach her a human way of speaking. On her own she has learned the language-song of birds. The white man falls in love with her. She takes to him. He wants to bring her in, so to speak, get her out of the canopied interior. But Rima has enemies. The indigenous people are afraid of her. She frightens them with her bird-language and so they hunt her down, thinking she is some sort of witch. She will try to escape them passing from tree to tree. The white man will follow her on the ground, having come to learn her bird-language. She gets murdered, brought down by bow or poisoned dart. It just occurs to me what a large idea the novel contains: a girl caught in the tug between the primitive and civ, murdered for being natural.

Second novel. Ayesha. (loosely tanslated her name means she-who-must-be-obeyed) She has been alive and youthful since the days when she was taken from the Arabian peninsula into Pharoanic Egypt. From there she found herself in a hidden valley in Ethiopia. And there she walked through a cavern, a tunnel of fire, that would keep her perpetually youthful. She is queen. For over 2,000 years she is queen and the valley's organizing principle. A band of British adventurers will come into the valley and she will fall in love with one of them. To prove her love for him she will pass through the fire again. This time she will die, become dust 2,000 years plus old.

Novel's author name is H. Rider Haggard. As with Hudson I think he got something too about colonialism.

Tere
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Another all-time favorite book amounting to pure, unadulterated fun. Anyone who has not read the book yet, do please treat yourself. All I have to do is think about it and the smile sets on my face. Over the years I've bought so many copies of it, given them away, gone out and bought another. One time I actually bought 10 copies just so I would have at least one for myself.

archy and mehitabel by don marquis it is a book of poetry set in the heady days of new yorks village scene marquis was a columnist with one of the nyc newspapers the poems appeared serially here is how the story sets up

archy is a cockroach one night he comes to a writers apartment he finds a typewriter with a clean sheet of paper in the carriage he starts typing a message to the writer he will come to address as boss climbing on top of the carriage he will dive down head first and hit one key at a time because he does not have sufficient strength he cannot mannipulate the shift key or keys for punctuation You get the idea.

In a previous life Archy had been a free verse poet. In the way the transmigration of the souls works he must come back as a cockroach, maybe to expiate the bad karma his soul has accrued. He will meet many people in the places people do not have access to. He will meet a rat whose motives he never trusts. He will meet an alley cat named Mehitabel. Eventually he and Mehitabel will accompany the boss on a steamer heading for Paris. There Mehitabel will meet up with a tom cat who will take her down into Paris's catacombs, in the way of toms he will seduce a willing Mehitabel. He fancies himself the reincarnated soul of France's greatest Medieval poet, and a rascal who probably ended up hung for one crime or another, Francois Villon.

Archy tends to be philosophical, an instinctive observer. Mehitabel tends to be a toujours gai kind of gal. She is in it for the fun. Once, even, she is taken in by a thoroughly modern copuple. The mistress tells her that she can have a home, a bed, a bowl of food, and a bowl of milk providing she does not procreate. But the arrangement can't last for very long. The moonlight in the alleyway always does something to her. She is incapable of resisting the prerogatives of a tom, maybe because they are her prerogatives too.

I have forgotten to mention what is most important about Mehitabel. She is the reincarnated soul of Cleopatra.

One night Archy reports to his boss Mehitabel's song of herself. It is in Mehitabel's inimitable style and in Archy's equally as inimitable voice. Here is that song.

song of mehitabel

this is the song of mehitabel
of mehitabel the alley cat
as i wrote you before boss
mehitabel is a believer
in the pythagorean
theory of the transmigration
of the soul and she claims
that formerly her spirit
was incarnated in the body
of cleopatra
that was a long time ago
and one must not be
surprised if mehitabel
has forgotten some of her
more regal manners

i have had my ups and downs
but wotthehell wotthehell
yesterday scepters and crowns
fried oysters and velvet gowns
and today i herd with bums
but wotthehell wotthehell
i wake the world from sleep
as i caper and sing and leap
when i sing my wild free tune
wothehell wothehell
under the blear eyed moon
i am pelted with cast off shoon
but wothehells wothehell

do you think that i would change
my present freedom to range
for a castle or moated grange
wothehell wothehell
cage me and i d go frantic
my life is so romantic
capricious and corybantic
and i am toujours gai toujours gai

i know that i am bound
for a journey down the sound
in the midst of a refuse mound
but wothehell wothehell
oh i should worry and fret
death and i will coquette
there s a dance in the old dame yet
toujours gai toujours gai

i once was an innocent kit
wothehell wothehell
with a ribbon my neck to fit
and bells tied onto it
o wothehell wothehell
but a maltese cat came by
with a come hither look in his eye
and a song that soared to the sky
and wothehell wothehell
and i followed adown the street
the pad of his rhythmical feet
o permit me again to repeat
wothehell wothehell

my youth i shall never forget
but there s nothing i really regret
wothehell wothehell
there s a dance in the old dame yet
toujours gai toujours gai

the things that i had not ought to
i do because i ve gotto
wothehell wothehell
and i end with my favorite motto
toujours gai toujours gai

boss sometimes i think
that our friend mehitabel
is a trifle too gay

All the poems are a delight. And you meet a moth and a firefly, and you visit the tomb of Napolean. Always Archy is observing and commenting. And you got to love Mehitabel's own philosophy. Toujours gai, toujours gai. There is a dance in the old dame yet.

Tere
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What a concept; what a visual! I can see the little roach jumping onto the keys.

thanks for that,

Chris
Oct/9/2010, 4:03 pm Link to this post Send Email to Christine98   Send PM to Christine98
 
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Terreson,

I read your piece about Anne Sexton. I also went through a period where I looked at her work. I particularly remember the poem she did using Starry Night.

You say, "Having read back some distance through the thread I find posts not yet reckoned with. Pretty amazing what reading does to the reader. Ransom once said, in effect, that killing off poetry would amount to a serious abridgement of the human experience."

This provoked my following comment, having recently begun rereading Plato et al. You know how Plato uses Socrates for his dialogues. Long ago I had read how Plato would have banished poets. So now I reread this. Did not actually read that would do that (though he might have advocated this, I don't know). But he did apparently suggest that poets are not good guides to reality. I was actually reading the intro, and am only now reading through the actual dialogue. But apparently Plato pointed out how the qualities of God would be unchanging, yet the poets show the Gods constantly scheming and changing things. Another example he gave was the deplorable behavior of Achilles in the Iliad. Poets were not to be trusted as teaching good behavior.

Plato either missed the "higher truths" that these poems taught, or he himself could see through Homer. I'm not sure.
Zak
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Now you got me off and running, Zakman. Plato's dirty little secret was that long before he turned to philosophy, some might say he had been seduced by Socrates, he was not only a poet but a damn good one at that. I have a couple of collections of Greek lyric poetry. A younger Plato is included. And it is mighty fine stuff. Something else to consider. In Plato's day philosophy was a young, very young discipline. An upstart. Before Socrates, in Greece, there were the so-called pre-Socratic philosophers looking for first principles, such as earth, air fire, or water, and even atoms. As such they were still working in what one scholar called mytho-poeic truths. Poets, on the other hand, were not only moral arbiters but advisors to kings. It could be argued, has actually been argued, that Plato's spears thrown at poets were because this upstart discipline needed to displace the older way. I do remermber he banned poets in his ideal Republic, calling them liars and bad models of behavior.

Funny huh? What a dirty little secret in intellectual history.

Tere
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Man, but I do love picture books. I can pour through one for hours. There have been times when I have neglected everything except for child support, rent, and utilities in order to save up and buy a picture book. I don't have many. They are so expensive. But I got a bunch. I got Andrew Wyeth's Helga Suite. I got picture books of Caravaggio, Turner, the pre-Raphaelites, a book of 2nd Millenium B.C. Cycladic art, of ancient Egyptian art, books of cave art going back 18,000 years ago, one such book of pictures can take me back 30,000 years ago plus or minus.

Books and life feed off each other perpetually. Anyone who says otherwise has lost the capacity for reading and maybe for wondering. Yesterday, it being a Monday spent at the laudromat, I noticed the tatoo parlor across the street was open and busy. I crossed over. Brief conversation with the clerk. I say I want a third tatoo. I say can your artist copy the picture. She says he would need to see the picture. I go back home as soon as the clothes are in the dryer, get the picture book, bring it back. She makes a copy of the picture, assuring me she loves books too and will be careful. (Catch the nuance?) Artist, through her, says he can do it. She says the tatoo will cost a hundred bucks, says it by way of a warning. And I'm thinking, Christ, the book cost me more than that by half in 1990 $s. It seems like a good deal to me.

I realize something later. I am asking the tatoo artist to put a picture on my left shoulder of a cave painting 17,500 years old. Clerk's excitement is noticable. Artist's ability I'll discover come the weekend.

Picture books transmit info otherwise not available to us, otherwise not so excitable.

Tere

Last edited by Terreson, Oct/13/2010, 7:13 pm
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Picture books and I am thinking.

Andre Malraux, French novelist, intellectual, and Minister of Culture under DeGaulle. I think I remember he had been a bomber pilot for the Republicans during the Spanish Civil War. I think it's right to say he was involved in the Chinese Revolution in its earliest days. He wrote an art book called Voices In Silence. Book's premise: because of printing great art is no longer the especial property of museums and galleries. A notion kind of huge actually, becoming more huge with the advent of the internet. His premise couldn't have been more simple. Museums and gallieries limit art's audience. Picture books exponentially expand audience.

There is no way I can know what I know about art without the picture books on my shelves. I can't afford visiting world-class museums. I can't afford visting a gallery in CA, NY, FL, NM.

Without a picture book I could not have gotten a sense of Caravaggio or of Goya or of Blake or of Modrian.

To me the case is clear. Picture books democratize art.

Tere
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Re: You Are What You Read


More all time favorite reading: Native American Trickster tales. Trickster, the Foolish One, Old Man Coyote, Shape Shifter (or maybe it's Shape Changer). Viewed anthropologically he is just a shaman, a word I tend to take as she-man, but he was the Culture Bringer, the Village Gift Giver who brought with him the village arts.

I've told his story elssewhere but I want to include it here as well, since, it has always stuck with me.

I have three favorite stories involving Trickster. Two from the Winnabago nation and one from a nation in the Pacific Northwest, Oregon I think.

Story 1. One day Trickster is walking through the forest. He comes upon a plant which speaks to him. "He who eats me will defecate, he will surely defecate." Trickster responds by saying he is a great man and that no plant can make him defecate. He then eats of the plant. I recall there is a berry producing plant found in forests that, in fact, acts as a diuretic. But I can't remember its name. Before long Trickster must evacuate his bowels. Afterwards he says: "Still I am a great man." As he walks he continues to have to stop and relieve his bowels. Every time he does he says the same: "Still I am a great man." Finally the story's climax when Trickster must hug a tree, climb ever higher as his excrement grows from under him until he finally loses his grip, falls back into his own !@#$.

I love the story for two reasons: its humor predicated on the self-denial of a "great man," and that it is likely a cautionary tale told to the village, warning against the berry bush. Poets and story tellers could do worse than to pattern themselves after such a model.

Story two, what follows on the first. Trickster finally comes to a river where he washes himself thoroughly. While conducting his abolutions he spies a group of girls on the river's otherside who are either bathing or washing clothes. They are in the charge of an old woman. (Read village matriarch.) Trickster notice's the chief's beautiful daughter and he wants her. So he talks to his Little Brother, his phallus. He tells him what to do and where to go. He sends Little Brother across the river. At first Little Brother rides too high over the waves. Trickster brings him back, ties a couple of rocks to his neck and sends him over again. But the ever watchful old woman sees Little Brother and knows to whom he belongs. She calls out: "Oh, Foolish One, do not attempt to do what you want to do." But the great man knows he is more shaman than she. He persists. And just as Little Brother reaches the chief's daughter the old woman goes for a branch and beats the prick mercilessly. Little Brother falls back in retreat.

Think on the story. It speaks on two levels and as humorously. It first speaks to competing village prerogatives: woman's need for self-containment, conservation, and a man's radical discharge of his libido. The second level I cannot prove, it amounting to a gut feeling. A cultural cusp of time when Native American social structures went from a matriarchate to a village society in the charge of chiefs and warriors: hunters over gathers and seed sowers.

Story three, from the Pacific Northwest. It tells the tale of how Trickster brought to the village the art of salmon fishing and trapping. There is an Old Man of the River. He has constructed a dam so as to contain the salmon from going upstream, wanting the salmon for himself. The Old Man has either two daughters or three. Trickster seduces the daughters and they tell him how to outwit their father. They tell him to challenge their father to a salmon eating contest. They say that if he can outeat their father, remain awake, he can take down the dam while the Old Man of the River is asleep. The ruse works. Old Man of the River falls asleep and Trickster takes down the dam. When the Old Man of the River awakes, sees what has happened, he chases down and Trickster must run for his life the way he has never had to before.

You got to love these entertaining stories. They kind of say the huge things I am not so sure we poets today aim for.

Tere

Last edited by Terreson, Oct/14/2010, 9:19 pm
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Biographies. They are so much fun. And my motive for reading them is something less than noble. I love gossip. There are a couple of shelves devoted to them.

Poe's life story has to be the most unrelenting of all. The biography I have is apropriately called "A Mournful and Never-Ending Rememberance." Absolutely apt. They say that when news of his death was made public there were literary types on the scene, such as it was in a backwater nation, who celebrated, drank toasts to his death. That is how despised he was by many. From beginning to end his was a sad life. I've never figured out why a wealthy Richmond merchant took him in. Especially since he didn't much care for the boy. I am not sure anyone has ever asked the question. Occam's razor like reasoning suggests to me the man, John Allan, had once had an affair with Poe's mother, the actress. When she died young maybe Allan took in the boy out of guilt. And what about that last desperate journey following on Virginia Clemms's death when Poe was searching for financial and emotional security in a new wife? NYC to Providence to Boston to Richmond where he finally found a woman to take him in, an early love recently widowed and the model for his Annabell Lee, and ending up on the streets of Baltimore. There is nothing mysterious about his death to me. Simply a combination of exposure, during an early Nor-Easter, and a liquid diet of alcohol. A mournful story about a fascinating genius.

Reading Anais Nin's story made me realize I am a bit of a prude. She didn't just seduce her estranged father, a concert violinist from Cuba, but she carried on with him for somewhile while also having affairs with her therapist, a guitarist, Henry Miller, and all the while married. I wonder why she had to do that? I do know that for women of her generation sexual freedom was a political act. A notion with which I agree. I think it is true Edna St. Vincent Millay in her short life had over 70 lovers. Still, hard for me to go there.

There is one biography that is also a social history. The story of Edie Sedgwick, Warhol's first superstar and the original Twiggy. Fascinating stuff. About a time and a place where procedural rules were radically different. A woman gave me the book in the 80s, saying I needed to read it. And I did. It is all there. The game in which I was a lousy player, being so bloody earnest. The Factory, Warhol, Dylan, Joan Baez, Jim Morrison going down on Hendrix on stage. They say Dylan wrote his song, Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat, to Edie. I didn't like the song when it first came out. Such a cruel and deliberately hurtful song. But again it is all there. A cusp of time when down was up and up was down. I am surprised as many of us survived the era as did. I know how I did. Stayed on the edge, mostly a tourist.

The story of Heisenberg, co-founder of quantum mechanics and father of the uncertainty principle. A pretty complex man. Choosing to remain in Germany after the Nazis came in to power, largely I think due to a sense of loyalty to the Fatherland, then working for them, leading their atomic energy program. Scholars still wonder why the German program failed, especially with one of the greatest minds of the century involved. Speculation keeps that Heisenberg deliberately sabotauged the research. He never said one way or the other.

The story that has disappointed me the most is E.E. Cummings's story. He had always been a hero of mine. This great anti-authoritarian. But his father was right to early on worry that Estlin did not have it in him to mature, become an adult, become a responsible man. He didn't have it in him. His first two wives were right to leave him and for the same reason. With Marianne Morehouse he lucked out, found a woman who was her own woman, chose to stand between the world and Eslin, sometimes physically, and let him be the eternal boy. A poet should be so lucky huh? Assuming he can accept the limitations.

Then there is Goethe's story, the one man Napolean knew he could never seduce. Certainly I am a generalist. But not universal like him. Sometimes I think his greatness came down to this: always curious and never afraid of his emotions. Just like Colette.

Caitlin Thomas's story, Dylan's wife, is another sad one. She attempted an autobiography after her husband's death called something like A Left-over Life To Live. Pretty telling, huh? And yet she never gave in to Dylan's bs, not once. Never accepted his whoring and his histrionic antics. At the same time she defended Dylan's reputation as a poet. It was she who told the world what a meticulous craftsman Dylan Thomas was. It is true that he was. Most of his collected poems were first penned when he was a teenager. He then spent, what?, almost 12 years shaping them. For all his foibles, and an incredible lack of intellectual curiousity, he was a consumate word smith, a technician.

You got to love these stories. Like the smutty letters Joyce wrote to his wife, Nora, while she was still in Ireland and he was on the continent. Purpose being to keep her interest. Or the story of Yeats and Maude Gonne and how she never gave in to him, knowing he wasn't right for such a politically motivated woman as she was. Or Pound released from the asylum where he had been incarcerated for his war crimes, getting on a ship bound for Italy, and giving that bad boy fascist salute. Or Laura Riding leaving Graves for a second-rate poet and a family man, and destroying his family just to have him. Graves was always a little afraid of her when she got into a certain mood. Or the one and only time Beethoven let himself fall in love, woman's name still something of a mystery, and who he always called his Immortal Beloved. Or that his famous bad temper, in all likelyhood, was due to lead poisoning. It being a recognized symptom of the condition.

Great stuff. Absolutely another country.

Tere
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I notice the thread has garnered over 500 views. Guess somebody is following it. I truly regret other members are not telling their own stories. That had been the main intention. But it is what it is.

Another all time favorite adventure story. I don't know of many people who've read the journals of Meriwether Lewis and Roger Clark. What should actually be called the journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, since, other members of the Corps of Discovery contributed. And I don't know of many people who've visited where Lewis was born or followed along some portions of the route the expedition took, at least by road. Christ, I've even stood on the spot, the high cliff from which Sacajawea got her first view of the Pacific Ocean, which view was what impelled her to tag along. Frankly, I don't get my fascination with the story. Just an artsy-fartsy poet addicted to ephemera. But there it is: fascination unexplained.

Undaunted Courage is the name of Stephen Ambrose's narrative of the journey. What a story of events no novelist could ever invent. And then, of course, Lewis who turned out to be a tragic figure, and his friend Clark something of a churl. From beginning to end the story rivets. All of it. The mundane moments as much as the heroics of getting the Corps literally upstream. The word aristocrat derives from the ancient Greek word, aristos, and it means the best man for the circumstance. Unquestionably Meriwether Lewis was that. So did Thomas Jeffereson simply luck out when he chose Lewis to lead the expedition or was he the supreme intuitive? He knew Lewis. They were from the same county in Virginia. This inclines me to the latter.

Lewis was a country boy. But back then most Americans, boys and girls, were. This could account for his keenly observant eye in things natural. But Jefferson also made sure he got a crash course in botany up in Philadelphia. Lewis was also a gifted organizational man, leaving nothing, or as little as possible, to chance. Then there was that he was his own man and, if need be, prepared to lie. The Corps knew Roger Clark as Cpt. Clark. But he wasn't a commissioned officer. Lewis tried to make it so but the Army declined. And so for the sake of authoritative coherence Lewis invented the fiction for his men. And aside from the fact that Lewis had such a keen eye for observations, rendering his observations faithfully through his sketches, I've read of few men, known fewer, as dedicated to the charge and care of the group. Having been a sometime supervisor of people I think I get his motive and it was purely selfish. He needed those people, he used those people, to achieve an end. It is a trick good supervisors get. Firmly and fairly see to your people's tendance and you get where you want to be. And back.

In one sense the Corps was lucky. In 1804 Native Americans west of the Mississippi by and large did not yet have sufficient reason to fear the American incursion. Viewed historically, perhaps more than anything else this benefited the Corps. 25 years later and things would have been different. There was always a wariness on the part of the Nations encountered. But not yet the fear brought about by demonstarted acts of violence against them.

Frequently while the Corps was going upstream in its boats, always pulling them along from shore, Lewis would walk the banks. He would see to what Jefferson wanted and he would sketch drawings of plants and flowers unknown to Americans. They say that had he published the journals his name would have been attached to the many botanical discoveries he made instead of to later explorers. And I think I remember that but for French-Canadian trappers no Euro-American had encountered the grizzly bear before the Corps went through. Lewis hated the grizzly. My sense is that the inhuman size of the grizzly affronted his own sense of proportion. There is one incident involving the entire Corps of, what, 15 men putting shot after shot into a grizzly, finally bringing it down, inspecting the body and finding the grizzly's heart still beating. And then there is that the Corps preferred the meat of dogs, mostly kept as available protein by Native American villages, over that of elk. They tasted better they said.

Coming to the Pacific Ocean seems to have been anti-climatic for the Corps and for Lewis especially. Jefferson had wanted a river route, a river highway just as most rivers east of the Mississippi had proved to be. But it wasn't going to happen. In a last ditch hope to please his president, in the return trip Lewis split the group in to two parties, still hoping to find that river highway. It didn't happen. But before returning they spent a miserable winter on the Pacific coast west of present day Portland. Miserable, cold, and with a rain that sets in for months.

About Sacajawea. Lewis saw her as a necessary inconvenience. She had been a slave taken from the west in an Indian raid and she could maybe provide a point of contact with her Nation in present day Idaho. In fact she did. She even got to meet up with a brother that day. But she was a woman. That was her inconvenience. To keep things cool, civil, in the camp Lewis had her sleep in his tent between him and Clark.

Back to the east things went south for Meriwether Lewis. Clark did fine in Missouri. He would become a territorial governor as I recall. Lewis, with journals in hand, would make his way for Washington. I can't remember but I think it was near Nashville where he stopped off in a tavern, took a room upstairs and blew his brains out. Why? Why? One of the greatest explorers in American history coming back to his president kills himself.

I can't prove it. Likely no one will ever be able to. My sense is that Meriwether Lewis was one supremely tortured homosexual. It is what the story adds up to.

One last note. Sometimes even genius can be wrong. Faulkner said that for every southern boy it is still that afternoon in July, 1863, just before Pickett's charge up Cemetary Ridge. And every southern boy wants to turn the historically accomplished moment. For this southern boy Faulkner is full of !@#$. For this southern boy the pivitol moment is an afternoon in 1805 on the banks of the Missouri in the Mandaran village when Lewis and Clark turn back most of the Corps and proceed on with 15 men up the Missouri. That's the moment this southerner wants to recapture.

Almost forgot. Up-post I call Clark churlish. There was one black man involved in the expedition, Clark's slave. His name was York. Time and time again York proved himself an aristos. Until the day York died Clark refused him freedom from slavery. Churlish.

Tere
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Above I take Cummings to task for his inability to grow up, which I think is fair. Of course, had I not accorded him hero worship likely his behavior wouldn't have mattered to me. I think what struck a nerve was how he allowed his second wife to essentially go away with his daughter without fighting for the child. Only many years later when she had become a young woman and she sat for him to paint her likeness did he have contact with her. It seems incredible to believe but even then she did not know he was her biological father. He fessed up during the sessions and, so far as I know, they made the best of the situation.

Aside from his exquisite poetry what drew me to Cummings was his staunch anti-authoritarion position. And it was pronounced, probably stemming from his relationship to his father. The elder Cummings was a good man, a man of good faith. Before making his own, I think, Unitarian church, he had taught theology at Harvard. While he was a firm and fair father and husband he was also a typical 19th C. American patriarch. Estlin hated that. His poetry shows he knew how to work within the framework of rules (form), but he was also inclined to bend them to the needs of his imagination. I've realized that, in a way, Cummings replaced one father figure with another. That other was no other than Ezra Pound who, while Cummings was still at Harvard, became a kind of spiritual father at least in poetry. Pound's Imagiste poetry was what incited Cummings's more radical delivery. Before then he had worshipped the poetry of Longfellow. There is something else. Cummings had a younger sister. When an adult she would credit Estlin for getting her out from under their father's domineering influence. Estlin made it possible for her to become her own woman.

But I want to balance out the spreadsheet.

Long, long before I got steeped in Cummings poetry I had read his first popular success. A story, a journalistic narrative called The Enormous Room. Cummings may have tended to the feckless. But he was no coward.

With a friend, and before America entered the war, Cummings volunteered to work as an ambulance driver, working for the Red Cross, during WW1. Both were brash young men, Harvard educated, and trained to observe critically. This they did just behind the Western Front. What struck them the most were the stupidities authority almost ineluctably engages in. In this case it involved the stupidities of the French authorities. In letter after letter written for back home they made their critical comments. Letter after letter was first read by French censors. It didn't need long before the pair was detained, summarily questioned, and sent to a holding house for Undesirables. Depot de Triage in Normandy as I recall. Maybe in Brittany. Cummings was held there for something slight of a year. His friend for a a few months longer. The irony to the story, and every good story must have irony, is that it was the elder Cummings, the authoritarian who had connections in the U.S. State Dept down in D.C., who wrote enough letters, pestered his connections enough, to move somebody to contact the French authorities and diplomatically secure the young mens' release. Cummings might not have lasted another year detained. A biographer says he was emmaciated when he arrived on ship then by train back in Cambridge. His mother who had long before figured out her husband, knew how to get around him when it came to nurturing Estlin's creativity, got the young man healthy again.

But the story. Anybody who sees Cummings as nothing less than the supreme Romantic has not read the story of his stay. He calls them Delectable Mountains. Pick pockets, thieves, prostitutes, criminals, outlyers, outlaws, undocumented "aliens", gypsies. In his way of thinking they were all Delectable Mountains. (Sound kind of familiar?)

I am thinking nobody has touched as tenderly as Cummings did on the case of the disenfranchised.

Tere
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.


when serpents bargain
 

when serpents bargain for the right to squirm
and the sun strikes to gain a living wage -
when thorns regard their roses with alarm
and rainbows are insured against old age

when every thrush may sing no new moon in
if all screech-owls have not okayed his voice
- and any wave signs on the dotted line
or else an ocean is compelled to close

when the oak begs permission of the birch
to make an acorn - valleys accuse their
mountains of having altitude - and march
denounces april as a saboteur

then we'll believe in that incredible
unanimal mankind (and not until)

 

E.E. Cummings



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"The Delectable Mountains are one of the rest havens for the pilgrims travelling to the Celestial City in John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress. Christian is shown them from the House Beautiful, and he sees "a most pleasant Mountainous Country, beautified with Woods, Vineyards, Fruits of all sorts; Flowers also, with Springs and Fountains, very delectable to behold." They are also called "Immanuel's Land," a biblical allusion to Isaiah 8:8.

When Christian and Hopeful arrive there they find that it is on these mountains that Immanuel's sheep are pastured by shepherds, who are named Knowledge, Experience, Watchful, and Sincere. In the first part of The Pilgrim's Progress the specific mountains, Error, Caution, and Clear are shown to the pilgrims. It is from Mt. Clear that the pilgrims are given a "Perspective Glass" to see the gates of the Celestial City. In the second part it is discovered that the shepherds have a palace besides their tents, and they show the pilgrims some of the other mountains, Marvel, Innocent, and Charity.

The Delectable Mountains are said to have been inspired by the chalk hills of North Eastern Hertfordshire, the start of the Chilterns, as seen from the great clay plain of Bedfordshire below. John Brown, the author of Bunyan, his Life, Times and Work, proposed Leith Hill in Surrey as the site Bunyan used as a model for his Delectable Mountains. James Wharey and Roger Sharrock opine that this is implausible."
Oct/21/2010, 10:29 pm Link to this post Send Email to GaryBFitzgerald   Send PM to GaryBFitzgerald
 
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Thanks for all the Delectable Mountains references, you two. Wonderful Cummings poem,
Gary.

Does anyone know about this book, "The Gift: Creativity and the artist in the modern world."
by Lewis Hyde? I'm reading good things about it. He's also written a book called, "Trickster Makes This World." Sound familiar?

Chris

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"Trickster" Lewis Hyde -- very familiar. Let me check my files.
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Aha!

http://www.lewishyde.com/pub/poetry/error.html

This Error is the Sign of Love

Lewis Hyde

“Man has to seek God in error and
forgetfulness and foolishness.”
       -- Meister Eckhart

This error is the sign of love,
the crack in the ice where the otters breathe,
the tear that saves a man from power,
the puff of smoke blown down the chimney one morning, and the
          widower sighs and gives up his loneliness,
the lines transposed in the will so the widow must scatter coins
          from the cliff instead of ashes and she marries again, for
          love,
the speechlessness of lovers that forces them to leave it alone
          while it sends up its first pale shoot like an onion
          sprouting in the pantry,
this error is the sign of love.

The leak in the nest, the hole in the coffin,
the crack in the picture plate a young girl fills with her secret life
          to survive the grade school,
the retarded twins who wanter house to house, eating, ‘til the
          neighbors have become neighbors.
The teacher’s failings in which the students ripen,
Luther’s fit in the choir, Darwin’s dyspepsia, boy children
          stuttering in the gunshop,
boredom, shyness, bodily discomforts like long rows of white
          stones at the edge of the highway,
blown head gaskets, darkened choir lofts, stolen kisses,
this error is the sign of love.

The nickel in the butter churn, the farthing in the cake,
the first reggae rhythms like seasonal cracks in a government
          building,
the rain-damaged instrument that taught us the melodies of black
          emotion and red and yellow emotion,
the bubble of erotic energy escaped from a marriage and a week
          later the wife dreams of a tiger,
the bee that flies into the guitar and hangs transfixed in the sound
          of sound ‘til all his wetness leaves him and he rides that
          high wind to the Galapagos,
this error is the sign of love.

The fault in the sea floor where the fish linger and mate,
the birthmark that sets the girl apart and years later she alone of
          the sisters finds her calling,
Whitman’s idiot brother whom he fed luke the rest of us,
those few seconds Bréton fell asleep and dreamed of a pit of sand
          with the water starting to flow,
the earth’s wobbling axis uncoiling seasons--seed that need six
          months of drought, flowers shaped for the tongues of
          moths, summertime
and death’s polarized light caught beneath the surface of
          Florentine oils,
this error is the sign of love.

The beggar buried in the cathedral,
the wisdom-hole in the façade of the library,
the hail storm in a South Dakota town that started the Farmers’
          Cooperative in 1933,
the Sargasso Sea that gives false hope to sailors and they sail one
          and find a new world,
the picnic basket that slips overboard and leads to the invention
          of the lobster trap,
the one slack line in a poem where the listener relaxes and
          suddenly the poem is in your heart like a fruit wasp in an
          apple,
this error is the sign of love!



Lewis Hyde is a poet, essayist, translator, and cultural critic with a particular interest in the public life of the imagination. His 1983 book, The Gift, illuminates and defends the non-commercial portion of artistic practice. Trickster Makes This World(1998) uses a group of ancient myths to argue for the kind of disruptive intelligence all cultures need if they are to remain lively, flexible, and open to change. Hyde is currently at work on a book about our “cultural commons,” that vast store of ideas, inventions, and works of art that we have inherited from the past and continue to produce.

A MacArthur Fellow and former director of undergraduate creative writing at Harvard University, Hyde teaches during the fall semesters at Kenyon College, where he is the Richard L. Thomas Professor of Creative Writing. During the rest of the year he lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he is a Fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society.




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hey libra,

Sounds wonderful, doesn't it? I'm gonna gettaholda these books and read 'em!

Chris
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Good exchange of info. At age 21, Gary, I had yet to read Bunyan. When I did you bet I got the allusion. But you may agree that Cummings's mountains are more delectable, ne's pas?

I too want to check out this Hyde. I can go with his sense of Trickster's "disruptive intelligence." As giver of the village gifts he would have been a culture bringer.

Tere
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Before turning meditative I want to tell a funny story.

Without question I read more than most Americans. But my brother's reading habits consign me to the garbage heap of the illiterate. He reads volumnously and late into the night. He is a historian and an educator. His profession requires of him that he read. But I think it possible he chose his profession so that he could get paid to read. As an educator, every quarter he reads, constantly rereads, material he assigns to his students. Though something of a polymath his formal training was in Russian Civ. Now in his mid-seventies he has probably read any given classroom assigned Doystoyevsy novel ten, maybe twenty times. He reasons that the story must be fresh in his head for each and every lecture and seminar. I think he told me once it was a series of comics that got him started on reading when still a child. Long, long, long ago there was a comic book called something like Classic Comics. I remember the series from the sixties. It was my first introduction, elementary school age, to the Illiad and to the Odyssey. So that was the kind of stuff my brother was reading back in the forties when himself a child. Truth to tell more than a few books in my library he has sent me and in the spirit of enthusiastic sharing.

It took brother T three times but he finally got lucky in marriage. This was back in the early eighties. I told him he was crazy. Actually, I told him he was f***ing out of his mind. He was in his late forties. Then, she was in her early twenties. She was one of his students. So many years later and I both envy and admire their partnership. But, with the marriage, brother T also inherited two of the craziest, whacko people as in-laws I've ever encountered still allowed to walk the streets and drive the highways.

Mother-in-law to her daughter: Why does T have to spend so much money on books?

Daughter to mother: Well, Mom, he's an educator. Books are his teaching tools he uses so that his students are informed.

Mother-in-law back to daughter: He doesn't need so many books. Why doesn't he just reread what he has?

Pretty wild way of thinking, huh? A follower of Newton need not seek out Einstein or Plank or Heisenberg. Just reread Newton.

Tere
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Saturday evening. I needed to go to work today. Once a year we have an open house. Bee keepers come in and we tell them what we know. I am awfully brain tired after a long week of preperations while also seeing to projects. But something just came to me. I want to get it down before I forget it. The thread is called You Are What You Read.

Anyone who has read The Magus, The Collector, The French Lieutenant's Woman will remember the British novelist, John Fowles. He also wrote a book of aphorisms, aphorisms pretty much devoted to his own philosophy involving personal action and personal expression. It is called The Aristos, which is the Greek root for the word aristocrat, and, originally, it means the best man for the situation.

In his book he posits a type of personality he says works against the aristos, or against the individual with the capacity to rise to a situation, fixing it, leading, overcoming obstacles. He calls this personality type the nemo, defines it as the anti-self. He says the nemo has become an archetype. He says the nemo is the product of too much civilization. I slightly disagree with his terms on the point. I say the nemo is the product of mass-society, a society in which you have managers and workers, with workers viewed only as cogs in the machine, whose views do not matter, and whose desire for individual liberty must, must be wiped out for the machine to keep well greased and functioning.

In the main I figure Fowles was right. Mass society has produced this nemo, anti-self, archetype. Its function being to convince you and me our thoughts and feelings do not matter. Our individual experiencing does not matter. There is a point to my perigrenations.

Lang Po folk and others tell us we must off kill the author, kill off the I/Thou address, eschew the personal. I say these prophets feed into the nemo archetype.

I read that Fowles book of aphorisms in '77. It has made the difference.

Tere
Oct/23/2010, 7:31 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
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Re: You Are What You Read


When younger, upon occassion I would go through my books, decide what I didn't need anymore, take them to a used book store, sell them off. Those were days and weeks when I needed cash for food, smokes, rent, child support. About twenty years ago I stopped the practice and for good reason. I kept regretting having sold off another old friend, someone trusty and always home when I got back.

I am happy to report that on a book shelf there is still an old copy of Montaigne's essays. Immediately upthread I make mention of the nemo, the anti-self, the societally produced archetype whose function is to tell us that, as individuals, we have no value, we are worthless, not worth the examination or self-thought. I also state my conviction that Lang Po, and contemp poetry in general, feeds into the nemo. Kill off the author, they say, eschew the I/Thou address they say. To these thinkers Montaigne must stand as the anti-Christ, the six six six Beast. Born in 1533 he was. Created the essay form he did. Oddly possessed by the notion an individual life, in his case his own, was worth the examination. Objective, without emotion, without self-interest, looking only to figure out motive, bias perhaps, and even environmental causes for why he opined the way he did.

Think on it. This is as radical a slant as it had to have been in the 16th C. I mean how many of us are scalpel wielding clinicians when it comes to motive and to what makes us what we are?

I am not a bibliophile. But when sitting at my desk I am surrounded by books on all but one side, the south side with a window. Windows are important. Of the books I've bought and read over the years there are maybe 500 still standing. When I come home, unlock the door, I come home to the only lovers, family and friends who have never betrayed me and who I've never lost to illness or to death. Friends and family who get me get I need this space fleshed out with books. Friends and family who don't get me don't get it. They don't get this little sanctuary I've kept to.

I've always kept to books. They've challanged me big time. But they've never harmned me the way friends, lovers, and family can.

Tere
Oct/24/2010, 4:14 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
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EA Poe for Halloween


Emerging Visions* contributing artist Duncan Long sent me the link for this, encouraging that it be sent onward:


Edgar Allan Poe's "Eleonora" (which Duncan Long did the cover and inner
illustrations for as well as the layout):
http://www.datafilehost.com/download-9b8126d0.html



*http://emergingvisions.blogspot.com



Last edited by libramoon, Oct/27/2010, 9:57 pm
Oct/27/2010, 9:56 pm Link to this post Send Email to libramoon   Send PM to libramoon Blog
 
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Re: You Are What You Read


A cold that is starting to feel like the flu. Chills and no energy by early afternoon. But it is impossible for me to do nothing. So writing out a thought is second best.

I've read back through the thread. Not sure why I let it drop back in Oct. There was a good exchange in progress. I am a little surprised to find, but not entirely, I've not mentioned the one book that more than any other changed me. Changed my thinking, how I register perceptions, how I relate to poetry, turned my attention to the layered nature of experience, what is called depth experience. Changed everything and forever.

I've told the story of traveling to Spain for about five weeks. Spring of '82. It was a bad time personally. The trip amounted to a full fledged retreat from a domestic disaster. With me was one book. I would travel through Spain, eventually ending up in Andalucia looking for gypsies. And when not walking and touring I read. I remember sitting on the beach on the Mediterranean coast reading. And in espresso bars, and in a bar run by an expat from Chicago who looked just like Trader Vic. His face as pasty. And I would write down reactions in a journal while also heavily annotating the book. The trip amounted to one small man's small moment on his own small road to Damascus. Nothing less.

The book is called The White Goddess, by the English poet, Robert Graves, a book I've mentioned elsewhere and before. It is difficult to read, or so I am told. I remember one Shakespearean scholar virtually running for the door when I asked him what he thought about Graves's thesis. But when I read it I realized I had to follow the argument associately, say, in the same way one should read a poem. Forget about following the argument step by step, first one step and then the next, take in the packets of information associately, trusting in the lead.

As simply as possible, Graves started with that, originally, poets were leaders of totem clans devoted, through music, dance, and poetry to the whorship of the White Goddess, Lady of the Wild Things. For his proof he drew from the ancient Hebrew, from an older, earlier layer of ancient Greek myth coming before Zeus and company, from ancient Irish and Welsh, and from the Celtic world in general. He maintained that poetry has a true grammar, that it revolves around the story of the White Goddess and her chosen consort who is her son/lover who is eventually sacrificed to her. Essentially that was his idea. Interpreting the source material was how he fleshed it out. He wrote the book during a period of world crisis, WW2, and while living in England.

The first thing I remember about the book is that it gave me the home feeling, speaking as a poet. Before than, I was barely thirty, I had been at odds with my vocation, what I knew to be an instinctive vocation. All of sudden, really suddenly, I got poetry, got its haunt, got it is not an intellectual but an instinctive activity. That was the big thing. The case has not changed.

That was only the beginning. Graves's thesis gave me a hunger. I needed to know about this world he introduced me to. For lack of a better word, this Mother-Right way of ordering that archeology has proven time and time again came before a Father-Right focus. At least in certain parts of the world, especially in the Middle East, in ancient Egypt, and in Old Europe, Europe before the arrival of Indo-Europeans. I set out reading the classics in the field, the giants in late 19th and early 20th C scholarship. Briffault, Frazer, and the very first scholar, Bachofen, who maintained he found a Mother-Right substrate in Roman jurisprudence. Eventually I would read more contemporaneous works by authors who would have far more archeological evidence to go on. The giant, Marija Gimbutas, especially stands out. On a funny note, I remember reading Jesse Weston's book about ritual and romance that incited Eliot's The Wasteland poem. I read the last page, closed the book, said aloud: that poor bastard missed the point, didn't he? It went on from there for almost twenty years, one book at a time, one clue at a time.

Whether or not I believe in Graves's White Goddess thesis doesn't much matter. Besides, beliefs are personal business. Of one thing I am certain. Before poets were drafted into the service of Apollo they were instinctively Dionysian. Tragedy itself, after all, had as its birthplace the sacred precincts of Dionysus. On one point I disagree with Graves. Always have. He maintained that a woman's place was to serve as Muse. To inspire, incite, even agitate her poet. He was categorically wrong. Keeping to the language, the original Muses were the Wild Woman acting out, often in ecstatic frenzy, acting out a certain drama in ceremonial fashion, even murderously.

There it is. A single book that changed a man's life. The consequences of which, viewed neutrally, are a little interesting. I've never since doubted the home place of poetry, nor that I am an instinctive poet. The book also opened me up to a depth experience I had not the slightest clue about before. But the direction it led me to is so divergent I have since been at cross-purposes with my contemporaries and with my millieu. Not that I have any choice in the matter.

I hope this bit of self-indulgence proves a little interesting. At least it is on topic.

Tere
Dec/7/2010, 6:33 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 


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