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Snowbound in Paris


Revision #1

I raised myself, cooking and cleaning;
no complaints; wrinkled pinafore, a man's faded
work shirt and brown shoes like baked potatoes.

Mother taught me English and German;
she was forgetful, drafty as a Baroness, pretty
as a bird; she misplaced father.

Men. I liked them, especially the ones with Eau
de Cologne. They paid me to kiss, to sit on laps.
Men were nicer in those days. Now and then,
a young poet, the upper arms of a gondolier.

I drove my little Peugeot Landaulet very fast,
the boxy, soft-top cab a rippling sail.
 
Old Bonnard loved me naked; I took his little
notebooks, unfinished drawings; works I sell now
and then to tide me over.

I take night walks to Brasserie Lipp, 40 watt bulbs
like a rooming house, rich cocoa smells, creams
addictive as tincture of opium.

You are only interested in Modigliani, rough cut
Italian Jew, almost uncouth, God, how I loved him.

He was in love with the Russian, Akhmatova---
she was almost six-feet tall in stocking feet;
a wolf at galleries looking at everything, beautiful
gray-green eyes; she was slender like a horse rider.

I saw them on a bench of the Luxembourg Gardens,
not able to afford a seat. She never saw him drunk,
but I did, glasses of emerald green absinthe,
stumbling to his dark Impasse Falguière studio.

Winters, ice on my red cap, black trees; eyeglasses
blown sideways. Talking too much? Forgive me.
I admit some nights I sleep only with the help
of laudanum powders.

Anna said she understood his dreams, I choked
like a foie gras goose; dreams, but not demons
circling overhead in pearl gray hashish smoke.




Original:


My education, which some say I never got,
is public school;

wrinkled pinafore faded as a man's work shirt;
ugly brown shoes like clumps of baked potatoes.

I learned English from mother, pretty as a bird
and drafty as a Baroness; forgetful, one trait
I never inherited; I remember too much.

I remember like Proust.
No insult of familiarity intended. I raised myself,
cooking and cleaning; no complaints.

Men. I liked them, especially the ones with Eau
de Cologne. They paid me to kiss, to sit on laps.
Men were nicer in those days.

Mother could not recall where she misplaced
father, so I never protest when I’m told
theories about my attraction to older men.

Men helped me invest in the Bourse, own real
estate; I bought a young poet bronzed from
Cote d'Azur; the upper torso of a gondolier.

I was caring for mother and bought this
Saint Germain apartment.

No snow years ago, unlike our snowbound
streets today; the unheated taxis, dray
animals and food carts overrun, loaves
of cheese and I drove my little Peugeot
Landaulet very fast, the boxy, soft-top cab
rippling like a sail.

There was a real Saint Germain, he said
something like this:

Place the Violet Flame through your heart
and then let go and know who you are.


Lovely, yes?

Or did you imagine I still sell favors, from time
to time, or even model? Old Bonnard loved me
naked for his yellow interiors, but that time
is no more.

Taking receipt of Bonnard’s little notebooks,
unfinished drawings; works I sell now and then
to tide me over.

You asked about Modigliani; I have Modigliani’s
habit of aimless night walks often finding myself
at Brasserie Lipp, the interior of 40 watt bulbs
like a rooming house, but swimming in rich cocoa
smells and creams addictive as tincture of opium.

I grew to recognize his steps as he passed below
at a late hour, he never looked up. He was in love
with the Russian, Akhmatova---

did you know she was almost six-feet tall in her
stocking feet? I saw her at the galleries, looking
at everything like a wolf, beautiful gray-green eyes,
her nose almost perfect and she was slender---
athletic, like a horse rider.

She did translations, but you could not live on that.

You gentleman of the press are only interested
in Modigliani, rough cut Italian Jew, almost uncouth,
God, how I loved him.

He coughed out his life with TB, just 35 year old;
did you know about Jeanne Hebuterne?
 
We both wanted a child with him; after his death,
her suicide nine months pregnant. I never met her.

So why Anna, the Russian? Why did I hate her,
because she was poor and used her poverty
to attract him? I will never know.

I saw them many times during her year in France,
sitting on a bench of the Luxembourg Gardens
unable to afford a seat, the type I shared
with my benefactors.

She said she never saw him drunk, but I did,
glasses of emerald green absinthe, hashish,
stumbling to his dark Impasse Falguière studio.

How cold winters in Paris, ice on my red cap,
black trees; my eyeglasses knocked sideways.
Talking too much? An old woman living
alone, forgive me. I admit some nights I sleep
only with the help of laudanum powders.

The cold winters came after King Ferdinand
was shot, but the coldest of all when fat turtle
Goring stole our art leavng a blank receipt.

...des Grossdeutschen Reiches --- my German
isn't so good anymore, Commander-in-Chief
of the air force.

Anna said she understood his dreams,
maybe she did; a bitter recognition for me,
I choked on her words like a foie gras goose;
perhaps his dreams, but what of the demons
circling his head to rise in hashish smoke.


 

Last edited by Bernie01, May/20/2013, 9:46 am


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Zakzzz5 Profile
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Re: Snowbound in Paris


Wow!! Bernie. First impressions: It captures a time, another time. Though it mentions poverty, it captures a slice of the aristocratic, whether the money aristocracy or the art aristocracy. Flooded with ambience. Please don't tell me it's today with an architectural overlay of the past.

I'll come back to it. Quite a piece of work, my friend. Zak
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Re: Snowbound in Paris


hey Zak---

Flooded with ambience...

i love that comment. and yes, this one is definitely intended to evoke an era---France---during those wonderfully creative years from a young Bonnard to a mature Picaso.

the narrator, now old, speaks just before the invasion of France by the Nazis.

the facts, even the named personalities are as real as i can make them, only the narrator is a complete fiction. the facts i have taken from different biographies of famed individuals and from published letters of these same persons.

so, i am just thrilled that the poem engaged you, it is the first one i think of this type i have posted.


bernie

  

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Re: Snowbound in Paris


Bernie

the first half held my interest but frankly after ' lovely yes' - i lost it - i confess

verbiage & vague the second half
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Re: Snowbound in Paris


QF---


completely understand.

no argument from me. but my sincere thanks for your taking a look and for posting your reaction.

the revision is now less than one-half the original.

bernie

Last edited by Bernie01, May/5/2013, 9:07 am


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Re: Snowbound in Paris


Shortening this would be a mistake. Rather than losing my interest, poem increased it the more I read. This is one fine period piece of a time, an era of extraordinary creativity I too am fascinated by. Likely you know the time and place better than I do, but I know it well enough to know the narrative has verisimilitude. Simply well done. Of all the possible figures you could have drawn on, can't know why you hit upon Modigliano and Akhmatova, but I'm glad you did. Both in their own way would pay dearly for their genius, increasing the poem's dramatic moment. You say the narrator is fictional. I say that is one fine character portrait. I see her clearly. Both as a jeune fille and a hard up old woman living through bad times, unfortunate enough to have to witness the fall, so to speak. Character's estimation of Akhmatova and Modigliano excellent touch, a bit of detail that puts me inside story's environment.

Bernie, don't go stingy, don't go anorexic on the poem. It is not too much. In fact, I can envision a suite of such rememberances. Hell, Rilke was there too, to mention only one possibility. Thanks to Lou Salome they say he became an exquisite lover. What do you suppose your character might have thought of him?

Tere
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Re: Snowbound in Paris


Reread the thread taking note of the time frame. Guess you've already made the revisions and excisions. Very well. But no more please.

Tere
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Re: Snowbound in Paris


T---

to shock you, the motivation to complete and post this long (for me) poem was you! your prose in the other Forum.

not exactly how i pictured a muse might look...LOL.

thanks.

Modigliani and Akhmatova, for all the reasons you mentioned, including my morbid fascination with the Stalinist era.

i also have experimented with Henry James and a lesser known figure --- though she outsold him --- Constance Fenimore Woolson.
she loved him, they even shared a house in Italy for a short period---no doubt based on thrift rather than Henry's desire for the carnal---he had the vice that could not be given a name...to use that colorful phrase of his era.

here is a fanciful story following the suicide (she too jumped from a window, like Modigiani's pregnant "wife."):


A Biographic Mystery

Lyndall Gordon:

In April 1894, a middle-aged gentleman, bearing a load of dresses, was rowed to the deepest part of the Venetian lagoon. A strange scene followed: he began to drown the dresses, one by one. There were a good many, well-made, tasteful, and all dark, suggesting a lady of quiet habits and some reserve. The gondolier's pole would have been useful for pushing them under the still water. But the dresses refused to drown. One by one they rose to the surface, their busts and sleeves swelling like black balloons. Purposefully, the gentleman pushed them under, but silent, reproachful, they rose before his eyes.

The dresses belonged to a writer, widely read at that time, called Constance Fenimore Woolson. She was a great-niece of James Fenimore Cooper, author of The Last of the Mohicans (1826) and other frontier tales, and the first American writer to achieve worldwide fame. `Fenimore', as she was known to choice friends, had combined Western vigour with the quiet manner of a patrician family strongly rooted in the New World. In 1879 she had settled in Europe, and a few months later met a fellow-expatriate, the distinguished but less popular novelist Henry James. The course of their long friendship was rudely broken when, on the night of 24 January 1894, Fenimore, aged fifty-three, had fallen to her death from her bedroom window in Venice.

a quick example of Fenimore's wit and insight in "Cairo ladies:"

Woolson writes of their chatter as a startling sound in the otherwise empty museum,

"partly because of the echo, and partly also, I think, on account of the mystic mummy cases which stand on end and look at one so queerly with their oblique eyes."

 Soon thereafter, while the women are relaxing in the nearby museum garden, their eunuch attendants burst upon the scene and quickly veil them.

Woolson remarks,

  There was no real resistance; there was only a good
  deal of laughter.

  I dare say that there was more laughter still (under
  the veils) when the cause of all this haste appeared,
  coming slowly up the stairs. It was a small man of
  sixty-five or seventy, one of my own countrymen, attired
  in a linen duster and a travel-worn high hat; his
  silver-haired head was bent over his guide-book,
  and he wore blue spectacles. I don't think he saw
  anything but blue antiquities, safely made of stone.



you are interested in another fascinating figure:

Lou Salome

here is Anais Nin talking about her in a clear video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&v=a72IyIu6SEM&feature=endscreen


i was thinking of her narrator voice we see here. you ask what my narrator, (and yes from a young girl to an old woman)would think of Salome.


my narrator remarks about her lost father. Anais so deeply involved with her father.

Anais says she was self-educated, my narrator says almost the same.

but your question is about Salome.

she would feel the non-judgmental nature of salome. my narrator would blossom in that environment.

but let me think more about that.

in the meantime, i cannot tell you how important your comments about this posted poem; i am so aware of the uphill struggle, but when has that stopped us?

bernie
 






 







  

Last edited by Bernie01, May/5/2013, 9:47 pm


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Re: Snowbound in Paris


Bernie, in themselves your comments, dated yesterday, are a treat. If something I posted gave you impetus to chase down your snowbound poem I am delighted, can think of no better compliment.

I did not know the Constance Fenimore case. Now I have to wonder what you could do with it. I do know the Nin case involving her father. Pretty clear she seduced him. Equally as clear he waited on his sick bed that first night with bated breath for her to make the first move. But she was such a busy girl in those years. So many simultaneaous lovers.

I'm serious about my suggestion you go after a suite. You have the knowledge, the feeling for it, and the talent for characterization.

Tere
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Hey Bernie,

My first impression upon reading the original version of this was that it is, in the best sense, a dramatic monologue. The kind Browning was famous for writing. My first impression of the revision is that perhaps it plays it too safe. Some of the quirkier aspects of the N, in terms of her preoccupations, observations and language usage, seem to have been edited out, but first impressions can be wrong so I will take a second look.

Last edited by Katlin, May/7/2013, 3:20 pm
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Hey Bernie,

Coming back to say I reread both versions of the poem, and I do prefer the original. It could be tightened a little, yes, but not so much, IMO.
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Hi again, Bernie,

When I first read your poem, I was reminded on a series of poems I read years ago: The Gold She Finds: On the Life of Camille Claudel, Sculptor by Susan Ludvigson, which has been described as the "poetic biography of the betrayed student/lover of Rodin." To my disappointment, I was unable to locate any of the poems online. Some read as letters (from Claudel to Rodin and to others), some read as excerpts from an artist's notebook or journal. If you think the original version of this poem is too long to stand on its own, perhaps it could be broken up into sections or into a series of poems by the same N? IOW, I agree with Tere: I'm serious about my suggestion you go after a suite. You have the knowledge, the feeling for it, and the talent for characterization.

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K--

first, thanks for taking such an exhaustive look at this poem, thinking about the length.

i attempt to stretch myself and to maximize a wonderful resource such as Delectable Mints by posting recommended changes; visual, i guess, my nature, once i see a change posted i have a better idea of what i want to do---what can be done.

i favor the long version.

glad to gather the vote of Tere and yourself and Queen in the negative.

i once spent the better part of a day at the Rodin museum and first learned about Camille Claudel. later, the two movies:

the acclaimed film, Camille Claudel (1988).

---a film starring Isabele Adjani, with Gerard Depardieu as Rodin.

and a second movie, Dumont's Camille Claudel 1915, with Juliette Binoche.

"I live in a world that is so curious, so strange," Claudel wrote in a letter to a friend in 1935. "Of the dream which was my life, this is the nightmare."

She died eight years later, on October 19, 1943 in Montdevergues, France.

Her affair with Rodin was the basis for a play by Henrik Ibsen, When We Dead Awake, but i have not seen a production.

plenty to arouse my curiosity. i have it in the back of my mind to write about her, much less so Rodin. My current narrator would be younger than Claudel, her perspective fresh.

i can eaily imagine one outcast, my narrator, visiting another at the asylum where she was confined for 30 years---often assisting other patients with physical disability to meals and to outdoor events.

Claudel was clear headed, but raged now and then at Rodin, she thought he was trying to poison her.

but for 15 years they worked in close artistic haromny; i have often wondered if the much older Rodin replaced her argumentative and critical father, as my current narrator says older men may have replaced her misplaced father.

but for 15 years, the flame held brightly.

Claudel:

“I sleep naked to give me the impression that you are with me. But when I wake up, it is not the same thing.”

she had a physical flaw, one leg shorter than the other---as the Russian poet i write about here was deaf in one ear.

her brother, a French diplomat recorded her aging process:

Her lithe youthful body thickened, her face at 35 was that of an elderly woman.

Her brother Paul was abroad during most of these critical years; On one of his leaves, in 1905, he took her on a trip to the Pyrenees, and she made a remarkable plaster bust of him, the distinguished man of letters and diplomat into which the proud bright-eyed boy of her 1881 bronze had grown. When he came back in 1909 he was appalled.


“In Paris,” he wrote in his journal, “Camille insane, enormous, with a soiled face, speaking incessantly in a monotonous metallic voice.”


i'll spare you more of my field notes.

 
Camille Claudel (1864-1943)
Claudel exhibit in 2007Camille Claudel (December 8, 1864 – October 19, 1943) was a French sculptor and graphic artist who produced a number of noteworthy works until mental illness resulted in her being institutionalized, against her will, in an asylum in 1913. She remained hospitalized for 30 years.




a photo of camille at work:

http://www.musee-rodin.fr/en/rodin/educational-files/rodin-and-camille-claudel

 



where she and Rodin seem to be using the same model---the feet and hands of the Rodin --- perfect.

http://www.musee-rodin.fr/en/rodin/educational-files/rodin-and-camille-claudel
 
Camille Claudel, Young Girl with a Sheaf, before 1887, [S.6738]
Photo : © ADAGP, Paris, 2012


Last edited by Bernie01, May/10/2013, 9:11 pm


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Re: Snowbound in Paris


Bernie, you simply have to go after your material poeticly.

Tere
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Thanks for filling in some of the background info on Claudel. A few of the letter poems in the collection I mentioned were addressed to Paul, and I did not know he was her brother. Ludvigson's Claudel poems were published in book form in 1990 (I've only read excerpts in her collected poems from 2000), so perhaps she was influenced by the first movie you mentioned.

Whether your N is a real life person, a fictional composite of real people or a completely fictional character, who nevertheless interacted with folks who actually lived, it seems you have ample interest and material to draw on.

Last edited by Katlin, May/12/2013, 8:39 am
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Oh, yes, the revision sparkles, a marvelous ramble of vignettes, of life.
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Re: Snowbound in Paris


Tere---

thanks for the additional note of encouragement, the Claudel/Debussy chapter, the confinement for 30 years in a mental hospital, get darker.

i hope your chemo is producing a little eventual blue sky; we share a health issue, for me i need a liver translplant; UCLA i hope. the best for us both.

K---

i love your open, welcoming attitude for new, even eclectic stories---poems, details, novels, travel books, art; you cover the waterfront, very encouraging and makes me a little bolder in thinking about new poems, images and methods.

Libra---

hey thanks. yes this windy narrator, a composite character, but most of us have someone like this in the family---if we are lucky.


thanks again to all three of you.


bernie

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