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Camille Claudel


Revision #1

They are dead now,
my scribbling can harm no one.

I cannot say with what purpose
or hope my journey to the asylum.
Montparnasse to Avignon,
six kilometers more to reach
the mental wards.
   
One outcast visiting another.

Debussy told me about Camille.
The lawyer worms had gotten into
his life, he owed 3,600 francs of alimony
according to the newspapers.
On that sum I could have stopped selling
my charms and retired.

I was not the audience for classical
music, but who can dislike
Clair de Lune?
I went to the salons for customers,
no need to pretend otherwise.

He sang, played out glissando.
I felt hypnotized by the rhythmic
hammers revealed by the open case;
my face bathed in the burl wood
of the piano like candlelight;

he rapped a glass pane to imitate
the glockenspiel.

Every woman looked twice,
but he was penniless, valuable
only because he attracted the rich.

When he showed me Camille’s gift,
her sculpture of La Valse---
dancers frozen in a moment of joy;
I felt the electro-magnetism
talked about that year.

The couple do not quite touch,
but I thought myself spying on them
in the boudoir; oh, the heat.

Debussy was dying of rectal cancer,
the first man I ever heard mention
the word colostomy; twisted in pain,
yet he worked, smoked and talked;
he said Camille’s mother sent her away
and would not allow her home again.

I determined to visit Claudel
when the war years made it possible.

His name opened the grounds to me,
but not to her cell and we never met.

At exercise time, I watched her escort
a dwarf and a disabled patient outdoors.
she was motherly and no longer seemed
to rage over Rodin---we never spoke
but I disliked him on principle.

She remained locked-up for thirty years.
The beauty I saw in photographs
worn down like a marble sculpture
outside for years, her speaking
voice rasping and metallic
when she came closer, but protected
by a warder I could not speak to her.

The war ended, Gabrielle Dupont,
a Debussy lover for ten years
and the daughter of my tailor at Lisieux
fired a shot at him, Gaby of green eyes
we called her;

Lilly Texier, another disappointed lover
shot a bullet into her own chest to lodge
there for life.

Baudelaire wrote, “Sounds and scents
turn on the evening air"

and these words gave a static calm.
I follow the ebb tide of my heart,
swept away and inevitably swept back.





Original:

They are dead now,
my scribbling can harm no one.

I cannot say with what purpose
or hope my journey to the asylum.
Montparnasse to Avignon,
six kilometers more to reach
the mental wards.
  
One outcast visiting another.

I learned of Camille at a private
Debussy concert, he would die
that year still struggling to pay
3,600 francs of unpaid alimony
ordered by the court and splashed
in the newspapers.

He said Camille's mother ordered
her confined and refused requests
from her doctors for release.

But Debussy loved only music
and I determined to visit Claudel
when the war years made it possible.

I was not the audience for classical
music, but who can dislike
Clair de Lune?
I went to the salons for customers,
no need to pretend otherwise.

He sang, played out glissando.
I felt hypnotized by the rhythmic
hammers revealed by the open case;
my face bathed in the burl wood
of the piano like candlelight;

he rapped a glass pane to imitate
the glockenspiel.

Every woman looked twice,
but he was penniless, valuable
only because he attracted the rich.

When he showed me Camille’s gift,
her sculpture of La Valse---
dancers frozen in a moment of joy---
it knocked me to my knees.

The couple do not quite touch,
But I found the rendition powerful
and the most honest depiction of love
I had ever seen; even now I feel
that heat.

Debussy was dying of rectal cancer,
the first man I ever heard mention
the word colostomy; during that long
night of monologue and regret,
he spoke of Camille. His words,
the sculpture, my own aging weighed
heavily.

The Debussy name opened
the grounds to me, but not to her
cell and we were to never meet.

I observed her leading a dwarf
and a disabled patient outdoors
for exercise, she was motherly
and no longer seemed to rage
over Rodin---I man to whom
I never spoke, but instinctively
disliked.

She remained for thirty years.
The beauty I saw in photographs
worn down like a marble sculpture
outside for years, her speaking
voice rasping and metallic.

Debussy died during the bombardment
of Paris, he could hear the German
airships hunting above his head.

The war ended, Gabrielle Dupont,
his lover for ten years and the daughter
of my tailor at Lisieux fired a shot at him,
Gaby of the green eyes we called her;
and Lilly Texier, another disappointed
lover, shot a bullet into her chest
to lodge there all her life.

Baudelaire wrote, “Sounds and scents
turn on the evening air"

and these words gave a static calm.
I followed the ebb tide of my heart,
swept away and inevitably swept back.



Last edited by Bernie01, Jun/7/2013, 3:22 pm


---
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Bob Grenier: the leaves / falling / out of the / water by the / table
May/15/2013, 11:18 pm Link to this post Send Email to Bernie01   Send PM to Bernie01 Blog
 
Katlin Profile
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Re: Camille Claudel


Hi Bernie,

I am drawn in by the first three stanzas, which set the tone ("my scribbling can harm no one") and also introduce the N to the reader ("One outcast visiting another.")

The last few lines of S4 read a bit journalistically to me. Maybe change "ordered by the court and splashed/in the newspapers." to something more colloquial (though I haven't a clue what that would be).

Perhaps shift "her" in the last line:

He said Camille's mother ordered
her confined and refused requests
from doctors for her release.

I like the return to the N here and the way you move back and forth between the N's story and the story she is telling:

I was not the audience for classical
music, but who can dislike
Clair de Lune?
I went to the salons for customers,
no need to pretend otherwise.

"Knocked me" to my knees seems not quite right. Did she literally fall to her knees? Maybe something a little less dramatic: My knees buckled?

Drop "powerful and" below:
 
The couple do not quite touch,
But I found the rendition powerful
and the most honest depiction of love
I had ever seen; even now I feel
that heat.

That she was knocked to her knees tells us the N found it powerful. I'm not crazy about "weighed heavily" in the next stanza.

Perhaps less formal:

over Rodin---a man I never spoke to,
but instinctively disliked.

I liked the detail about her speaking voice:

"her speaking
voice rasping and metallic"

but wondered how the N had heard it? She saw Camille from a distance, I supposed. If the N was close enough to hear her voice, wouldn't she have been close enought to call out to her? Hmm, unless Camille was accompanied by an orderly and the rules of the asylum forbid such an exchange. Yes, I guess that's what you had in mind. Okay.

I got confused here:

The war ended, Gabrielle Dupont,
his lover for ten years and the daughter
of my tailor at Lisieux fired a shot at him,
Gaby of the green eyes we called her;
and Lilly Texier, another disappointed
lover, shot a bullet into her chest
to lodge there all her life.

In the previous S you meniton Debussy's death and here the war ends. On the second read it's clear but a little convoluted. Maybe the fix is as simple as adding the word "once":

of my tailor at Lisieux once fired a shot at him,

I like the B quote at the end and the shift in focus back to the N's heart. I was wondering if present tense might work better there:

Baudelaire wrote, “Sounds and scents
turn on the evening air"
and these words give a static calm.
I followed the ebb tide of my heart,
swept away and inevitably swept back.

or even:

Baudelaire wrote, “Sounds and scents
turn on the evening air"
and these words give a static calm.
I follow the ebb tide of my heart,
swept away and inevitably swept back.

I enjoyed reading this, Bernie. It's difficult to write about real people in such a way that it does not come across as a history lesson, but I think overall you have pulled it off. In an earlier poem, you had an elderly N talking to an imaginary listener, which I thought worked well. In this poem the N is writing down her memories. The first stanza tells me the N is not gossiping or merely a name dropper, and I think that works for this poem. In "Snowbound in Paris" the N was more opinionated, less forgiving ("Why did I hate her"), which I think worked for that poem. I liked the fact that the two N's have different motives, different voices--although a series of poems by either one of them would also be of interest. Wonderful to see you inhabit these characters and bring forth their stories and the stories of famous people they have known.



Last edited by Katlin, May/19/2013, 8:38 am
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queenfisher Profile
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Re: Camille Claudel


dear bernie

another elegant poem pulled off with finesse!

like the sense of history / atmosphere the poem creates & i admire the kind of 'brown study' required to write about famous / historical figures from another era.

very commendable & written with grace & style.

what was the connection between claudel & debussy?
May/23/2013, 1:48 am Link to this post Send Email to queenfisher   Send PM to queenfisher Blog
 
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Re: Camille Claudel


K---

i've taken all your comments to heart and attempted in the revision to update the original poem.

you did a great deal of thinking about the poem, thanks is not quite enough. but thanks, for now.

Queen

i believe their interest in each other was limited to an artistic recognition. Claudel was still hooked on Rodin.

Debussy was a handsome devil, ladies could not leave him alone---who today? not Sting, or the Rolling Stones; bob dylan, probably.

an ignigma wrapped in a profound talent that so many admired and still do.

Claudel did give that beautiful sculpture to Debussy, the Dancers, but she was rapidly becoming unstable, not cleaning her apartment, flying into rages and earning the warning of her neighbors to their children to leave the crazy lady alone.

more than once she destroyed her work.

she had come to Rodin as a child, 14 years old; her beauty and talent caused a bond between the two. Debussy was never a serious challenge, just as joan baez was never seriously challenged by dylan.

Leonard Cohen probably represented a much stronger influence on joni mitchel in 1967.


thanks for your comments. i've been thinking about your question a great deal.




bernie
















 

       

Last edited by Bernie01, May/23/2013, 4:27 am


---
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Bob Grenier: the leaves / falling / out of the / water by the / table
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Katlin Profile
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Re: Camille Claudel


Hey Bernie,

I just came back to your revision and found you have tweaked it since I last read it. I like all the changes you've made. The "lawyer worms" stanza works much better for me, and the addition of "the electro-magnetism/talked about that year" is a nice touch.

In retrospect, I think you can simply say:

when she came closer,

I know I suggested something like this but now I don't think you need it (sorry about that):

but protected
by a warder I could not speak to her

I like that you've made this female N a survivor. She's tough without being hard, or harsh. No caricature, she reads like a real person, a realist, and yet there is something tender and almost wistful about her reminiscing.
Jun/7/2013, 10:06 am Link to this post Send Email to Katlin   Send PM to Katlin
 
Bernie01 Profile
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Re: Camille Claudel


K---


I like that you've made this female N a survivor. She's tough without being hard, or harsh. No caricature, she reads like a real person, a realist, and yet there is something tender and almost wistful about her reminiscing.

bless your reading;

exactly---maybe even more than i hoped to achieve.

i hadn't thought to post here a poem written by another narrator, but hope you will look it over---

it begins (a tease)


He began going out dressed as a girl,
walking at night in busy places,
attending the cinema.

Tokyo, Mon Amour

thanks again.


bernie





Last edited by Bernie01, Jun/7/2013, 3:34 pm


---
Fall

Bob Grenier: the leaves / falling / out of the / water by the / table
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Re: Camille Claudel


So I've said it before. The millieu of the poem amounts to low hanging fruit for you, well within reach and ready for the picking. You do have a feel for the time, both for its ethos and pathos.

Prosodicly and poeticly, I have no problems with the poem. You've got your metier well in hand. And the way you have for fleshing out detail is what wins me over. That said, I see, think I see, a few missed opportunities. For one thing, in a few places I wonder: Is this poem about Claudel or Rodin; about Claudel or Debussey? For another there is the question of Claudel's mental instability. Seems she was paranoid schizophrenic and capable of self-turned violence. But the record also indicates her handlers, institute's doctors, considered her case mild, urged her mother more than once to release her from the hospital in Avignon, let her return to a more familiar, healthful environment. Mother refused categorically. Brother Paul, more famous than his sister, strikes me as a weak kneed, spinless bastard when it comes to her case. On the other hand, Claudel's father seems to have favored her. Now there's a story for you!! Oedipal and incestuous in the family way. My sense is that the mother's insistence on her stay in the mental institute amounted to a revenge for the girl's favoured status in the eyes of her father who, unfortunately, died before the mother. This is what I mean by a missed opportunity. Damn dark stuff there, ready made for a Ken Russell kind of movie story.

Still, a fine poem. Elegant too. And I do enjoy the narrator in her own right. Hoping the cycle continues.

Tere
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Bernie01 Profile
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Tere---

you identify at least nine more stories for this or a similar poem to share with the reader:

1. Claudel and Rodin;

2. Claudel and Debussey

3. Claudel's mental instability.

4. the record also indicates her...doctors, considered her case mild, urged her mother more than once to release her from the hospital in Avignon,

5. Mother refusal to allow her release.

6. Brother Paul,

7. Claudel's father

8. Oedipal and incestuous


9. the mother's insistence on her stay in the mental institute amounted to a revenge for the girl's favoured status in the eyes of her father


yes i understand, so many stories, so little time.

I mean by a missed opportunity. Damn dark stuff there, ready made for a Ken Russell kind of movie story.

a chore to find details in the letters, newspapers and court cases. without details, we too often fall into the mode of university lecturers dribbling important dates but without a sense of how that person lived each day, their favorite foods....name of the dog, health concerns.
 
i favor following Debussy, or Camille, or her feckless brother and mother, Rodin---into the food market of old Zola:

           Beneath the stall show-table, formed of a slab of red marble veined with grey, baskets of eggs gleamed with a chalky whiteness; while on layers of straw in boxes were Bondons, placed end to end, and Gournays, arranged like medals, forming darker patches tinted with green. But it was upon the table that the cheeses appeared in greatest profusion. Here, by the side of the pound-rolls of butter lying on white-beet leaves, spread a gigantic Cantal cheese, cloven here and there as by an axe; then came a golden-hued Cheshire, and next a Gruyere, resembling a wheel fallen from some barbarian chariot; whilst farther on were some Dutch cheeses, suggesting decapitated heads suffused with dry blood, and having all that hardness of skulls which in France has gained them the name of “death’s heads.” Amidst the heavy exhalations of these, a Parmesan set a spicy aroma. Then there came three Brie cheeses displayed on round platters, and looking like melancholy extinct moons. Two of them, very dry, were at the full; the third, in its second quarter, was melting away in a white cream, which had spread into a pool and flowed over the little wooden barriers with which an attempt had been made to arrest its course….The Roqueforts under their glass covers also had a princely air, their fat faces marbled with blue and yellow, as though they were suffering from some unpleasant malady such as attacks the wealthy gluttons who eat too many truffles. And on a dish by the side of these, the hard grey goats’ milk cheeses, about the size of a child’s fist, resembled the pebbles which the billy-goats send rolling down the stony paths as they clamber along ahead of their flocks. Next came the strong smelling cheeses: the Mont d’Ors, of a bright yellow hue, and exhaling a comparatively mild odor; the Troyes, very thick, and bruised at the edges, and of a far more pungent smell, recalling the dampness of a cellar; the Camemberts, suggestive of high game; the square Neufchatels, Limbourgs, Marolles, and Pont l’Eveques, each adding its own particular sharp scent to the malodorous bouquet, till it became perfectly pestilential; the Livarots, ruddy in hue, and as irritating to the throat as sulphur fumes; and, lastly, stronger than all the others, the Olivets, wrapped in walnut leaves, like the carrion which peasants cover with branches as it lies rotting in the hedgerow under the blazing sun.

can you see Tom Jones, or Woody Allen?

maybe a large dinner placement, the guests all the people you identify from Rodin to Debussy, from modigliani to akmatova---just arrived from russia for a few months stay before her son is arrested my the MKVD--- around the table---talking, gossiping, making out, hazarding psychological theories that only get better as they consume greater quantities of wine.


here is a note i like (i can't explain why) from Pessoa (alive during all these adventures you mention---writing to some one....think this is self explanatory:

in a letter from 24 July 1915 addressed to Alfred H. Braley, editor of Modern Astrology, Pessoa seeks the horoscope
of Francis Bacon — who was, according to a then-fashionable theory, the real author of Shakespeare’s works:


. . .
quote:

[My] chief interest arises from a desire to see what in
Bacon’s horoscope registers his peculiar characteristic
of being able to write in different styles (a fact which even non-Baconians admit) and his general faculty of transpersonalisation

I possess . . . the characteristic to which I am alluding.

I am an author, and have always found [it] impossible to write in my own personality; I have always found myself, consciously or unconsciously assuming the character of someone who does not exist, and through whose imagined agency I write.

I wish to study to what this may be due by position or aspect and am therefore interested in the horoscope of the
man who is known to have possessed this faculty in an extraordinary degree.





and here, a modern narrative from a new York comic:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jSwzYB545hY
  

 
thanks again.




bernie





Last edited by Bernie01, Jun/9/2013, 11:41 am


---
Fall

Bob Grenier: the leaves / falling / out of the / water by the / table
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Re: Camille Claudel


Very good, Bernie. Thanks back at you and carry on. You do have your work cut out for you. From where I stand, looks like it could be fun.

Tere
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[My] chief interest arises from a desire to see what in
Bacon’s horoscope registers his peculiar characteristic
of being able to write in different styles (a fact which even non-Baconians admit) and his general faculty of transpersonalisation

I possess . . . the characteristic to which I am alluding.

I am an author, and have always found [it] impossible to write in my own personality; I have always found myself, consciously or unconsciously assuming the character of someone who does not exist, and through whose imagined agency I write.

I wish to study to what this may be due by position or aspect and am therefore interested in the horoscope of the
man who is known to have possessed this faculty in an extraordinary degree.


To be able to write well in different styles and to assume the personalities of a host of characters convincingly is a gift. That's why there are so few Shakespeares or Tolstoys. To be able to get inside the hearts and minds of various characters and then to express what one finds in ways those characters would express themselves, without having all the charcters sound alike and/or secretly (or not so secretly!) like me, is not a skill I possess. Maybe in the short term but not for the long haul.
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K---

yes a rare gift. in life, too, being able to see or understand the point of view of another person.

life imitating art, and the other way 'round.


alas, too much identification with the other, and we call it split personality---the three faces of Eve...etc....a form of schizophrenia.

ah, what are two nice folks like us to do?


bernie

---
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Bob Grenier: the leaves / falling / out of the / water by the / table
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Bernie,

Yes, a certain elegance, a certain old world charm in many of your poems. Almost like the poet, not necessarily "you", would enjoy living back then, or having lived back then. This poem is not as easy as some of your others, yet, it is more sophisticated than some of the others. Vaguely like reading a novel with a lot of structure, or at least with a lot of characters. Yet, not just Tolstoy, but maybe Hemingway, too, in the iceberg theory of writing. In poetry, you can do that. A lot is implied. Strangely, though, a great part of the poem is extended to the discussion with Katlin and Terreson. Was that true before the internet? If so, it happened when you would go to the library and research the poem, or maybe in the workshops of the day, in the professor's lectures. Now, you get that Katlin and Terreson conversation within a few days of posting the original, and then the revision. Where's this all leading? Will some genius machine of the future be able to fish for the poem AND the comments, too? Fish in long-dead sites, in those that die? The poem seemed to be bumpy in a few places when I first read it, but read smoother after I read the discussion, or most of it. Good work. Zak
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Zak---

missed your comment.

a novel, novel-like:

Vaguely like reading a novel with a lot of structure, or at least with a lot of characters.

i justify narrative sprawl by interjecting details---images. and more images.

a story.

---a WW II Japanese fighter pilot, flying his Zero and sensing Japan has lost the war.

---a man attending his mother's funeral, the poem mentions The Egyptian Brotherhood--that's how contemporary it is.

---a Bombay high school student with a part-time job of handcranking a child's ferris wheel---he offers a girlfriend a free ride and stoically accepts a roasting from his friends:
   
...Next day,
my classmates tease, but I will not tell them
your name. Cruelly, they suggest I should give
any remaining rupees to the legless man
who begs outside our school.


---a poem about bees:

The local bees carouse, turnout pockets to purchase a good time,
sprawl, their legs open like girls taking sun the first day of summer.

I never see them eat from their tiny black lunch boxes, they hum
like choir boys, overshoot runways that are like ours, but round.
The bees are colorblind, deaf and they do not like blue Windex.

Arriving home exhausted they play card games before quarreling
or canning honey preserves, later they slip down striped underpants
and rest placing bald heads, shiny as the day they were born,
on paws tangled with paws of brothers who do not seem to mind,
they sleep no longer than it takes for a rain drop to fall from heaven.


---a pg short poem about wife swapping:

http://tinyurl.com/at8dbnd


variety, i think. these historical poems are new.


i don't seem to do horror, sports, or the mythological and no philosophic or motivational work.

and you? ever list the topics for the last ten of your poems?


thanks for your comment.

bernie





---
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Bob Grenier: the leaves / falling / out of the / water by the / table
Aug/10/2013, 4:10 pm Link to this post Send Email to Bernie01   Send PM to Bernie01 Blog
 
ineese Profile
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Re: Camille Claudel


This is simply beautiful. From my read,
it has everything.

I see you've already received quite a lot
of feedback.

I only have one small suggestion.
It's not even a nit, just my point of view.

Here:

"She remained locked-up for thirty years.
The beauty I saw in photographs
worn down like a marble sculpture
outside for years, her speaking
voice rasping and metallic
when she came closer, but protected
by a warder I could not speak to her."

I thought of

like the marble sculpture
at the garden's entrance for years

the reason that image came to me was because a garden dies, lives, dies, lives and while
those living things are worn down even a memory can come back to life again when
we "pick it up"

anyway, thanks for this. Just stunning.
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