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Monday, June 22, 2015


Internet fast until next Monday--Culture Care Day at Cairn, company, graduation, parties!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

At Cairn: Culture Care

Fujimura Institute 
Culture Care Day
Wednesday, June 24, 2015
Cairn University
Chatlos Chapel
200 Manor Ave.
Langhorne, PA 19047

"Join friends of the International Arts Movement and the Fujimura Institute for an evening of lectures and performances exploring Culture Care.

"IAM founder Mako Fujimura (author, Culture Care) will host an afternoon discussion with Dr. Esther Meek (philosopher and Fujimura Institute Fellow) and Dr. Peter Candler (author and Fujimura Institute Fellow) and Marly Youmans (poet/author). The evening benefit concert will feature Danielson and The Nine-Fruit Tree, MAE, Andrew Nemr with Max ZT, Ruth Naomi Floyd, Marly Youmans, Ron Witzke, and white lotus."
My event schedule for the day, subject to lots of change as we approach the day. This is probably not the final word:
Poetry and fiction reading at 11:00
Interview, conducted by Makoto Fujimura, after lunch
4:15-5:00 p.m. I'll be joining the panel on culture care. Chatlos Chapel.
6:30-9:30 p.m. I'll kick off the benefit concert with a tiny poetry reading. Chatlos Chapel.

Strong-minded words from Makoto Fujimura:

Younger artists often ask me whether their art is "good enough," and whether they are called to be an artist. My answer is: "if you are not sure, you are not called." That may seem harsh, but the reality of the arts requires that we follow our calling no matter what others think, or even what we believe ourselves. When art is simply what we must do to stay true to ourselves, it is a calling.

It is not surprising that Emily and Vincent--and their art--were marginalized, for both intuited that such an exiled existence was the only way to remain consistent with their humanity given the cultural pressures of their time. Yet  more than a century later these two exiled souls still speak eloquently to what our hearts long for. Her poems give us words to express our own resistance to utility. His paintings offer parables of beauty that sow seeds of authentic being into our wounded, dehumanized souls. Their works are antidotes to utilitarian drive for commercial and ideological gain, remedies for the poison in the river of culture. They offer our dying culture unfading bouquets, gifts of enduring beauty that we do not want to refuse (p. 63, Culture Care.)

...who you are and what you are built to do...

from Michael Lind, at The Smart Set:
"Artless: Why do intelligent people no longer care about art?"

The fine arts don’t matter any more to most educated people. This is not a statement of opinion; it is a statement of fact...

What happened? How is it that, in only a generation or two, educated Americans went from at least pretending to know and care about the fine arts to paying no attention at all?

Our culture...

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Word power

This page in the nigh-infinite library of the web is devoted to words arranged in the right order. Here are heartfelt, powerful words of anguish, beauty, and forgiveness--words that reveal the heart and soul, the mixed tangle of feelings, and the chosen determination to hew close to the injunction, "Love one another."
"You have killed some of the most beautifulest people I know. Every fiber in my body hurts.... May God have mercy on your soul...We are the family that love built."

The response by "Mother Emmanuel" church to the shootings reminds me so much of the words from the Old Order Amish to the shooting of ten girls, ages 6 to 13, at the Amish West Nickel Mines School back in 2006. They were shot at close range, execution-style, and five of the girls died on the spot or soon afterward, while the others were seriously injured. The Amish expressed forgiveness and comforted the family of the killer. The thought of an Amish man holding the killer's father in his arms makes an indelible picture.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Tilting against trendy views of Carroll

An Alice from the fabulous pen of Mervyn Peake
wonderful illustrator and author of the Gormenghast trilogy;
see more of his work at

Two in one, three in one

As someone who fell in love with the Alice books at five, I've enjoyed the many articles of late about that precocious young miss, and about those two interesting, contradictory yet identical people, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson and Lewis Carroll. I say identical because so many writers suggest that they were two, as they are frequently contradictory in manner and writings. But are we not all one with our reversed image in the mirror? A logician and mathematician who loved to present children with number and "river-crossing" puzzles, Dodgson well knew that 1 x 1 = 1.  Most important of all, how big a trick is it to be both Charles Lutwidge Dodgson and Lewis Carroll, when the man is a deacon in the Anglican Church and acknowledges with frequency in public and before God that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are one?

An ideal from which we are barred

Let's consider the wholly bizarre-to-us idea that Dodgson could enjoy tea and boating parties with little girls and photographing little Victorian girls, sometimes in the "attire of Eve," without being an incipient pedophile. Is this possible? Is it possible for a Victorian artist to enjoy the beauty of naked form without feeling even a tiny urge to ravage, ravish it?

Our own times are quite odd about the matter of childhood and sex. Our young teen models and actresses with their revealing designer clothing bind together childhood and sexuality. Revelations about the abuse of little children are commonplace. And yet we still live in a world where tiny children love to toss off their clothes and dash about in the freedom of nakedness. I remember an Irish poet telling me that men must bathe their tiny daughters to help their wives, but also because the children's bodies are so radiant--delicious and beautiful. I leave off his name because such sentiments in our post-Freud times have the power to shock many of us. The lyrical family photographs of Sally Munger Mann in her private, rural Eden of river and woods have caused dust-ups and argument in the world of museums and the fine arts.

So can we go back to and enter into an era in which the upper class of the culture held up images of children as unstained innocence and loveliness? Can we ever see through their eyes? Or is there a peculiar angel of time barring our way to that Edenic concept? Of course, things in Victorian times were not sweetness and light for children scrambling up chimneys or living in workhouses; nevertheless, a child world of sweetness and light formed an upper class, educated ideal, one that Carroll photographed.

Our culture, shocked by the celibate

Could it be that what offends the current sensibility of Western minds--our sex-and-youth-exalting media, our worship of movie celebrities and their changing lovers, our insistence on freedom in our pleasures--is the idea that someone could choose to set aside his sexuality, whatever its nature? The mistrust of Dodgson among many critics may, at least in part, be rooted in his distance from our own sensuous culture through his position as a celibate deacon in the Anglican church. Imagine that degree of renunciation and discipline; it's not only quite uncommon in our time, but frowned upon by many educated people, both in and out of the church. Can many critics in our current culture consider Dodgson-Carroll without feeling almost a disgust for his celibacy, a thing that challenges our own culture's values in multiple ways? I think not.

Alice's adventures last

Sunday, June 14, 2015

"Better than yourself"

I had forgotten this wonderful Paris Review interview until Brenda Bowen quoted a line from it on Facebook. I just found and reread it. So brilliant, so fascinating. Read the whole thing; it's full of wonderful, often unexpected responses that still are full of meaning for readers and writers and just plain old human beings.

When I was a teen and in my early twenties, I was passionate about and read virtually all of Faulkner. I was mad about Spotted Horses and The Sound and the Fury and Absalom, Absalom and more. I am sure plenty of what I read was not properly digested, and certainly time has wiped much of what I read from memory. But the books were a fine diet for a dreaming, aspiring Southerner.

My father, who rose from being a Depression-era Georgia sharecropper's child to a professor of analytical chemistry, disapproved of and resented Faulkner's depiction of poor Southerners. I always remember him when I think of Faulkner.

Some clips to entice

Ninety-nine percent talent . . . ninety-nine percent discipline . . . ninety-nine percent work. He must never be satisfied with what he does. It never is as good as it can be done. Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.


The writer’s only responsibility is to his art. He will be completely ruthless if he is a good one. He has a dream. It anguishes him so much he must get rid of it. He has no peace until then. Everything goes by the board: honor, pride, decency, security, happiness, all, to get the book written. If a writer has to rob his mother, he will not hesitate; the “Ode on a Grecian Urn” is worth any number of old ladies.


People really are afraid to find out just how much hardship and poverty they can stand. They are afraid to find out how tough they are. Nothing can destroy the good writer. The only thing that can alter the good writer is death. Good ones don’t have time to bother with success or getting rich.


Nothing can injure a man’s writing if he’s a first-rate writer. If a man is not a first-rate writer, there’s not anything can help it much. The problem does not apply if he is not first rate because he has already sold his soul for a swimming pool.


His obligation is to get the work done the best he can do it; whatever obligation he has left over after that he can spend any way he likes. I myself am too busy to care about the public. I have no time to wonder who is reading me. I don’t care about John Doe’s opinion on my or anyone else’s work. Mine is the standard which has to be met, which is when the work makes me feel the way I do when I read [Flaubert's] La Tentation de Saint Antoine, or the Old Testament. They make me feel good. So does watching a bird make me feel good.


The young writer would be a fool to follow a theory. Teach yourself by your own mistakes; people learn only by error. The good artist believes that nobody is good enough to give him advice. He has supreme vanity. No matter how much he admires the old writer, he wants to beat him.


The quality an artist must have is objectivity in judging his work, plus the honesty and courage not to kid himself about it. Since none of my work has met my own standards, I must judge it on the basis of that one which caused me the most grief and anguish, as the mother loves the child who became the thief or murderer more than the one who became the priest.

INTERVIEWER Some people say they can’t understand your writing, even after they read it two or three times. What approach would you suggest for them? FAULKNER Read it four times.
It's all worth reading. Read it! Or, as in my case, reread it and find it just as good and intriguing as before.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

The Stone Court

Art Nouveau Medusa, 1911, Wikipedia
I have written three posts in the past week and deleted them all. Somehow I'm not satisfied with my thoughts, it seems, and so here's a story in the form of a blank verse poem. All is June-busy here, and the chilly rains have knocked many of my lovely Chinese peonies to the ground, where they lie shattered and beautiful. Be well!

* * *

Perseus, after being equipped with tools and slicing off Medusa's head, flies away on Pegasus (with a short stop to rescue the beautiful Andromeda) to Seriphos, where his mother had taken refuge in a temple, the unfortunate Danaë having been pursued and amorously abused by King Polydectes. When the king refuses to believe that Perseus has completed the terrible task assigned to him, Perseus lifts the head of Medusa and turns the king and his nobles to stone. I've added a few other figures, as often little people are caught up in dramatic events.

The treasures Perseus received from the gods were a shield like a mirror from Athena, a sword from Hephaestus, winged sandals from Hermes, and the helm of invisibility from Hades. The shield is important here.

The Stone Court

I didn't meet the terror's lightning-strike,
Jag-necked Medusa whom the painters praise
With heads that show a severed life can prick
Its serpent hair to hissing, howl the mouth
In everlasting No! against the world:
My eyes were dwelling on the stranger's eyes,
Reflected from the hero's godborn shield--
Long-throated head, the twist of gleaming hair,
The moony skin as luminous as pearl.
I hadn't known that I was beautiful.
A horse that sprang from blood unshipped its wings,
The hero thumped Medusa's head in a bag,
Chucked it across his shoulder and flew away.
My mother's brother, come to plead a cause,
Stiff with anger . . . I kissed his limestone cheek,
Was glad of wine and barley flatbreads tucked
Inside a cloth, and thieved the king's own knife--
He'd have no further clasp on weaponry
But would forever claw a flea born itch
Beneath a cloak of stone. A tippler's mouth
Was plugged, a snatched caress was tombed in rock:
The figures looked too real: impossible,
A little corny, certainly not art
Or worth my grief. I hardly felt the loss
Just then, drifting in the cloud of knowledge
That was my youth, a shield around my limbs,
Though floating motes once dust were adamant
To sting my face to tears. I threaded paths
Between arrested courtesies of court
And stared as dazzle of a shield and horse
Made starfalls retrograde. Though sapphire sky
Slanted a jeweled lid above the stones,
I never feared but walked a thousand steps
Before the world began to yield to green.
I bore a light-drenched memory of me,
A soft and yielding vision, stream of flame
Or water welling in a fresh-dug pit,
And slowly realized the morning's truth:
The power of my gaze protected me.
The island's edge came curling to my feet,
I walked in brightness like a springtime sun,
Carrying myself as one who witnessed
The dangers burning from a woman's face.
I bore myself like glory in a cloud
As I moved swiftly over hills to home,
Goatherds called me by the name of Ceres
And begged me make the ground grow deep with grass,
And country people knotted near the path
To see the goddess green the early fields.
Though all the flame was vigor of my youth
And borrowed magic of a fearsome sight,
I came in after-years to meditate
How I alone escaped the pitiless
And wondered that the innocence of youth
And joy could blunt the edge of brute demand,
Declaring by mere thoughtless going-on
That life was far too vigorous to end.
  • originally published in Mezzo Cammin
  • reprinted in The Foliate Head (UK: Stanza Press, 2012), 
  • now in second printing; available Stanza, Amazon USUK, etc.
More on the sword-and-helm set.... When my children were small, my husband often made swords, helmets, shields, poodles, and flowers from balloons, particularly at their parties but often at other times. I am wondering if he can work up to these amazing balloon creatures.