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Friday, September 30, 2016

Golem and swan

Thanks to Prufrock News for once again featuring one of my poems, this time linking to "The Poet and the Golem" from Books and Culture. Artists of all sorts need chatty champions, people who are willing to get the word out and say in public what they admire and like.

For every writer who is the lucky recipient of a black swan, there are many more who go swanless. After Typee and Omoo, Melville went so swanless that he was eventually forgotten. Dickinson was swanless, though I expect swanlessness was good for her art--nobody chiseled off the oddly important dashes or beat her over the head with the idea of how very strange and curious her work appeared, and that much of swanlessness was good for her singular art. (Most people aren't so strong and vitally themselves as she was.) Poe was so terribly swanless. And Kafka was swanless. In fact, most artists in most artistic fields go swanless.

And so I very much appreciate that Micah Mattix, busy professor that he is, takes the time to share news about poets and writers he finds worthy on daily basis. It is a good thing that he does, and he does it faithfully. If you want to subscribe, go here.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Dear old Blogspot,

Have I mentioned that Facebook has a thing for me? Facebook is constantly asking me what's on my mind, though it (he?) never offers to give me a penny--not one red cent--for what's on my mind. What's on my mind, Facebook? Twitter. Where I just discovered the following important information: 1.) Definitely not keeping up. Entirely missed until now that WaPo declared Hillary Clinton to be "style icon"; 2.) Had no idea there was also a Khloe K. until poet A.M. Juster kardashianized my mind. What is this obsession with the "K"? " 3.) And the thing seen first on Twitter this morning: rules for "your novel." Makes me want to (cheerfully) burn "your" book. Bonfire of the Inanities. Also, I am going to reread my friend Ashley's Facebook post about art and appropriation and see what people thought because that post lacked anything about a presidential candidate's upholstery or an important K, for that matter, and it also had that odd thing, substance, and did the good work of setting firecrackers under a few rules. Which is satisfying in a world where the number of rules for the arts appears to be on the increase. Yes, general corseting of the mind and the arts is as common as web pages, and those in turn are as common as particles of styrofoam in the seas.

And what, Facebook, is this magic thing where you turn small-f Facebook into large-F Facebook? Even on my blog. Here. Yes, exactly like that. You like it like that.

You (you-reader, not you-Facebook or you-blogspot) may possibly be able to tell from the above that I read Andrew Sullivan's "I Used to be a Human Being" yesterday. (Subtitle: An endless bombardment of news and gossip and images has rendered us manic information addicts. It broke me. It might break you, too. Clip: "There is no dark night of the soul anymore that isn’t lit with the flicker of the screen.") And so, human nature being a weathercock, I contemplate whether I should drop out of Facebook and twitter (and possibly blogging), or whether it is possible--wishing to be moderate in all things save those few in which I am genuinely and joyfully and purposefully immoderate--to be moderate with the 'Net.

The whimsical, whirligig wind blows; I turn about and decide that the world is billionated with human beings, and that it doesn't much matter if I talk to myself here and there or not. Except: time. So precious and falling through the hourglass. Must go meet some human beings face to face, and then put some words in the right order.

Update, or threat-tweet from A. M. Juster: You'll like my k-heavy Kardashian double dactyl in next year's Waywiser anthology. Evidently a double dactyl anthology is forthcoming! Better put it on your To Buy list. There may never be another one.

Monday, September 19, 2016

The nature of research

What am I doing? Among other things, reading about the types and sources of cloth and ribbon excavated from a seventeenth-century privy in Massachusetts. Fascinating.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Richness and beauty

Isak Dinesen aka Karen Blixen, especially for anyone crisping and broiling and smoking in oil over public (Trump, Clinton, etc.) and private issues:
Difficult times have helped me to understand better than before, how infinitely rich and beautiful life is in every way, and that so many things that one goes worrying about are of no importance whatsoever. The wider one can manage to get one’s overall view of life to become, —and that is about the most vital thing to aim for in life, —the more one comes to see the magnificence and multitudinous facets of existence. But this also involves a real and true freedom from prejudice, so that one does not at the same time try to go on maintaining that this or that is of immense importance, for it is not. --from Ngong, 10 April, 1931

(And that reminds me of Anne Frank, who more than once talked about how she didn't think of misery but of the beauty remaining. Lovely, bracing courage!)

Hemingway said that he would have been happy if Dinesen had gotten the Nobel instead of himself. Me too.

Postscript: Lionel Shriver's speech blowing up identity politics has an interesting relationship to that Dinesen quote. Whether you agree or  not, it's a challenge. (Clip: "Inviting a renowned iconoclast to speak about 'community and belonging' is like expecting a great white shark to balance a beach ball on its nose.") Desiring to support other 5'2" Carolinian novelists, I recommend it be read. Maybe by you.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

More snails

Snail Jar. So I call it!
Terracotta jar with three handles
Late Minoan ca. 1600–1500 B.C.
The Met. Schliemann collection.
Dear diary: What madness it is to start a novel in the midst of upheaval--weekly Wednesday and often Sunday theater performances by my husband and eldest all summer, planning to move a child living at home to Atlanta, need to visit my mother far away, general mayhem of life with three children in town, and so on and on--but I have done this mad thing. I've always been the sort of writer who writes poetry but occasionally trips and falls into a novel and then writes a ridiculous number of pages per day, but now my life is making me write this novel in a different mode, all little zigs and zags. I am distracted by many things. My time is broken into little pieces. I've always thought that the discipline of writing every day was more workable as a man's habit--or maybe that of some single woman with no children--but when I didn't have time to manage to write a novel but did so anyway, I would stay up very late during a draft. During The Wolf Pit, I had very little sleep, which was electrifying and not healthy. But this book is not being written in that way. Days go by with nothing new on the page. Soon I'll be traveling. I'm not sure whether this is the way I can write a novel, but it seems to be the way that this novel will be written, if it is written. I need to be Ariadne who offered the bright thread of the clew for the labyrinth and Theseus and maybe even the Minotaur, but in slow increments. Maybe I am more a snail, leaving a silvery track but making it very slowly and hoping not to end up as an ingredient in "The admirable and most famous Snail Water."

Right now I must go read and write some book reviews. But first I will write a little on my novel. I like this quote from Steinbeck's diary: "Problems pile up so that this book moves like a Tide Pool snail with a shell and barnacles on its back." And yet that book did move. Perhaps this one will also.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

The admirable and most famous Snail Water.

Photo by Skippy3E of 

I have been doing a bit of research and feel like sharing this delightful seventeenth-century recipe with you...

The admirable and most famous Snail Water.

Take a peck of garden shell snails, wash them well in small beer, and put them in a hot Oven till they have done making a noise, then take them out, and wipe them well from the green froth that is upon them, and bruise them shells and all in a stone Mortar, then take a quart of earth worms, scower them with salt, slit them & wash them well with water from their filth, and in a stone Mortar beat them to pieces, then lay in the bottom of your distilled pot Angelica two handfuls, and two handfuls of Celandine upon them, to which put two quarts of Rosemary flowers, Bears foot, Agrimony, red Dock Roots, Bark of Barberries, Betony, Wood sorrel, of each two handfuls, Rue one handful; then lay the Snails and worms on the top of the Herbs and Flowers, then pour on three Gallons of the strongest Ale, and let it stand all night, in the morning put in three ounces of Cloves beaten, six penniworth of beaten Saffron and on the top of them six ounces of shaved Harts-horn, then set on the Limbeck, and close it with paste, and so receive the water by pints, which will be nine in all, the first is the strongest, whereof take in the morning two spoonfuls in four spoonfuls of small Beer, and the like in the afternoon; you must keep a good Diet and use moderate exercise to warm the blood.

This Water is good against all Obstructions whatsoever. It cureth a Consumption and Dropsie, the stopping of the Stomach and Liver. It may be distilled with milk for weak people and children, with Harts-tongue and Elecampance.

* * *
Till they have done making a noise...
A tiny but awful racket, no doubt.
Holy the whorl and the breath that wells there / The shell's shape fixed in unfurling, and the slow / Worm within. from "The Snail," W. S. Merwin

Saturday, September 03, 2016

Summer theatricals

For this family, it is the last of the summer theater season tomorrow. My husband and eldest son were in Arthur Miller's The Crucible--nine wonderful performances over the summer, set in the new amphitheater beside the lake, under the changing moon and the stars--GlimmerGlobe Theatre, sponsored by the Fenimore Museum. On the last night, my daughter's silkscreened t-shirts for cast members, adapted from the poster, went to the theater. The two of us sat in the grass by the stone seats, and ducks flew out of the lake and visited us there. One night an eagle sailed over. Flitterings meant bats. Most miraculous, not one Wednesday night show was rained out, though it did sprinkle a bit one evening.

The two family actors were also Box and Cox in the nineteenth-century farce, performed on Sundays at 12:30 on the outdoor stage in front of Bump Tavern in the Farmers Museum. They have their last performance tomorrow. All these theatricals have made the summer even more busy than usual, but I have enjoyed being an audience to my own family.

Edward Saker and Lionel Brough as Box and Cox, 1883.

Wikipedia: Box and Cox is a one act farce by John Maddison Morton. It is based on a French one-act vaudevilleFrisette, which had been produced in Paris in 1846.

Box and Cox was first produced at the Lyceum Theatre, London, on 1 November 1847, billed as a "romance of real life." The play became popular and was revived frequently through the end of the nineteenth century, with occasional productions in the twentieth century. It spawned two sequels by other authors, and was adapted as a one-act comic opera in 1866 by the dramatist F. C. Burnand and the composer Arthur SullivanCox and Box, which also became popular and continues to be performed regularly.