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Friday, June 25, 2021

Late morning thoughts

Aside from tweaking yesterday's poem, I have managed to lay waste to the morning without much accomplishment. Unlike yesterday, when I was a weeding demon in the garden, and also cut down the leaves of autumn crocuses (croci!) that will magically return as flowers in the fall... What a weird emblem of resurrection they are! The big broad leaves of spring turn brown and die, and the the autumn ravishment comes, dreamy and floating and leafless. Spirit flowers...

Despite having wasted my precious time, today I am pleased with the thought that at 4:00 p.m. for approximately 30 minutes (if you believe the prophecies of the weather mages), it will hit 80 degrees. I do not really believe the online weather mages but am still pleased (being a Southerner not adjusted to Yankeedom despite all these years here) by the hope. 

And I am also idly, not particularly seriously, wondering if the world has changed so much that it's really not mine anymore, and so it's a good thing that I live a mostly unseen life in an obscure little village. Out there in the world, do people read books anymore? Do they read poetry? And if they do, do they read what's called free verse and / or formal poetry (the thing we used to call "poetry"?) 

Are poets and writers like modern-day lacemakers, addicted to making things of beauty and truth? Everybody loves the idea of beautiful handmade lace, but few have any. (What does it mean for lace to be truthful? Well-made, I suppose. Delicate but strong.) Maybe for a marriage? For a wedding dress? 

Except some of us elope and need no lace. 

I eloped.  

* * *
Святитель Феофан Затворник Вышенский, епископ Тамбовский (St. Theophan the Recluse of Vyshensky, Bishop of Tambov), known as Theophan the Recluse: 
Works of art are delightful not just for the beauty of inward composition, the intellectual-contemplative beauty, the ideal. Where do such visitors come from in the soul? They are visitors from another realm, from the realm of the spirit. 

Theophan the Recluse. Ivar the Boneless. Alexander the Great. Æþelræd / Æthelred the Unready. Samwise the Brave. Why don't we name people this way any longer? Well, I know why, but why don't we do it anyway, just for the fun of it? 

I had to look up Theophan, as I found that quote in Aidan Hart's Beauty Spirit Matter but, as often happens, knew... nothing. He's Saint Theophan of the Russian Orthodox Church. Bishop Theophan wrote a number of books on prayer and spiritual transformation and also translated the Philokalia from Church Slavonic into Russian, which must have been a mighty long job.


  1. In so many ways (although the idea evades many) we live in a world full of magic these days. We hold magical devices. Information streams invisibly in the ether. Instant magical gratification in so many realms of our lives.
    Poetry brings its own magic, (yours most certainly does) but this other kind of physical magic still seduces us over the more spiritual kind. It's a passing phase, so poetry written now is going to fill the eventual need once more.
    Well, that is what I think.

    Paul the Prattler.

    1. Paul thee Prattler, haha!

      Passing phase? It's a hopeful thought.

      True, technology has reached the point of seeming magic, in that we (most of us) simply don't understand how any of our tech toys work.

      I prefer to think of them as useful tools, though certainly they are entirely too seductive.

      And yes, I find poetry and the world enchanting without such helps...

      Thanks for leaving a comment here rather than on social media. I sometimes think that I should just stop blogging completely because posts there are active, and blogs are less so these days. Nice to hear from you here!

    2. Sorry for butting in, but please don't stop blogging. I have the opposite thought: I've been considering deleting twitter lol.
      Keep it up, Marly.

    3. Di,

      I'd say I'm confused about what to do. The part of twitter I like is a bunch of poets and readers who comment frequently--it makes me feel as if I have a little sub-world in poetry and stories, even though it's somewhat an illusion. But I actually met some of these people when I did book events for The Book of the Red King, before things closed down. That was wondrous! I have people who message me daily who I value.

      I'm wobbly about facebook as well, though there I have more writer friends and also people from my past. I've somewhat retreated there.

      But I dislike how political both places are; I'm not interested in tech giants controlling conversation... I'm also just not interested in other people's politics. On the other hand, perhaps it is necessary to see the attacks on literature and language currently underway! And I am interested in not feeling alone in what I do.

      I need to go reread your pinned post...

    4. I know what you mean.
      I have a facebook account but deactivated it a while ago, couldn't stand all the political posts and mantras and all the virtue-signalling. I still need twitter, and like some of it, but too much of it drives me mad.
      It's up to you but I think you shouldn't stop blogging. It's your own space, you see.

    5. Yes, it is good to have a airy house in the digital world... And there's just way too much interference in what we write, most places. Wee or large mobs. Censuring. Chiding. And many writers have beta readers before they even get to a publisher... I don't like that sort of thing. (Well, I also dislike being on committees, haha!)

      I suppose that I'm semi-deactivated on facebook, as now I only do posts and don't go elsewhere unless someone tags me. I quit going elsewhere to save time but also because I found a lot of political comments to be just a useless stirring-up of people's emotions and dislike of the "other side." Also, there's a terrible dearth of reticence. Bring back reticence!

      But I do appreciate the messaging. I do video calls there with my daughter in Montreal. Haven't seen her since Covid kicked in.

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  3. I think it is the manner of the modern English language that works against the form "X the Y"; instead we move the qualifier in front of the name: Crazy Eddie, Weird Al, Tricky Dick, etc. I have a hard time coming up with a version of former that is later than William the Silent.

    In Pictures From an Institution, the narrator speaks of a novelist who regarded the poet as if a maker of stone axes. I do read poetry from time to time. After reading Hilary Mantel's Bring Up the Bodies, I pulled the household Wyatt off the shelf, and started reading the poems as time allowed: I find that I have LV to go (hey, I'm not the one who assigned Roman numerals to the poems) before getting to the paraphrases of the Penitential Psalms, where I will probably give up. I tend to read formal verse more than free.

    "Theophan" is a fine name for a saint.

    In a Washington June, 80 degrees counts not as hot weather but as relief. We have just had two splendid days.

    1. When I moved to Cooperstown, I would keep the car windows rolled up in summer and no AC on, just to feel properly Southern-hot! My early years in South Carolina and Louisiana and summers in Georgia set me up for heat... When I'm at my mother's house in North Carolina, it's not hot, as she's on a mountaintop.

      "Theophan" is, indeed, fine. I love that Aidan Hart book, and it's full of beautiful quotes, too.

      I was a great Jarrell fan in high school and for years after, but I have not read that novel in many years--had forgotten that image. I do love Wyatt! And Surrey. And I am the same--read much more formal verse, although I do confess to having a manuscript lying around that is semi-formal (!), mixing KJB-influenced parallelism with elements of Yoruban praise poetry. A bunch of those are online at "At Length" and scattered elsewhere. Have no idea where to send such a thing.

      You are quite right about the language... It is definitely affected and usually comical when we try for such things now. Reminds me of the make-your-own-Shakespearean epithet list I had up as a chart for my children for a while. You could pick two adjectives and a noun. It always made them laugh and forget being mad at a sibling...

  4. You're being too Calvinist. Time is never wasted. You do what you want with it, sometimes because it resolves a need, sometimes because you want to relax. Relaxation is not a sin. Only dim-witted people with limited intellectual resources, tortured by the extremes of weather on the Shetland Isles, subscribe to the view that "real" life is only real if one is experiencing discomfort in some form or another. One might wonder during a period of justifiable relaxation what such toilers expect of the afterlife. More of the same or eternal comfort? The fact is one can become habituated to the "stone in the shoe" and feel incomplete without it.

    I query your view of lace. Most of the lace I've been aware of (in an admittedly mainly lace-free life) has been used for doilies and as antimacassars. I don't dispute the importance of these functions - we all hate the sight of wayward cake crumbs and seat squabs tainted with hair-grease. But in a domestic emergency we may survive their absence.

    And gosh, your feelings about free verse appear to be getting stronger and stronger. Is there a lapel-pin for such non-adherents? Tiny and tasteful (the pin I mean) inscribed in Aramaic so's not to offend.

    I didn't know you eloped. Having sworn, no doubt, to deny yourself hair-unguents. More about this, puh-lease.

    1. Well, that's a first! Calvinist! Hilarious view of Shetland islanders. I suppose I feel that way about certain grueling weathers--why do we stay in January?

      I do own some lace, oddly enough. That is, my now-92-year-old-mother made the most splendid little dresses for my sister and for me--handworked buttonholes and pretty lace tatting. They are precious and delicate. Tatting is not as grand as lacework, but it's sweet.

      Oh, I don't mind free verse. See my comment to George about my own! But I do think it's ridiculous that it is desired and form is not, when form is capable of great power and beauty and strength. Just call me easily bored, maybe?

      Hah, well, my husband and I stayed at the Bath Guest House in Bath, North Carolina. We wanted to be married in Bath but ended up in the courthouse in Washington, where I was surprised by how serious and even religious the ceremony was (I'm sure it's not the same today.) And I had a pretty little bouquet in concession to the day; the sheriff's deputy held it for me while I signed...documents and a ledger, I believe. After some days in Bath and wandering the beaches, we went back north. I remember the bouquet in a cooler with lots of boiled shrimp, and having a picnic on the return.

    2. Your elopement details - with bath carrying a capital b - sent me scurrying to Chaucer. As Wiki says: "She holds her own among the bickering pilgrims, and evidence in the manuscripts suggests that although she was first assigned a different, plainer tale—perhaps the one told by the Shipman—she received her present tale as her significance increased."

      And lo, your significance has increased! How delightful to be trailered from that far back. For the fifth or sixth time in these columns I kiss the hem of your garment.

    3. RR, you are hilarious. I'm glad that I could give you a little joy in your day across the sea. Just think of that nice sheriff's deputy with a pretty little bouquet when you feel blue...

  5. I like the idea of being a lacemaker in an age of throw away fashion. I like the measured pace of journal blogs as well. Unlike social media the posts might possess actual staying power ,eclipsing the need for that horrifying word "content ". As per poetry , there is seems in my isolated sphere a great deal of it, but I confess often listened to more frequently than armchair read .
    I pretend I am sitting at the feet of a bard.
    Leonard the Hermit ( Who Is Considering the Anchorage )

    1. Lacemaker certainly suggests the slow accretion of beauty--though I'm probably fabulating, and an expert lacemaker works with great speed. Novelist John Cowper Powys had a sister, Marian Powys, who was a lacemaker and wrote a book about lacemaking...

      What a good pretense! And I entirely believe it of you...

      You should have moved to Cooperstown instead of Chicago if you wanted anchorage! Haha! Well, not in tourist summer...

      Clive told me he tried to post and could not! I'm glad you made it.

  6. If poetry is lacemaking at present, then so be it. I'm happy doing it and enjoying the work of others who do it. I know almost no other writers or poets in "real life," so the ones I've connected with via blogs have always made the obscurity of this work much easier to handle. I rarely comment or engage in discussions on corporate social media, as blogs like yours just feel more casual, more approachable, more humane. Whether anyone remembers us in twenty or a hundred years, we're still helping keep a fire kindled. I have days when I'm tempted to disappear into the woods, but writing, even in our nutty age, is still work worth doing.

  7. In the "vale of soul-making," we must make! While I do know some other writers, I rarely see any--Cooperstown is not a hotbed of literary aspiration and is bigger on painting, opera, and baseball. We have George Hovis and Peg Leon... And there are a few writing groups and a good bit of self-publishing. I do credit social media with introducing me to a few writers who I've since met.

    Jeff, hope all is going well with your community project--I shall have to go see.

    1. The Sugarland book has been a happy success locally. For our efforts, my co-authors and I each received an historic preservation award. I've written millions of words for the past 22 years for government agencies, private clients, and others, but this is the first award I've ever received. I was covered in dirt from working outside, but I immediately drove to the craft store and put the dang thing in a frame. In the D.C. area, people have walls full of honors, certificates, awards, and appreciations. I have this one, I've no doubt I earned it, and it's going to look great on my office wall.

      I've recently thought about organizing the other writers here in our rural community, but I've been able to find only a handful. The artists here are well organized, because there are more of them. Even though the Sugarland book doesn't have my name on the cover, writing it has made me slightly less invisible in my community than usual. It's going to take a little getting used to...

    2. Oh, that's lovely! Congratulations. I am glad they appreciated your work and friendship. And I hope your name is in there somewhere!

      It's the same in Cooperstown--lots of painters and visual artists who have a long-standing organization. Fewer writers...


Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.