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Leaving Hollins

Bryn Mawr: Writing
I have really loved being Writer-in-Residence here - and I was lucky to get to stay the full 6 weeks (well, 5, as I ran off to Readercon & to teach Alpha Teen Workshop in the middle) because Delia was teaching a full 6-week course, and got to see and hear the students more than I would otherwise.  

Just said good bye to her writing class, took photos, left a couple of New Yorker & SFWA Bulletin articles on the board for them to read . . . and now, walking home across campus as the cicadas blast away in the trees and the sun sets over the misty mountains,  I make these lines:

All of the things you are going to have done
You have done.
The rest is commentary.


god only knows where Delia gets this stuff

Madame J. (closeup)
I just referenced a quote on Twitter ("I think I just figured out how to write one of the novels I've been ruminating (like a cow in the contiguous shade, yeah).") and nobody picked up on it.  So I looked it up.  It's from James Thomson's 1726 poem, "Winter, A Poem."  

No, me, neither.

Here's the relevant (to some degree of "relevant") passage:

FOR, see! where Winter comes, himself, confest,
Striding the gloomy Blast. First Rains obscure
Drive thro' the mingling Skies, with Tempest foul;
Beat on the Mountain's Brow, and shake the Woods, [115]
That, sounding, wave below. The dreary Plain
Lies overwhelm'd, and lost. The bellying Clouds
Combine, and deepening into Night, shut up
The Day's fair Face. The Wanderers of Heaven,
Each to his Home, retire; save those that love [120]
To take their Pastime in the troubled Air,
And, skimming, flutter round the dimply Flood.
The Cattle, from th'untasted Fields, return,
And ask, with Meaning low, their wonted Stalls;
Or ruminate in the contiguous Shade:

Delia frequently refers to cows "ruminating in the contiguous shade," so I thought it was something well-known.  OK, she does have a PhD - but it's in Renaissance Studies!  I shall have to ask her about this when i get home (to some degree of "home" - headed back to Roanoke on Weds., to rejoin her at Hollins - but home is where the heart is).


EK/DS wedding band
One of my great reading pleasures is the Sunday New York Times Paid Death Notices.  The lives described therein are remarkable, in column after column.  This week, I was particularly struck by these two:  

Ruth Hung-Fang Tung, age 96:  Her father, Tung Jing-Cheng. . . was a Confucian scholar, and her mother, Grand Duchess Wang Shou-Kun, was the founder and head of a girls school. Professor Tung . . .  graduated from Harbin Normal College for Women, and was the first Government sponsored graduate student to attend Ochanomizu Women's University in Tokyo. To escape the massacres during the Chinese Civil War, she, together with her three infant sons, sought refuge in Japan . . . To supplement her modest academic salary in order to raise her three sons, she wrote poetry, translated books and movie subtitles, and taught Chinese cooking at home and on television. After sending each of her sons to the United States for high school, she joined them there, taught at American University in Washington, D.C., and worked as a researcher in the Chinese Collection of the U.S. Library of Congress . . . . 

Leonard Lazarus, age 100:   born in the Bronx to German immigrants . . . . Leonard's father contracted TB and upon the doctor's advice relocated to the Adirondacks in Saranac Lake. Leonard's mother, Lillie, was very resourceful and found a place big enough, with land, to run a boarding house and for her husband to run a kosher chicken and egg business. . . . . At a young age Leonard helped his parents. He had the largest paper route in the neighborhood and took furs to the rail station for a furrier. . . .  Mr. Lazarus' father died two days after his high school graduation so proud of his son who was the first person in the family to graduate high school. . . . After his father's death, the family relocated back to the Bronx where his mother opened a family grocery business where Leonard worked. One of the customers, Rose, became his first wife. Leonard won a state scholarship to Columbia University at sixteen. He worked for the New York Times and became a soda fountain man in a movie house that showed the first talkie movie with Al Jolson, and then became the manager of the cafeteria at Columbia. . . .. After graduation from Columbia University School of Law during the depression. . . . Leonard represented the bus driver's union, three to four hundred men on strike, and conducted labor negotiations with Mayor La Guardia. . . .

Folks, times are tough.  But they've been tougher.  Life stories like this are in there every week, and I eat them up, and learn from them.

I Think Continually of Those who were Truly Great
Stephen Spender

I think continually of those who were truly great.
Who, from the womb, remembered the soul's history
Through corridors of light where the hours are suns
Endless and singing. . . . .
. . .
The names of those who in their lives fought for life
Who wore at their hearts the fire's center.
Born of the sun they traveled a short while towards the sun,
And left the vivid air signed with their honor.


EK/DS wedding band
We went last week - or was it the week before? or sometime before that...? - to the Irish Repertory Theater to see The Yeats Project, which 2-night spree deliasherman has brilliantly summarized here and here.

I was not as moved by The Countess Cathleen as Delia was - until they got to the final lines, which utterly break my heart:

Tell them who walk upon the floor of peace
That I would die and go to her I love;
The years like great black oxen tread the world,
And God the herdsman goads them on behind,
And I am broken by their passing feet.

Particularly poignant that they are spoken by Cathleen's foster mother (nursemaid). (I had meant to put this up for Mother's Day, but forgot in the weekend's flurry.)

I wonder if Dylan Thomas loved them, too?
The force that through the green fuse drives the flower . . . .

Really, we'd be watching these OK plays - listening, really, as they're solid verse without much action - and every few minutes a full, gorgeous unknown bit of Yeatsian glory would pop out......

Well, as T.S. Eliot said, "Yeats had nobody; we had Yeats."
Madame de Jurjewicz
If all the good people were clever,
And all clever people were good,
The world would be nicer than ever
We thought that it possibly could.

But somehow 'tis seldom or never
The two hit it off as they should,
The good are so harsh to the clever,
The clever, so rude to the good!

So friends, let it be our endeavour
To make each by each understood;
For few can be good, like the clever,
Or clever, so well as the good.

-- Dame Elizabeth Wordsworth (1840-1932)
" the great-niece of the poet William Wordsworth. She was the Principal of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, from 1878-1909, when she founded St. Hugh's Hall, a college for poor female undergraduates, on Norham Gardens in North Oxford. This was later established as St Hugh's College, Oxford, which is today the largest college in Oxford University."


A Passover Haiku, by Me

EK/DS wedding band
Written yesterday:

Bright sun on melting snow of Cleveland
Six hours to Seder
Better scrub!

When I posted my lame little effort on, ehrm, my Facebook page, stardragonca was kind enough to reply: Seasonal reference? Check.
Juxtaposition of two thoughts half independent of each other? Check.
Sincerity of heart? Check.
Yes, we have haikai!

though someone else said it made him think I was gearing up for a surgical procedure at the Cleveland Clinic. Maybe should change the last line to:

Back to work!

Today seems ridiculously easy by contrast: all the dishes are changed over, shelves scrubbed - all we have to do is cook Dinner #2. It is completely fercackt to have to do all that changeover all day *and* be expected to host a giant meal at sunset. But every year, women all over the world manage to pull it off, and have for thousands (of years. And guests).

There has thus arisen a certain bravura bravado:
- OMG, I've got 22 people coming the first night!
- Oh, our first night is just the 4 of us, plus the in-laws. But then we've got - waitaminute, is Sam coming? - 18 . . . .

What's your best score ever? Or just this year?


new poem (not by me!)

Madame de Jurjewicz
The Right to Pleasure

You would think that I go mad with grief
when the white sails fill and the keel cuts
the waters like a knife honed on a whetstone:
that's the way you're taught to interpret these signs --
matted hair, the salt-dirt lines where sweat has run,
hands that feed the mouth but will not wipe it.
But when my love decides to go and then is gone,
I can still taste him, bitter in the throat; I still
feel the weight of his body as he fights sleep.
I do not fight it: on the contrary, I live there,
and what you see in me that you think grief
is the refusal to wake, that is to say, is pleasure:
qui donne du plaisir en a*, and so if
when he couldn't sleep in that long still night
you sensed it and woke to show him how
to unfasten each and every button, then it is
promised you, even when he goes --

--Jessica Fisher, The New Yorker (p. 72), January 8, 2007

*who gives pleasure gets some (Fr.)


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