Happy Halloween

…and in the tradition of an evening of representation, masks, and other such delights, a quote from Aristotle’s Poetics:

Since by nature we are given to representation, melody and rhythm (that verses are parts of rhythms is obvious), from the beginning those by nature most disposed towards these generated poetry from their improvisations, developing it little by little. Poetry was split up according to their particular characters; the grander people represented fine actions, i.e. those of fine persons, the more ordinary people represented those of inferior ones, at first composing invectives, just as the others composed hymns and praise-poems. We do not know of any composition of this sort by anyone before Homer, but there were probably many [who composed invective]. Beginning with Homer [such compositions] do exist, e.g. his Margites etc. In these the iambic verse-form arrived too, as is appropriate. This is why it is now called “iambic”, because they used to lampoon (iambizein)each other in this verse-form. Thus some of the ancients became composers of heroic poems, others of lampoons.

TWO THINGS

…a new post card arrived in the mail today. Thanks Annette.
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And here is something from The Carillon newspaper interview with Oliver Stone–the line has captivated me all afternoon–I think, because I write and face the rejection squad numerous times a year, this sentiment rings true–I can’t find the exact quote, I thought it would be online, but apparently not so; it was something like this: we can only know ourselves by our defeat. We can only see outside ourselves by seeing our failures. So true, methinks–but even then, do we really see?

GREY GARDENS

Last night was my first encounter with Edith Bouvier Beale and her daughter Edie. These eccentric relatives of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis lived a life of squalor in a mansion at the Hampton’s. They were ordered at one point to clean up the mansion which was in disrepair and full of raccoons and cats (at one point in the documentary, Edie fed an entire bag of wonder bread to the raccoons living in the attic). But they were full of life, singing, and arguing in the way only family members are able to, vicious and cruel one minute, affectionate the next. They were shut-ins, rarely leaving the house; they were once beautiful, still were in some way, and in their off-beat manner, they were often philosophic speaking about life, the meaning of, almost I must say, poetic (I started taking notes one-minute into the film when Edie said “You can’t be too careful–they’ll get you for wearing red shoes on a Sunday.”). They talk about each other from past loves to present stagnation, seeing their lives as still worth living. I enjoyed the interaction between the mother–I would guess she was in her seventies in this film made by the Maysles in the 70’s–the daughter, and often the filmmakers.
Now Grey Gardens can be enjoyed as a Broadway play–I wonder what this does to the biographical element, does it dramatize it more, or less? I don’t know if this is the trend, a musical drama about the drama between two eccentric women, but in the words of Edith Bouvier Beale: “There’s nothing worse than a staunch woman–they don’t weaken. France fell but Edie didn’t.”

“It’s difficult to keep the line between the past and the present.”–Edith Bouvier Beale.

Certainly the Maysles are interested in recording the Beales’ very real life—the ruined house crawling with cats and fleas, the paper bird in the rusty gilded cage, the mother and daughter quarrelling—but those are the film’s most superficial elements. What draws the viewer in are the stories around what we cannot see: Miss Beale lamenting the loss of a scarf. The suitors turned away. Mrs. Beale’s infatuation with a man whose minor musical talent is better remembered than heard. Money spent. The dream of New York on summer nights filled with jackhammers and the moon. Regrets and recriminations: the language of lovers, the fabric of family life. The Maysles’ interest in the ephemeral, the passing of time in a sea of leaves, tells us that masks are all we have; people would not know who they are or what to say without them. Time is cruel, but we can overcome it a bit by insisting on self-expression (at any cost, since it generally does cost something: a conventional life and the conventional wisdom that goes with it).” –Hilton Als

They were intriguing on screen as people who’d had everything, and then nothing but each other.

I’VE BEEN TAGGED

…again, this time by Amy.

Well, a meme. That’s something I’m not sure I want to give away. Five little-known things about me. Hmmm. Well. Let’s see what I can come up with that may or may not shock you.

1. It’s not that I don’t like country music, it just doesn’t like me.

2. I own a guitar, but rarely play.

3. I dislike chaos, but like spontaneous gestures.

4. I’m not fond of crowds, but I like to talk.

5. I can talk for hours and not say anything.

LAST NIGHT

…I dreamed of trains. The old fashioned kind with grilled triangular fronts and the bodies heavy with black metal. The look of coal trains that chugged their way through the fresh laid tracks of so-called civilization.

The reason for the dream–Anna Karenina. I was watching this 1997 production last night on Bravo, thinking how much they’ve left out, how much they’ve captured, how sad it is, how romantic it is, how lonely it is, how lonely it is to be watching at 1am on a Thurs., how romantic the theme of the book/movie, how sad the realism is, and how poignant the music is with interludes of Rachmaninoff floating throughout the background (I love Rachmaninoff (Moments Musicaux op. 16 no. 3 in b-flat minor, being one of my faves, although I’ve yet to learn how to play it–the b-flat minor is a haunting space)–there’s something so evocative in his music, and it really suits this Tolstoy story, (although most of the movie is underscored by Tchaikovsky, it was the Rachmaninoff that I noticed more) the haunting melodies just underneath, like the world underneath the romance that Tolstoy alludes.

What exactly is it that I love about the realist/pre-modernist novel? I wondered, even as I watched, why am I so drawn to the romance of death, the romance of life, the romance of romance? I love the realist novels–such as Dickens, and Trollope, for the very reason most people hate them, the realism. But I also love them for their romanticism. What was once romantic and realistic to their way of life, is lost to us in the present, and when I read these authors for their realism, and in some way, their small beginnings of existentialism, I enter the unreal, the realm of imagination. I think, even though I dream of being chased by gigantic black metal steam-engines, there’s nothing wrong with that.

I’M NOT

…impatient I’m passionate. I was reminded of that tonight as I stood patiently waiting to speak to Leona Theis (she was popular, and rightly so), as my child yanked my arm several times, telling me to give up, asking me why we couldn’t just leave, demanding to know why we had to stay and chat if the reading was over.

Of course, all this was after a hectic day of two exams, back to back, a few hours of work, and a wonderful book launch. Joining Leona in launching were our future poet laureate, Robert Currie, Marie Elyse St. George, and Gail Robinson. Unfortunately Martha Blum was ill and couldn’t be there. There was an awesome crowd, the readers were terrific, the food was spectacular, and I was able to sneak away before 9pm.

ABOVE

…my computer I have placed a few things. To the left is a reproduction of an old botanical print of the peach (yes, that’s dust on the frame–a little imperfection never hurt anyone), a Glen Sorestad poem “We Need These Silences”, given to me by Glen when he edited my book, and the latest postcard that I received in the mail, a lovely Picasso. Now on the right, I’ve placed “Homage to Lucille’s Hips”. Inspiring. This also means that I’ve figured out how to put pictures here without a url. Excellent news.

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