“Days pass here, weeks slip away, and even when it isn’t, it seems to be Sunday, irreal, subdued, the queer, slowed-down feeling of late afternoon spreading through the hours of an entire day.” ~ Elizabeth Spires, from “Letter from Swan’s Island”
Sunday afternoon, sunny, warmer, 85 degrees.
Out of sorts today. I was awakened before 6 by one of the dogs, and then for the next two hours, there seemed to be an ongoing parade of dogs and a cat going in and out the front door. Most days, I open the front door early in the morning to let in the cool air, but lately I haven’t been doing so because of the swarms of flies; hence, I have to let the dogs out and in and out and in and . . .
Corey rolled over around 7 and asked me what I was doing. I replied that I was letting the dogs out over and over. He rolled over and went back to sleep, and I continued to watch YouTube videos, all while wishing for more sleep, which I finally got sometime around 8.
What a strange morning. Anyway, my timing is completely off today.
Today’s birthdays of note:
Richard the Lionheart (1157-1199), king of England
Patsy Cline (1933-1963), country singer born in Winchester, Virginia
Bernie Sanders (1941), U.S. politician
Aimee Mann (1960), musician born in Richmond, Virginia
Martin Freeman (1971), English actor (The Hobbit, Sherlock)
P!nk (1979), singer
So I thought that I’d post songs by these three incredible female vocalists. Enjoy.
Music by Patsy Cline, “I Fall to Pieces”
Music by Aimee Mann, “Drive”
Music by P!nk, featuring Chris Stapleton, “Love Me Anyway”
“Nobody wanted your dance, Nobody wanted your strange glitter – your floundering Drowning life and your effort to save yourself, Treading water, dancing the dark turmoil” ~ Ted Hughes, from “God Help the Wolf after Whom the Dogs Do Not Bark”
Sunday afternoon, partly cloudy and quite warm, 90 degrees.
Yesterday was the birthday of notable British poet Ted Hughes (August 17, 1930-October 28, 1998).
I know that I said I would continue the NRA post today, but I just can’t. I need a break. I worked on that frigging post for over eight hours, and my body hasn’t recovered. When I get into intense writing mode, I don’t pay attention to my posture, and I tend to sit with all of my muscles tensed. Of course, the result is that I pay for it afterwards. Today my shoulders are a bundle of knots, as is my lower back, which negates any relief I may have gotten from the trigger point injections.
I’m still awaiting a prior authorization on my Robaxin (muscle relaxer), which is what I take during the day, every day. I really need that. Well, that, or a masseuse. Don’t have either at the moment.
Corey and I both got a lot done yesterday: I wrote a thoroughly researched article, and he finished the fence on the back pasture for the goats. Hoorah, hoorah.
Anyway, back to Ted Hughes, who some of you may know as the husband of the poet Sylvia Plath; their marriage and her suicide negatively colored his reputation as a writer until his death, but he was incredibly talented in his own right. Unfortunately for Hughes, the woman for whom he left Plath, Assia Wevill, killed herself and their 4-year-old daughter Shura after Plath’s death. Hughes spent the remainder of his life writing and farming with his second wife, Carol Orchard.
If you want to know more about Hughes and Plath, the 2008 book The Letters of Ted Hughes is a great read, as is his 1998 book Birthday Letters. I own the latter but not the former; it’s on my wish list. I enjoy reading the correspondence of writers as the majority of them lay themselves bare in notes and letters. It always strikes me as being much more immediate than a biography.
You can find a good biography here on the Poetry Foundation site. The Paris Review interviewed Hughes for its “Art of Poetry Series” (No. 71) in 1995. You can find the article here. In the following quote Hughes discusses how location affected his writing, something I am always pondering myself:
Ever since I began to write with a purpose I’ve been looking for the ideal place. I think most writers go through it.
. . . When I came back to England, I think the best place I found in that first year or two was a tiny cubicle at the top of the stairs that was no bigger than a table really. But it was a wonderful place to write. I mean, I can see now, by what I wrote there, that it was a good place.
I chose “A Woman Unconscious,” the poem below, because once again, its content seems so timely, especially in light of the recent nuclear missile explosion in Russia
More later. Peace.
A Woman Unconscious
Russia and America circle each other;
Threats nudge an act that were without doubt
A melting of the mould in the mother,
Stones melting about the root.The quick of the earth burned out:
The toil of all our ages a loss
With leaf and insect. Yet flitting thought
(Not to be thought ridiculous)Shies from the world-cancelling black
Of its playing shadow: it has learned
That there’s no trusting (trusting to luck)
Dates when the world’s due to be burned;
That the future’s no calamitous change
But a malingering of now,
Histories, towns, faces that no
Malice or accident much derange.
And though bomb be matched against bomb,
Though all mankind wince out and nothing endure —
Earth gone in an instant flare —
Did a lesser death come
Onto the white hospital bed
Where one, numb beyond her last of sense,
Closed her eyes on the world’s evidence
And into pillows sunk her head.
“And I am all the things I have ever loved: scuppernong wine, cool baptisms in silent water, dream books and number playing. I am the sound of my own voice singing . . . I am not complete here; there is much more, but there is no more time and no more space . . . and I have journeys to take, ships to name, and crews.” ~ Toni Morrison, from the jacket cover of The Black Book
Sunday afternoon, sunny, warmer, 86 degrees.
We recently lost an icon in the literary sphere: Toni Morrison (born Chloe Anthony Wofford February 18, 1931-August 5, 2019). Novelist, essayist, editor and professor emirutus at Princeton University, Morrison (88), was the only African American writer and one of the few women to have received the Nobel prize for literature (1993). Among her other awards were the Pulitzer Prize for Beloved in 1988 and the National Book Critics Circle Award for Song of Solomon in 1977.
The Guardian‘s obituary offers a comprehensive look at her incredible oeuvre, and The Boston Herald ran an op ed by Joyce Ferriabough Bolling on August 11 that focuses more on Morrison’s incomparable literary abilities: “The quiet power of her prose was like a tsunami sweeping you to other dimensions — and sometimes you never saw it coming.”
Newsweek published an article that includes some of the renowned author’s best quotes. Here is a selection from her 1993 Nobel Prize lecture, powerful words that are incredibly significant still today:
The systematic looting of language can be recognized by the tendency of its users to forgo its nuanced, complex, mid-wifery properties for menace and subjugation. Oppressive language does more than represent violence; it is violence; does more than represent the limits of knowledge; it limits knowledge. Whether it is obscuring state language or the faux-language of mindless media; whether it is the proud but calcified language of the academy or the commodity driven language of science; whether it is the malign language of law-without-ethics, or language designed for the estrangement of minorities, hiding its racist plunder in its literary cheek – it must be rejected, altered and exposed. It is the language that drinks blood, laps vulnerabilities, tucks its fascist boots under crinolines of respectability and patriotism as it moves relentlessly toward the bottom line and the bottomed-out mind. Sexist language, racist language, theistic language – all are typical of the policing languages of mastery, and cannot, do not permit new knowledge or encourage the mutual exchange of ideas.
. . . Stop thinking about saving your face. Think of our lives and tell us your particularized world. Make up a story. Narrative is radical, creating us at the very moment it is being created. We will not blame you if your reach exceeds your grasp; if love so ignites your words they go down in flames and nothing is left but their scald. Or if, with the reticence of a surgeon’s hands, your words suture only the places where blood might flow. We know you can never do it properly – once and for all. Passion is never enough; neither is skill. But try. For our sake and yours forget your name in the street; tell us what the world has been to you in the dark places and in the light. Don’t tell us what to believe, what to fear. Show us belief s wide skirt and the stitch that unravels fear’s caul. You, old woman, blessed with blindness, can speak the language that tells us what only language can: how to see without pictures. Language alone protects us from the scariness of things with no names. Language alone is meditation.