“To hell, to hell with balance! I break glasses; I want to burn, even if I break myself. I want to live only for ecstasy . . . I’m neurotic, perverted, destructive, fiery, dangerous—lava, inflammable, unrestrained.” ~ Anaïs Nin, from a 1933 diary entry

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“Turn on the dream you lived
through the unwavering gaze.
It is as you thought: the living burn.
In the floating days
may you discover grace.” ~ Galway Kinnell, from “Easter”

Wednesday afternoon, overcast, 52 degrees.

It’s not a wordless Wednesday; actually, it’s a Wednesday full of words. I usually check my birthday sites before beginning a post to see if I want to include something about a particular writer or just mention a birthday worth nothing. But as February is almost over—a fact that I’m having a real problem wrapping my head around—and as the month happens to include birthdays of so many authors/poets/essayists whose work I love and admire (for whatever reason), I thought that I’d share a brief list. Each name is linked to a bio for that person. I’ve also included just a few of my favorite quotes and/or selections from works.

So, yeah. Lots of words for what is usually a wordless day . . . Enjoy.


  • Galway Kinnell, Rhode Island-born poet and 1983 Pulitzer prize winner  (February 1, 1927-October 28, 2014). Aside: favorite poem by him is “The Olive Wood Fire”
  • Langston Hugues, African-American poet and translator, leading figure of the Harlem Renaissance (February 1, 1902-May 22, 1967):

“Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor —
Bare.” ~ Langston Hughes, from “Mother to Son”

  • James Joyce, Irish novelist, poet, and stream-of-consciousness pioneer, author of Ulysses (1922), which was banned in the U.S until 1933 (February 2, 1882-January 13, 1941)
  • Christopher Marlowe, English poet and dramatist (February 6, 1564-May 30, 1593)
  • Charles Dickens, English novelist (February 7, 1812-June 9, 1870)
  • Elizabeth Bishop, Massachusetts-born poet, 1956 Pulitzer Prize winner (February 8, 1911-October 6, 1979):

“It is like what we imagine knowledge to be:
dark, salt, clear, moving, utterly free,
drawn from the cold hard mouth
of the world, derived from the rocky breasts
forever, flowing and drawn” ~ Elizabeth Bishop, from “At the Fishhouses”

  • Kate Chopin, St. Louis, Missouri-born writer of The Awakening and numerous short stories (February 8, 1850-August 22, 1904)
  • Alice Walker, Georgia-born novelist, poet, and political activist who won the 1982 Pulitzer Prize for The Color Purple (February 9, 1944)
  • Boris Pasternak, Russian-born poet and author of Doctor Zhivago; he won the Nobel Prize in literature (1958) but was forced by the Soviet government to decline (February 10, 1890-May 30, 1960)
  • Toni Morrison, Ohio-born African American novelist, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Beloved in 1987 and the first African American woman to be selected for the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993 (February 18, 1931-August 5, 2019):

“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 of The Black Book

  • Anaïs Nin, novelist and diarist, ground-breaking The Diary of Anaïs Nin published in 1966 (February 21-1903-January 14, 1977)
  • W. H.  Auden, U.S. poet, winner of 1948 Pulitzer (February 21, 1907-September 28, 1973)
  • Edna St. Vincent Millay, Maine poet and playwright, 1923 Pulitzer prize winner for The Ballad of the Harp Weaver (February 22, 1892-October 19, 1950)
  • Samuel PepysEnglish diarist (February 23, 1633-May 26, 1703)
  • Anthony Burgess, English essayist, novelist, and musician, author of 1962 novel A Clockwork Orange (February 25, 1917-November 22, 1993)
  • John Steinbeck, American novelist and Pulitzer prize winner in 1940 for The Grapes of Wrath, and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962, an award that few, including the author, believed he deserved (February 27, 1902-December 20, 1968):

“As happens sometimes, a moment settled and hovered and remained for much more than a moment. And sound stopped and movement stopped for much, much more than a moment.” ~ John Steinbeck, from Of Mice and Men

Personally, I always liked Steinbeck more than Faulkner, and Fitzgerald more than both, and Carson McCullers more than all of them.

More later. Peace.


Music by Martin Harley and Daniel Kimbro, “Goodnight Irene”

“For echo is the soul of the voice exciting itself in hollow places.” ~ Michael Ondaatje, from The English Patient

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Two for Tuesday: Michael Ondaatje

Tuesday afternoon, partly cloudy, 83 degrees.

I missed the birthday of one of my favorite writers: Michael Ondaatje (September 12, 1943). One of my best friends from the museum, Becky Anthony, introduced me to Ondaatje and his masterful novel, The English Patient, which was adapted into an equally beautiful movie starring Ralph Fiennes and Kristin Scott Thomas. The Poetry Foundation has a nice bio of the author.

For today’s Two for Tuesday, I thought that I’d share some of my favorite quotes from the novel, a few more than two, I suppose. I’m also including a video with some of the movie’s soundtrack. I love movie soundtracks, and this is one that I listen to when I’m feeling very out of sorts. It is as hauntingly beautiful as the movie and novel. Enjoy.

“She had always wanted words, she loved them; grew up on them. Words gave her clarity, brought reason, shape.”
In the desert the most loved waters, like a lover’s name, are carried blue in your hands, enter your throat. One swallows absence.
A man in a desert can hold absence in his cupped hands knowing it is something that feeds him more than water. There is a plant he knows of near El Taj, whose heart, if one cuts it out, is replaced with a fluid containing herbal goodness. Every morning one can drink the liquid the amount of a missing heart.
He walks with her through the indigo markets that lie between South Cairo and her home. The beautiful songs of faith enter the air like arrows, one minaret answering another, as if passing on a rumor of the two of them as they walk through the cold morning air, the smell of charcoal and hemp already making the air profound. Sinners in a holy city.
And all the names of the tribes, the nomads of faith who walked in the monotone of the desert and saw brightness and faith and colour. The way a stone or found metal box or bone can become loved and turn eternal in a prayer. Such glory of this country she enters now and becomes a part of. We die containing a richness of lovers and tribes, tastes we have swallowed, bodies we have plunged into and swum up as if rivers of wisdom, characters we have climbed into as if trees, fears we have hidden in as if caves. I wish for all of this to be marked on my body when I am dead. I believe in such cartography—to be marked by nature, not just to label ourselves on a map like the names of rich men and women on buildings. We are communal histories, communal books. We are not owned or monogamous in our taste or experience. All I desired was to walk upon such an earth that had no maps.

More later. Peace.

Also, Happy Birthday to William Carlos Williams (“The Red Wheelbarrow) and Ken Kesey (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest)


The Cinnamon Peeler

If I were a cinnamon peeler

I would ride your bed
And leave the yellow bark dust
On your pillow.

Your breasts and shoulders would reek
You could never walk through markets
without the profession of my fingers
floating over you. The blind would
stumble certain of whom they approached
though you might bathe
under rain gutters, monsoon.

Here on the upper thigh
at this smooth pasture
neighbour to you hair
or the crease
that cuts your back. This ankle.
You will be known among strangers
as the cinnamon peeler’s wife.

I could hardly glance at you
before marriage
never touch you
–your keen nosed mother, your rough brothers.
I buried my hands
in saffron, disguised them
over smoking tar,
helped the honey gatherers…

When we swam once
I touched you in the water
and our bodies remained free,
you could hold me and be blind of smell.
you climbed the bank and said

this is how you touch other women
the grass cutter’s wife, the lime burner’s daughter.
And you searched your arms
for the missing perfume

and knew

what good is it
to be the lime burner’s daughter
left with no trace
as if not spoken to in the act of love
as if wounded without the pleasure of a scar.

You touched
your belly to my hands
in the dry air and said
I am the cinnamon
Peeler’s wife. Smell me.

~ Michael Ondaatje

 

“Queen Elizabeth I, The Armada Portrait” (unknown artist, oil on oak panel, 1588)

Saturday afternoon, sunny and milder, 78 degrees.

I’ve been on a British history binge for weeks now, absorbing documentaries and shows about the War of the Roses and the Tudors. Last night I finished watching the series, The White Queen, based on books written by historical novelist Philippa Gregory. I’ve never read any of her books, and she has been criticized for working loosely with history, but hey, the key word here is novelist, not biographer.

I used to know pretty much the entire tree of British monarchy, largely because of my Shakespeare classes, but I’ve had to go back and familiarize myself again since beginning this current binge.

Steven van der Meulen, portrait of Queen Elizabeth I (c 1563)

Anyway, today is the birthday of Queen Elizabeth I (September 7, 1533 – March 24, 1603), who ruled England and Ireland for almost 44 years. The grand irony, of course, is that her father, Henry VIII was obsessed with having a son to carry on the Tudor dynasty, yet his son, Edward VI reigned for only six years and died at only 15, and his daughter, Mary (aka Bloody Mary) ruled for only five. Elizabeth, daughter of Henry and second wife Anne Boleyn, was never supposed to be queen, and she was in fact declared illegitimate at one point, yet her rule is referred to as England’s Gloriana, and her long reign brought stability to the country after years of instability and war.

For more on the “virgin queen” you can go here or here.


Music from the OST The Virgin Queen, “Gloriana”