When you consider things like the stars, our affairs don’t seem to matter very much, do they?” ~ Virginia Woolf

“Lake George, Autumn” (nd)
by Georgia O’Keeffe

                   

“The human heart is a lonely hunter—but the search for us southerners is more anguished . . .” ~ Carson McCullers

Monday afternoon. Overcast and humid, Temperatures creeping back to the 80’s.

Have I ever mentioned how very much I love the author Carson McCullers, so much so that I have always held Carson in reserve as a girl child’s name, not that I ever got to use it. I used to teach Heart is a Lonely Hunter to my American literature classes. It’s a stunning book, so well written and so tragic. The 1968 movie starred Alan Arkin as Singer, a deaf-mute, and a very young Sondra Locke as the teenage girl Mick. The movie is a wonderful adaptation of McCullers’s book, and I would show it to my class after we finished the novel. It’s one of those movies that holds up after time, mostly because of Arkin’s portrayal of Singer.

“The Autumn View from the Balcony” (nd, oil on canvas)
by Konstantin Yuon

I once read a biography by Virginia Spencer Carr about Carson McCullers called The Lonely Hunter. Born Lula Carson, McCullers preferred her middle moniker and legally changed her name to Carson when she was 30. The biography by was an in-depth look at the life of the troubled writer, who suffered from alcoholism and had rheumatic fever at a young age, which led to a series of strokes. She died in 1967 at the age of 50 as a result of a brain hemorrhage. (I’ve included Charles Bukowski’s poem about the writer, can’t remember if I’ve posted it before, but it’s worth seeing again.)

A contemporary of Truman Capote, Eudora Welty, and Tennessee Williams, McCullers is considered to be a prominent writer in Southern Gothic fiction. In fact, Williams once called her the greatest living writer of our country, if not the world. Her characters suffer from acute loneliness and a feeling of displacement.

Just writing this makes me want to reread the novel and the biography, but that would mean that I would have to find them first.

“We are hurt into beauty.
And you, up in the balcony, rising
to your feet, applauding fiercely, look
down at what your own hands are doing.” ~ Paul Hostovsky, from “The Violence of Violins

Wednesday morning. Cloudy and high 60’s.

I couldn’t finish this post on Monday. Too much happened.

“Hemlock Pool” (aka “Autumn”, 1894, oil on canvas)
by John Henry Twachtman

When I got home from Lex’s, I took Tillie the lab outside to play stick. About half an hour later, she started to have seizures, and this continued for over an hour. I really thought that I was going to lose her. Brett and I did all of the things that you are supposed to do: kept talking to her calmly, kept her cool, even offered her peanut butter, which I’m not sure why this is a thing to do, but apparently it is. I also gave her a sedative, which eventually calmed her.

The entire time, all I could think was that it would kill Corey if Tillie died while he was not at home, and I was overcome with such feelings of guilt.

It was such an ordeal, but we are very lucky that she came out of it okay with no apparent damage. I’ve never had to handle it when she’s had a really bad seizure, let alone multiple ones. I have to say, just for the record, I really, really hate this, all of it, everything. It’s all just too much. I feel spread so thin, and there doesn’t seem to be enough of me to go around for everyone.

Truthfully, I want to run and hide. I want to go back to being a hermit. I want to retreat to the days in which I never left the house. If you don’t leave, nothing can happen, right?

“We share all these disappointments of failing
autumn a thousand miles apart. This is where
autumn wind easily plunders courtyard trees,
but the sorrows of distance never scatter away.” ~ Po Chü-i

Corey is due in port sometime tomorrow. Still don’t know if he’s going to get off the ship or finish this hitch. So many different factors, not the least of which is money, but I hate that, hate that our fate is controlled by money. I long for the time in which we no longer owe everyone a piece of us, but I have to wonder if we will ever reach that point? Does anyone really? Another thing that I really hate is that so much of our debt is medical, my medical debt, which just leads me to hating the system, and on and on and one ad infinitum.

“By the Stream, Autumn” (1885, oil on canvas)
by Paul Gauguin

At the moment, the dogs are all napping peacefully. Outside it’s relatively quiet, and I’m sitting here trying to concentrate on writing, but a million different things are going through my mind: I need to call this person, and I need to make this payment, and I need to take a shower, and should I do a load of laundry, and yes, there are dirty dishes in the kitchen. Last night Brett walked into my bedroom and asked me why I was polishing the furniture at 9 o’clock in the evening. No good answer for that, really.

I have an appointment this afternoon with my prescribing psychiatrist. Is there a drug that acts like the waters of Lethe, inducing forgetfulness? Would that it were possible truly to cast one’s trouble on the winds. I have this sudden mental image of a wet newspaper being beaten about by the wind only to land on my face. Almost comical.

“This is the sadness of the sea—waves like words, all broken—a sameness of lifting and falling mood.” ~ William Carlos Williams, “The Descent of Winter”

I did not post any Kate Daniels poems yesterday. Perhaps I’ll get to it later in the week. Who knows . . .

I do want to thank the newest followers tho commented recently. It’s always nice to hear from new voices. I would promise that this blog isn’t always this depressing, but that might be a stretch. No, not always depressing, I suppose. Sometimes a bit off-kilter, sometimes politically far left of center, sometimes wacky. It depends upon the moon, the barometric pressure, the dogs, the kids, the color of the water in the pool, the number of spider webs . . .

“Autumn Sea VII” (nd)
by Emil Nolde

Anyway, so this morning I awoke from a hellacious nightmare, one that featured a home invasion scenario. In it, I was both brave and cowardly, in one scene confronting the invaders, and in another cowering against the wall beneath a sheet. At one point, the bad people were gathering up the individuals in the room across from mine, and I was saying goodbye, knowing what was in store for them. The graphic designer with whom I used to work at the museum was going to be taken, and I was telling her over and over again how sorry I was for everything.

Now this is the point to all of this: Why do I apologize for things over which I have no control even in my dreams? Where does this come from? I could no more control the behaviors of the villains than I can control the weather, but I felt the need to say that I was so sorry, as if I had somehow willed the situation.

I wonder if I do that in real life . . .   

“Lotuses have withered, they put up no umbrella to the rain;
one branch of chrysanthemum holds out against frost.
Good sights of all the year I’d have you remember,
but especially now, with citrons yellow and tangerines still green.” ~ Su Tung-p’o (trans. by Burton Watson)

Let’s see, what else?

When I was dusting last night, I rearranged my stack of books to read, and I don’t know when that stack got so big. I have, I believe, four books just by Ian Rankin from the Inspector Rebus series. I also have Kafka by the Shore, one that I’ve been wanting to read for a while but never remembered to order. The truth is that I just haven’t been reading much in the past few months.

“Autumn Song” (1905, pastel on paper)
by Victor Borisov-Musatov

My free time (free?) is spent with Olivia, and then my leisure time (is there such a thing?) is spent cramming everything else into a day. I know that at some point I will need to wean myself from the habit of seeing le bébé almost every day, but I have become as dependent as Lex. Yesterday, I just spent time holding her, which really helped to calm me, especially after I got a call from the pain management center saying that they were cancelling my appointment for today because I hadn’t made a payment in a few months. I asked, without really expecting an answer, what I was supposed to do about my left hand. I hung up the phone and just wanted to cry.

Truly, I feel like I have a “kick me” sign on my back that is visible only to others. How pathetic. I do not like being a victim. If I were smart, I would wash this entire post as it is just one big roll in the self-pity pile. But I won’t do that because it goes against my belief that writing anything is better than writing nothing, which is not to say that it’s a particularly good mantra. And besides, I can’t go take a shower because eldest son just jumped in the shower before me, and there won’t be hot water or a while.

My life, so ordinary, so mundane, so tragicomical. Bee-zar. Truly.

More later. Peace.

All autumnal images found on Wiki Paintings.

Music by My Name is You, “Come Back”

                   

Carson McCullers

she died of alcoholism
wrapped in a blanket
on a deck chair
on an ocean
steamer.

all her books of
terrified loneliness

all her books about
the cruelty
of loveless love

were all that was left
of her

as the strolling vacationer
discovered her body

notified the captain

and she was quickly dispatched
to somewhere else
on the ship

as everything
continued just
as
she had written it

~ Charles Bukowski

The poems, the poets, the words.

Qian Xuan Early Autumn detail 13th c ink&colors paper

 Early Autumn (detail) by Qian Xuan (13th C., ink and colors on paper)

 

 

“Thus moved, he will spread his paper and poise his brush
To express what he can in writing.” ~ Lu chi (261-303),
from The Motive for Poetry

I have spent too many days dwelling on life—my life, my role in this life, my thoughts about living life with someone you love but with whom you disagree at times (it’s called marriage). It’s all so complicated, and then, not really. As a result of my meditations, I wrote two poems, one of which I did not post. More on my poem(s) in a moment.

Today, I did not really want to write about mysef. I need a break from myself. Do you ever feel like that, like you would like to send that part of yourself that is in pain or is being a pain to another room, lock the door, and say don’t come out until it’s over? Of course, not possible in the physical realm of things, but I do know of individuals who can compartmentalize themselves to such an extent that they can move between the different parts of themselves, their different faces, if you will. They move seamlessly between their personae so that no one ever really gets to know them, the real them because there is no real them.

I’m not talking about multiple personality disorder here. I mean something much more ethereal, less tangible. Having dealt extensively with an individual who falls into this category, I can tell you that it is incredibly taxing. Me? I’m pretty much an open book about most things: I’ll tell you how I feel whether you want it or not. And as we all know, this is not necessarily a good thing. And self-censorship is something at which I have never been very capable. If part of me is in pain emotionally, then all of me is experiencing that pain; hence, my wish that it were not so.

Anyway, today’s post really isn’t about me. It’s about writing. Poems. Poets. Words.

“Perpetual thought itself gropes in time and space;

Then, the spirit at full gallop reaches the eight limits of the cosmos,

And the mind, self-buoyant, will ever soar to new insurmountable heights.” 

~ Lu Chi, from Meditation Before Writing

 

huang-shen-white-egrets-on-a-bank-of-snow-covered-willows-1767
"White Egrets on a Bank of Snow-Covered Willows," Huang Shen (Chinese, 1767)

In reading my comments and blogrolls today, I came upon the following poem by Chinese poet Po Chü-i (Tang Dynasty) posted by healnow of The Madder Hatter. I love Chinese poetry: Often it creates images with an enviable sparsity of words. Ancient Chinese poets were often involved in politics in some manner, and because of this, the poets would use metaphors to criticize the rulers of the time.

As with Japanese poetry, ancient Chinese poetry predominantly employs images in nature. I have tried Japanese Haiku as an exercise to use an economy of words. It is incredibly hard to write a poem that contains only 17 syllables (three lines of 5, 7, and 5 syllables respectively). Of all of the Haiku that I have written, there is perhaps only one that I like, that I feels comes closest to the spirit of the form.

But as usual, I digress. “Night on the West River” employs only 64 words to create the same atmosphere that I was trying to evoke with “October Rain.” Granted, I really wasn’t thinking as much about form as I was more concerned with the emotion. But Po Chü-i’s lines, “Cold comfort,” “Water flowing grayly,” say what I was feeling but with much more perspective.

I usually don’t post any of my poems until I have worked and reworked them. I strayed from my own advice and posted purely out of emotion. I’m not sorry that I did. Don’t misunderstand. It was a pressing need, and I embraced that need with the post. Rather, what I am saying, is that it was an unfinished poem, and in comparison to “Night on the West River,” the deficiencies of my own “October Rain” are made all the more apparent.

It’s a good writing lesson, and it’s good to still be able to learn lessons. And of course, the masters are those from whom we can learn the best lessons.

Night on the West River

No moon
To light my way upon the stair,
Cold comfort
In the wine I drink alone.
Black clouds,
Rain,
The hurried flight of birds,
Water flowing grayly
In the dusk.
A rising storm,
Boats tugging at their mooring ropes.
Or sails full-spread
To take advantage of the wind.
A moving point of fire
In the dark,
The distant lantern
Of a passing boat.

(Translated by Henry Hart)

This poem and many others can be found on a website called Humanist Texts, which includes writings by Aeschylus, Cervantes, Khayyam, the Buddha, Lao Tzu, and many others. According to the home page, the purpose of the website is to show “how people around the world gradually develop an understanding of what it is to be human. Multicultural extracts portray the wit, wisdom, and poetry of individuals as they reflect on ethics, philosophy, knowledge, and human relationships.” It’s a great site, and many thanks to The Madder Hatter for turning me on to it.

The following poem by Lu chi has more of a modern sensibility, but very often, translating from Chinese or Japanese—which is an arduous task—can be made harder as no precise English word exists for words in those vocabularies.

Unfortunately for Lu chi, his creative sensibilities were compelled into military service as he was born into a wealthy military family. Much of Lu chi’s work was dedicated to writing about the craft of writing.

The Joy of Writing 

Writing is in itself a joy,

Yet saints and sages have long since held it in awe.

For it is being, created by tasking the great void;

And it is sound rung out of profound silence.

In a sheet of paper is contained the infinite,

And, evolved from an inch-sized heart, an endless panorama.

The words, as they expand, become all-evocative,

The thought, still further pursued, will run the deeper,

Till flowers in full blossom exhale all-pervading fragrance,

And tender boughs, their saps running, grow to a whole jungle of splendor.

Bright winds spread luminous wings, quick breezes soar from the earth,

And, nimbus-like amidst all these, rises the glory of the literary world.

 

“All objects visible under the sun or moon will the poet in experiment strike aglow,

All that can give out a sound he will ring to test their resonance.”

~ Lu Chi from The Working Process

 

Ogata Korin Red and White FLowers in Bloom by a Flowing Stream 18th C 2panel screen ink color gold silver onpap
"Red and White Flowers in Bloom by a Flowing Stream," Ogata Korin (18th C. Japanese, screen)

 

I love the line, “The words, as they expand, become all-evocative.” Exactement! That is what I seek when I write: to allow my words to come from a void and to expand until they fill the space for which they were intended. Lofty goal? Not really. Reduced to its simplest form, it merely means sifting through all of the possible words and finding the exact right word to convey the thought.

 

I’ll leave you now with just one more, a selection from a poem by Medieval Japanese poet Hitomaro. I love the allusions to fall.

 

On the Death of his Wife (I)

 

……….

I would gladly follow

the wandering spirit of my love

through precipitous ways

hidden by autumn’s red leaves,

but cannot tread those unknown mountain trails

That lie beyond my ken.

 

In autumn’s fall of scarlet forest leaves

I see the message coming for me

and think of one day of love

that never more shall be.

 

To continue my theme of rain (may be a bit quiet) . . .

 

 

 

More later. Peace.