Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.
~ W. B. Yeats
That's how I feel about Paz ~ he's lighting a fire not just giving me a catalogue of facts or ideas.
The Bow and the Lyre has been on my shelf for years. Not sure what sent me to it this week but it makes me feel like I must have read it when I was 14 (I didn't) & decided at that minute to live my life according to its inspiration on the holy calling of poetry. Do I understand it? Maybe. Maybe not. It doesn't matter right now. It's giving me desire, energy, resolve, ammunition.
How I wish we'd gone to Chicago-based Ann Toebbe's show "Cooler by the Lake" at Tibor de Nagy gallery before the last day, when I may have been able to buy one of her wonderful inside-outside 2D-3D paintings. This one, with snow, was (predictably) my favorite.
Oh! Forgot to do this on Sunday!
Oh my goodness, how I love Nesbit! I forget how I stumbled on her recently ~ her name & titles were familiar but I hadn't read The Railway Children or any of her many other kids books. The children are excruciatingly innocent but also independent, a combination we really don't see anymore, I think. Published around 1900. She was a feminist & Fabian, & the girls are most definitely not shunted off to quiet sewing while the boys have all the adventures. No little mamas.
Language forms a kind of wealth, which all can make use of at once without causing any diminution of the store.
~ Auguste Comte
I'm looking for a recognition of generosity in all things, from money to language. That's why I like this quote.
Oh look! First of all, his name: Isidore Marie Auguste François Xavier Comte (1798-1857). And that he came up with the doctrine of positivism. ... Oh, hmm, it's not a midwestern can-do exhortation but is in opposition to metaphysics. I will have to study this further to find out if I'm a positivist (I hope so!) but I probably will forget all about it (I hope so!).
You know, till I dragged it out from under the sink, I didn't really see how awful this iron is. It still works, as far as I know ~ I was only getting rid of it because I forgot I owned an iron at all, & haven't used it for a decade or more. Here it is in front of the ugly babypoop-beige walls of my sordid little tenement. A tenement that is my home & that I love, & my house gets nicer every day. It's a long project: there aren't going to be pictures of the improvement for quite a while. Trashing this is an improvement.
I liberated this poster from the Orland, Maine, post office in 1974. Those girls were a little older than me & my friends but they could've been me (my mother got furious when I said that) & I followed the Symbionese Liberation Army closely. (Patty Hearst kidnapping, remember now?) I wasn't as energetic politically as they were & probably wouldn't have gone as far as they did but everyone I knew sympathized. We sat around, for example, discussing whether it would be worth spending your life in prison to assassinate Nixon, at that time the worst president ever (& to some extent I think he still is, because he paved the way for the disastrous monstrousness of Bush & the guy who preceded Biden, & because he ruined public service for so many). Luckily my friends were potheads & never got it together to act.
I also remember that Bill Harris published a book defending his politics of violence; there was an article in the Times on September 11, 2001, which I didn't read till later, after it had become SEPTEMBER 11. .... Well, I remember this very clearly but I can't find any mention of this at all. Maybe it wasn't the Times? Maybe it wasn't a book? It was around then that Harris & 3 others were arrested for a 1975 murder so he was definitely in the news again.
Update: It wasn't Bill Harris but Bill Ayers: "No Regrets for a Love Of Explosives; In a Memoir of Sorts, a War Protester Talks of Life With the Weathermen." September 11, 2001. The piece opens: "I don't regret setting bombs,'' Bill Ayers said. ''I feel we didn't do enough."
The best day! Sylvie, June, & the new kitten, Eliot, hung out for hours, goofed around, played a dumb card game called Kids Against Maturity (maturity definitely didn't win), walked around the East Village, Sylvie wearing a giant cardboard head with complete sangfroid, no teen self-consciousness. For me, besides spending time with two of my favorite humans, it was great to not be in a rush, blow off anyone looking for me, really take a day off.
A drawing is simply a line going for a walk.
~ Paul Klee
Klee was one of the first painters I took a shine to. A lot of it was that he titled his artwork ~ I took against artists with too many "Untitled"s. And the brightness that I felt in his paintings. I'm pretty sure the first artbook I ever bought was of his work, a tall book with a teal cover. I bet I still have it, but it must be at my house. I'll try to remember to look for it tonight.
I was having one of those thrashy days where I couldn't settle down to anything. I needed a book with snow in it. I searched for "snow" "winter" "cold" and maybe even "Christmas." After rejecting a couple of horrible soft-porn romances, I lit on Nicola Upson's Secrets of Winter. What a treat! I'd never heard of her or her series about Josephine Tey but this one was great. Tey-the-character is the writer, whose detective friend is the model for Tey-the-writer's Alan Grant. Secrets of Winter was full of beautifully described snow & an elaborate but fun plot. I have since read the first in the series, which was a bit macabre for my taste but I do plan to try at least a couple more.
What a good feeling, that every day my house & office are both a little tidier & emptier. You can't always tell if a poem is good, but you can always tell if the drawer / shelf / sink is empty. I never thought I'd enjoy this so much. Now, if it were safe to travel, there'd be other things I'd be enjoying a lot more.
My clever mum, who would have turned 98 this Saturday, the 15th, wrote this:
Happy birthday to me
for I am now 33
Happy birthday once more
for I am now 34
Happy birthday to me
Welcome back 33
She used to recite it & I'm not sure how to punctuate her dramatic pauses. Nor can I lay my hands on a photo of her around that age. Much later she would say, I look in the mirror & wonder who that old lady is. She kept a youthful spirit & a belief in possibility, which was part of what attracted people to her.
It's been brutally cold the last few days. Did that stop the Black Belt Revue from our outdoor workout? No, it did not. I ever-so-slightly wish it had, because jumping around in cold air wears me out. I wish I could maintain the never-say-die reputation without actually dying. (Although in fact I would rather do karate, no matter what the circumstances.)
I've been saying this for a while, maybe even here: I feel like I dropped a $50 bill on a sidewalk in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1972, & bitched about it for a while then forgot all about it, & 50 years later, Social Security calls me up & says, Remember that $50 bill you lost in Jackson? Well, we found it & invested it in your name & now we're going to give you $XXXX a month for the rest of your life. Who believes when they are paying in for those crappy jobs working in a polyurethane factory or shoe repair store or women's magazine that you'll actually get that money back? That that was ever really the intention. I was already blown away that I have been getting spousal benefits for several years due entirely to being married, but now they've told me what I'm getting on my own, & holy crap, I'm rich! Well, you know, not rich like I really worked very much, just rich like I can take it easy unless/until the holy crap hits the fan. If covid would only burn itself out & I can start spending that loot on plane tickets.
Projections, by Karl Deisseroth, was recommended by a friend from high school, who I saw at my reunion in the summer for the first time since we graduated. He has become so quietly magnetic that I want to know what he knows & read what he reads. Deisseroth is a psychiatrist & bioengineer, & I can't possibly give an account of either the science or his trapeze leaps in understanding anorexia, schizophrenia, & other serious mental illnesses he describes in Projections. And yet... I find myself recommending it left & right. Maybe the combination of science (only slightly over the head of a lay reader) & poetic exploration of the mind is what is so compelling?
I set the timer & all I did, in nonstop frenzy, was throw out 2 pairs of shoes & a sock. At this rate, how long will it take to get my office clean? OK, don't think about it that way. Slow & steady.
Also, will anyone be spared in this round of covid?
Update, an hour later: I found 2 books I was going crazy looking for + one I was half-looking for, not sure if I had it (which means I probably have 2 copies) + one I checked out yesterday as an ebook because I had no idea it was on my shelf. My method of strewing my books randomly works again, making it possible for serendipitous finds while I'm looking for something in particular. I feel way more cheerful.
Thinking about refreshing this 8-year-old project. Going to try adding a new weekly feature: What I'm reading. In my recent mania to forget nothing, I've been listing every book I finish. Let's see how this goes...
My first favorite poet was Stephen Crane. In declam in high school, I recited a couple of his poems. Oh my gosh! The girl who crooned Longfellow was feted, while Crane's bitter unrhymed verses were not a hit. Did I think because they mattered so much to me, I could put them over? As I recall, I already had my low-key undeclamatory style: even then it seemed embarrassing to try to add my emotion to what the writer was doing on his own.
I have to admit I also admired Crane for dying young, "before artistic old age," as I put it in my diary. I also said (I was 15 & feeling ancient): "I want to be like Stephen Crane— accomplish something great, then die. I do not care to grow old — senile, blind, rheumatic & be repeating the same things, activities, ideas all over."
All this said, I was excited to grab a copy of Burning Boy, Paul Auster's new biography of Crane. He's certainly a completist ~ hard to imagine Crane spent as much time thinking about what he wrote as Auster does. That said, it's sending me back to the work over & over, & that's what a biography of a writer should do, right?