November in April & why did it seem like a good idea to go for a walk in Brooklyn? We couldn't find the store with architectural antiques & ended up having bad coffee & pastries. But the gabbing was great.
Either yesterday's post disappeared or I didn't actually write it. I think I did & it was about fixing one thing & then another, so that my new machine is up & running. The Mac people were utterly unable to help & suggested nothing that I hadn't already tried. Even though the router where we suspected the problem lay was 10 years old & long out of warranty, their customer service was happy to help & gave me the clue I needed. I still don't understand why it didn't work & now it does but I don't care. I promise not to be so boring from now on.
Yeah so nice to get a brand spanking new computer but why can't I connect to wifi & why does my VPN only let me connect through Romania? It's useless to look at pages of abbreviations & numbers. I want someone to come here & fix it. I suspect it will take 5 minutes if they know what they're doing. Meanwhile, I try the exact same things over & over, which I know is fruitless.
I am eating a salad of cabbage & romaine. It's not bad but it makes me want a hamburger.
I've been getting by with a 2012 MacBook Pro for quite a while. It's a real workhorse & the great guys at Simple Mac put in a new something & something else, & it's been good as new long past when I would usually have traded it in. But too many little things have started to go wrong & it was time. The best part about my new MacBook Air was meeting the terrific salesperson, a young musician named Kiet Tai Cao with a beautiful voice, who's finishing an album about his childhood home, with each song representing a room in the house. (I'm nervously doing the transfer from this computer to the new one so I can't really say a best thing about it. If the transfer works & I can seamlessly start up where I left off, well, that'll be great.)
Cut 4" off my hair. So far exactly no one has noticed.
And bought a cooling t-shirt with high hopes that I won't be slain by yet another record-heat summer.
What I'm reading
All the Great masters, ancient and modern, plagiarized Homer, and Homer plagiarized God.
~ Stéphane Mallarmé
One Toss of the Dice: The incredible story of how a poem made us modern by R. Howard Bloch is a biography of Mallarmé and his poem "One Toss of the Dice." The author makes the case that Mallarmé's experiments with syntax & layout are a forerunner of modern poetry, as well as cubism, hypertexts, Eliot & more. His "use of space and design to render meaning was an early version of Marshall McLuhan's famous dictum 'the medium is the message'." An attempt to "recover in time the fullness that is outside of time." Mallarmé "tried to raise a page to the power of the starry sky," Valéry said.
The day before
It was a Friday & Beth (nee Marybeth) & I were hitchhiking to Washington. She remembers us staying a day or 2 in Boston to learn pacifist techniques. Did we have sleeping bags? I think we simply threw ourselves on the ground on the Mall, waiting for the next day's demonstration. I don't remember seeing any of the bands or speeches. Beth woke up smiling & the young man who happened to be sleeping next to her was smitten. That was Wayne, one of the Air Force hippies I met that day. My life changed forever. I found my people, my place, confirmation of my values. They are still my people, my place, my values, my friends, my soul.
A New York day: coffee with Becky, who came to town from her upstate village to hang out & see people. Chitchat with Lou, who called me El-Ignore. Yes! There seem always be new names for me, even if they aren't all that nice (but funny). Then lunch with Yukie, full of laughs & memories & indignations. I'm on my own for dinner, Johnny calls to say; he's going out with his older son. I'll go home & lie around in the sun. Life how I like it.
Poem of the Week
Over my dead body!
Over min døde kropp!
Maybe I needed the 200 pounds that my head weighed last week to contain thoughts. I don't seem to have any left. I go to karate, I go to my office, I add some commas, I delete some commas (not comas) & for comic relief, I sneak in a semi-colon. What have I forgotten? I dreamed I wondered if my mother was still playing a lot of bridge.
A walk across Spain
Maggie is walk El Camino for the next several weeks. She left Friday for Madrid and started her walk today: 18 miles across this landscape. The idea never appealed to me till I saw a few of her photos & then I thought, sure! I'd like to meet every inch of the country, once of my favorites in the world.
Change was such an elusive thing. A man could say every day that he wanted to change his life, was going to change it, and every day the lament became merely a part of the life he was already living, so that the desire for change was in fact a kind of stasis that allowed the unchanged life to continue, because at least the man knew to disapprove of it, which reassured him not all was lost.
~ Rachel Kushner, The Mars Room
Ah, the many ways we fool ourselves. How many ways to walk around the truth & call it something else.
I read a very good & tragic story of hers recently called "A King Alone."
Sunday in the East Village
I'm alive! It was touch & go for the last few days, with a head that weighed 200 pounds making it hard to do much. I don't know how people with chronic ill health manage to do anything. I know I KNOW I wasn't even really sick, allergies is all, but despite being utterly bored with myself, I couldn't think about anything else. Ugh & ugh. In a few minutes, I go to celebrate Johnny's 4 score (tomorrow) with his 3 kids & most of the grandkids. He was born as much after the Civil War as it's been since the end of WWII. His birth, that is, is equidistant between now & the Civil War. I am unable to grasp the nature of Time.
Baaaaaaack I am
Passover is over, the Great Matzo Shortage of 2023 resolved as the holiday ended & I was given a box of the now-superfluous stuff. My near-fatal allergies are letting up. No, not melodramatic at all, why do you ask? The weather has gone from a quixotic hope for April snow to 87° & I only hope to survive a summer where July starts in April. However, it's not too humid so maybe I'll live. i've paid my taxes, taken another load to the Little Free Library, caught up on this & that. Back on Monday in full vigor!
Allergies or a cold?
My post disappeared, sigh, it was barely worth writing once let alone recreating but I said that the Times had a piece today on how to tell whether it's allergies or a cold, just when I was wondering exactly that. Pretty sure it's allergies, not that I'm suffering less for knowing it.
I took a nap & feel a smidgin more resolute.
I was "political" not just because I was involved, but in feeling I must choose to defend a good cause against a bad one. Auden remarked to me at the end of the war that he was political in the 1930s just because he thought something could and should be done. On the other hand, I never felt that the writers who did not feel this obligation were wrong. They might be concerned with values beyond action which, after all. alone justify action and therefore must not be allowed to lapse. Or they might be witnesses of a fatalism and despair which were equally important truths for the human soul as the "il faut agir" [we must act] of André Malraux. Politics of a rather direct kind had become my experience, but I defended those who had other attitudes.
~ Spender, World within World
I envied the painter's life ~ the way in which he is surrounded by the material of his art. A writer does not have a visible palette of words laid out before him into which he dips his pen, mixes them and lays them on the page. The painter can immerses himself in his work more than a writer, because painting is largely a craft, a sensuous activity with tangible material, whereas writing is largely cerebral.
Interesting that Spender's autobiography is not in the NYPL, but books about him are, including one by his son on growing up Spender. He's insightful on poetry & goes on rather too much psychoanalyzing himself, which is dated. I wanted to read it because of his connection to the Spanish Civil War & his poem "Port Bou."
I forgot to say in advance that I'd be off for Pesach... which kind of snuck up on me... as all the holidays generally do... ones in the home are harder for me & this year there seems to be a matzo shortage in Manhattan. I went to at least 6 stores & no one had any. Except egg matzo, which is abominable. I'm still catching up in general from the last couple months of really bearing down. I'll be more interesting soon, I think.
In his autobiography World within World, Stephen Spender says that the art in which you hope to excel is the one for which you are willing to take immense pains over detail. I've had that same thought ~ when I'm working on a poem, every comma is a matter of consequence, every line break worth infinite thinking & rethinking. For most that I do "good enough" is good enough but in poetry, I not only take time, I love to keep turning the poem around & around. When I was writing So Late into the Night, I kept thinking up new challenges, so that I could keep rewriting it with additional strictures in the form.
Spring is inevitable & I'm relaxing & enjoying it. Yes, I have given up my hope (though not my longing) for snow. I sat outside in the sun this afternoon, watching people go by in t-shirts, brightening like the forsythia to the sweet sounds of helicopters welcoming a future felon to his indictment on 34 felony counts. A lovely day!
Poetry is not only dream or vision, it is the skeleton architecture of our lives.
~ Audre Lorde (my birthday twin)
Transitioning back from karate all day every day to where I live, the architecture of my life.