Miss Pym and a Friend

Miss Pym and a Friend

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Maya Angelou,

We salute another excellent woman, Maya Angelou, and mourn her passing. I studied many a work by her, and consider her a compatriot, Eonia sas imni mi, Koubarisa. May her memory be eternal!A Rock, A River, A Tree Hosts to species long since departed, Marked the mastodon. The dinosaur, who left dry tokens Of their sojourn here On our planet floor, Any broad alarm of their hastening doom Is lost in the gloom of dust and ages. But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully, Come, you may stand upon my Back and face your distant destiny, But seek no haven in my shadow. I will give you no more hiding place down here. You, created only a little lower than The angels, have crouched too long in The bruising darkness, Have lain too long Face down in ignorance. Your mouths spilling words Armed for slaughter. The Rock cries out today, you may stand on me, But do not hide your face. Across the wall of the world, A River sings a beautiful song, Come rest here by my side. Each of you a bordered country, Delicate and strangely made proud, Yet thrusting perpetually under siege. Your armed struggles for profit Have left collars of waste upon My shore, currents of debris upon my breast. Yet, today I call you to my riverside, If you will study war no more. Come, Clad in peace and I will sing the songs The Creator gave to me when I and the Tree and the stone were one. Before cynicism was a bloody sear across your Brow and when you yet knew you still Knew nothing. The River sings and sings on. There is a true yearning to respond to The singing River and the wise Rock. So say the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew The African and Native American, the Sioux, The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheikh, The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher, The privileged, the homeless, the Teacher. They hear. They all hear The speaking of the Tree. Today, the first and last of every Tree Speaks to humankind. Come to me, here beside the River. Plant yourself beside me, here beside the River. Each of you, descendant of some passed On traveller, has been paid for. You, who gave me my first name, you Pawnee, Apache and Seneca, you Cherokee Nation, who rested with me, then Forced on bloody feet, left me to the employment of Other seekers--desperate for gain, Starving for gold. You, the Turk, the Swede, the German, the Scot ... You the Ashanti, the Yoruba, the Kru, bought Sold, stolen, arriving on a nightmare Praying for a dream. Here, root yourselves beside me. I am the Tree planted by the River, Which will not be moved. I, the Rock, I the River, I the Tree I am yours--your Passages have been paid. Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need For this bright morning dawning for you. History, despite its wrenching pain, Cannot be unlived, and if faced With courage, need not be lived again. Lift up your eyes upon The day breaking for you. Give birth again To the dream. Women, children, men, Take it into the palms of your hands. Mold it into the shape of your most Private need. Sculpt it into The image of your most public self. Lift up your hearts Each new hour holds new chances For new beginnings. Do not be wedded forever To fear, yoked eternally To brutishness. The horizon leans forward, Offering you space to place new steps of change. Here, on the pulse of this fine day You may have the courage To look up and out upon me, the Rock, the River, the Tree, your country. No less to Midas than the mendicant. No less to you now than the mastodon then. Here on the pulse of this new day You may have the grace to look up and out And into your sister's eyes, into Your brother's face, your country And say simply Very simply With hope Good morning. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Here is her Poem:

Monday, May 19, 2014

Memoir; Writing your Life Story: Jeannie out of the Bottle

Memoir; Writing your Life Story: Jeannie out of the Bottle: I just started reading Jeannie out of the Bottle by Barbara Eden; it is hard to be more excellent of a woman than she, but I'll keep you...

An Apologia for Countess Erzebet Bathory: In Memoriam Anne Boleyn

An Apologia for Countess Erzebet Bathory: In Memoriam Anne Boleyn: Martyred May 19, 1536. I dedicate to her and to Erzebet today, my Hymn to Arachne, a poem published in my chapbook, Sappho, I should have L...

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Pym's 100th

Well, I wouldn't have called her a spinster, but read below: A note in Barbara Pym's diary instructs: "Read some of Jane Austen's last chapters and find out how she manages all the loose ends." Next entry, a fairly typical one: "The Riviera Cafe, St. Austell is decorated in shades of chocolate brown. Very tasteless, as are the cakes." This was written in 1952. She was 38, had published two novels, Some Tame Gazelle and the resplendent Excellent Women, and was at work on the next. It had taken 15 years of dutiful revising and circulating it around for Some Tame Gazelle to find a publisher. During the rewrites she had tried to heed her agent's advice to "be more wicked, if necessary." This Sunday, June 2, marks the centenary of Barbara Pym's birth: If you aren't lucky enough to be with the Barbara Pym Society in Oxford, you could make something from her cookbook (downloadable!) or just read one of her novels with champagne, tea or your hot milky drink of choice. For new Pym readers: I'd start with either Excellent Women or No Fond Return Of Love. Other nice starting points: A Glass of Blessings, Less Than Angels, and The Sweet Dove Died. Do not start with Crampton Hodnet. During her 20s, she'd completed several other books, including a Finnish novel (she'd never been to Finland) and a spy novel written during WWII, which was very good except for the actual spy parts (she had never met a spy). During the war she'd been placed in the Censorship Department, then joined the Wrens; she now lived in London with her younger sister Hilary. She didn't expect to make a living off her writing. She worked at the International African Institute in the editorial department, managing its journal and ushering various "dusty academic" anthropological monographs and studies through publication. Only a handful of the anthropologists she worked with knew or appreciated that the woman overseeing their indexes and edits was one of Britain's great comic novelists. Many an acknowledgement went: "I am grateful to Miss Barbara Pym for the considerable work involved in preparing the final version of the text for the printer." This is all so worthy, so stealth, so Pymian! Hazel Holt, her friend (and later biographer and literary executor), shared an office with her at the Institute. In her life of Pym, she describes their conjectures about the home lives and backstories of their Institute colleagues, the Anthony Powell Dance to the Music of Time quizzes they'd give each other in the long afternoons, how Pym would repurpose old galleys as stationery for typing her novels. Once an anthropologist, visiting their office, told them that years before he'd been to a party Virginia Woolf had given. The two leapt on this: glamorous brilliant Bloomsbury, what had the party been like? "But, alas, all he could remember was that the refreshment had consisted only of buns and cocoa." This, too, seems very Pymian. Another Pym thing is always to be a little in need of a revival. One critic-friend, attempting to spark interest in her novels after they'd gone out of fashion in the early 70s, recommended them as "books for a bad day." And they are, it's true. They're comforting and deeply funny. Try to describe them, though, and they go all muzzy: curates and jumble sales, tea urns and "distressed gentlewomen." (You can make Wodehouse sound similar with this sort of inventorying: country houses and cow creamers, prize pigs and school prizes.) Their human values—modesty, compassion, generosity, stoicism—are quiet. Worse, they're so beautifully crafted, so stringently revised and edited, they appear deceptively as if they had been easy to write. What's hard to get across is that Pym's novels are, basically, spinster drag novels—the emotions quite genuine and at the same time a send-up, a pose. Love, Melancholy, Poetry, and Death, all the most Romantic Trappings, courtesy of the vaguely nice-looking lady in dowdy shoes at the next table who you didn't notice jotting down everything you said into her little spiral notebook. "Let me… add that I am not at all like Jane Eyre, who must have given hope to so many plain women who tell their stories in the first person," says Mildred Lathbury in Excellent Women. *** Barbara Pym and Henry Harvey "Henry has bought a book about neurosis and is relieved to find that his neurosis differs in kind from psychosis and madness." This happy neurotic news was from a friend of Pym's from her college days in Oxford, the writer and critic Robert Liddell, on a road trip in East Anglia. The "Henry" of the letter was Henry Harvey, exasperating object of Pym's unrequited love in her 20s, temperamental, brilliant marvel of their set of friends. Henry wrote her letters in "Latin, German, French, Swedish, Finnish and the English of James Joyce" that "I could not well understand." Other times he didn't answer her letters at all. He was that guy. They had a lopsided on-off-on relationship at Oxford and, later, a long friendship—the former a source of great pain and anguish to her. When Henry eventually got married, to a girl he'd met in Finland, Liddell sent a note care of Pym's sister so that she could delicately break the news. He typed the address on the envelope so that Barbara wouldn't recognize his handwriting. (Later, delightfully, Liddell got off the great deadpan line: "Surely Henry will wear out more than one wife." And when the foretold divorce eventually came to pass, Liddell wrote to her, "what a relief it is to write irreverently of Henry and how angry he'd be! Like people making fun of the

Friday, May 2, 2014

Mrs. Cleaver Disdains Women's Shopping Habits

I think it took me an hour to figure out my Gmail password, again, and find my blogs. With heartbleeds and explorer follies, it has been terrible. When technology fails, it crashes and burns. I didn't sound like such an excellent woman a few minutes ago. I sounded more like Viola Dace might have. I caught a "Leave it to Beaver" rerun today where I learned there were garbage disposals in the late fifties. I also caught a hint of the feminine mystique at work. Mr. Cleaver showed June a work project, a survey of women's shopping habits. Mrs. June Cleaver picked it up, and snorted. She pretty much declared no woman had written it, and he agreed that "some of the boys at the office" had done it. Betty Friedan, the defense may rest. She is the seemingly perfect fifties wife, but she is more real than people know, down to her pearls and flared skirts. My mother still wore dresses like this in the sixties. And, Mrs. Cleaver speaks her mind and stands up to Ward, who would like to be Ward[en] often. She has her opinions and voices them, and she is anything but a pushover. I sure wish I had her house. Hers and Samantha Stevens'.

Thursday, May 1, 2014