Friday, June 24, 2011

Readings: Concerning Love and Miracles

A couple of weeks ago, while straightening up my desk at work, I came across in one of the drawers a sheet of notebook paper on which I had listed ten or twelve movies that I was interested in borrowing from the audio-visual department of the library. One of these was the film treatment of the book Henry and June by Anaïs Nin. The book consists of excerpts depicting the passionate love affair of American novelist, Henry Miller, and Anaïs Nin, as compiled from her unexpurgated diaries.

I borrowed both the DVD of the film and the book itself at the same time. Having viewed the movie [which I recommend only if: a) you are interested in the subject of Miller and Nin; or b) you are partial to lesbian sex scenes], I am slowly making my way through the book.

I wrote down the first few words of two brief passages that resonated with me. The first is this observation of Anaïs Nin’s concerning men:

“I have seen romanticism outlast the realistic. I have seen men forget the beautiful women they have possessed, forget the prostitutes, and remember the first woman they idolized, the woman they never could have. The woman who aroused them romantically holds them.”

She could be talking about me here, in relation to a woman I knew in the mid-1970s in London and New York and have never forgotten. I still have a bundle of the letters she wrote to me; letters that are too painful for me to read. I have some poems she wrote…

The next little snippet consists of two consecutive sentences written by novelist Henry Miller to Anaïs Nin at the height of their affair. The words express very well what I felt toward the woman mentioned above at the height of ours. In that regard, the first sentence here could have been seen as somehow true only in light of the second:

… “Oh, it is beautiful to love, and to be free at the same time. “

… “I don’t know what to expect of you, but it is something in the way of a miracle.”

That miracles do not exist in time, but sometimes threaten to break through to give us a glimpse of the transcendent, is perhaps why we are able to endure time's tyrannies.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Readings: The Poet at Twilight

In a previous post I shared a poem from the collection Evening Train by Denise Levertov. I found that volume at the public library’s monthly book sale. When I began reading it I found it so enjoyable that I also borrowed This Great Unknowing: Last Poems from the university library. I have found this book to be equally valuable.

In an afterward entitled “A Note on the Text” editor Paul A. Lacey explains that this collection of the last poems written by Denise Levertov differs from other collections in that the poems were not arranged in order of presentation by the poet. Instead, after her death, they have been collected in roughly chronological order, i.e., in the order of their composition. Lacey quotes Levertov concerning how she saw her oeuvre fitting together, from which we can understand the considerations that may have come into play as she prepared a volume for publication:

“As one goes on living and working, themes recur, transposed into another key perhaps. Single poems that seemed isolated perceptions when one wrote them prove to have struck the first note of a scale or a melody… Though the artist as explorer in language of the experiences of his or her life is, willy-nilly, weaving a fabric, building a whole in which each discrete work is a part that functions in some way in relation to all the others.”

Both the order of presentation and the title of this final collection were determined by her literary executors, but the work is hers alone and shines with an excellence undiminished by her age at their time of composition. Here is one example that particularly grabbed me:


All which, because it was
flame and song granted us
joy, we thought we’d do, be, revisit,
turns out to have been what it was
that once, only; every initiation
did not begin
a series, a build-up: the marvelous
xxxxxxxxdid happen in our lives, our stories
xxxxxxxxare not drab with its absence: but don’t
expect now to return for more. Whatever more
there will be will be
unique as those were unique. Try
to acknowledge the next
song in its body-halo of flames as utterly
present, as now or never.

Therein lies great wisdom.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


August 14, 1919 - June 15, 2011

My beloved Mother - Rest in Peace - I love you
You will always be as near and dear to me as life itself.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Readings: The Other Kind of Sixties

I went to hear Denise Levertov read her poetry at the 92nd St. Y in New York City, sometime in the 1970s. She was born in the 1923, so she would have been in her 50s at that time. I was somewhere around age thirty. The collection from which the following poem is taken was published in 1990, when she was around 67; so she was probably close to my current age, give or take a couple of years, when she composed it. I know all-too-well, therefore, the truth of what she so eloquently states:

Broken Pact

A face ages quicker than a mind.

And thighs, arms, breasts,
take on an air of indifference.
Heart’s desire has wearied them, they chose to forget
whatever they once promised.

But mind and heart continue
their eager conversation,
they argue, they share epiphanies,
sometimes all night they raise
antiphonal laments.

Face and body have betrayed them,

they are alone together,
unsure how to proceed.

xxx~ Denise Levertov, Evening Train

Still and all, antiphonal laments are better than the other kind. I’m learning that, too. Oh, yes, I am.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Readings: An Unwarranted Assumption?

In the penultimate chapter of his study Answer to Job [pp. 170-171], Carl G. Jung discusses the important role of the feminine archetype in the psychology of religion within the context of the 1950 a.d. papal declaration of the Assumption of the Virgin as Church dogma. After pointing out that "It does not matter at all that a physically impossible fact is asserted, because all religious assertions are physical impossibilities. If they were not so, they would...necessarily be treated in the text-books of natural science", Jung goes on to say:

The logic of the papal declaration cannot be surpassed, and it leaves Protestantism with the odium of being nothing but a man's religion which allows no metaphysical representation of woman. In this respect it is similar to Mithraism, and Mithraism found this prejudice very much to its detriment. Protestantism has obviously not given sufficient attention to the signs of the times which point to the equality of women. But this equality requires to be metaphysically anchored in the figure of a "divine" woman, the bride of Christ. Just as the person of Christ cannot be replaced by an organization, so the bride cannot be replaced by the Church. The feminine, like the masculine, demands an equally personal representation. [italics added]

Something to ponder here for both Catholics and Protestants.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Readings: Of Carl G. Jung and Inspiration

This post presents a brief excerpt from psychologist Carl Gustave Jung’s book, Answer to Job. More specifically, it is an except from the “Lectori Benevolo” preceding the main text, the purpose of which is to prepare the reader for the circumstance that, although he is about to begin reading a book written by a scientist and physician, he will be reading a book which takes ideas of transcendent metaphysics seriously:

The statements of the conscious mind may easily be snares and delusions, lies, or arbitrary opinions, but this is certainly not true of the statements of the soul: to begin with they always go over our heads because they point to realities that transcend consciousness. These entia are the archetypes of the collective unconscious, and they precipitate complexes of ideas in the form of mythological motifs. Ideas of this kind are never invented, but enter the field of inner perception as finished products, for instance in dreams. They are spontaneous phenomena which are not subject to our will, and we are therefore justified in ascribing to them a certain autonomy. They are to be regarded not only as objects but as subjects with laws of their own.

My reason for posting this particular excerpt is that it very much speaks to what I experience in the composition of poetry, the central ideas of which most frequently “enter the field of inner perception as finished products.” The transcendent is the source of all true creativity. It is the distinction between “creating” and “making,” between artist and artisan.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Reviews: Two Tunes from Rent

Here are some of the numbers--including a solo and a duet--that my daughter Laura has been performing in the role of "Mimi" for the past two weekends in a student production of Rent. I went to all four performances. The final show was last night, and Laura ROCKED! I am very proud of her! Brava! Laura!