Brooks began writing poetry at an early age and was first published at age 13. She would go on to write more than twenty books of poetry as well as other books, such as her novel, Maud Martha a look at racial and ethnic identity's impact on day-to-day life. Brooks frequently incorporated her experiences and observations of minority urban life in her poetry as well, as in this well-known poem:
We Real Cool
The Pool Players.
Seven at the Golden Shovel.
We real cool. We
Left school. We
Lurk late. We
Strike straight. We
Sing sin. We
Thin gin. We
Jazz June. We
Throughout her life, Gwendolyn Brooks' work and career was subject to much debate, including the question: did she sacrifice content and style for political statement? Reading through her work answers with a resounding "no". Brooks' use of the modern vernacular, coupled with the head-on approach to many social issues makes her work important and influential, not only to the people she portrayed/represented in her writing, but to other young writers as well. Brooks herself was encouraged by poets James Weldon Johnson and Langston Hughes, and later became a role model and mentor to many young poets through her own teaching, speaking and philanthropical endeavors.
Quote: "Very early in life I became fascinated with the wonders language can achieve. And I began playing with words." --Gwendolyn Brooks (I think we're all glad she did.)
Hold it. Wait a minute. Cut! My kid sister will go on and on if we let her. The youngest Muse has an itty-bitty case of sibling rivalry. Ok? She's always, always practicing her acceptance speech, and she's always trying to catch up to me. I'm Calliope; Muse of epic poetry and rhetoric. Just call me Callie for short.
Homer, Melville, Proust, Shakespeare, Tolstoy; that's my line of work. I've been around awhile, so the glam's kind of off the rose, so to speak. I can be casual. Sis, being new to the game, is another story, however. She takes the job so seriously. But what can I say? There's no comparison. Pop culture can't hold a candle to the classics. She really needs to lighten up.
But she doesn't even have a name yet. And let me tell you that really chaps her, big time. I've told her and told her. Don't worry! I didn't get my name until well into my third century. You know? Whatever. We can deal with that later, after the council gives her full privilege and makes the 10th Muse an official addition to the clan.
We worked together on that first case and she did a fine job. To be honest, all I did was supervise. And now we are going before the council. Zeus, Mnemosyne, Aphrodite, Demeter, Persephone, Aries, Hermes, Hades, Hera; the whole gang will be there.
"She sees far horizons, beyond the limits of her birthright. She writes the future I have shown her. She plants the seeds of change and paints vistas others will soon hunger for. And when her time has passed, I watch over her garden as well as the harvest she has reaped, so that it flourishes and endures, into an era, where it will in turn inspire new generations to remember, the Muse, whose name goes unsung."
See what I mean? She drones. Absolutely. It's a good thing Edith Wharton had a mind of her own. Excuse me. That was tacky. Sister is earnest, and she has her talents. Well, I'm sure she'll get better. Ok. I admit it. I helped her out a little bit, and Edith did have an ear for the classics.
"Edith was the perfect candidate for amusement. She proved to have a quick and rich imagination at a very early age and was born into a family of privilege in 1862, which was an exhilarating time for world history. It was an era of accelerated change and invention. Her 75-year lifespan, which ended in 1937, encapsulated the height of civilization's capacity for progress and expansion as well as the depths of humanity's ability to create misery and ruin. Save for one thing. She was spared the horrors of the atom bomb, and thus, didn't even see a glimmer of the Atomic Age and the barbarism that was set loose a mere eight years after her passing."
But that is another bone, which we will pick with Aries at a later date. Now, we go before the council with our appeal. We need another Muse. Nine is just not enough. Sister did a spectacular job with her first assignment. She has carried it through to completion. And we now face a new era desperately in need of inspiration. It is time for her probation to end. She is entitled to a name; status, rank and the full extent of her powers should be bestowed upon her immediately. None of this "in due course" business. I speak for all of the Muses when I say that we are fed up with the bureaucracy and the red tape and the delay tactics. It is all such fallacious hogwash and folderol. We have grown weary of being treated as inferior divinities, while the gods run off and play like children in a sandbox.
Oh, I beg your pardon. I shouldn't have gone off like that, but we do feel so passionate about this issue, and we hope you will stand behind us when we make our plea. You see, they think that humans don't care anymore. They think that the Muse is- obsolete! As a matter of fact, they are considering washing their hands of the whole mess. Like, firing all of the Muses, entirely and forever. Where would we go? What would we do? We would vanish into thin air. There now, the cat is out of the bag and you can see what a pickle we are in. I only ask that you let us show you what we have done, just in this one case with Edith Wharton. And we can do so much more. I promise.
"Edith Wharton was George and Lucretia Jones' third child and only daughter, born in New York City, on January 24, 1862. It was an aristocratic New York family with a pedigree reaching back three centuries; old money accumulated through the shipping and real estate industries. As a daughter of society and a member of the elite upper crust, her prescribed role was to learn the mannerisms and rituals expected of well-bred young women, and in turn, marry well, raise some children and become a hostess within the narrow confines of Old New York. She was privately educated at home by governesses and tutors and had the privilege of access to her father's extensive library.
"The love of story telling appeared in Edith before she learned to read. She often preferred the activity of make believe to the company of children her own age. A near death experience caused by a bout of typhoid fever seems to have enhanced her creativity and imagination. I do believe the veils were lifted during the high fever; that she had a glimpse of the Muse. She was haunted for years afterwards, with the sensation that someone was watching her and following close behind. We were, dear. We were.
"Edith's family moved to Europe for several years during her early childhood in order to escape the high inflation, which was the result of the Civil War, and to preserve their leisurely standard of living. This would prove to be a formative period for her. Edith maintained a love and appreciation for the sophistication and beauty of Europe throughout her entire life. After 48 years of international travel, she would make a permanent move to Europe in 1911, do the unthinkable and divorce her husband, Teddy Wharton, and live in France as an expatriate until her death in 1937."
To tell you the truth, I don't understand why Edith hated living in America so much, and specifically, New York City. It was an exciting time to be there. We were busy doling out inspiration, I can tell you that. Her lifetime spanned a period rich with invention.
Imagine this, you with the computer and the internet. Picture life as a writer without paperclips, pushpins, scotch tape, fountain pens, ballpoint pens, mechanical pencils, crayons, or typewriters. Edith saw all these accessories invented in her lifetime. I guarantee she used them and loved it.
She also saw the invention of toilet paper and the pull chain toilet, band-aids,q-tips, germ theory, and x-rays. Communication was enhanced by first the drop mailbox, then transcontinental and transatlantic telegraph, radio and the telephone. She enjoyed the invent of records and the record player but refused to attend the motion picture show or buy a t.v. She loved her motorcar although she refused to get in a plane, and she totally appreciated her Kodak camera. The invention of the incandescent light bulb, electricity companies, transcontinental railroad, airplanes, escalators, revolving doors, refrigerators, sewing machines, rayon, zippers, cotton candy, hot dogs, bubble gum, coca cola, chocolate chip cookies, Lincoln logs, Monopoly, and the Ferris Wheel changed everyone's life for the better.
The era was known as the Gilded Age. Vast fortunes were made overnight. Railroads afforded western expansion and the transport of goods. Merchandising and manufacturing transformed the United States into a consumer economy. Electricity companies prompted the in vention of a multitude of time saving devices. Skyscrapers soared to the sky, and eventually, super sonic rockets did so as well.
Thoughts changed and new theories expanded the definition of truth. Darwin, Einstein, William James, Freud, and Jung altered forever the belief in creation and the understanding of the mind.
Yes, I loved the adventures of the Gilded Age. The new millennium pales in comparison if you ask me. But then again, I think Edith�s love of Europe was more about getting out of her family's reach than anything else.
"Edith married Teddy Wharton in 1885 at the late age of 23. Teddy was not her intellectual match but a good social one, and they had a love of travel in common. Early on in their marriage they took part in an extravagant three-month cruise in the Aegean Sea, despite familial disapproval. In later years, Edith would say this was the most important thing she could have ever done.
"The experience opened up new vistas for her. She had her first taste of independence from an overbearing, superficial mother, and relished the opportunity to pursue interests and develop friendships with creative and artistic people outside of the narrow scope of her upbringing. Along with the autonomy came a growing sense of self-determinism. Thereafter, she and Teddy spent a significant part of each year in Europe."
The marriage was not a passionate one, however. Her mother had never taught her about sex and Edith's lack of knowledge along with the oppressive mores of the times caused unresolved sexual disappointments. Pervasive social conditioning required that she play the part of hostess and dutiful wife even if there were no children, and these activities appear to have consumed most of her energy and time until she was well past her mid-30's. Understandably, given her creative and independent nature and her unfulfilled sexual desire; depression plagued her during this time. She wrote sporadically during these twelve odd years, publishing only a few short stories and poems of a personal nature, which reflected her unhappiness.
"Her first serious publishing effort and some moderate success came in 1897 with "A Decoration of Houses", which she wrote with architect Ogden Codman. The book effectively and single handedly changed the popular style for interior design, eliminating the clutter and fuss of the Victorian Era, and establishing a brand new career field for others to pursue as well; Interior Design."
This accomplishment coincided with Walter Berry's re-entry into Edith's arena. Walter Berry, the lawyer, judge and diplomat, was an important influence on her writing. Edith claims he taught her everything she needed to know about grammar in the weeks when he assisted with "A Decoration of Houses".
Some would also say he was the love of her life, but there is no proof that they ever did the nasty. They met the year before she married Teddy, and I think she would have married him if he had asked her. But then again, there is no substantiating evidence that Berry did the naughty thing with anyone, so he didn�t appear too inclined towards matrimony.
Now that he was back in her life, he seemed to lend direction to her aims, fulfill an intellectual void, and encourage her growth and independence. They remained close companions for the rest of his life. He was her most loyal reader and it is said that no new manuscript went to the publishers without first meeting his approval. He died in her arms in 1927. Edith said the sun went out for her on that day.
"After "A Decoration of Houses", Edith gained ground and momentum with her creativity and productivity. This proved to be the end of her depression and the beginning of an extravagant phase of expansion. From 1897 to 1904 she published prolifically; three short story collections, two novellas, two more books covering landscape and interior design, and a historical novel based on her travels and research in Italy.
"In 1901 Edith took on another ambitious project well suited to her nature; designing and building her own mammoth sized house and garden; "The Mount", in Lenox, Massachusetts. The decade she spent at The Mount would eventually be one of her happiest memories, as she benefited from living inside of her own creation and blossomed into a professional authoress during that time.
"The quiet atmosphere was conducive to writing and her lifestyle was inspirational. She enjoyed being away from the hectic pace and restraints of New York Society, working in her gardens, taking drives in the country in her new motorcar, and entertaining friends of her own choosing. (Edith loved her role as Salon Mistress and was definately the hostess with the mostest.)
"It was during this period that she developed daily writing habits and a supportive social circle that played a significant part in her success as one of the most prolific female writers of the early 20th century.
"At the age of 40 years, Edith Wharton had finally found her stride. "The House of Mirth", published in 1905, marks Edith's coming of age as a novelist. It was an immediate bestseller. In this novel of manners with a realist twist, she found fertile ground in old New York Society. She dissected the world of privilege, old and new money, with an ironic humor and cast her eye upon the American woman's plight with a grace and flare that won her a faithful and appreciative audience. Throughout the rest of her career, Edith would return to this subject matter, time and time again, to meet with great success."
Ironically, as Edith found her way, Teddy lost his. Mental illness afflicted him around the time that Edith's star was on the rise and her depression had ended. The atmosphere at the Mount was not well suited to his temperament. The quiet of the country seemed to exacerbate his troubles. But I think he was afflicted with a terrible case of inferiority living in the shadow of Edith's success, and that this was the major cause of his problems. See, they were living in a cultural climate that delegated women to the ornamental status and bestowed enormous amounts of power and accolades on men even when it wasn't warranted. He didn't have a job to do and couldn't stand Edith finding success and respect as a professional and an intellectual.
Teddy's mental condition continued on a downward spiral until he finally misappropriated funds from Edith's estate in order to support a mistress and then fought violently to maintain control over her finances. That's when she sold The Mount and moved to Europe for good. She continued to support Teddy financially after that, but refused to live with him and eventually faced the disapproval of her family and filed for divorce. This, indeed, was the major influence in Edith's choice to become an expatriate. It was personal after all, not necessarily a political statement, at least initially.
I think Henry James played a big role in saving Edith's life during the torrid years of a disintegrating marriage. They met at The Mount in 1902, on one of his few trips to America. An honored man of letters, he was, as well as a confidante, sounding board, and inspiration. Their friendship lasted until his death during World War I. He could do what Walter Berry could not. He could be an ear for Edith's marriage troubles and her most infamous affair, with Morton Fullerton.
Morton Fullerton was a dashing man, a journalist; but a bit of a cad. Aside from being incapable of commitment or fidelity, he was also a bisexual. For some reason only Aphrodite will know, however, he brought Edith's blood to a boil. She knew passion for the first time in her life during their affair, and wrote volumes of erotic poetry and journal entries in honor of the occasion. Henry James was there for her throughout all the ups and downs and ins and outs. The affair brought Edith's problems with Te ddy to a head and also taught her depths of feelings she would have otherwise never known.
"Ethan Frome", published in 1911, came out of that period in her life. It has proved to be the most honored of her writings, maybe because there is a depth of honesty and emotion laid down on those pages that cannot be denied. It would appear that she finally buried the ghost of her guilt about divorce in the writing of this manuscript, because afterwards, she made the final move to France.
"With the onset of World War I only a few years later, Edith decided to stay on in France and do volunteer work rather than return to the safety of the United States. These years took her out of the public eye, but on a personal level she worked harder than she had ever worked before, running hostels, infirmaries and orphanages.
"Her novel, "The Good Son" went fairly unnoticed, as the world rushed into the Jazz Age and speakeasies; away from the panic and pain of catastrophic war. Yet her efforts did not go unrecognized. The President of France awarded her with the Legion of Honor in 1916, the highest order the President could dispose.
"Age of Innocence", published in 1920, was overlooked at first; due to the fact that Edith had been busy with the war effort, working behind the scenes, for so long. In this story she returns to the Gilded Age and old New York Society, yet the heroine wins an independent life, unlike the heroine of "The House of Mirth." In this regard she reflects the climate of the Jazz Age and the changes it wrought for women.
"But the delayed notice was short lived. Yes, "Age of Innocence" proved to be her crowning accomplishment; bringing her recognition as the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1921, the year after women in America finally won the right to vote. In 1923 she also became the first woman awarded the Doctor of Letters by Yale University and she made her one and only trip back to America since 1912.
"She continued to write prolifically until her death in 1937; publishing more than 32 books throughout her life. Her final works included, "The Writing of Fiction", her autobiography, "A Backward Glance", "Ghosts", and the unfinished novel, "The Buccaneers". She is best remembered for her humor and irony as a writer in the genre of the novel of manners, yet she also produced poetry, critical analysis, travel writings, short stories, commentaries on World War I, and books on landscape architecture and interior design. She was a prolific letter writer and kept a journal. Upon her death, she left her papers to Yale University with the stipulation that publication be withheld until 1968."
That was MY best idea; keeping the papers and journals under lock and key for 30 years. I'm glad she took it. It gave the rest of the world time to catch up to Edith and her independent nature. We had entered into another era by the time the papers were released; one that brought more equality and appreciation for women, and a renewed interest in women's contributions from the past.
So there you have it. I'm sure you can see what we are capable of. Consider this. As you read us, we read you. Sort of like an interview. Take a moment to think about the possibilities. If you are willing to speak for us at the council, we may inspire you to greatness. Go on. Take your time. We'll be in touch�.
"Soaring beyond the limits of memory and experience, the Muse will take you there. Reaching from beneath the surface of what is known, the Muse will take you there. A love most splendid and a thrill superior, the Muse will take you there."
Lyn Lifshin: Vision is one of those rather abstract lofty words I don't really connect with poetry. I write poems that I hope will move people, let the reader feel someone else feels as they do though they never realized that. I hope the reader will find the poems let them see things in a different way and also in ways they might have felt but never quite understood that. The idea of Horace's that literature should teach and delight is interesting,"teach" in the sense of revealing, showing, connecting in a way that is startling, stunning, delightful. Even more I like Emily Dickinson's quote, "If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me, I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. These are the only ways I know it. Is there any other way?" As for feeling part of the 21st century that is something I never have thought much about. I suppose one is always a part of the time they are writing the events, values, words, the history of the time one moves through that makes one part of their times whether they rebel against it or elebrate it or ignore it.
AL: Lyn, could you explain your title "queen of the small press"?
LL: "Queen of the small press" is a rather strange title that was almost accidental. Black Apples was published first by The Crossing ress with a yellow cover and a drawing of a pumpkin or a pumpkin-like house, pale yellow, definitely not slick. It sold out quickly. The second edition was beautiful and had a shiny harder cover that also sold out. The 3rd edition had a papery cover with the same photograph as on the second edition but not shiny, not quite as beautiful. I suppose to jazz the 3rd edition up, John Gill took a line from a review by Warren Woessner the "Queen of the Small Press" for a little embellishment in the same way as he added 13 poems from earlier books and an introduction by John Gill as well as review statements from Warren Woessner, Victor Contoski, Alan Dugan, Richard Eberhart, and others. Later, one publisher wanted to make one book cover look like a romance novel. I said no as I did to another small press publisher who wanted to call a book Undressed and have me on the cover in bib overalls with nothing underneath. I nixed that too.
AL: Lyn, do you believe in inspiration? Or would you define the need to write as an instinctive, gut-driven process? Something born of the nerve-endings?
LL: I'm not sure about inspiration. Sometimes something will seem to demand to be written about. But often it takes several attempts to try to get it. Auden I think said if he had to choose whether to work with a student who felt driven to tell what he felt or someone who liked to play with words, he would pick the latter. I think poems, for me, come both ways. Recently I wrote series of poems because someone asked me to, about the adoption of a new baby, not something I would normally write about. Assignments often work well: the most unlikely subjects seem to lead to good poems, probably because they are new and fresh subjects I've never thought about. Several of my books came about in that way: Marilyn Monroe Poems came from poems I wrote for Rick Peabody's Mondo Marilyn, Jesus Alive and In the Flesh, from a request to submit to a Jesus as a pop icon anthology that came out just recently as Sweet Jesus. For another anthology, Dick for a Day I wrote a number of poems and many of them are sprinkled through my last two Black Sparrow books, Cold Comfort and Before It's Light, as well as my forthcoming Black Sparrow/David Godine book Another Woman Who Looks Like Me. Other "assignments" have led to poems as varied as The Daughter I Don't Have to poems about condoms. In my new book there are many poems based on paintings, also a request. I've often written poems about historic sites Shaker House Poems, The Old House on the Croton, The Old House Poems, Arizona Ruins Auddley End... so many that often I feel, in a new environment, a pull to try a poem based in that setting, that history. It's definitely a mix. When I go to teach I often do some exercises where the writers pick words and have to use them in a poem -- it frees the imagination at times to write about what you didn't really plan to.
AL: When you think of the word "hermetic" what immediately comes to mind?
LL: Probably because we have Hermes store nearby, when I hear "hermetic" I think of Hermes the god who the store must have also been thinking of: his elegance and eloquence and his being a leader of commerce. I think of how Hermes guided the dead on their way. And I think of Ira Herman who invited me once to read with Ken Kesey who was also eloquent, now dead, quite magnetic and magical when he wasn't. I think too of Emily Dickinson, not only for being separate but because of her poems, separated by fusion, air tight. And who could not think of cookies, hermit cookies, spicy, sweet or Emily's tropical birds, darting from petals to stamens to petals, alchemical. Writing this, I am also reading Millay's letters, how on March 4, 1926 from Steepletop (where I spent one September, feeling very isolated) she wrote to Edmund Wilson saying "we have been snowed in. I mean hermetically 4 weeks today, Five miles on snow shoes.... to fetch the mail or post a letter."
AL: What poets past or present have influenced your work the most and why? Also, what are your thoughts on surrealism, surrealist literature?
LL: I wrote my Master's Thesis on Dylan Thomas so I must have been somewhat influenced by him though I don't see it myself. I did an undergraduate thesis on Federico Garcia Lorca. My love of repetition, ominous beauty likely was influenced by his poems. And I worked on my PhD with a major in 15th, 16th and 17th century English (British) poetry. My PhD dissertation, which I wrote 100 pages of, dealt with Wyatt, Sidney and Donne. I know Wyatt's ragged, thought being thought-out style, breathless, not seeming to be polished and carefully written down, like the poems of Sidney, appealed much more to me. I think he as if I was just thinking the thought out, influenced my poems, often breathless. When I left SUNY at Albany, I had read very little contemporary poetry and plunged into writers like Sexton and Plath and probably Williams. I easily remember reading Sexton's " The Double Image" in a parked car in snow and being so taken by the emotion, that startling, personal quality that was so stunning, so moving. Not knowing that much about other contemporary writers, I took out many, many library books, discovered Paul Blackburn, Creeley, Wakoski, Piercy and began ordering small press books and magazines. There I discovered poets quite unlike Dryden, Pope, Donne and Herbert poets in the meat and mimeo school like Bukowski, DR Wagner, Steve Richmond, DA Levy. Every time I read a new magazine Wormwood, Goodly Company, El Corno Emplumado, I discovered wildly exciting poets. It was a wonderful and powerful set of discoveries for me. New York Times Book Review section had a cover photograph of many of the small and smallest press magazines. I found there was a program of poetry every Tuesday around noon on a PBS radio station and I always took the phone off the hook and listened. When I worked as an editor at a local PBS TV station I was fascinated by a series of programs called "USA Poetry" with write rs like Ed Sanders, Michael McClure, Anne Sexton I was enthralled. Soon I was included in an issue Rolling Stone did of 100 up and coming poets. I'm sure, too, I have been influenced by so much of the poetry by women I read in my several versions of Tangled Vines, a collection of mother and daughter poems, as well as women writing in two other of my anthologies, Ariadne's Thread and Lips Unsealed. I was a fine arts history minor in college and of course studied surrealism in art and a little in literature. I've certainly been influenced by their influence on American poets like Bly and the poets he published.
AL: Lyn, when did you start writing? What was the drive, the catalyst that made it inevitable that you write?
LL: I started writing when, at 6; I skipped from first grade to third grade because I read at an advanced level. As a result, I never learned long division, was always lost in math. But I loved to read and write. An excellent teacher, Mrs. Flag, read us Longfellow and Keats and had us write our own poems. She would bring apple blossoms and boughs in and have us look and touch, smell and taste and then write our own poems. I have blue thin notebooks of poems from then many but the poem that I had to write is the one I remember best. I grew up in a small town, Middlebury, Vermont and we lived on Main Street. One weekend I copied a poem of Blake's we were reading him at the time. I showed it to my mother, told her I wrote it. In a town of 3000 it wasn't surprising my mother ran into that teacher, excited, said what an inspiration she had been, how I used words she didn't even know I knew. By Monday, I had to write my own poem and it had to have "rill," "nigh" and "descending," in it.
AL: In terms of literature and psychology, do you believe that your subconscious leads you when you write? What are your thoughts on the psychological aspects of writing, literature?
LL: I do think the subconscious is connected to what i write. I used to say once I wrote something it became true, then it happened. In some workshops I have had students use dreams and dream exercises, day dreaming to let poems be triggered. And I've often written poems based on dreams. I suppose many images come from the sub- conscious, the strangeness in some poems, the stories I have no idea where they came from, the surreal. The title poem of Black Apples is a poem called "The�Dream of Black Apples, War". Somehow it came quickly, quietly from a dream and anticipated much that did happen later. The connection is one that is fascinating. I recently read that the predisposition to suicide can be determined by the use of some pronouns over others. I always want to read more about how memory works especially after editing my collection of women's memoirs, Lips Unsealed. I think it is very tangled with the subconscious I don't think any of the arts is separate from it.
AL: What's your favorite curse-word?
LL: My favorite swear word is one I probably never used but would love to. In college my roommate, from Rochester, with a definite Rochester accent and knowledge of Yiddish was always trying to teach me phrases that were very stunning but I could never quite say them right I think. I loved one, it sounded like "Vergo Harvit" or something like that and it meant drop dead I think very piercing word sounded like what it meant. But I never quite got it right.
AL: Thank you very much for allowing me to conduct this interview. Do you have any thoughts you'd like to share before we conclude?
LL: Well one important thing to me is that everyone know if they don't that Black Sparrow Books now will be published by David Godine press as Black Sparrow/ David Godine Books their new spring catalogue is just out with their back list and my new book, Another Woman Who Looks Like Me, will be published by them soon. They can be reached at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org phone is 800-344-4771 and fax is 800- 226-0934 and published recently is my new book from March Street Press and you can order that through Amazon.com or contact the publisher at email@example.com and still available is a documentary film about me called Lyn Lifshin: Not Made of Glass distributed by Women Make Movies. Telephone is 1-212-925-0606 Fax is 1-212-925-7002 and e mail is firstname.lastname@example.org. And my web site with lots of everything is www.lynlifshin.com
This interview originally appeared in the literary webzine, Tin
ripe. juicy. whole. round. exuberant. wild. rich. wide. deep. firm. rare. female.
Succulent Wild Woman looked to me at first like a book for children with its hand painted figures and bright colours. So what was it doing in the Women's section of the metaphysical book store? Of course, the title was intriguing, and suggested something different all together.
I reached for it, flipped through and found this familiar tidbit, which I thought I remembered seeing as a poster somewhere, entitled How to Paint
Go on an art store adventure.
Buy smooth or nubbly paper -- whatever sings to your fingers. Tear it into odd-sized pieces.
Buy one brush.
Choose colours that you love in ink, watercolour, acrylic, oil, or fingerpaints.
Mix colours randomly or put directly onto paper.
Experiment. Keep going. Make more mistakes.
Laugh at what develops.
Put layers of colour on top of each other.
Tear the paper up if you don't like it.
Glue the pieces into the centre of the next picture.
See if it develops into anything.
Spill paint onto the paper.
Watch what forms next.
This is a painting.
You are a painter.
I wondered, Is it self-help or is it poetry? Either way, I loved it immediately because it's self-indulgent and that's a philosophy I try to live by. It's my aim to cover every possible indulgence in life, as often as still feels healthy, even if it has to be vicariously. SARK urges us to look for more places we can find or create more pleasure. My kinda woman!
So I bought the book, and I read it on the bus where I consistently had to suppress my urges to jump up and share snippets of rainbow-coloured brilliance with other commuters.
Practice extravagant lounging.
Investigate your dark places with a flashlight.
Invent your life over if it doesn't feel juicy.
Cradle your wounded places like precious babies.
Eat mangoes naked.
Lick the juice off your arms.
A SARK book is a journal. It's like reading someone's diary, with permission. They're filled with her splendidly imperfect doodles and watercoloured illustrations in eye-popping colours. She writes about holistic therapies, religions and alternative routes toward spirituality, relationships, sexuality, creative expression, fat, self-forgiveness, building better communities, and her numerous visits to magical healing places like Esalen in Big Sur, and Tassajara, a Zen Mountain Centre in San Francisco, and even Holly Hock in British Columbia.
She explores. Encourages us to explore. Try new things. See what we like. See what we're like.
At the end of each chapter, she makes suggestions for related readings and other resources like music or websites. I love and admire how she promotes other artists of every genre, or just everyday people she finds inspiring and writes little devotionals to them, like this one
She offers us scenarios by which to best enjoy her books:
In a shaft of sunlight, beside a bowl of oranges, barefoot.
In the bathtub with many candles and slices of mango.
In white cotton pyjamas, under a comforter with a cat sleeping in a circle.
Her books are handwritten, cover to cover. The only computer font or typesetting I could find was the ISBN number on the back. Each one feels like a gift directly from her to you, the reader.
The colours she uses to write in are very important also, and I find they can make it easier to get thru the rough and stormy spots, like when she's talking about having been a victim of incest, or about embarrassing stumblings toward self-acceptance.
SARK is a poet of sorts, but first of all she is human, a woman, and encourages us to "Make more mistakes." It's poetry to live by.
Other books by SARK that I own: Transformation Soup, and Eat Mangoes Naked.
Other books by SARK that I'm curious to try: Inspiration Sandwich, The Bodacious Book of Succulence, and Change Your Life Without Getting Out Of Bed.
Visit her on the world wide web at www.campsark.com or you can call her Inspiration Hot Line, 24 hours a day, at 415-546-3742. I've never called. But I might.
Born 'Angela Marie DiFranco' on September 23, 1970 in Buffalo New York where she was also raised, Ani DiFranco pronounced (Ah-nee Dee-Frank-O) was nine years old when her parents bought her her first acoustic guitar. It was at that same store where she met and befriended a Buffalo singer-songwriter named Michael Meldrum. "So Michael Meldrum started taking me around to his gigs. He was my buddy. I was his sidekick, and he started the Greenwich Village Song Project: He was bringing singer-songwriters in from New York City to play in little folk venues in Buffalo, and he needed a place to put up these folk singers, so they actually stayed in my room."
Ani's parents were both very creative people, both interested in the arts and consistantly surrounded Ani with art. Allowing Ani her own free reign to bring folk singers into the house helped her develop an interest in poetry as well as folk music at a very early age. Unfortunately like many of us Ani's parents separated and divorced just before Ani hit puberty. Ani moved into an apartment with her mom and began to play in bars and coffee shops. Ani began to accumulate a local following as she would pound out Beatles tunes and aggressively own the stage commanding the attention of anyone within earshot. Ani began writing her own songs at the age of 15 when she moved out of her mother's apartment. Living on her own, she played every Saturday night at the Essex Street Pub, and at sixteen she graduated from the Visual and Performing Arts High School. At 18 Ani moved from Buffalo to New York City where she began making her first record. To finance her first album (self titled), Ani depleted her bank account and borrowed the rest from friends. After a few years in the big city Ani moved back to Buffalo. She rejected offers from indie and major labels alike, and instead started her own record company, Righteous Babe Records. "I don't think the music industry is conducive to artistic and social change and growth. It does a lot to exploit and homogenize art and artists. In order to challenge the corporate music industry, I feel it necessary to remain outside it. I could be selling a lot more albums. Life could be a lot more cushy. But it's much more interesting to try and hammer out an alternative route without the music industry and maybe be an example for other musicians. You don't have to play ball." The grassroots response to that first album and the ones that followed led to lots of offers for shows, and within a few short years she was moving from coffeehouses and college dates to larger theaters and major folk festivals.
Fast forward to 2003: Ani not only writes and publishes her own songs, but also produces her own recordings, creates the artwork, and releases them. She employs like-minded people in management and staff positions, supports local printers and manufacturers in her hometown, and utilizes a network of independent distributors in the U.S., Canada, and Europe.
To date Ani has written, produced and released over 20 albums the newest and much-anticipated being Evolve (released on March 11, 2003). She has also participated with other musicians and folk singers on their albums including Utah Phillips, Nora Guthrie (Woody's daughter), the Peace Not War compilation, and has opened for such artists as Bob Dylan. In 2002 she released her own documentary entitled "Render." Her folk background strongly influenced by Arlo & Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, and the People's Songs Movement shows up in every album as well as rock and roll, funk, jazz and hip hop tendencies.
Ani DiFranco's lyrics have always been very personal and very poetic. Including the emotional, sexual, or political she has touched on topics such as broken relationships, abortion, religion, gun control, women's rights, and the tried and true sex drugs and rock and roll. "The Million You Never Made", on the album Not a Pretty Girl, talks about why she continues to turn down major record labels: "If you don't live what you sing about, your mirror is going to find out." Also on this album she reads a poem about abortion, sings "Shy", a seductive invitation to on-the-road trysts, and "Light of Some Kind", in which she explains to her boyfriend why she slept with a girl. By talking about issues such as abortion and bisexuality, she makes it clear to us that personal is political and that "If we can bring ourselves to admit to all this shit and then talk about it, I think we're that much better of."
Ani realized at some point that people were attending her shows simply to look at her and not listen to her music. She found herself in the old dilemma where men would size up a woman for her looks. So she changed - by shaving off her hair. "I thought I would rather you just listen to my music. Men don't smile at you as much. But at least when they do smile, you know it's genuine and not necessarily a come-on. I think I caught a glimmer of what racism might be like," she says. "Conversations would stop when I would enter the room, or people would move to the other end of the subway platform, or follow me around stores. It's a very subtle thing, but it's very claustrophobic after a while." "It's the music that's important to me, and not the fame and fortune," says DiFranco
Since then Ani has grown her hair out and wears dresses, again shirking off any image or box that people want to put her in. And through it all she has stayed true to not only herself but her music and fans as well. She continues to encourage her fans to be active and involved in not just their community but nation-wide as well. In "Face Up and Sing," on her album Out of Range, Ani DiFranco encounters a female fan who's thankful to her "for saying all the things I never do." To which the she replies in that song, "It's nice that you listen. It'd be nice if you joined in." She has recently added an ACTION: our actions will define us! section to her website where fans can access links to sites under MEDIA & PEACE AND JUSTICE that are alternatives to main stream media coverage and local and nation-wide peace movements.
Ani continues to be an inspiration to those of us who are tired of corporate owned media and music. She signs other musicians to her label that also put out individual unique sounds that you cannot get from Sony or BMG. She is of a firm belief music should not only be artistic but a way of communication also. However, she has made it quite clear that it's not about the money or power: "And me. I'm just a folksinger, not an entrepreneur. My hope is that my music and poetry will be enjoyable and/or meaningful to someone, somewhere, not that I maximize my profit margins. It was 15 years and 11 albums getting to this place of notoriety and, if anything, I think I was happier way back when. Not that I regret any of my decisions, mind you. I'm glad I didn't sign on to the corporate army. I mourn the commodification and homogenization of music by the music industry, and I fear the manufacture of consent by the corporately-controlled media."
Ani DiFranco is a bold refreshing change for folk music and the people who make it. She continues to challenge our beliefs, thoughts and actions as well as our ears. If you take anything away from this article take away the fact that Ani DiFranco is a force to be reckoned with and will continue to be an active musical power for years to come.
if I drop dead to morrow, tell me my grave stone won't read:
Please let it read:
If you're saying to yourself, "DiPrima?" you are one of the main reasons I wrote this article. Even if you have heard of Diane's work you have to admit, in a field that already has an amazing paucity of women, to overlook even one seems like a capital crime, especially this one. Diane DiPrima is a San Francisco writer and poet who works in healing, Magick, and Alchemy.Her more recent books are : Pieces of a Song -Collected Poems, City Lights, 1990, Zip Code, Coffee House Press,1992, and Seminary Poems, Floating Press, 1991.
I spoke to Diane on 9-22-93 in her cozy booklined SF apartment. We spoke of rebellion, liberty, conditioning, and on being a women in the beat generation.Joseph Matheny
JM: When you started out as a writer in the 50's, were there a lot of control systems set up to punish anyone who tried to break out the consensus mold?
DD: It was a weird time. Especially for women. Rebellion was kind of expected of men.
JM: When men rebelled they were romantic, free. Women who rebelled were categorized as being nuts.
DD:Yes. Nuts or a whore, or something. Yes.
JM:Do you feel it's any different now?
DD:Not much. I think there's been a lot of lip service paid to how much women have managed to advance. The younger women that I know are behaving pretty much like women have always behaved. Maybe they don't
have so much of the middle class housewife dream, but they'll still be the one to get a job, while the man does the writing or the painting or whatever. I can think of example after example of this. I think that the internal control systems that have been put in place for women haven't been dented. It's such a big step forward to single mom, but so much more could be going on besides that.
JM:That's where the most effective censorship and control systems reside, inside ourselves, our head!
DD:Yes! How it gets there is interesting too.
JM: How do you think they get there?
DD:I would guess that it starts in the womb. Getting imprinted with the language pattern that's around you. The way people move, the way they hold themselves.To break it you'd have to do some really deliberate debriefing, on every level. The place where I was lucky in my own life was that I had a grandfather who was an anarchist. I didn't see much of him after I was 7 because my parents thought he was bad for me, but from 3 to 7 I saw a lot of him. I was still malleable enough so some debriefing occurred there. He would tell me these really weird fables about the world. He would read Dante to me and take me to the old peoples anarchist rallies, and all this showed me these other possibilities...
JM:So you had an early imprint of a kind of...anti-authority, authority figure.(laughs)
DD:(laughing) Yes! Aside from being an anti-authority authority figure the imprint that I got from him and my grandmother as well , was of two people who weren't afraid, at least from my child's point of perspective. They would just go ahead and do what they believed in. In all the other years of my early life I never encountered anyone else who wasn't afraid. I think kids today may be a little better off in that they encounter a few people who either aren't afraid, or who will go ahead and try something anyway, whatever it is. There's a possibility of that model, but during my childhood that was a very unusual model. I was born in 1934, during the depression,and everyone seemed to be frozenwithterror. We.....will....do... what....we....are....told!(laughs) and I don't think it's changed that much. Every day people are told that they should be afraid of not having health insurance, they're going to die in the gutter and to be afraid of all these things that aren't threats at the moment. Of course there are present threats but nobody's paying attention to those.
JM:It seems to me that rebellion itself has become a commodity, the media has co-opted rebellions like rock-n-roll, Dada, Surrealism, poetry, the rebel figure. Do you feel that this co-option has succeeded in making rebellion somewhat ineffectual?
DD:No. What your seeing is an old problem in the arts. Everything is always co-opted, and as soon as possible. As Cocteau used to talk about,you have to be a kind of acrobat or a tightrope walker. Stay 3 jumps ahead of what they can figure out about what you're doing, so by the time the media figures out that your writing, say, women and wolves, you're on to not just a point of view of rebellion or outdoing them, or anything like that. It's more a point of view of how long can you stay with one thing. Where do you want to go? You don't want to do anything you already know or that you've already figured out. So it comes naturally to the artist to keep making those jumps, that is ,if they don't fall into the old "jeez, I still don't own a microwave" programs.
JM:Reminds me of a story about Aldous Huxley. When asked if he had read all the books in his quite impressive library he replied, "God no! Who would want a library full of books that they had already read?"
DD:(laughs)It is true that rebellion is co-opted, but then it always gets out of their hands, it slithers in some other direction. Then they go "oh,how can we make this part of the system?" Like rap. OK, they are co-opting all this regular rap, but now this surreal rap is starting, native tongue, surreal imagery, spiritual anarchism rap, it's not about girls or politics or race and it's starting to happen.
JM:Is this something your daughter brings to your attention?
DD:Yes, I go over once in awhile and catch up on whats going on. You see as soon as something is defined, it wiggles off in another direction. I don't think that it's such a big problem in the sense of reaching a lot of people. How does the artist reach a large audience? The people that know are always going to find the new edge, but the mainstream are not that smart or the guy making a top 40 record is not that smart. It often takes them a long time to figure it out. Now that is a problem, because we don't have the time. We need to reach everybody, right away,because we have to stop the system dead in it's tracks. It's no longer a question of dismantling the system. There isn't enough time to take it apart, we just have to stop it.
JM: Do you feel that there's a somewhat centralized or conscious attempt to defuse radical art or rebellion through cooption or is it just < "the nature of the beast", so to speak.
DD:I think it goes back and forth.There are times when it's conscious, but not a single hierarchical conspiracy but rather a hydra headed conspiracy. Then there are other times that it doesn't need to be conscious anymore,
because that 's the mold, that pattern has been set, so everyone goes right on doing things that way. I'm not quite sure which point we're at right now in history. It's so transitional and craz y that I wouldn't hazard a guess. Just check your COINTELPRO history to see an example of a conscious conspiracy to stop us. Other times it was just a repetition of what has gone on before. Like the ants going back to where the garbage used to be.(laughs)
DD:Yes, and it's all in place when the next so called conspiracy comes along, which is very handy isn't it? I Wonder how we've made this monster we have here?
JM:Ok. Say we stop it dead in it's tracks. What then?
DD:It would be nice to say it's unimaginable, wouldn't that be great. That would be my hope!(laughs) For one thing, we'd have to use the same tables, wear the same shoes longer, read a lot of the same books, maybe for the next few hundred years. Dumps would become valuable places to mine!
JM:They already are to me!
DD:To some people,yes, but not to enough people. Screeching to a halt seems like the only possible solution and I'm not even sure how you would go about it. Of course the good old general strike would be a nice start.
JM:As long as we're on the subject of deconstructing, how do you feel about the predominant intellectual fad of post modernism, deconstrution, and the nihilism implicit in these systems?
DD:Well, when I read that stuff, it's so frustrating. Western thought always keeps stopping on the brink. It never really makes that extra step. It could really do with an infusion of Buddhist logic. At least 4 fold logic and then what's beyond that. It seems that although it's dressed up in new language, nothing really new has happened in philosophy in the 20th century. Well, maybe not since Wittgenstein. It seems like the same old thing. You know, sometimes when people ask me for poems now, I'll send out poems that have been lying around for years, I don't always have new poems lying around everywhere, and these things that I wrote as cut-up stuff, cutting up each others dreams in workshops and such. I'll send these out. Everyone seems to be taking them very seriously and publishing them. They think I'm working off of some language theory when actually these are just things I did for fun.
JM: What are you doing now?
DD:I'm working on 2 prose books. One is called "Recollections of My Life as a Women". I'm 120 pages into it and I'm still 8 years old. I'm still dealing with how the conditioning happened. In my generation a lot of it happened with battering, you got hit a lot, and screaming. Your basic conditioning came through abuse, not really different from concentration camps or anything else. I think think someday we're going to look back on how we're handling kids at this point in history and wonder how we could treat them such. Like when people say "how could women stand it when people did such and such? We'll be saying that about the way children are treated.
JM:What's the other book?
DD:The other prose book is called "Not Quite Buffalo Stew". It's just a rollicking, fun, surreal novel about life in California. It's in the first person, and in the 2nd or 3rd chapter in I found out that the "I" that was the narrator was a man, so that breaks a lot of rules already. The "I" is a drug smuggler named Lynx. There isn't a whole lot of continuity, just whatever scenes wanted to write themselves.
JM:Are you using any kind or random/divination systems, ie, cut-ups, grab bag, I ching, Tarot, coin tossing, etc.?
DD: Not with this one. This one dictates itself. The system I guess I'm using is that I can't write it at home. It won't happen anywhere that's familiar turf and it likes to happen while I'm driving. So I'll probably head for Nevada at some point and finish it.
JM:What do you see in the future for poetry and literature?
DD:I would like to see authors really use Magick to reach themes. I'd like to see more work coming out of visioning and trance. I'm really tired of reading about human beings! There's all these other beings, I'd like to see a real dimensional jump and I'd like to see people working on the technical problems. Like when you come back from trance or visioning, or drugs and what you can write down about it at that moment. What you can make into an actual piece, we haven't figured it out yet. Yeats certainly didn't figure it out. It's more than needing a new language. There are actual forms we need to find or the forms have to find us, that will hold all that material without trying to make it reductive. The attempts at visionary painting in the 60's and Yeats' last poems show how vision didn't translate into these old artistic forms. Of course taking the raw material and presenting that as a piece doesn't work either. Maybe a blending of vision, word, and sounds can achieve something. We haven't really had time to think about what the computer is. Most of us still think of it as a typewriter, or a calculator. We don't think of it as it's own dimension. It has it's own medium, possibilities, to bring this kind of material across. I also think about deliberate invocation to find the plane or thing you want to write about.
JM:Do you see us as heading into a post literate society?
DD:Yes, we might be. I don't think that will stop poetry, in fact it won't stop any of the arts at all. Even if it's oral there may be a split like there was in Europe when there was the written literature in Latin and then there was the oral poems of the singers in the Vulgate. We have that to a degree already with the poetry of the great song writers. Really though, I don't think literate or post literate really matters. Were cave paintings literate or pre-literate? Did they read those paintings or just look at them?(laughs) Of course the only reason a completely literate society was developed was for thought control, and now that thought control can be done via T.V, etc. it's not really needed anymore. They don't want everyone reading Schopenhauer!
DD:Everyone needs to remember that they can buy a small press or laser writer, or copy machine, and go home and do what the fuck they please and it will take a very long time for anyone to catch up with them all! No one seems to remember about a few years ago in Czechoslovakia, without access to all this technology like we have here, even with every one of their typewriters registered to the police, they still managed to publish their work! In order to do this they would they would type it with 10 carbon papers to make 10 copies! We are in a situation here in the US where no one can register all the computers, no one can figure out where alll the copy machines are. Get one now! Remember we can do it without government money. Government money is poison, take it when you need it, but don't get hooked. We can say what we want. They can't possibly keep up with us all.Real decentralization!
JM:That's great, helping people to find their true desires, but do you think that we're so full of false, spectacle manufactured desires that we can no longer identify our true desires?
DD:I think it doesn't take that long to deprogram false desires. Anyone who knows that they have the desire to know that about themselves, what their true desires are, will find the tools to do it. Drugs, autohypnosis, you could also do it by following the false desires until they lead to a dead end like Blake recommended....
JM:Hmmm ... somehow that seems ... very American ...
DD:Hmmm ... You're right ...
Nin's Sabina is a beautiful woman lost in the labyrinth of her own lies. One desperate evening she calls a random number and begins to confess her crimes. The man who answers the phone is not only a stranger, but also a "lie detector". She hangs up on him after learning this but he traces her call and leaves his bed to find her. The lie detector enters a small, darkly lit bar later on that evening and sits in the shadows, scanning the room for the strange woman's voice. There, in the center of the bar, stands a beautiful woman, surrounded by captivated men as she tells them fantastical stories of her life in Marrakesh and of her theater days in London. The lie detector recognizes the woman's voice and drinks in her body, her dark eyes and red and silver dress. Her hand motions are nervous and she keeps smiling during the serious parts of her tales. The lie detector knows she is lying. But he is certain he will find out the truth.
Sabina leaves the tiny Harlem bar and proceeds to hail a taxi home to Greenwich Village. Her husband does not expect her back from Provincetown, Massachusetts for another week, but she can no longer stand being in the city another night without him. She returns home and finds the apartment empty. She runs a bath but before she can clean off the scents of other men's desires in the water she hears her husband's key in the lock. It will be yet another evening of pretending to be someone else for Sabina. She is almost used to it now. She is an actress - but in real life and not on the stage. Earlier this evening she was a downtown seductress and a well traveled actress. In the midst of her performance she had almost lost her character when she called the lie detector. She had nearly told him the whole truth of her life. She had almost destroyed the varied fragments of her disjointed self that made her feel somehow whole. She had almost lost control - and she had never slipped up like that before.
Instead she lives out her role of doting, loving wife in her husband's arms. She dresses in white chiffon and puts his feet up after work, cooking exotic meals for him and reading poetry to him by the fireplace. She is gripped by a love so fierce and consuming it lifts her soul whenever she is near him. But somehow it is still not enough - or it's too much altogether.
She feels a childlike devotion to her husband which mirrors her complex girlhood worship of her Don Juan father. Like her own cosmopolitan and remote father, Sabina has become a "Donna Juana" of sorts; seducing countless men in an effort to transfer her father's womanizing experiences onto her own sexual compulsions. Much like Nin's other works exploring her lifelong obsession for her father and his abandonment of her, in another work, Winter of Artifice she writes of her father as a man who "...was offended that she had not died completely, that she had not spent the rest of her life yearning for him. He did not understand that she had continued to love him better by living than by dying for him. She had loved him in life, lived for him and created for him." Sabina feels this way about her father and feels perhaps she has to "die" for him, to create an inner death of herself and to reincarnate as a mirror image of him in order to "win him back" and "seduce" him into "loving her once more" as she feels he 'must' have once upon a time.
Sabina moves through the streets of 1940's New York in search of that insubstantial otherworldly mystical "something". She feels an unknown presence watching her. The lie detector is following her everywhere. He is like the silent confessor who becomes obsessed with his once detached object of study. He is all at once omniscient god, father, priest, judge and psychoanalyst, but he is too far removed from her to make actual contact with her. He is merely a witness to her affairs with a beautiful Italian actor, an afro-Cuban drummer and a shell shocked English army pilot. He watches as Sabina becomes haunted by the pilot, who leaves her sleeping in her tiny rented bungalow on Long Island and disappears into the thick, seashore mist. Sabina searches the streets and all the burroughs for the mysterious pilot. She hunts in every corner, trying to trace his last footprints as the lie detector in turn follows hers. She looks into every new face for any sign of him, any reminder. She is obsessed with the "idea" of him and with the stories still lingering in her head of his tragic, vivid tales of W.W.II combat. In Spy she describes their union as a momentary escape from their exterior realities.
"They fled from the eyes of the world, the singer's prophetic, harsh, ovarian prologues. Down the rusty bars of ladders to the undergrounds of the night propitious to the first man and woman at the beginning of the world, where there were no words by which to possess each other, no music for serenades, no presents to court with, no tournaments to impress, and force a yielding, no secondary instruments, no adornments, necklaces, crowns to subdue, but only one ritual, a joyous, joyous, joyous, joyous impaling of woman on man's sensual mast."
During their solitary night of passion he described the pungent smells of leaking airplane fluid and burning flesh. He spoke with an eerie calm of his shot down comrades and of the blood he shed in the heat of battle. He brought out the demons of war still raging within him underneath his deadly stillness and penetrates this chaos into Sabina's body during violent lovemaking. She absorbs all his ghosts and hopeless feelings of death and darkness. Here is the vicious, invasive communion with man (god) she has waited for since her first sexual awakening, since the moment her father turned away from her with a cold goodbye. The pilots' poison tastes sweet to Sabina. Instead of looking for an antidote she searches for another injection. She has found her true drug.
Walking aimlessly while her husband is away on another business trip and giving up her search for the pilot, Sabina's childhood memories of her father flood back to her. The lie detector is close by but invisible. Her father's last letter to her read in part that she was, "the only woman (her father) had not conquered" and he writes to her that, "God and society would never allow it. However we can still keep our dreams and share our most intimate secrets with each other... as the only two people who can truly understand each other and our many amours." Her father offers her a relationship with ties, not a regular father-daughter bond but a closed off secret communion where Sabina is only one piece of herself with him... and nothing more.
Sabina's idealized image of her father is slowly breaking into a thousand shards of shattered glass in her newfound disillusionment. The spell of sex and forgetting is not working anymore. She cannot simply have random interludes and re-emerge unscathed. She begins to see the little lies buried within each of her father's stories and the subtle trickery within each one of his "professions of undying 'fatherly' love" for her. It slowly dawns on her she has not only become a warped caricature of her father, copying his own seductions not as an expression of her own desire but as an uninformed means of understanding him and winning his approval and affection - but she also realizes that her father is ultimately incapable of ever being really honest with her (or himself). Despite his recent attention he will forever be the impersonal egoist. He will never be conquered and won.
Sabina sought out the pilot in the ho pes of relief from her lifelong suffering at the hands of her insatiable desire to be loved (transformed into a need for sexual and emotional possession in her adult years). She wishes to recapture again and again the intense pleasure and pain of their brief union because she felt near the brink of not only release of her own demons (by ingesting someone else's) but also the possibility of being psychically jolted out of her own neuroses long enough to feel "alive" again.
She is at the point where she also senses the lie detectors' presence strongly enough she begins to associate him as something of a slightly malevolent guardian angel. She cannot evade him, she cannot hide from herself, from her lies and from the outside world. She decides to face the lie detector (god, father, priest, judge, psychoanalyst). As the lie detector rests in the lobby of the hotel Sabina checks herself into he is startled as a hotel key drops into his lap from behind. He turns around to catch her but Sabina has already disappeared into a closing elevator. He stands up, disheveled, with a mixed look of uncertainty and determination on his face, and walks up the stairs to her room. This is the hour where he becomes a true confessor or he gives up forever and leaves her alone. He walks into the room through the door without knocking, using the key. He finds Sabina lying on the chaise lounge and he awkwardly enters, clearing his throat to make her aware of his presence.
"I'm an official." He says quietly. "I mean you no harm."
"I know." She answers and motions for him to sit at a nearby chair.
"Do you break your own rules often?" She asks.
"No." He answers and sits.
"It's all right. I called you..." She replies and pauses a moment. "I think I understand why now."
They sit in silence for several moments. It is not uncomfortable.
"You're my conscience or my demonic guardian angel or my god or I don't know what. I don't care anymore." She sighs. "You know what I want, don't you?"
"I think..." He answers, looking out the window.
"Say it." She commands.
"You have something to confess?" He asks as he did the first time they spoke.
She breathes deeply and clenches her fists before answering him.
"Yes. Yes, I do... I have many things to confess."
"Are you ready Sabina?"
Plath was born October 27, 1932 in Boston, Massachusetts to Otto (a professor of biology and German) and Aurelia Plath. After Plath's father died in 1940, the family moved to Wellesley where Plath's mother took a teaching position at Boston University. The death of her father, who doted on Sylvia, became a source of morbid curiosity combined with insecurity that would affect Sylvia throughout her life. Many of Sylvia's later poems would focus on death: relating to the loss of her father or focusing on her own suicidal thoughts.
Growing up in an education-focused environment, Sylvia became interested in art and writing at an early age. She was a precocious child who enjoyed academic success throughout every stage of her school career. At 8 1/2 Sylvia Plath had her first poem published in the Boston Sunday Herald. Over the next few years she won various contests and awards for her writing. Her poems were also published in several magazines and school journals. Aided by her mother, Plath devoted a considerable amount of time in her youth meticulously editing her early poems and submitting them for publication.
Just before entering Smith College, Plath's first story "And Summer Will Not Come Again" was published in Seventeen magazine in August 1950. Sylvia enjoyed success at Smith and continued writing short stories and poems with great intensity. She took several rigorous writing courses and her work was published again in Seventeen and other national magazines such as Mademoiselle and The Christian Science Monitor.
In 1952, Plath was chosen to be a guest editor in Mademoiselle's College Board Contest. This was a great honor for Sylvia who had also won the magazine's national poetry contest.
The anxiety and stress of trying to achieve perfection caught up with Plath in her Junior year. On August 24, 1953, after receiving disappointing news that she hadn't been accepted to a prestigious Harvard summer course, she attempted suicide by swallowing a large number of sleeping pills and crawling into a hole in the family's cellar. The disappearance was well publicized in local papers. She was found two days later by her family, and entered into a long series of treatments for her depression and suicidal thoughts, including psychotherapy, medication and electroshock.
During her senior year at Smith, Plath wrote many excellent prose pieces and short stories. She also won several prizes for her writing and completed a collection of fifty-five poems titled "Circus in Three Rings" for an independent study course in poetry. Plath also continued to be published in places such as The Nation and The Atlantic Monthly. In June 1995, she graduated summa cum laude and was awarded a Fulbright fellowship to Newnham College at Cambridge University.
In February 1956, Plath met fellow poet Ted Hughes and married him 4 months later. Their relationship was intense from the beginning and based on her journal entries, Sylvia seemed to have an almost obsessive preoccupation with Hughes and his motives. While Hughes and Plath supported each other creatively, they often had a hard time making ends meet while waiting for their literary careers to pay off. Sylvia was most devoted to the task of getting Hughes recognized and published and spent a great deal of time working toward this goal by preparing and submitting his pieces for review and publication.
In April 1960, Plath and Hughes had their first child, Frieda, followed by a son, Nicholas, less than two years later. Even with the added stress of caring for two small children in sometimes less than ideal conditions, Sylvia still managed to find time to work on her poetry and short stories and begun work on a novel.
Sylvia's only completed novel, The Bell Jar, was published in January 1963 under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas. While Plath was extremely anxious about its debut, it received mixed reviews. However, most recognized the author's raw talent and the ability to tell a chilling account of a young woman on the brink of self-destruction. One reviewer noted, "[The Bell Jar] is the first feminine novel in a Salinger mood." The Bell Jar is a haunting autobiographical tale of Sylvia's experiences as a young college student, and includes details of events surrounding her experience in New York as the Mademoiselle Managing Guest Editor and her subsequent breakdown and suicide attempt.
At age 30 Plath succeeded in committing the suicide she had thought about for most of her life. With her two small children upstairs, Plath killed herself in the early morning of Feb. 11, 1963. The details of her last few days are sketchy at best, but this act seemed to be the fulfillment of years of pain.
While Plath was recognized in some circles as a gifted writer, it is not until after her death that she became widely known. Many took notice immediately after her death as a result of A. Alvarez's tribute to Sylvia in the Observer on February 17, 1963. The obituary praised Sylvia as a writer and included four of Sylvias last poems, including "Daddy" and "Lady Lazarus". Alvarez is also credited for leaking the secret of Plath's pseudonym.
Ted Hughes held full copyright control of Plath's work and most of her collections and poems were published well after her death. In 1965, Hughes published Plath's collection of poems, Ariel, which he edited and arranged much differently than Plath had reportedly intended. In 1975, Plath's mother, Aurelia, published a large collection of Sylvia's letters, Letters Home by Sylvia Plath, Correspondence 1950-1963. Hughes published two more widely received volumes: 1977's Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams and Other Prose Writings and in 1981, Sylvia Plath, The Collected Poems which won the 1982 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.
O'Connor was educated at Georgia State College for Women, and graduated in 1945. The following year, she published her first short story, "The Geranium". She then went on to study creative writing at the University of Iowa, where she received her M.F.A. in 1947.
In 1950, she finished the novel Wise Blood, which tells the tale of Hazel Motes, a man who tries to start the Church Without Christ. Later that year, she began suffering from lupus, and returned home to the family farm in Milledgeville, where she raised peacocks and wrote. She was given cortisone injections, which managed to stop the disease, but the cortisone weakened her bones to such an extent that she had to walk on crutches from 1955 until the end of her life. After a trip to Lourdes, she said she had "the best-looking crutches in Europe", a comment that is characteristic of both her humor and her refusal to feel sorry for herself.
Wise Blood was published in 1952 (John Huston turned it into a film in 1979). Her second novel, The Violent Bear it Away, was published in 1960, and it was also religious in nature.
O'Connor was a devout Roman Catholic, yet the characters she portrayed in her work were Protestant. She explained this by saying that Protestants are more likely to express their faith through dramatic action. This fit with her philosophy on writing about religious matters, in that she preferred not to approach the subject directly, but rather through the depiction of human actions.
Her first book of short stories, A Good Man is Hard to Find, was published in 1955, and contained pieces such as "The Life You Save May Be Your Own" and "Good Country People." Her short stories are darkly comic, and feature a deep understanding of the rhythms of everyday Southern life, and a keen ear for Southern speech patterns. Critics referred to her as a maker of grotesques, as she often focused her tales on the darkness of human nature. To this label she commented, "Anything that comes out of the South is going to be called grotesque by the Northern reader, unless it is grotesque, in which case it is going to be called realistic."
Flannery O'Connor died from lupus on August 3, 1964 at the age of 39, leaving behind 31 short stories, various letters and speeches, and two novels. Posthumous collections include Everything That Rises Must Converge (1965), Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose (1969), The Complete Short Stories of Flannery O'Connor (1971 - National Book Award Winner), The Habit of Being: Letters (1979), The Presence of Grace and Other Book Reviews (1983), The Correspondence of Flannery O'Connor and the Brainars Cheneys (1986), and Complete Works (1988).
January 11, 1915 "Today went by in the usual way. We went to school, I work as hard as I can but that doesn't interfere with my doing the things I like best. I am now writing a story, 'Poor Little Boy.' I only like things that are sad or funny. "I now hate school and everything American. Why, Maman asked me and my aunt too. Why? Here is the answer. Because I love only silence and here there is noise all the time. Everything here is dark, enclosed, severe, and I love sunny landscapes, I love to see the sky. I love to admire the beauties of nature in silence and here the buildings are so high, so high that one sees nothing, or if one sees a little something out of the window, it isn't a beautiful sky that is pale blue, pale pink or a calm white. No, that isn't what one sees here. One sees a dark sky, heavy, mournful, soiled and darkened by the vanity and pride of modern men and women. I say that because I don't like anything modern. I would like to live in the first century in ancient Rome, I would like to live in the time of grand castles and gracious ladies. I would like to live in the time of Charlotte Corday when every woman could become a heroine, and so on. The truth is I would like to save France from its afflictions, but we are no longer living in the era of Joan of Arc or Jeanne Hachette, and the best thing I can do is keep quiet and out of sight. Where was I when I asked why I don't like America and got into the period when I would like to live? I shall go on and I'm sure my diary has guessed the answer and I can give my imagination free rein. Oh, if I could rise up and annihilate all those ambitious countries that are the cause of Belgium's misfortune and France's tears. But once again I must bow my head and give way to older people who will come along later, perhaps, as I hope. I have to recognize that I am crazy, but since my diary is the diary of a madwoman, I can't write only reasonable things, and if I did they wouldn't be my own thoughts. So while I await the great woman who will save France, I shall go to bed." p. 42-43
This passage is classic early Linotte. Anais is at a period where she loathes school and terribly misses the manners and customs of the old country. She misses her bohemian life in France and Belgium, even her more difficult life in sunny Spain with her beloved granmere and sour granpere. Ofcourse most of all she misses her papa and the "better" life she deludes herself into thinking they had together. She is still in the stage of her early life where she believes in heroines and fables and suppliments her ardor for 'Christ' in mass each Sunday with her secret ardor for her father. Her heart is broken but her mind is also quite awake and active. She is reading books alphabetically in New York Public Library, making friends and spending time with her mother's spillover of expatriate Bohemian musician friends from Europe and South America, especially from her longtime home in Cuba. World War One is striking a heavy blow on France and on Anais, who reads about heroines Charlotte Corday and Jeanne d'Arc fervently into the night by candlelight and imagines herself a grown woman of invincible power, who can swoop down upon France, lead her nation of heroic men and "save France" from the 'German tyrants'. After her reveries she invariably sinks back into reality in her diaries by noting she is "only a girl" a small nothing of a girl who cannot save France. She is limited by her age, size, health and the historical times. For women of her time, most are to be wives and mothers, not heroines (or for the most part, writers and artists as sole occupations, either) and Anais senses this about her future. She examines her life in "dreary oppressive New York" as it progresses. More "womanly duties" are pressed upon her such as cooking, cleaning and above all else sewing, and she is scolded for staying indoors too often and "scribbling" in her "silly book", the Diary.
At the point where Anais is almost 15 years old she still pines for her Papa but has given up hope of him 'magically' appearing in New York for Christmas. They maintain a long correspondance (more fervently and regularly on Anais' part). Joaquin and Thorvald (her brothers) are growing quickly, but Anais still towers over them. They live in the city, in a large house now, renting out rooms to boarders. John O'Connell, a blue-eyed, gentle, well behaved younger boy from school, is Anais' first innocent 'romance'. Anais detests school...she does like the temporary public school right now, except for English Grammar classes and Math. She is learning how to sow, cook, clean and keep the house together. She is still fervent about France and the War but talks about it less. She dicusses the difference between dreaming and reality, and how there are two sides to her nature. Some days she chooses Life [Reality] and some days she chooses Dreaming. She writes stories...she reads Hugo, Eliot and other great authors. An artist wants her to sit for a portrait because of her Catalan features inherited from her father. Anais confides in her diary that she is secretly pleased by this. Rosa (her mother) tries to make life fun for the children while working very hard and she still manages to sing in operas sometimes. Anais writes poetry and dances in a Jeanne d'Arc d'onfrey play. She discovers the real goings-on of backstage life which both enchants and disillusions her. Anais has many little girlfriends now and a club of well wishers and do gooders...and edits a small magazine of poetry, stories and pictures. She prays France wil be saved from the Germans. She still hopes to see her father one day again. She still dreams of meeting her other half, her shadow, a man like the heroes in her books, a blue eyed stranger who will understand her.
Anais, at 16, is very introspective, very full of life, in her joy and in her despair, and she is really growing at this point in her life. She is also very innocent in many ways and very loving and gentle hearted. She is intelligent and writes a diary that is compelling and playful and serious and meaningful and intimate and humourous. She writes with a depth and gravity, even while dreaming of violinists and the French Academie. She writes about her interior life and her impressions above the daily grind.
Linotte is the essence of who Anais was in her early life, a fragment of her self she carried with her her entire life. Her thoughts, her dreams, her beliefs, her doubts, her regrets, her ideals, her problems, her questions. It is a journey of one writer's life as they evolve from child to young woman. Many readers unfamiliar with the breadth of her work picture Anais Nin as a bestselling erotic writer or famed Diary writer with a risque' and bohemian past. Some view her in relation to any number of her friendships with celebrated artists and writers. Some readers (and critics) cannot see past her sexual exploration later in her life, and view her as only writing in a certain vein. But Linotte is a portrait of an immigrant girl in the early part of the 20th century writing a love letter to her absent father which eventually becomes her life's masterpiece; the first chapter in her acclaimed series of Diaries.