Archive for the 'Gender' Category

Gwendolyn Brooks

May 9, 2007


Grew up in Chicago
Appointed poet laureate of Illinois
Became the first African American woman to be appointed poetry consultant to the Library of Congress
Married to Henry Blakely and had a son and daughter
Often presents the characters of local people
Poetry is direct but sly and ironic
Determined to represent everyday lives of African American city dwellers in her work


We real cool. We/ Left school. We
Lurk late. We/ Strike straight. We
Sing sin. We/ Thin gin. We
Jazz June. We/ Die soon.

-We Real Cool (in whole)

The Pool Players.
Seven at the Golden Shovel.

Without my having known./ Policeman said, next morning,/ “Apparently died Alone.”/ “You heard a shot?” Policeman said./ Shots I hear and Shots I hear./ I never see the dead.
The Shot that killed him yes I heard/ as I heard the Thousand shots before;/ careening tinnily down the nights/ across my years and arteries.
Policeman pounded on my door./ “Who is it?” “POLICE!” Policeman yelled./ “A Boy was dying in your alley./ A Boy is dead, and in your alley./ And have you known this Boy before?”
I have known this Boy before./ I have known this Boy b efore, who/ ornaments my alley./ I never saw his face at all./ I never saw his futurefall./ But I have known this Boy.
I have always heard him deal with death./ I have always heard the shout, the volley./ I have closed my heart-ears late and early./ And I have killed him ever.
I joined the Wild and killed him/ with knowledgeable unknowing./ I saw where he was gong./ I saw him Crossed. And seeing,/ I did not take him down.
he cried not only “Father!”/ but “Mother!/ Sister!/ Brother.”/ The cry climbed up the alley./ It went up to the wind./ It hung upon the heaven/ for a long/ stretch-strain of Moment.
The red floor of my alley/ is a special speech to me.

-The Boy Died in My Alley (in whole)

They eat beans mostly, this old yellow pair./ Dinner is a casual affair./ Plain chipware on a plain and creaking wood,/ Tin flatware.
Two who are Mostly Good./ Two who have lived their day,/ But keep on putting on their clothes/ And putting things away.
And remembering…/ Remembering, with twinklings and twinges,/ As they lean over the beans in their rented back room that is full of beads and receipts and dolls and cloths, tobacco crumbs, vaces and fringes.

-The Bean Eaters (in whole)

Whose broken window is a cry of art/ (success, that winks aware/ as elegance, as a treasonable faith)/ is raw: is sonic: is old-eyed premiere./ Our beautiful flaw and terrible ornament./ Our barbarous and metal little man.
“I shall create! If not a note, a hole./ If not an overture, a desecration.”
Full of pepper and light/ and Salt and night and cargoes.
“Don’t go down the plank/ if you see there’s no extension./ Each to his grief, each to/ his loneliness and fidgety revenge.
Nobody knew where I was and now I am no longer there.”
The only sanity is a cup of tea./ The music is in minors.
Each one other/ is having different weather.
“It was you, it was you who threw away my name!/ And this is everything I have for me.”
Who has not Congress, lobster, love, luau,/ the Regency Room, the Statue of Liberty,/ runs. A sloppy amalgamation./ A mistake./ A cliff./ A hymn, a snare, and an exceeding sun.

-Boy Breaking Glass (in whole)

To Marc Crawford from whom the commission


Adrienne Rich

May 9, 2007


Born white and middle class
Married and had three sons before she was thirty
Separated from her husband and committed herself to radical feminism and lesbian vision
Leading feminist poet of the twentieth century
Populates her poems with emblematic female figures
Defies modernist injunctions and is in search of a common language to describe a shared historical experience
One of the most well-known contemporary love poets
Personal feeling can never be completely separated from politics


Living    in the earth-deposits   of our history
Today a blackhoe divulged   out of a crumbling flank of earth/ one bottle   amber   perfect   a hundred-year-old/ cure for fever   or melancholy   a tonic/ for living on this earth   in the winters of this climate
Today I was reading about Marie Cruie:/ she must have known she suffered   from radiation sickness/ her body bombarded for years   by the element/ she had purified/ It seems she denied to the end/ the source of the cataracts on her eyes/ the cracked and suppurating skin   of her finger-ends/ till she could no longer hold   a test-tube or a pencil
She died   a famous woman   denying/ her wounds/ denying/ her wounds   came   from the same source as her power

-Power (in whole)

First having read the book of myths,/ and loaded the camera,/ and checked the edge of the knife-blade,/ I put on/ the body-armor of black rubber/ the absure flippers/ the grave and awkward mask./ I am having to do this/ not like Cousteau with his/ assiduous team/ aboard the sun-flooded schooner/ but here alone.

I came to explore the wreck./ The words are purposes./ The words are maps./ I came to see the damage that was done/ and the treasure that prevail./ I stroke the beam of my lamp/ slowly along the flank/ of something more permanent/ than fist or weed
the thing I came for:/ the wreck and not the story of the wreck/ the thing itself and not the myth/ the drowned face always staring/ toward the sun/ the evidence of damage/ worn by salt and sway into this threadbare beauty/ the ribs of the disaster/ curing their assertion/ among the tentative haunters.
This is the place./ And I am here, the mermaid whose dark ahir/ streams black, the merman in his armored body./ We circle silently/ about the wreck/ we dive into the hold./ I am she: I am he
whose drowned face sleeps with open eyes/ whose breasts still bear the stress/ whose silver, copper, vermeil cargo lies/ obscurely inside barrels/ half-wedged and left to rot/ we are the half-destroyed instruments/ that once held to a course/ the water-eaten log/ the fouled compass
We are, I am, you are/ by cowardice or courage/ the one who find our way/ back to this scene/ carrying a knife, a camera/ a book of myths/ in which/ our names do not appear.

-Diving into the Wreck

Whenever in this city, screens flicker/ with pornography, with science-fiction vampires,/ victimized hirelings bending to the lash,/ we also have to walk… if simply as we walk/ through the rainsoaked garbage, the tabloid cruelties/ of our own neighborhoods./ We need to grasp our lives inseparable/ from those rancid dreams, that blurt of metal, those disgraces,/ and the red begonia perilously flashing/ from a tenement sill six stories high,/ or the ong-legged young girls playing ball/ in the junior highschool playground./ No one has imagined us. We want to live like trees,/ sycamores blazing through the sulfuric air,/ dappled with scars, still exuberantly budding,/ our animal passion rooted in the city.

Your dog, tranquil and innocent, dozes through/ our cries, our murmured dawn conspiracies/ our telephone calls. She knows- what can she know?/ If in my human arrogance I claim to read/ her eyes, I find there only my own animal thoughts: / that creatures must find each other for bodily comfort,/ that voices of the psyche drive through the flesh/ further than the dense brain could have foretold,/ that the planetary nights are growing cold for those/ on the same journey, who want to touch/ one creature-traveler clear to the end;/ that without tenderness, we are in hell.

No one’s fated or doomed to love anyone./ The accidents happen, we’re not heroines,/ they happen in our lives like car crashes,/ books taht change us, neighborhoods/ we move into and come to love./ Tristan und Isolde is scarcely the story,/ women at least should know the difference/ between love and death. No poison cup,/ no penance. Merely a notion that the tape-recorder/ should have caught some ghost of us: that tape-recorder/ not merely played but should have listened to us,/ and could instruct those after us:/ this we were, this is how we tried to love,/ and there are the forces they had ranged against us,/ and these are the forces we hand ranged within us,/ within us and against us, against us and within us.

The dark lintels, the blue and foreign stones/ of the great round rippled by ston implements/ the midsummer night light rising from beneath/ the horizon- when I said “a cleft of light”/ I meant this. And this is not Stonehenge/ simply nore any place but the mind/ casting back to where her solitude,/ shared, could be chosen without loneliness,/ not easily nor without pains to stake out/ the circle, the heavy shadows, the great light./ I choose to be a figure in that light,/ half-blotted by darkness, something moving/ across that space, the color of stone/ greeting the moon, yet more than stone:/ a woman. I choose to walk here. And to draw this circle.

-Twenty-One Love Poems

Lucille Clifton

May 9, 2007


Born Thelma Lucille Sayles
Married Fred Clifton
Has written frankly about being an incest survivor
Raised six children
Has two ancestors of great significance to her: great-great-grandmother Caroline, a west-central African girl kidnapped by slave traders and great-grandmother Lucille, the first woman legally hanged in “Virginia for murdering the white father of her only son
Celebrates African American culture, especially black womanhood
Protests the injustices inflicted by the larger culture
Intensely personal and yet collectivist: bridges the gap between “confessional poetry” and “identity poetry”


i am accused of tending to the past/ as if i made it,/ as if i sculpted it/ with my own hands. i did not./ this past was waiting for me/ when i came,/ a monstrous unnamed baby,/ and i with my mother’s itch/ took it to breast/ and named it/ History./ she is more human now,/ learning language everyday,/ remembering faces, names and dates./ when she is strong enough to travel/ on her own, beware, she will.

-[i am accused of tending to the past] (in whole)

among the rocks/ at walnut grove/ your silence drumming/ in my bones,/ tell me your names.
nobody mentioned slaves/ and yet the curious tools/ shine with your fingerprints./ nobody mentioned slaves/ but somebody did this work/ who had no guide, no stone,/ who moulders under rock.
tell me your names,/ tell me your bashful names/ and i will testify.
the inventory lists ten slaves/ but only men were recognized.
among the rocks/ at walnut grove/ some of these honored dead/ were dark/ some of these dark/ were slaves/ some of these slaves/ were women/ some of them did this/ honored work./ tell me your names/ foremothers, brothers,/ tell me your dishonored names./ here lies/ here lies/ here lies/ here lies/ hear

-at the cemetery, walnut grove plantation, south carolina, 1989 (in whole)

you   uterus/ you have been patient/ as a sock/ while i have slippered into you/ my dead and living children/ now/ they want to cut you out/ stocking i will not need/ where i am going/ where am i going/ old girl/ without you/ uterus/ my bloody print/ my estrogen kitchen/ my black bag of desire/ where can i go/ barefoot/ without you/ where can you go/ without me

-poem to my uterus (in whole)

well girl, goodbye,/ after thrity-eight years./ thirty-eight years and you/ never arrived/ splendid in your red dress/ without trouble for me/ somewhere, somehow.
now it is done,/ and i feel just like/ the grandmothers who,/ after the hussy has gone,/ sit holding her photograph/ and sighing,
wasn’t she/ beautiful? wasn’t she beautiful?

-to my last period (in whole)

Jeanette Winterson

December 7, 2006


Born in Manchester, adopted by a Pentecostal couple
Brought up in Accrington, Lancashire: her parents wanted her to be a Christian Missionary
Announced that she was having a lesbian affair at the age of 16, and left home
Studied English at St Catherine’s College, Oxford
After the move to London her first novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, was published when she was twenty six years old: was adapted for television by Winterson in 1990
Novels explore the boundaries of physicality and the imagination, gender polarities, and sexual identities
Her stage adaptation of The Powerbook in 2002 opened at the Royal National Theatre, London
Opened a shop, Verde’s, in East London to sell organic food

Sexing the Cherry (1989)

The story of Jordan, an orphan found floating on the River Thames, and his keeper, The Dog Woman, a huge and monstrous creature
Winterson says in regards to the setting of the novel:

“I set this in the seventeenth century, around the beheading of Charles the First, because I had more to do exploring the past as energetic space. I wanted to build another word-dependent world, not restricted either by realism or contemporaneity. The past is strange. We have never been there and we can never go there. I have never recognised the past as a document, rather I understand it as a kind of lumber room, full of trunks of old clothes and odd mementoes. There are as many narratives as there are guesses.”

Ideas to expore:
Transcendence of boundaries, specifically space and time
Gender as a natural or unnatural distinction among people
Love, or the object of love, as secondary to the personal pursuit


“The Hopi, an Indian tribe, have a language as sophisticated as ours, but no tenses for past, present and future. The division does not exist. What does this say about time?
Matter, that thing the most solid and the well-known, which you are holding in your hands and which makes up your body, is now known to be mostly empty space. Empty space and points of light. What does this say about the reality of the world?”

“When Jordan was a baby he sat on top of me much as a fly rests on a hill of dung. And I nourished him as a hill of dung nourishes a fly, and when he had eaten his fill he left me.
Jordan . . .
I should have named him after a stagnant pond and then I could have kept him, but I named him after a river and in the flood-tide he slipped away.”

“Singing is my pleasure, but not in church, for the parson said the gargoyles must remain on the outside, not seek room in the choir stalls. So I sing inside the mountain of my flesh, and my voice is as slender as a reed and my voice has no lard in it. When I sing the dogs sit quiet and people who pass in the night stop their jabbering and discontent and think of other times, when they were happy. And I sing of other times, when I was happy, though I know that these are figments of my mind and nowhere I have been. But does it matter if the place cannot be mapped as long as I can still describe it?”

“What I remember is the shining water and the size of the world.”

“As we descended through the clean air we saw, passing us by from time to time, new flocks of words coming from the people in the streets who, not content with the weight of their lives, continually turned the heaviest of things into the lightest of properties.”

“It is well known that the ceiling of one room is the floor of another, but the household ignores this ever-downward necessity and continues ever upward, celebrating ceilings but denying floors, and so their house never ends and they must travel by winch or rope from room to room, calling to one another as they go.”

“Your greatest strength is that every man believes he knows the sum and possibility of every woman.”

“I am too huge for love. No one, male or female, has ever dared to approach me. They are afraid to scale mountains.
I wonder about love because the parson says that only God can truly love us and the rest is lust and selfishness.
In church, there are carvings of a man with his member swollen out like a marrow, rutting a woman whose teats swish the ground like a cow before milking. She has her eyes closed and he looks up to Heaven, and neither of them notice the grass is on fire.
The parson had these carvings done especially so that we could contemplate our sin and where it must lead.
There are women too, hot with lust, their mouths sucking at each other, and men grasping one another the way you would a cattle prod.
We file past every Sunday to humble ourselves and stay clean for another week, but I have noticed a bulge here and there where all should be quiet and God-like.”

“I hate to wash, for it exposes the skin to contamination.”

“‘The world is full of dancers,’ said one, blowing the smoke in circles round my head.”

“Then, it began night, and the twin stars of Castor and Pollux just visible in the sky, I spoke of that tragedy, of two brothers whose love we might find unnatural, so stricken in grief when one was killed that the other, begging for his life again, accepted instead that for half the year one might live, and for the rest of the year the other, but never the two together. So it is for us, who while on earth in these suits of lead sense the presence of one we love, not far away but too far to touch. 
The villagers were silent and one by one began to move away, each in their own thoughts. A woman brushed my hair back with her hand. I stayed where I was with my shoulders against the rough sea wall and asked myself what I hadn’t asked th others.
Was I searching for a dancer whose name I did not know or was I searching for the dancing part of myself?

“As for Jordan, he has not my common sense and will no doubt follow his dreams to the end of the world and then fall straight off.
I cannot school him in love, having no experience, but I can school him in its lack and perhaps persuade him that there are worse things than loneliness.”

“The whore from Spitalfields had told me that men like to be consumed in the mouth, but it still seems to me a reckless act, for the member must take some time to grow again. None the less their bodies are their own, and I who know nothing of them must take instruction humbly, and if a man asks me to do the same again I’m sure I shall, though for myself I felt nothing.”

“We were all nomads once, and crossed the deserts and the seas on tracks that could not be detected, but were clear to those who knew the way. Since settling down and rooting like trees, but without the ability to make use of the wind to scatter our seed, we have found only infection and discontent.”

“My husband married me so that his liaisons with other women, being forbidden, would be more exciting. Danger was an aphrodisiac to him: he wanted nothing easy or gentle. His way was to cause whirlwinds. I was warned, we always are, by well-wishers or malcontents, but I chose to take no interest in gossip. My husband was handsome and clever. What did it matter if he needed a certain kind of outlet, so long as he loved me? I wanted to love him; I was determined to be happy with him. I had not been happy before.
At first I hardly minded his weeks away. I did not realize that part of his sport was to make me mad. Only then, when he had hurt me, could he fully enjoy the other beds he visited.
I soon discovered that the women he preferred were the inmates of a lunatic asylum. With them he arranged mock marriages in deserted barns. They wore a shroud as their wedding dress and carried a bunch of carrots as a bouquet. He had them straight after on a pig-trough altar. Most were virgins. He liked to come home to me smelling of their blood.
Doe the body hate itself so much that it seeks release at any cost?
I didn’t kill him. I left him to walk the battlements of his ruined kingdom; his body was raddled with disease. The same winter he was found dead in the snow.
Why could he not turn his life towards me, as trees though troubled by the wind yet continue the path of the sun?”

“He called me Jess because that is the name of the hood which restrains the falcon.
I was his falcon. I hung on his arm and fed at his hand. He said my nose was sharp and cruel and that my eyes had madness in them. He said I would tear him to pieces if he dealt softly with me.
At night, if he was away, he had me chained to our bed. It was a long chain, long enough for me to use the chamber pot or to stand at the window and wait for the late owls. I love to hear the owls. I love to see the sudden glide of wings spread out for prey, and then the dip and the noise like a lover in pain.
He used the chain when we went riding together. I had a horse as strong as his, and he’d whip the horse from behind and send it charging through the trees, and he’d follow, half a head behind, pulling on the chain and asking me how I liked my ride.
His game was to have me sit astride him when we made love and hold me tightin the small of my back. He said he had to have me above him, in case I picked his eyes out in the faltering candlelight.
I was none of these things, but I became them.
At night, in June I think, I flew off his wrist and tore his liver from his body, and bit my chain in pieces and left him on the bed with his eyes open.
He looked surprised. I don’t know why. As your lover describes you, so you are.”

 “He admitted he was in love with her, but he said he loved me.
Translated, that means, I want everything. Translated, that means, I don’t want to hurt you yet. Translated, that means, I don’t know what to do, give me time.
Why, why should I give you time? What time are you giving me? I am in a cell waiting to be called for execution.
I loved him and I was in love with him. I didn’t use language to make a war-zone of my heart.
‘You’re so simple and good,’ he said, brushing the hair from my face.
He meant, Your emotions are not complex like mine. My dilemma is poetic.
But there was no dilemma. He no longer wanted me, but he wanted our life.”

“She was, of all of us, the best dancer, the one who made her body into shapes we could not follow. She did it for pleasure, but there was something more for her; she did it because any other life would have been a lie. She didn’t burn in secret with a passion she could not express; she shone.”

“When I have shaken off my passion, somewhat as a dog shakes off an unexpected plunge into the canal, I find myself without any understanding of what it was that ravaged me. The beloved is shallow, witless, heartless, mercenary, calculating, silly. Naturally these thoughts protect me, but they also render me entirely gullible or without discrimination.
And so I will explain as follows.
A man or woman sunk in dreams that cannot be spoken, about a life they do not possess, comes suddenly to a door in the wall. They open it. Beyond the door is that life and a man or a woman to whom it is already natural. It may not be possessions they want, it may very well be the lack of them, but the secret life is suddenly revealed. This is their true home and this is their beloved.
I may be cynical when I say that very rarely is the beloved more than a shaping spirit for the lover’s dreams. And perhaps such a thing is enough. To be a muse may be enough. The pain is when the dreams change, as they do, as they must. Suddenly the enchanted city fades and you are left alone again in the windy desert. As for your beloved, she didn’t understand you. The truth is, you never understood yourself.”

“My mother, when she saw me patiently trying to make a yield between a Polstead Black and a Morello, cried two things: ‘Thou mayest as well try to make a union between thyself and me by sewing us at the hip,’ and then, ‘Of what sex is that monster you are making?’
I tried to explain to her that the tree would still be female although it had not been born from seed, but she said such things had no gender and were a confusion to themselves.
‘Let the world mate of its own accord,’ she said, ‘or not at all.’
But the cherry grew, and we have sexed it and it is female.
What I would like is to have some of Tradescant grafted on to me so that I could be a hero like him. He will flourish in any climate, pack his ships with precious things and be welcomed with full honours when the King is restored.
England is a land of heroes, every boy knows that.”

“Islands are metaphors for the heart, no matter what poet says otherwise.
My own heart, like this wild place, has never been visited, and I do not know whether it could sustain life.
In an effort to find out I am searching for a dancer who may or may not exist, though I was never conscious of beginning this journey. Only in the course of it have I realized its true aim. When I left England I thought I was running away. Running away from uncertainty and confusion but most of all running away from myself. I thought I might become someone else in time, grafted on to something better and stronger. And then I saw that the running away was a running towards. And effort to catch up with my fleet-footed self, living another life in a different way.
I gave chase in a ship, but others make the journey without moving at all. Whenever someone’s eyes glaze over, you have lost them. They are as far from you as if their body were carried at the speed of light beyond the compass of the world.
Time has no meaning, space and place have no meaning, on this journey. All times can be inhabited, all places visited. In a single day the mind can make a millpond of the oceans. Some people who have never crossed the land they were born on have travelled all over the world. The journey is not linear, it is always back and forth, denying the calendar, the wrinkles and lines of the body. The self is not contained in any moment or any place, but it is only in the intersection of moment and place that the self might, for a moment, be seen vanishing through a door, which disappears at once.”

“The Flat Earth Theory
The earth is round and flat at the same time. This is obvious. That it is round appears indisputable; that it is flat is our common experience, also indisputable. The blobe does not supersede the map; the map does not distort the globe.

Maps are constantly being re-made as knowledge appears to increase. But is knowlede increasing or is detail accumulating?
A map can tell me how to find a place I have not seen but have often imagined. When I get there, following the map faithfully, the place is not the place of my imagination. Maps, growing ever more real, are much less true.
And now, swarming over the earth with our tiny insect bodies and putting up flags and building houses, it seems that all the journeys are done.
Not so. Fold up the maps and put away the globe. If someone else had charted it, let them. Start another drawing with whales at the bottom and cormorants at the top, and in between identity, if you can, the places you have not found yet on those other maps, the connections obvious only to you. Round and flat, only a very little has been discovered.”

“Lies 1: There is only the present and nothing to remember.
Lies 2: Time is a straight line.
Lies 3: The difference between the past and the future is not that one has happened while the other has not.
Lies 4: We can only be in one place at a time.
Lies 5: Any proposition that contains the word ‘finite’ (the world, the universe, experience, ourselves . . . )
Lies 6: Reality as something which can be agreed upon.
Lies 7: Reality as truth.”

“Now the future is wild and waits for us as a beast in a lair.”

“Thinking about time is to acknowledge two contradictory certainties: that our outward lives are governed by the seasons and the clock; that our inward lives are governed by something much less regular – an imaginative impulse cutting through the dictates of daily time, and leaving us free to ignore the boundaries of here and now and pass like lightning along the coil of pure time, that is, the circle of the universe and whatever it does or does not contain.
Outside of the rules of daily time, not to be is as exact as to be. We can’t talk about all that the universe contains because to do so would be to render it finite and we know in some way, that we cannot prove, that it is infinite. So what the universe doesn’t contain is as significant to us as what it does. There will be a moment (though of course it won’t be a moment) when we will know (though knowing will no longer be separate from being) that we are a part of all we have met and that all we have met was already a part of us.”

“But we do not move through time, time moves through us. I say this because our physical bodies have a natural decay span, they are one-use-only units that crumble around us. To everyone, this is a surprise. Although, we see it in parents and our friends we are always amazed to see it in ourselves. The most prosaic of us betray a belief in the inward life every time we talk about ‘my body’ rather than ‘I’. We feel it as absolutely part but not all part of who we are.”

“Empty space and light. For us, empty space is space empty of people. The sea blue-black at night, stretched on a curve under the curve of the sky, blue-black and pinned with silver stars that never need polish. The Arctic, where the white snow is the white of nothing and defies the focus of the eye. Forests and rain forests and waterfalls that roar down the hollows of rocks. Deserts like a burning fire. Paintings show us how light affects us, for to live in light is to live in time and not be conscious of it, except in the most obvious ways. Paintings are light caught and held like a genie in a jar. The energy is trapped for ever, concentrated, unable to disperse.
Still life is dancing life. The dancing life of light.”

“Time 4: Did my childhood happen? I must believe it did, but I don’t have any proof. My mother says it did, but she is a fantasist, a liar and a murderer, though none of that would stop me loving her. I remember things, but I too am a fantasist, a liar and a murderer, though none of that would stop me loving her. I remember things, but I too am a fantasist and a liar, though I have not killed anyone yet.
There are others whom I could ask, but I would not count their word in a court of law. Can I count it in a more serious matter? I will have to assume that I had a childhood, but I cannot assume to have had the one I remember.
Everyone remembers things which never happened. And it is common knowledge that people often forget things which did. Either we are all fantasists and liars or the past has nothing definite in it. I have heard people say we are shaped by our childhood. But which one?”

“The night before, our last night together as sisters, we slept as always in a long line of single beds beneath the white sheets and blankets like those who have fallen asleep in the snow. From this room, in the past, we had flown to a silver city and knew neither day nor night, and in that city we had danced for joy thinking nothing of the dawn where we lived.”

“After a few simple experiments it became certain that for the people who had abandoned gravity, gravity had abandoned them. There was a general rejoicing, and from that day forth no one concerned themselves with floors or with falling, thought it was still thought necessary to build a ceiling in your house in order to place the chandelier.”

“I thought she might want to travel but she tells me truths I already know, that she need not leave this island to see the world, she has seas and cities enough in her mind. If she does, if we all do, it may be that this world and the moon and stars are also a matter of the mind, though a mind of vaster scope than ours. If someone is thinking me, then I am still free to come and go. It will not be like chess, this thoughtful universe, it will be a theatre of changing sets, where we could walk through walls if we wanted, but do not, being faithful to our own sense of the dramatic.”

“The sense of loss was hard to talk about. What could I have lost when I never had anything to begin with?
I had myself to begin with, and that is what I lost. Lost it in my mother because she is bigger and stronger than me and that’s not how it’s supposed to be with sons. But lost it more importantly in the gap between my ideal of myself and my pounding heart.”

“When we get home, men and women will crowd round us and ask us what happened and every version we tell will be a little more fanciful. But it will be real, whereas if I begin to tell my story about where I’ve been and where I thin kI’ve been, who will believe me? In a boy it might be indulged, but I’m not a boy any more, I’m a man.”

“Are we all living like this? Two lives, the ideal outer life and the inner imaginative life where we keep our secrets?
Curiously, the further I have pursued my voyages the more distant they have become. For Tradescant, voyages can be completed. They occupy time comfortably. With some leeway, they are predictable. I have set off and found that there is no end to even the simplest journey of the mind. I begin, and straight away a hundred alternative routes present themselves. I choose one, no sooner begin, than a hundred more appear. Every time I try to narrow down my intent I expand it, and yet those straits and canals still lead me to the open sea, and then I realize how vast it all is, this matter of the mind. I am confounded by the shining water and the size of the world.
The Buddhists say there are 149 ways to God. I’m not looking for God, only myself, and that is far more complicated. God has had a great deal written about Him; nothing has been written about me. God is bigger, like my mother, easier to find, even in the dark. I could be anywhere, and since I can’t describe myself I can’t ask for help. We are alone in this quest, and Fortunata is right not to disguise it, though she may be wrong about love. I have met a great many pilgrims on their way towards God and I wonder why they have chosen to look for him rather than themselves. Perhaps I’m missing the point – perhaps whilst looking for someone else you might come across yourself unexpectedly, in a garden somewhere or on a mountain watching the rain. But they don’t seem to care about who they are. Some of them have told me that they very point of searching for God is to forget about oneself, to lose oneself for ever. But it is not difficult to lose oneself, or is it the ego they are talking about, the hollow, screaming cadaver that has no spirit within it?
I think that cadaver is only the ideal self run mad, and if the other life, the secret life, could be found and brought home, then a person might live in peace and have no need for God. After all, He has no need for us, being complete.”

“A gypsy with a crown of stars offered to tell fortunes, but when she looked at my hand she looked away. I was not discouraged; I am enough to make my own fortune in this pock-marked world.”

“When I was a girl I heard my mother and father copulating. I heard my father’s steady grunts and my mother’s silence. Later my mother told me that men take pleasure and women give it. She told me in a matter-of-fact way, in the same tone of voice she used to tell me how to feed the dogs or make bread.”

“I have forgotten my childhood, not just because of my father but because it was a bleak and unnecessary time, full of longing and lost hope. I can remember some incidents, but the sense of time passing escapes me. If I were to stretch out all that seemed to happen, and relive it, it might take a day or two. Where then are all the years in between?”

“I saw the painting and tried to imagine what it would be like to bring something home for the first time. I tried to look at a pineapple and pretend I’d never seen one before. I couldn’t do it. There’s so little wonder left in the world because we’ve seen everything one way or another. Where had that pineapple come from? Barbados was easy to find out, but who had brought it, and under what circumstances, and why?”

“I built my own model ship from the pictures. At first I had kits with balsa wood rigging and plastic seamen, but soon I learned to design my own with tools from my father’s workshop. I never bothered with a crew. The crew weren’t beautiful, they were just slaves of the ship.
At weekends my mother cooked and my father read the paper. I went to the pond and sailed my boats. I liked the uncertainty of the wind. Jack came with me, bringing his books on computer science and his father’s copies of GP, a magazine for doctors. The magazines were full of pictures of incurables, and that included anyone suffering from the common cold.
‘It has to go away of its own accord,’ said Jack. ‘All those little pills are just money-makers.’
‘Like love,’ I said, setting the rudder. ‘There’s no cure for love.’
‘Who are you in love with?’ said Jack.
‘No one. She doesn’t exist.’
‘It’s the most unhygienic thing you can do,’ said Jack.
‘It can’t be. What about people who work in sewers?’
‘They wear protective clothing. People in love hardly ever wear clothes – look at the magazines.’
He meant Playboy and Penthouse. His father took those too.”

“‘I’ve been everywhere, but I still have a feeling I’ve missed it. I feel like I’m being laughed at, I don’t know what by, who by, it sounds silly. I think I may have missed the world, that the one I’ve seen is a decoy to get me off the scent. I feel as though I’m always on the brink of making sense of it and then I lose it again.'”

“If you’re a hero you can be an idiot, behave badly, ruin your personal life, have any number of mistresses and talk about yourself all the time, and nobody minds.”

“A lot of small men would like to be heroes, they have to have their fantasy moment. Thing is, the small ones always get killed.”

“I’ve never wanted to be an astronaut because of the helmets. If I were up there on the moon, or by the Milky Way, I’d want to feel the stars round my head. I’d want them in my hair the way they are in paintings of the gods. I’d want my whole body to feel the space, the empty space and points of light. That’s how dancers must feel, dancers, and acrobats, just for a second, that freedom.”

“My father watches space films. They’re different: they’re the only area of undiminished hope. They’re happy and they have women in them who are sometimes scientists rather than singers or waitresses. Sometimes the women get to be heroes too, though this is still not as popular. When I watch space films I always want to cry because they leave you with so much to hope for, it feels like a beginning, not a tired old end.
But when we’ve been everywhere, and it’s only a matter of time, where will we go next, when there are no more wildernesses?
Will it take as long as that before we stard the journey inside, down our own time tunnels and deep into the realms of inner space?”

“So I learned to be alone and to take pleasure in the dark where no one could see me and where I could look at the stars and invent a world where there was no gravity, no holding force. I wasn’t fat because I was greedy; I hardly ate at all. I was fat because I wanted to be bigger than all the things that were bigger than me. All the things that had power over me. It was a battle I intended to win.
It seems obvious, doesn’t it, that someone who is ignored and overlooked with expand to the point where they have to be noticed, even if the noticing is fear and disgust.”

“How do you persuade someone not to feel? And so my strongest instinct is to abandon the common-sense approach and accept what is actually happening to me; that time has slowed down.
Why not? Under certain conditions our pulses slow or race, our breathing alters, the whole body will change its habit if necessary.
There are so many fairy stories about someone who falls asleep for a little while and wakes up to find himself in a different time. Outwardly nothing is changing for me, but inwardly I am not always here, sitting by a rotting river. I can still escape.”

“Poisoned or not, the mercury has made me think like this. Drop it and it shivers in clones of itself all over the floor, but you can scoop it up gain and there won’t be any seams or shatter marks. It’s one life or countless lives depending on what you want.
What do I want?
When I’m dreaming I want a home and a lover and some children, but it won’t work. Who’d want to live with a monster? I may not look like a monster any more but I couldn’t hide it for long. I’d break out, splitting my dress, throwing the dishes at the milkman if he leered at me and said, ‘Hello, darling.’ The truth is I’
ve lost patience with this hypocritical stinking world. I can’t take it any more. i can’t flatter, lie, cajole or even smile very much. What is there to smile about?
‘You don’t try,’ my mother said. ‘It’s not so bad.’
It is so bad.
‘You’re pretty,’ said my father, ‘any man would want to marry you.’
Not if he pulled back my eyelids, not if he peeped into my ears, not if he looked down my throat with a torch, not if he listened to my heartbeat with a stethoscope. He’d run out of the room holding his head. He’d see her, the other one, lurking inside. She fits, even though she’s so big.”

“The future is intact, still unredeemed, but the past is irredeemable. She is not who she thought she was. Every action and decision has led her here. The moment has been waiting the way the top step of the stairs waits for the sleepwalker. She has fallen and now she is awake.”

“It’s almost light. She wants to lie awake watching the night fade and the stars fade until the first grey-blue slates the sky. She wants to see the sun slash the water, but she can’t stay awake for everything; some things have to pass her by. So what she doesn’t see are the lizards coming out for food, or Orion’s eyes turned glassy overnight.”

“I asked if their language had some similarity to Spanish and he laughed again and said, fantastically, that their language has no grammar in the way we recognize it. Most bizarre of all, they have no tenses for past, present and future. They do not sense time in that way. For them, time is one. The old man said it was impossible to learn their language without learning their world. I asked him how long it had taken him and he said that question had no meaning.”

“We packed our things and left for his ship. I would gladly have taken the dog kennel and its occupant, but she would not come. We made her a raft from a chicken crate and left her staring at the smoke-filled sky.”

“His face was pale, his hands trembled. I thought it was the devastation he had seen, but he shook his head. He was coming through London Fields when the fog covered him and, hurrying, he had fallen and banged his head. He came to, and feeling his way, arms outstretched, he had suddenly touched another face and screamed out. For a second the fog cleared and he saw that the stranger was himself.
‘Perhaps I am to die,’ he said, and then, while I was protesting this, ‘Or perhaps I am to live, to be complete as she said I would be.’
‘Who is this she?’

“The future lies ahead like a glittering city, but like the cities of the desert disappears when approached. In certain lights it is easy to see the towers and the domes, even the people going to and fro. We speak of it with longing and with love. The future. But the city is a fake. The future and the present and the past exist only in our minds, and from a distance the borders of each shrink and fade like the borders of hostile countries seen from a floating city in the sky. The river runs from one country to another without stopping. And even the most solid of things and the most real, the best-loved and the well-known, are only hand-shadows on the wall. Empty space and points of light.”

Marianne Moore

November 30, 2006


Spent early years in Kirkwood, Missouri in the home of her grandfather, Reverend John R. Warner
Never saw her father, and inventor and manufacturer who suffered a nervous breakdown before her birth
Graduated from Bryn Mawr College and taught in Carlisle Indian School
Corresponded with William Carlos Williams, Wallace Stevens, T.S. Eliot, H.D. and Ezra Pound
Moved to Greenwhich Village and lived in Manhattan or Brooklyn for the rest of her life
Never married and shared her home with her mother until her mother’s death
Edited ‘The Dial’
Poems at first appear eccentrically arranged but the intricacy yields its pattern and meaning to the attentive reader
Interested in varied habits of natural species and man-made objects
Became a popular icon and often threw out the first pitch at Dodger and Yankee baseball games
Told the New York Herald

“I like country fairs, roller-coasters, merry-go-rounds, dog shows, museums, avenues of trees, old elms, vehicles, experiments in timing like our ex-Museum of Science and Invention’s two roller-bearings in a gravity chute, synchronized with a ring-brearing revolving vertically. I am fond of animals and take inordinate interest in mongooses, squirrels, crows, elephants. I read few magazines but would be lost without the newspaper.”


Visible, invisible, / a fluctuating charm / an amber-tinctured amethyst / inhabits it, your arm / approaches and it opens / and it closes; you had meant / to catch it and it quivers; / you abandon your intent.

-A Jelly-Fish (in whole)

wade / through black jade. / Of the crow-blue mussel-shells, one keeps / adjusting the ash-heaps; / opening and shutting itself like
an / injured fan. / The barnacles which encrust the side / of the wave, cannot hide / there for the submerged shafts of the
sun, / split like spun / glass, move themselves with spotlight swiftness / into the crevices- / in and out, illuminating
the / turquoise sea / of bodies. The water drives a wedge / of iron through the iron edge / of the cliff; whereupon the stars,
pink / rice-grains, ink- / bespattered jelly-fish, crabs like green / lilies, and submarine / toadstools, slide each on the other.
All / external / marks of abuse are present on this / defiant edifice- / all the physical features of / ac- / cident – lack / of cornice, dynamite grooves, burns, and / hatchet strokes, these things stand / out on it; the chasm-side is
dead / Repeated / evidence has proved that it can live / on what can not revive / its youth. The sea grows old in it.

-The Fish (in whole)

William Carlos Williams

November 29, 2006


Born in Rutherford, New Jersey
Mother was a Puerto Rican immigrant of mixed Jewish, Basque, and Spanish ancestry
Grew up in a household of three spoken languages: Spanish, English, and French
Attended medical school at the University of Pennsylvania where he befriended Ezra Pound, Marianne Moore, and H.D.
Set up a family practice in a home office in Rutherford and married Florence Herman in 1912: the couple had two sons
Wrote poetry after work before joining his family for dinner
Initially imitated John Keats and Walt Whitman in poetry
Later found his own distinctive style by combining meticulous observation with inventive word choices and stanza forms
Viewed poetry as an immersion in material existence: gives a single thing next to other things without comparing them
Williams’ motto was

“no ideas but in things”

Powerful psychological poet: achieved insight by confronting darkness and disorder, and explores the challenges of aging and ill health
Great social poet: evoking material conditions and cultural practices of people around him
Translated poems from Spanish, French, and Chinese
During his retirement he spent his days at the Paterson Public Library researching the history of the city and composed ‘Paterson’
Never received the attention and praise given to other modernists: was rejected the title of Poetry Consultant to the Library of Contress (Poet Laureate) because of liberal politics


At ten A.M. the young housewife / moves about in negligee behind / the wooden walls of her husband’s house. / I pass solitary in my car.
Then again she comes to the curb / to call the ice-man, fish-man, and stands / shy, uncorseted, tucking in / stray ends of hair, and I compare her / to a fallen leaf.
The noiseless wheels of my car / rush with a crackling shound over / dried leaves as I bow and pass smiling.

-The Young Housewife (in whole)

Is the speaker reporting or creating the situation in his mind
The poem sets up a number of paradoxes that create unreliability in the speaker
The young housewife is defined and controled by masculinity

so much depends / upon
a red wheel / barrow
glazed with rain / water
beside the white / chickens

-The Red Wheelbarrow (in whole)

By the road to the contagious hospital / under the surge of the blue / mottled clouds driven from the / northeast – a cold wind. Beyond, the / waste of broad, muddy fields / brown with dried weeds, standing and fallen
patches of standing water / the scattering of tall trees
All along the road the reddish / purplish, forked, upstanding, twiggy / stuff of bushes and small trees / with dead, brown leaves under them / leafless vines –
Lifeless in appearance, sluggish / dazed spring approaches –
They enter the new world naked, / cold, uncertain of all / save that they enter. All about them / the cold, familiar wind –
Now the grass, tomorrow / the stiff curl of wild carrot leaf
One by one objects are defined – / It quickens: clarity, outline of leaf
But now the stark dignity of / entrance – Still, the profound change / has come upon them: rooted, they grip down and begin to awaken

-Spring and All (in whole)

The pure products of America / go crazy – / mountain folk from Kentucky
or the ribbed north end of / Jersey / with its isolate lakes and
valleys, its deaf-mutes, thieves / old names / and promiscuity between
devil-may-care men who have taken / to railroading / out of sheer lust of adventure –
and young slatterns, bathed / in filth / from Monday to Sunday
to be tricked out that night / with gauds / from imaginations which have no
peasant traditions to give them / character / but flutter and flaunt
sheer rags – succumbing without / emotion / save numbed terror
under some hedge of choke-cherry / or viburnum – / which they cannot express –
Unless it be that marriage / perhaps / with a dash of Indian blood
will throw up a girl so desolate / so hemmed round / with disease or murder
that she’ll be rescued by an / agent – / reared by the state and
sent out at fifteen to work in / some hard-pressed / house in the suburbs –
some doctor’s family, some Elsie – / voluptuous water / expressing with broken
brain the truth about us – / her great / ungainly hips and flopping breasts
addressed to cheap / jewelry / and rich young men with fine eyes
as if the earth under our feet / were / an excrement of some sky
and we degraded prisoners / destined / to hunger until we eat filth
while the imagination strains / after deer / going by fields of goldenrod in
the stifling heat of September / Somehow / it seems to destroy us
It is only in isolate flecks that / something / is given off
No one / to witness / and adjust, no one to drive the car

-To Elsie (in whole)

The character of ‘Elsie’ is based on a mentally challenged domestic worker hired by the Williams family from the state orphanage

Gertrude Stein

November 29, 2006


Born to a German-Jewish immigrant family in Allegheny, Pennsylvania
Youngest of seven children
By the time she was 17, both of her parents were dead
Became the favorite student of William James while at Harvard: supposedly Stein wrote on an exam, “I’m sorry Professor James, I do not feel like taking an exam today” and James wrote on the top, “I understand perfectly. A.”
One of the first women to be admitted to John Hopkins medical school but just before graduating she lost interest in medicine (my book says because of an unhappy love affair with another woman, although I don’t see a connection)
Left with her brother Leo for Paris and began to build on eof the most remarkable and forward-looking art collections of the time
By 1910 Leo moved out and Alice B. Toklas moved in: Toklas was Stein’s devoted companion and lover for the rest of her life
Stein devoted herself to what she called ‘portraits’ prose poems about friends and artists
Wrote more conventional looking oems years before WWI
During WWI, Stein and Toklas labored as volunteers for relief to the troops and became famous for their literary salon
Became a well-known celebrity and spoke to sold-out auditoriums across the nation: had tea with Eleanor Roosevelt in the White House
Headed south when France fell to the Nazis in 1940 because both were in jeopardy of being transported to death camps
Died in 1946 of cancer
Before she was wheeled into the operation from which she never recovered consciousness she whispered to Toklas

“What is the answer?”
When Toklas was unable to respond, Stein smilingly asked
“In that case, what is the question?”


What Do I See.

A very little snail. / A medium sized turkey. / A small band of sheep. / A fair orange tree. / All nice wives are like that. / Listen to them from here. / Oh. / You did not have to answer. / Here. / Yes.

Why Do You Feel Differently.

Why do you feel differently about a very little snail and a big one. / Why do you feel differently about a medium sized turkey and a very large one. / Why do you feel differently about a small band of sheep and several sheep that are riding. / Why do you feel differently about a fair orange tree and one that has blossoms as well. / Oh very well. All nice wives are like that.
To Be / No Please. / To Be / They can please / Not to be / Do they please. / Not to be / Do they not please / Yes please. / Do they please / No please. / Please. / If you please. / And if you please. / And if they please. / And they please. / To be pleased. / Not to be pleased. / Not to be dispelased. / To be pleased and to please.

Bundles For Them.
A History of Giving Bundles.

We were able to notice that each one in a way carried a bundle, they were not a trouble to them nor were they all bundles as some of them were chickens some of them pheasants some of them sheep and some of them bundles, they were not a trouble to them and then indeed we learned that it was the principal recreation and they were so arranged that they were not given away, and to-day they were given away.
I will not look at them again. / They will not look for them again. / They have not seen them here again. / They are in there and we hear them again. / In which way are stars brighter than they are. When we have collie to this decision. We mention many thousands of buds. And whne I close my eyes I see them. / If you hear her snore / It is not before you love her / You love her so that to be her beau is very lovely / She is sweetly there and her curly hair is very lovely / She is sweetly here and I am very near and that is very lovely. / She is my tender sweet and her little feet are stretched out well which is a treat and very lovely / Her little tender nose is between her little eyes which close and are very lovely / She is very lovely and mine which is very lovely.

Let Us Describe

Let us describe how they went. It was a very windy night and the road although in excellent condition and extremely well graded has many turnings and although the curves are not sharp the rise is considerable. It was a very windy night and some of the larger vehicles found it more prudent not to venture. In consequence some of those who had planned to go were unable to do so. Many others did go and there was a sacrifice, of what shall we, a sheep, a hen, a cock, a village, a ruin, and all that and then that having been blessed let us bless it.

-Idem the Same

Idem is Latin for “the same”
The poem is a dual valentine intended for Toklas and their good friend Sherwood Anderson

A carafe, that is a blind glass.
A kind in glass and a cousin, a spectacle and nothing strange a single hurt col.or and an arrangement in a system to pointing. All this and not ordinary, not unordered in not resembling. The difference is spreading.

A box.
Out of kindness comes redness and out of rudeness comes rapid same question, out of an eye comes research, out of selection comes painful cattle. So then the order is that a white way of being round is something suggesting a pin and is it disappointing, it is not, it is so rudimentary to be analyzed and see a fine substance strangely, it is so earnest to have a green point not to red but to point again.

A long dress.
What is the current that makes machinery, that makes it crackle, what is the current that presents a long line and a necessary waits. What is this current.
What is the wind, what is it.
Where is the serene length, it is there and a dark place is not a dark place, only a white and red are black, only a yellow and green are blue, a pink is scarlet, a bow is every color. A line distinguishes it. A line just distinguishes it.

A white hunter.
A white hunter is nearly crazy.


Custard is this. It has aches, aches when. Not to be. Not to be narrowly.
This makes a whole little hill.
It is better than a little thing that has mellow real mellow. It is better than lakes whole lakes, it is better than seeding.

Asparagus in a lean in a lean to hot. This makes it art and it is wet wet weather wet weather wet.

Orange in.
Go lack go lack use to her.
Cocoa and clear soup and oranges and oat-meal.
Whist bottom whist close, whist clothes, woodling.
Cocoa and clear soup and oranges and oat-meal.
Pain soup, suppose it is question, suppose it is butter, real is, real is only, only excreate, only excreate a no since.
A no, a no since, a no since when, a no since when since, a no since when since a no since when since, a no since, a no since when since, a no since, a no, a no since a no since, a no since, a no since.


-Tender Buttons

Tender Buttons is a sequence of interrelated poems which evokes an enigmatic but mostly happy domestic world of objects, food, and rooms

Mina Loy

November 28, 2006


Praised for sharp satirical intelligence, talent for the engagingly brash gesture, film-star good looks, and highly original poetic eye
Born in London
As a young girl she showed, according to Roger L. Conover

“remarkable physical beauty and resistance to conventional codes of femininity”

Married English artist and photographer Stephen Haweis
Had a passionate affair with the leading figure of Italian futurism, Filippo Marinetti and another affair with Giovanni Papini
Remained painfully shy and felt socially isolated and tied down by domestic responsibilities
Authorized a “Feminist Manifesto” in response to Marinetti’s masculinist assumptions of Italian futurism
Became involved with dadaist poet and boxer Arthur Cravan, a nephew of Oscar Wilde, and the couple lived in poverty until he died
Uses unsettling beauty in imagery, startling imaginative leaps, and complex wordplay which pose difficulties in understanding


Curie / of the laboratory / of vocabulary / she crushed / the tonnage / of consciousness / congealed to phrases / to extract / a radium of the word

-Gertrude Stein (in whole)

Loy equates Stein’s clinical isolation of the active meaning of words with Madame Curie’s discovery of the highly radioactive element radium

The toy / become the aesthetic archetype
As if / some patient peasant God / had rubbed and rubbed / the Alpha and Omega / of Form / into a lump of metal
A naked orientation / unwinged   unplumed / the ultimate rhythm / has lopped the extremities / of crest and claw / from / the nucleus of flight
The absolute act / of art / conformed / to continent sculpture / -bare and the brow of Osiris- / this breast of revelation
an incandescent curve / licked by chromatic flames / in labyrinths of reflections
This gong / of polished hyperaesthesia / shrills with brass / as the aggressive light / strikes / its significance
The immaculate / conception / of the inaudible bird / occurs / in gorgeous reticence

-Brancusi’s Golden Bird (in whole)


October 30, 2006


Hilda Doolittle
First poet to publish a poem that was identified as “imagist”
Born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania to an upper-middle class family: father was a professor of astronomy and mother was an artist who taught painting and music
Belonged to the Moravian faith, a Protestant denomination that seeks to recapture the original vitality of Christianity by strictly adhering to the word of the Bible: H.D. did not practice as an adult, but its mysticism effected her poetic career
Attended Bryn Mawr for three terms but left without a degree: became friends with William Carlos Williams and dated Ezra Pound
Became briefly engaged to Pound, who remained a lifelong friend
Left for Europe in 1911 with her then lover, Frances Gregg, and remained in Europe for the rest of her life
Published three poems in “Poetry” that simultaneously established her literary identity as “H.D.” and founded the imagist movement: Pound created the title “Imagiste” to attract attention to Doolittle’s work and unintentionally began the poetry movement
Married Richard Aldington, a British poet and imagist: separated from him and had an affair with Cecil Gray which produced her only child; Perdita: met Bryher who became her companion for 28 years
Poetry takes an interest in the world of antiquity and myths: wrote narrative poems that revised Greek, Egyptian, and biblical stories in a mystical, feminist way
Strove to find a new beauty
Following her separation from Bryher, Doolittle broke down and was hospitalized in a Swiss clinic
Remained in Switzerland and Italy until the end of her life: spent her last years in hotel rooms
Her gravestone lies flat in Nisky Hill Cemetary, Bethlehem, Penn., and usually has sea shells on it, left in tribute: it bears lines from her poem “Epitaph:”

“So you may say, / Greek flower; Greek ecstasy / reclaims forever / one who died / following intricate song’s / lost measure.”


Rose, harsh rose, / marred and with stint of petals, / meagre flower, thin, / sparse of leaf,
more precious / than a wet rose, / single on a stem- / you are caught in the drift.
Stunted, with small leaf, / you are flung on the sand, / you are lifted / in the crisp sand / that drives in the wind.
Can the spice-rose / drip such acrid fragrance / hardened in a leaf?

-Sea Rose (in whole)

All Greece hates / the still eyes in the white face, / the lustre as of olives / where she stands, / and the white hands.
All Greece reviles / the wan face when she smiles, / hating it deeper still / when it grows wan and white, / remembering past enchantments / and past ills.
Greece sees unmoved, / God’s daughter, born of love, / the beauty of cool feet / and slenderest knees, / could love indeed he maid, / only if she were laid, / white as amid funereal cypresses.

-Helen (in whole)

Helen was the daughter of Zeus who appeared in the guise of a swan to the mortal woman Leda and impregnated her

I have had enough. / I gasp for breath.
Every way ends, / every road, every foot-path leads at last / to the hill-crest- / then you retrace your steps, / or find the same slope on the other side, / precipitate.
I have had enough- / border-pinks, clove-pinks, wax-lilies, / herbs, sweet-cress.
O for some sharp swish of a branch – / there is no scent of resin / in this place, / no taste of bark, of coarse weeds, / aromatic, astringent – / only border on border of scented pinks.
Have you seen fruit under cover / that wanted light – / pears wadded in cloth, / protected from the frost, / melons, almost ripe, / smothered in straw?
Why not let the pears cling / to the empty branch? / All your coaxing will only make / a bitter fruit – / let them cling, ripen of themselves, / test their own worth, / nipped, shrivelled by the frost, / to fall at last but fair / with a russet coat.
Or the melon – / let it bleach yellow / in the winter light, / even tart to the taste – / it is better to taste of frost – / the exquisite frost – / than of wadding and of dead grass.
For this beauty, / beauty without strength, / chokes out life. / I want wind to break, / scatter these pink-stalks, / snap off their spiced heads, / fling them about with dead leaves – / spread the paths with twigs, / limbs broken off, / trail great pine branches, / hurled from some far wood / right across the melon-patch, / break pear and quince – / leave half-trees, torn, twisted / but showing the fight was valiant.
O to blot out this garden / to forget, to find a new beauty / in some terrible wind-tortured place.

-Sheltered Garden (in whole)

I know not what to do, / my mind is reft: / is song’s gift best? / is love’s gift loveliest? / I know not what to do, / now sleep has pressed / weight on your eyelids.
Shall I break your rest, / devouring, eager? / is love’s gift best? / nay, song’s the loveliest: / yet were you lost, / what rapture / could I take from song? / what song were left?

-Fragment Thirty-six

Jane Austen

October 26, 2006


Spent short, secluded life away from the spotlight
One of eight children born to an Anglican clergyman and his wife
Spent most of her life in Hampshire, rural area of southern England
Turned down marriage proposal in 1802, intuiting how difficult it would be to combine authorship with life as a wife, mother and gentry hostess
Started writing at 12
The Austen name was never publicly associated with any of Jane’s novels
Through her heroines, exposes how harshly the hard facts of economic life bore down on gentlewomen during this period when a lady’s security depended on her making a good marriage
Unanswered question for Austen is whether such a marriage can be compatible with the independence of mind and moral integrity that, like Austen, her heroines cherish
Criticized the novel form, but also perfected it
Narrative voice shifts between a romantic point of view and an irony that reminds us of romance’s limits
Austen stated her novels were:

“pictures of domestic life in country villages.”

“Pictures of perfection make me sick and wicked”

“I do not want people to be very agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them a great deal.”

“I could not sit seriously down to write a serious Romance under any other motive than to save my Life, and if it were indispensable for me to keep it up and never relax into laughing at myself or other people, I am sure I should be hung before I had finished the first Chapter.”

Sense and Sensibility 1811

First published novel
Explores relationship between two sisters: Elinore and Marianne Dashwood: Elinore representing ‘Sense’ and Marianne ‘Sensibility’
Family is left impoverished after the father’s death and enter into a search for a husband
Austen wrote the first draft when she was 19
Characters may be loosely based on Jane and her sister, Cassandra
Filled with subtle irony


“Nay, mamma, if he is not to be animated by Cowper! -but we must allow for difference of taste. Elinor has not my feelings, and, therefore, she may overlook it, and be happy with him. But it would have broken my heart, had I loved him, to hear him read with so little sensibility. Mamma, the more I know of the world the more am I convinced that I shall never see a man whom I can really love. I require so much! He must have all Edward’s virtues, and his person and manners must ornament his goodness with every possible charm.”

“It would be an excellent match, for he was rich, and she was handsome. Mrs. Jennings had been anxious to see Colonel Brandon well married, ever since her connection with Sir John first brought him to her knowledge; and she was always anxious to get a good husband for every pretty girl.”

“‘He is as good a sort of fellow, I believe, as ever lived,’ repreated Sir John. ‘I remember last Christmas, at a little hop at the Park, he danced from eight o’clock till four without once sitting down.’
‘Did he, indeed?’ cried Marrieanne, with sparkling eyes; ‘and with elegance, with spirit?’
‘Yes; and he was up again at eight to ride to covert.’
‘That is what I like; that is what a young man ought to be. Whatever be his pursuits, his eagerness in them should know no moderation, and leave him no sense of fatigue.'”

“Marianne would have thought herself ever inexcusable had she been able to sleep at all the first night after parting from Willoughby. She would have been ashamed to look her family in the face the next morning, had she not risen from her bed in more need of repose than when she lay down in it. But the feelings which made such composure a disgrace, left her in no danger of incurring it. She was awake the whole night, and she wept the greatest part of it. She got up with a headache, was unable to talk, and unwilling to take any nourishment; giving pain ever moment to her mother and sisters, and forbidding all attempt at consolation from either. Her sensibility was potent enough!”

“‘What have wealth or grandeur to do with happiness?’
‘Grandeur has but little,’ said Elinor, ‘but wealth has much to do with it.’
‘Elinor, for shame!’ said Marianne; ‘money can only give happiness where there is nothing else to give it. Beyond a competence, it can afford no real satisfaction, as far as mere self is concerned.'”

“Whatever the truth of it might be, and far as Elinor was from feeling thorough contentment about it, yet while she saw Marianne in spirits,, she could not be very uncomfortable herself. And Marianne was in spirits; happy in the mildness of the weather, and still happier in her expectation of a frost.”

“When they had paid their tribute of politeness by courtesying to the lady of the house, they were permitted to mingle in the crowd, and take their share of the heat and inconvenience to which their arrival must necessarily add.”

“‘By all the world, rather than by his own heart. I could rather believe every creature of my acquaintance leagued together to ruin me in his opinion, than believe his nature capable of such cruelty.'”

“‘I am sorry for that. At her time of life, any thing of an illness destroys the bloom for ever! Hers has been a very short one! She was as handsome a girl last September as any I ever saw, -and as likely to attract the men. There was something in her style of beauty to please them particularly. I remember Fanny used to say, that she would marry sooner and better than you did; not but what she is exceedingly fond of you, but so it happened to strike her. She will be mistaken, however. I question whether Marianne, now, will marry a man worth more than five or six hundred a year at the utmost, and I am very much deceived if you do not do better.'”

“John Dashwood had not much to say for himself that was worth hearing, and his wife had still less. But there was no peculiar disgrace in this; for it was very much the case with the chief of their visitors, who almost all laboured under one or other of these disqualifications for being agreeable- want of sense, either natural or improved- want of elegance- want of spirits- or want of temper.”

“‘He is the most fearful of giving pain, of wounding expectation, and the most incapable of being selfish, or anybody I ever saw. Edward, it is so, and I will say it. What! are you never to hear yourself praised? -Then you must be no friend of mine; for those who will accept of my love and esteem must submit to my open commendation.'”