Happy Birthday Maxine Kumin

Snowwhite

The true feminist knows that the fairy tale wedding is just a beginning.  In the aftermath of those tales how many of those tall, dark and handsome narcissists could you genuinely tolerate for more than a few years.  Dina Goldstein addresses the idea in her scathing set of “Fallen Princesses” photos.

Academic, feminist, horse breeder and mother of three Maxine Kumin was born Maxine Winokur on June 6th 1925.

The poem below is interesting as my daughter just told a joke on the same theme.  How do you drastically shorten a Shakespeare play?  “Oh Romeo, oh Romeo, hast thou found Jesus?”

 

Purgatory : by Maxine Kumin

And suppose the darlings get to Mantua,
suppose they cheat the crypt, what next? Begin
with him, unshaven. Though not, I grant you, a
displeasing cockerel, there’s egg yolk on his chin.
His seedy robe’s aflap, he’s got the rheum.
Poor dear, the cooking lard has smoked her eye.
Another Montague is in the womb
although the first babe’s bottom’s not yet dry.
She scrolls a weekly letter to her Nurse
who dares to send a smock through Balthasar,
and once a month, his father posts a purse.
News from Verona? Always news of war.
Such sour years it takes to right this wrong!
The fifth act runs unconscionably long.

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Happy Birthday Dambudzo Marechera

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I think I am the doppelganger whom, until I appeared, African literature had not yet met” said Dambudzo Marechera of himself.

His troubled life was variously described as being due to bad muti, schizophrenia, culture shock or the displacement of growing up in highly racist Southern Rhodesia and living through the rebellion that ultimately created Zimbabwe.

Marechera has the distinction of being sent down from Oxford, one of the greatest plaudits a true artist can have.  He rejected the brainwashing of the syllabus and tried to set the university on fire because he claimed the were “mentally raping” him.

In his short life he reached great heights, winning the Guardian Fiction prize and he was appointed writer in residence by Leeds university.  He returned to Zimbabwe where he died aged only 35 from AIDS, the plague that is tearing the heart out of Africa.

I used to like tomatoes: by Dambudzo Marechera

I used to like tomatoes
I get tired of the blood
and the coughing
and more blood
I get out of that flat real fast
to some cool quarrelling bar
and talk big to bigger comrades
washing down the blood with Castle an’ Label
shaking hands about Tsitsi bombed to heaven
trying to forget I don’t like cooking in dead people’s
pots and pans
I don’t like wearing and looking smart-arse in dead
people’s shirts an’ pants
(They said yoh mama an’ bra been for you
said these are your inheritance)
I’m soon tight as a drum can’t drink no more
It’s back at the flat on my back
swallowing it all red back hard down
I woke up too tired to break out so bright red a bubble.

 

Sapphic Symbology

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Michael Field

I started off this morning searching for the poet who celebrates a birthday today.  Allen Ginsberg was my pick last year, but I noticed that he shares his birthday with the now discredited Marion Zimmer Bradley.  Bradley was accused by her children of enabling child abuse by her husband Walter H. Breen.

Marion Zimmer Bradley did have a reputation as a womens’ rights campaigner and her one poetic work is “Maenads”.  So I followed the thread of the wild virgin followers of Dionysus as symbols of feminism or lesbianism.  Clad in fox fur, leaping through the mountains, intoxicated by wine, by life, by divine ecstasy, worthy symbols of feminine power absent the domination of men.

Ursula Le Guin also wrote a poem about Maenads and you will find it in a posting for her birthday on this blog.

Suffragettes were described in popular press as “Mad Maenads”.  The suffragette movement was very instrumental in the alignment of feminism with vegetarianism and indeed it was the suffragettes who identified the hunger strike as a key weapon against the forces of societal oppression.  The lesson was not lost on the Fenian movement and Sinn Féin adopted it in the struggle for Irish Independence.  Gandhi also borrowed the weapon for his armory of non-violent protest.

But I was more interested in following the thread that leads to Michael Field.  An unlikely lesbian you might think of a male author.  Not so.  Micheal Field is in fact the pen name of the scandalous incestuous lesbian couple:   Katherine Harris Bradley and her niece Edith Emma Cooper.  In the poem below the prevalence of fox fur is no accident.

To my knowledge Marion Zimmer Bradley has no relation with Katherine Harris Bradley.

Second Thoughts ; by Michael Field

I thought of leaving her for a day
in town, it was such an iron winter
at Durdans, the garden frosty clay,
the woods as dry as any splinter,
the sky congested. I would break
from the deep, lethargic, country air
to the shining lamps, to the clash of the play,
and to-morrow, wake
beside her, a thousand things to say.
I planned-Oh more-I had almost started;
I lifted her face in my hands to kiss,
a face in a border of fox’s fur,
for the bitter black wind had stricken her,
and she wore it – her soft hair straying out
where it buttoned against the gray, leather snout:
In an instant we should have parted;
but at sight of the delicate world within
that fox-fur collar, from brow to chin,
at sight of those wonderful eyes from the mine,
coal pupils, an iris of glittering spa,
And the wild, ironic, defiant shine
as of a creature behind a bar
one has captured, and, when three lives are past,
may hope to reach the heart of at last
all that, and the love at her lips, combined
to show me what folly it were to miss
a face with such thousand things to say,
and beside these, such thousand more to spare,
for the shining lamps, for the clash of the play-
oh madness; not for a single day
could I leave her! I stayed behind.

Andreas von Google

Andreas

This time of year always reminds me of Andreas.  When the weather is hot and muggy I remember the days in Clontarf when the kids had inflatable pools in the gardens.  I also remember the nights, drinking beer on the deck, or shooting water pistols at each other over the hedge.

It was in Clontarf, probably around 1999, I was searching for something on my PC and Andreas saw I was using the Webcrawler browser.  He nudged me aside and said, “here, there is this new search engine that is really good.”

It was Google.

I used it to find this poem.

 

Dirge without music; by Edna St. Vincent Millay

I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
with lilies and with laurel they go but I am not resigned.

Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
a formula, a phrase remains, but the best is lost.

The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love,
they are gone. They are gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.

Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.

 

 

Walt Whitman’s Birthday

WW

 

There was a child went forth every day:  by Walt Whitman

There was a child went forth every day,
And the first object he looked upon and received with wonder or pity or love or dread, that object he became,
And that object became part of him for the day or a certain part of the day . . . . or for many years or stretching cycles of years.

The early lilacs became part of this child,
And grass, and white and red morningglories, and white and red clover, and the song of the phœbe-bird,
And the March-born lambs, and the sow’s pink-faint litter, and the mare’s foal, and the cow’s calf, and the noisy brood of the barn-yard or by the mire of the pond-side . . and the fish suspending themselves so curiously below there . . . and the beautiful curious liquid . . and the water-plants with their graceful flat heads . . all became part of him.

And the field-sprouts of April and May became part of him . . . . wintergrain sprouts, and those of the light-yellow corn, and of the esculent roots of the garden,
And the appletrees covered with blossoms, and the fruit afterward . . . . and woodberries . . and the commonest weeds by the road;
And the old drunkard staggering home from the outhouse of the tavern whence he had lately risen,
And the schoolmistress that passed on her way to the school . . and the friendly boys that passed . . and the quarrelsome boys . . and the tidy and fresh-cheeked girls . . and the barefoot negro boy and girl,
And all the changes of city and country wherever he went.

His own parents . . he that had propelled the fatherstuff at night, and fathered him . . and she that conceived him in her womb and birthed him . . . . they gave this child more of themselves than that,
They gave him afterward every day . . . . they and of them became part of him.
The mother at home quietly placing the dishes on the suppertable,
The mother with mild words . . . . clean her cap and gown . . . . a wholesome odor falling off her person and clothes as she walks by:
The father, strong, self-sufficient, manly, mean, angered, unjust,
The blow, the quick loud word, the tight bargain, the crafty lure,
The family usages, the language, the company, the furniture . . . . the yearning and swelling heart,
Affection that will not be gainsayed . . . . The sense of what is real . . . . the thought if after all it should prove unreal,
The doubts of daytime and the doubts of nighttime . . . . the curious whether and how,
Whether that which appears so is so . . . . Or is it all flashes and specks?
Men and women crowding fast in the streets . . if they are not flashes and specks what are they?
The streets themselves, and the façades of houses. . . . the goods in the windows,
Vehicles . . teams . . the tiered wharves, and the huge crossing at the ferries;
The village on the highland seen from afar at sunset . . . . the river between,
Shadows . . aureola and mist . . light falling on roofs and gables of white or brown, three miles off,
The schooner near by sleepily dropping down the tide . . the little boat slacktowed astern,
The hurrying tumbling waves and quickbroken crests and slapping;
The strata of colored clouds . . . . the long bar of maroontint away solitary by itself . . . . the spread of purity it lies motionless in,
The horizon’s edge, the flying seacrow, the fragrance of saltmarsh and shoremud;
These became part of that child who went forth every day, and who now goes and will always go forth every day,
And these become of him or her that peruses them now.

Hectic Blood

Dancer

Around rolls the year and Countee Cullen lights another candle on his birthday cake before releasing a primal yawp and leaping about with hectic blood.

Fruit of the Flower; by Countee Cullen

My father is a quiet man
with sober, steady ways;
for simile, a folded fan;
his nights are like his days.
My mother’s life is puritan,
no hint of cavalier,
a pool so calm you’re sure it can
have little depth to fear.

And yet my father’s eyes can boast
how full his life has been;
there haunts them yet the languid ghost
of some still sacred sin.

And though my mother chants of God,
and of the mystic river,
I’ve seen a bit of checkered sod
set all her flesh aquiver.

Why should he deem it pure mischance
a son of his is fain
to do a naked tribal dance
each time he hears the rain?

Why should she think it devil’s art
that all my songs should be
of love and lovers, broken heart,
and wild sweet agony?

Who plants a seed begets a bud,
extract of that same root;
why marvel at the hectic blood
that flushes this wild fruit?

Happy Birthday Tenzing Norgay

tenzing

Tenzing Norgay, first man photographed on top of Mount Everest.  Norgay was perhaps born on this day in 1914, three years to the day before John F. Kennedy.  In 1953 on the same day, Norgay and Edmund Hillary were the two first men to successfully ascent the highest mountain in the world.

Norgay had no ability with a camera so the only photograph of the event was of Norgay, taken by Hillary.

Norgay knew he was born in May (from the growth of crops) in the year of the rabbit (1914).  When he summited Everest on May 29th he adopted that date as is birthday.

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