Writing about web page http://www.zoebrigley.com
This is just a note to say that I will no longer be using this blog. I have now moved over to my website and blog at zoebrigley.com
Writing about web page http://www.etchdance.org/etch_dance/Home.html
I have been meaning for a while to write about a dance company here in Pennsylvania called Etch Dance. I have been to see a few of their shows and I was really impressed by the choreography, much of which is inspired by literature – writers like Kate Chopin, Plath, Virginia Woolf, and Edwidge Danticat. The dances explore female identity and how to express different aspects of that psyche. What particularly struck me about the dances too was how they allow the female body to be athletic, muscular, strong in a way that is very female. Many of the shapes and poses reminded me of female dancers in art – the strong women of Paula Rego or Tamara de Lempicka.
(All the photos of the dancers below are publicity shots from their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/134406240544/photos/ ).
Writing about web page http://www.amazon.com/Conquest-Zoe-Brigley/dp/1852249307
Someone asked me recently about the repeated words that appear in Conquest, and I am posting my answer here. I recently created a Wordle to see exactly which words are repeated most in the book.
It is certainly true that repeated words like ‘garden,’ ‘window,’ ‘long,’ ‘flower,’ ‘never,’ and ‘dreams’ feature prominently in Conquest. I have always liked repetition in poetry: the sense that in reading an entire book you are circling round and round the same ideas. I think that’s why I chose to use the sestina form twice in this new book. You can find out more about the sestina on poets.org .
There are two versions of a double sestina form in Conquest – I say versions because each stanza has fourteen lines like a sonnet, and fourteen repeated words, so it’s a hybrid form different to those used by Swinburne and Sidney . The first (found in the ‘Conquest’ section from p. 35 to 43) uses the words (with variations in brackets):
*plot (plotted, plotting);
*land (onland, Disneyland, scrubland, dreamlands, garlands, land-burning);
*fat (fattening, fatten, fattened, fattest);
*gold (golden, golden eyes, gilds);
*graph (cartography, sonograph, autograph, geography, photographs, choreography);
*man or men (bondsmen, woman, ottoman, kinsman, women, workmen, figure, cattlemen);
*cell (sells, call);
*script (description, inscription, conscripts, scripture);
*bear or bore (harbour, harbouring, born, borne);
*thing (nothing, anything, everything, something);
*shore (onshore, shore up, shoreline, sure, lakeshore);
*colony (colonists, colonies, colonise);
*and one wild card for words that had something to do with the body: most often I use ‘mouth’, but I also use ‘teeth’, ‘burst’, ‘tongues’, ‘faces’, ‘lips’, ‘open’, ‘hair’, ‘touch’, ‘body’, and once I use the word ‘bereft’ which is an obvious cheat but was necessary for the poem.
There are words related to geography (land, earth, shore) and the civilizing of place (colony, plot). Some of the words relate to the greed of imperialism (gold, fat), and to the suffering that it causes (bear, cell). There is also a feeling in some of the words that the protagonists are trying to chart a course away from such an oppressive way of living (script, graph, thing). This is a physical journey too , as indicated by the bodily words in the wild card list.
The second version of a double sestina is ‘The Lady and the Unicorn’ sequence, and the repeated words (with variations in brackets) are:
*day (today, Sunday, daylight, weekday);
*plant (planted, plantations, replanted, transplanted, Jardin des Plantes, planting, pieplants);
*time (thyme, night-time, mistimed);
*flower (flowers, Mayflower, flour, fleurs, marigold, flowering, flowerbeds);
*sweet (sweetest, sweetcakes, sweetnesses, unsweetened, sweeten);
*wreck (wreckage, wrecked);
*out (outside, outed);
*and a wild card for words related to the senses: mainly I use ‘tongue,’ but on two occasions I use ‘eye,’ and once ‘marmalade.’
‘The Lady and the Unicorn’ is a poem about recuperation and healing. The epigraph from A Midsummer Night’s Dream reads: “It fell upon a little western flower, / Before milk-white, now purple with love’s wound.” There are repeated words related to growth (garden, plant, flower), and to obstacles that prevent growth (walls, wreck). Words related to the passage of time (time, day, year) indicate that this is a slow process, but there are rewards (sweet, the sensual wild card list) and possibilities of escape (window, out).
Writing about web page https://www.facebook.com/zoebrigley
This is just a note to say that zoebrigley.org is no more. The domain was somehow hijacked – apparently this is quite common. In the meantime, I have set up a facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/zoebrigley and a new, improved website will be coming soon.
Copies of my new poetry collection Conquest arrived last week… Thanks again to the artist Victoria Brookland for allowing me to use her wonderful image Hawk on the front cover. There are also three pictures by Brookland inside the collection.
Writing about web page http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13514412-sexual-ideology-in-the-works-of-alan-moore
The collection on Alan Moore and sexual ideology is out now, and I have contributed an essay. See the contents below… I can’t wait to read the whole thing.
Table of Contents
Preface and Acknowledgments 1
Introduction: The Polarizing of Alan Moore’s Sexual Politics
TODD A. COMER and JOSEPH MICHAEL SOMMERS 5
Part I: The “Low Form”: Moore and the Complex Relationships of the Comic Book Superhero
1. Libidinal Ecologies: Eroticism and Environmentalism in Swamp Thing
BRIAN JOHNSON 16
2. Green Love, Red Sex: The Conflation of the Flora and the Flesh in Swamp Thing
MATTHEW CANDELARIA 28
3. When “One Bad Day” Becomes One Dark Knight: Love, Madness, and Obsession in the Adaptation of The Killing Joke into Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight
JOSEPH MICHAEL SOMMERS 40
4. “Don’t laugh, Daddy, we’re in love”: Mockery, Fulfillment, and Subversion of Popular Romance Conventions in The Ballad of Halo Jones
KATE FLYNN 52
5. The Love of Nationalism, Internationalism and Sacred Space in Watchmen
KARL MARTIN 65
Part II: The Vicious Cabaret of Love, Sexual Desire … and Torture
6. Theorizing Sexual Domination in From Hell and Lost Girls Jack the Ripper versus Wonderlands of Desire
ZOE BRIGLEY-THOMPSON 76
7. “Do you understand how I have loved you?” Terrible Loves and Divine Visions in From Hell
MERVI MIETTINEN 88
8. Body Politics: Unearthing an Embodied Ethics in V for Vendetta
TODD A. COMER 100
9. The Poles of Wantonness: Male Asexuality in Alan Moore’s Film Adaptations
EVAN TORNER 111
10. Reflections on the Looking Glass: Adaptation as Sex and Psychosis in Lost Girls
NICO DICECCO 124
Part III: Victorian Sexualities and the Ecriture Feminine: Women Writing and the Women of Writing
11. “Avast, Land-Lubbers!” Reading Lost Girls as a Post-Sadeian Text
K. A. LAITY 138
12. The Undying Fire: Erotic Love as Divine Grace in Promethea
CHRISTINE HOFF KRAEMER 150
13. “It came out of nothing except our love”: Queer Desire and Transcendental Love in Promethea
PAUL PETROVIC 163
14. Self-Conscious Sexuality in Promethea
ORION USSNER KIDDER 177
15. I Remain Your Own: Epistolamory in “The New Adventures of Fanny Hill”
LLOYD ISAAC VAYO 189
Afterword: Disgust with the Revolution
ANNALISA DI LIDDO 201
Selected Bibliography 207
About the Contributors 217
Abbott, Megan (2002) The Street was Mine: White Masculinity in Hardboiled Fiction and Film Noir (New York: Palgrave Macmillan).
Allen, Virginia M. (1983) The Femme Fatale: Erotic Icon (New York: The Whitson Publishing Company).
Beeler, Karin (2006) Tattoos, Desire and Violence: Marks of Resistance in Literature, Film and Television (Jefferson NC: McFarland).
Biesen, Sheri Chinen (2004) ‘Manufacturing Heroines: Gothic Victims and Working Women in Clasic Noir Films’ in Film Noir Reader 4: The Crucial Films and Themes, ed. Alain Silver and James Ursini (New Jersey: Limelight): 161-173.
--. (2005) Blackout: World War Two and the Origins of Film Noir (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press).
Boozer, Jack (1999) ‘The lethal femme fatale in the noir tradition,’ Journal of Film and Video 51.3/4: 20-35.
Bould, Mark (2005) Film Noir: From Berlin to Sin City (London and New York: Wallflower).
Cassuto, Leonard (2009) Hard-boiled Sentimentality: The Secret History of American Crime Stories (New York: Columbia University Press).
Chopra-Gant, Mike (2006) Hollywood Genres and Postwar America: Masculinity, Family and Nation in Popular Film and Film Noir (London and New York: IB Tauris).
Corey, William (1999) ‘Girl Power: Female Centered Neo-Noir’ in Film Noir Reader 2, ed. Alain Silver and James Ursini (New York: Limelight): 311-327.
Diapaolo, Marc (2011) War, Politics and Superheroes: Ethics and Propaganda in Comics and Film (Jefferson NC: McFarland).
Doane, Mary Ann (1987) The Desire to Desire: The Woman’s Film of the 1940s (Bloomington and Indianapolis IN: Indiana University Press).
--. (1991)Femme Fatales: Feminism, Film Theory, Psychoanalysis(London and New York: Routledge).
Evans, Caroline (2007) Fashion at the Edge (New Haven CT: Yale University Press).
Farber, Stephen (1999) ‘Violence and the Bitch Goddess’ in Film Noir Reader 2, ed. Alain Silver and James Ursini (New York: Limelight): 45-55.
Fay, Jennifer and Justus Nieland (2010) Film Noir: Hard Boiled Modernity and the Cultures of Globalization (London and New York: Routledge).
Feasey, Rebecca (2009) ‘Neo-Noir’s Fatal Woman: Stardom, Survival and Sharon Stone’ in Neo-noir, ed. Mark Bould, Kathrina Glitre and Greg Tuck (London and New York: Wallflower).
Flory, Dan (2010) Philosophy, Black Film, Film Noir (University Park PA: Pennsylvania State University Press).
Forter, Greg (2000) Murdering Masculinities: Fantasies of Gender and Violence in the American Crime Novel (New York and London: New York University Press).
Hollinger, Karen (1996) ‘Film Noir, Voice-over, and the Femme Fatale’ in Film Noir Reader, ed. Alain Silver and James Ursini (New York: Limelight): 243-260.
Irwin, John T. (2006) Unless the Threat of Death is Behind Them: Hard-boiled Fiction and Film Noir (Baltimore MD: John Hopkins University Press).
James, Dean (1998) ‘Interview with Sara Paretsky’ in Deadly Women: The Woman Mystery Reader’s Indispensible Companion, ed. Jan Grape, Dean James and Ellen Nehr (New York: Connell and Graf Publishers): 287-290.
Kinsman, Margaret (1995) ‘A Question of Visibility: Paretsky and Chicago’ in Women Times Three: Writers, Detectives, Readers, ed. Kathleen Gregory Klein (Bowling Green OH: Bowling Green State University Popular Press): 15-28.
Maxfield, James F. (1996) The Fatal Woman: Sources of Male Anxiety in American Film Noir, 1941-1991 (Madison/Teaneck: Farleigh Dickenson University Press).
Menon, Elizabeth (2006) Evil by Design: The Creation and Marketing of the Femme Fatale (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois).
Orr, Stanley (2010) Darkly Perfect World: Colonial Adventure, Postmodernism, and American Noir (Columbus OH: Ohio State University Press).
Phillips, Gene D. (2000) Creatures of Darkness: Raymond Chandler, Detective Fiction and Film Noir (Lexington KT: University Press of Kentucky).
Pronzoni, Bill (1998) ‘Women in the Pulps’ in Deadly Women: The Woman Mystery Reader’s Indispensible Companion, ed. Jan Grape, Dean James and Ellen Nehr (New York: Connell and Graf Publishers): 17-19.
Reddy, Maureen T. (1988) Sisters in Crime: Feminism and the Crime Novel (New York: Continuum).
Richardson, Michael (2010) Otherness in Hollywood Cinema (New York and London: Continuum).
Spicer, Andrew (2002) Film Noir (Harlow: Longman).
Telotte, J.P. (2004) ‘Voices from the Deep: Film Noir as Psychodrama’ in Film Noir Reader 4: The Crucial Films and Themes, ed. Alain Silver and James Ursini (New Jersey: Limelight): 145-159.
Wager, Jans B. (2005) Dames in the Driver’s Seat: Rereading Film Noir (Austin TX: University of Texas Press).
Ward, Elizabeth (1999) ‘The Unintended Femme Fatale: The File on Thelma Jordan and Pushover’ in Film Noir Reader 2, ed. Alain Silver and James Ursini (New York: Limelight): 129-136.
Writing about web page http://nvwn.wordpress.com/
(Part of the NVWN newsletter).
In the wake of Hurricane Irene, people up and down the East Coast are left in awe at the incredible power of the wind and sea. Apart from the hurricane, there have been tornadoes, even an earthquake, and one can’t help feeling humbled at the chaos produced, worthy of a disaster movie.
Environmental destruction and ecological balance are at the heart of Neil Astley’s anthology_Earth Shattering_, which brings together over 200 poems to celebrate the natural world, lament its corruption, and consider how it might be preserved. When it comes to the power of nature and the possibility of apocalypse, however, one poem particularly struck me.
Working out of genres that he calls ‘Alternative Realism’ and ‘European Darkness,’ the Irish poet Matthew Sweeney imagines the breakdown of the civilized world in ‘Zero Hour’ (http://www.cstone.net/~poems/twoposwe.htm). As oil reserves slowly run low in this frightening, new society, Sweeney imagines cars left useless on the roadside and people attacking one another for the most basic goods. Sweeney’s scenario is one that we all doubtfully envision at times of crisis, and his final question is chilling:
Writing about web page https://www.facebook.com/nvwritersnetwork
The world is still coming to terms with the massacre on the island of Utøya in Norway. Reading accounts of the horror by young people like Emma Martinovic in The Guardian is moving and thought-provoking: we ask ourselves, how would we respond in the face of such brutality?
Poets have often tried to make sense of inhuman and barbaric acts of murder. For example, the poem `Psychopath’ by the British poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy, or Carolyn Forché’s remarkable prose poem, `The Colonel,’ which presents a brutal Latin American dictator: “The colonel returned with a sack that he used to bring groceries home. He spilled many human ears on the table. They were like dried peach halves. There is no other way to say this.”
Perhaps the most poignant, however, is poetry of the survivor, the poetry of those who mourn for the lost and seek a new future. Take Kathleen Sheeder Bonanno’s collection Slamming Open the Door written after her daughter, Leidy, was brutally murdered in 2003. Bonanno writes of her precarious existence after the event in the poem `Ice Skating’:
we skate way far over in the distance,
two pitiable lurchers
where the surface is wafery thin
and the light is bad,
where no one would choose to skate
had God not pointed an icy,
and said, There.
Writing about web page http://www.facebook.com/nvwritersnetwork
Poetry is often thought to have a special relationship with nature, from the British Romantics to Walt Whitman and Robinson Jeffers. Nature poetry is now sometimes frowned upon as being too sentimental or idealist, imagining utopias that cannot exist in a modern, urban world. Poetry, however, might be a very useful tool for understanding the human relationship with nature, especially when pollution is rife and industry threatens to destroy America’s beautiful natural spaces for the sake of profit.
In his study, The Song of the Earth, the critic Jonathan Bate draws on the ideas of the philosopher Martin Heidegger to put forward the idea of “poetic dwelling”. Though writing is an act of human production, far away from the natural world, Bate notes that poetry emphasizes the imagination rather than possession, something that is particularly important with regards to nature. This poetic attitude can be seen in the poems of Robert Frost, such as `The Need of Being Versed in Country Things,’ which describes a tumbledown house where birds fly in through the broken windows. Frost notices that in this scene of human wreckage, life carries on: `the lilac renewed its leaf’. Human beings do not dominate the landscape and finally nature reclaims the human dwelling. Frost concludes that for the birds, `there was really nothing sad’.
(This is a column for the NVWN Newsletter: https://www.facebook.com/nvwritersnetwork).
I discovered this on the Live From Mars album this morning. Ben Harper merges a beautiful song about Martin Luther King with Angelou’s poem ‘Still I Rise’: http://youtu.be/Yi4SHLrmiqI
Writing about web page http://www.karenlamonte.com/
Viewing this work is a remarkable experience. Your first impression is of looking at a solid mass, but when you catch it at particular angles, the body-shaped hollow pops out at you. It really makes you gasp. There’s an incredible presence for something that is not there, a woman who is conspicuously absent. Karen's work draws attention to clothing as a cultural construct--an identifier that relays who you are and your place in the world. The history of the dress is fundamentally tied to what it means to be a woman. Yet Karen has stated that the subject of her work isn't so much feminism, but femininity. (Quoted from... http://www.karenlamonte.com/media/Eye%20Level_%20In%20Conversation%20with%20Karen%20Lamonte_Jan%202010.pdf)
I had swayed. Nothing else. But suddenly I knew
In the depth of my silence
He was following me. Like my shadow, blameless and light
In the night, a song sobbed…
The Indians lengthened, winding, through the alleys of the town.
A harp and a jacaranda were the music, and the smiling dark-skinned girls
Were the happiness
In the background, behind the “Zócalo,” the river shined
and darkened, like
the moments of my life.
He followed me.
I ended up crying, isolated in the porch of the parish church,
protected by my bolita shawl, drenched with my tears.
Reproduced in The Letters of Frida Kahlo: Cartas Apasionadas, ed. and trans. Martha Zamora, San Francisco: Chronicle Books, p. 9.
Writing about web page http://enviroencyclopedia.blogspot.com/
Robert Frost and the Environment: Bibliography
I recently wrote up an entry for a new Encyclopedia on the subject of the environment in American literature. The entry was on Robert Frost, and I paste a fuller bibliography here. In the process of writing, I was very much struck by the complexity of Frost's poems, beyond his more well-known poems like 'Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening'.
Faggen, Robert (2001) Robert Frost and the Challenge of Darwin, Ann Arbor MI: University of Michigan Press.
---(ed.) (2001) The Cambridge Companion to Robert Frost, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
---(2008) The Cambridge Introduction to Robert Frost, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008.
Frost, Robert (1964) Complete Poems, New York: Holt, Rinehart and Wilso.
---(1966) Interviews with Robert Frost, ed. Edward Connery Lathem, New York: Holt, Rinehart and Wilson.
---(2006) The Notebooks of Robert Frost, ed. Robert Faggen, Boston MA: Harvard University Press.
---(2007) The Collected Prose of Robert Frost. Ed. Mark Richardson. Cambridge: Beknap Press/Harvard University Pres.
Kearns, Katherine (1994) Robert Frost and a poetics of appetite, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Parini, Jay. Robert Frost: A Life. Basingstoke: Macmillan, 2000.
Spencer, Matthew (2003) Elected Friends: Robert Frost and Edward Thomas to one another, New York: Handsel Books/Other Press.
Timmerman, John H. (2002) Robert Frost and the Ethics of Ambiguity, Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press.
Tuten, Nancy Lewis and John Zubizarreta (2001) The Robert Frost Encyclopedia, Westport CT: Greenwood Publishing.
Wars are not only fought along battlelines, but also at home. And while cultural and political tensions are played out on the field of war, they also show themselves in the towns and cities that soldiers are fighting to protect.
One sad story of the home front was told to me by my Welsh grandmother, Norma Roach. it told the tale a family of Italian immigrants, who during World War Two, lived in Maesteg, a small coal town in South Wales. Italians from the Apennine Mountains migrated to the UK during the nineteenth and early twentieth century, and many of them settled in Wales. The Welsh Valley people became used to Italian cafés and ice-cream parlours.
One such Italian family was the Bellis, who set up an Italian café in Maesteg, the town where my Welsh family lived for hundreds of years. They were well liked in town, but during World War Two, a policy of internment was brought in for immigrants from Italy, Germany and other enemy countries. After Mussolini declared war in 1940, the British government saw Italian immigrants as enemy aiens and potential spies. To control this unknown quantity, the government decided to send these immigrants to Canada where they could do less harm.
This meant, however, breaking up families. The older Bellis who were Italian citizens were rounded up and put on a boat to Canada – the SS Arandora Star, while members of the Belli family who were born in Wales had to stay behind.
The ironic thing was that the Bellis journeying to Canada on the Arandora Star never completed their journey. It was sunk in the Atlantic by a German submarine. There were over 1200 German and Italian internees on board, and over 800 people died including the Bellis.
Writing about web page http://www.redroom.com/blog/zbthompson/leadership-underground-my-grandfathers-story
[This entry originally appeared on Red Room: http://www.redroom.com/blog/zbthompson/leadership-underground-my-grandfathers-story]
When I think about leadership, I will always remember family stories told to me about my Welsh grandfather. Graham Roach was a miner who worked his way up to be the pit’s safety officer, a job which often involved dealing with painful and disfiguring injuries. People are often aware of mining disasters, but often, they are not so conscious of the accidents that happen regularly, every week even. How, for example, my grandfather watched a slice of stone fall down and cut off the four fingers of a man who had been resting his hand on the seam. The stories of these eponymous accidents and how my grandfather dealt with them, were passed along the family grapevine. My grandfather told my uncle who in turn told my mother who in turn told me.
One famous story tells how my grandfather himself was injured. The night was when a conveyor belt snapped and wrapped itself round the leg of my grandfather and another man.
The first man was screaming: ‘For the love of God, get it off me, boys.’
My grandfather, never one to waste words, simply said: ‘Me too, boys.’
He was always a man of few words, and the story made us all laugh, even though it meant hours of agony for my grandfather. The first man was weeping and wailing and calling out for a doctor. My grandfather simply repeated: ‘Me too.’
On another shift, my grandfather was underground when the mine flooded. Down one tunnel, some of the machinery had been swallowed up by the water. At the end of the tunnel was a long black pool. Taking off his boots, my grandfather readied himself. Now he dived into the water-filled shaft meeting the water’s cold slap. He dived down feeling his way along the side of the shaft in the dark. His hand blundered on something metallic and sharp. He came up with the drill and worked all night in his wet clothes.
It doesn’t surprise me that during World War Two, my grandfather had one of the most dangerous jobs in the airforce as a rear gunner. In the airforce and in his job at the mine, he always seemed to be the one to take on the difficult task, the thing that no one else wanted to do. He is altogether the kind of leader that I admire. Not a showy or conspicuous man, but nevertheless a man who knows how to act in a crisis. A man who doesn’t make a fuss when something goes wrong, but simply waits in silence for help to come. A man who does unpleasant tasks, not relishing them, but knowing that they have to be done and that he must lead by example.
Writing about web page http://www.facebook.com/nvwritersnetwork
At a recent event at Penn State, poet Robin Becker opened her reading by noting that poetry had its origins in song, and she quoted the Pennsylvania poet J.D. McClatchy who says: “All arts want to have their birth in music”. Poetry and song do seem to overlap in significant ways. Some poets like the Surrealist Peter Blegvad set their words to music. Musicians also make songs of poems, as in Joni Mitchell’s rendering of W.B. Yeats’ `The Second Coming…
...John Cale’s version of Dylan Thomas’s `Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night…
...or Leonard Cohen’s ‘Take this Waltz’ based on Lorca’s
poem `Little Viennese Waltz’...
Some songwriters, too, have the lyrics of a poet. Many cite Bob Dylan as a prime example, or his forebear, Woody Guthrie, who wrote poetic narratives on the lives of the poor. This particularly American tradition is carried on today by artists like Gillian Welch, who write the stories of the outcast, poor and bereft. Written about the tragedy of American sharecroppers in the 1930s, Welch’s `Annabelle’ recalls Walker Evan’s eponymous photographs of Depression-era poverty. Songs like this also recall the origins of poetry, as an essentially sung form and a means to convey oral histories.
Last year, I joined the Nittany Valley Writer’s Network in Pennsylvania, and I have been trying to convince some of the other members of the wondrous nature of poetry. Consequently, they’ve asked me to write a column in the newsletter on “Why Poetry Matters”, the title taken from Jay Parini’s excellent book Why Poetry Matters.
War is all over the news at the moment. The Jasmine Revolution in the Middle East has seen millions of people rise up to demand a new democracy. The news coverage is insufficient to convey their sacrifice. Poetry, however, might fill this gap, because it offers language free from political jingoism.
There have been many solider poets, from the English World War One poets like Wilfred Owen, to the modern day Brian Turner who served in the US army in Iraq. Most recently, however, I discovered Elyse Fenton’s Clamor, which won the $50,000 Dylan Thomas Prize.
Fenton is married to a trauma specialist in the US Army, and_Clamor_ is based on experiences of waiting for him to return from Iraq. The opening poem, ‘Gratitude’, finds the wife listening to her husband describe the grotesque scenes witnessed by her husband. When the body of a burned soldier is delivered ‘beyond recognition’, her husband must be ‘the one to sink the rubber catheter tube’. The distance is frustrating; over the phone, the wife hears ‘rotors / scalping the tarmac-grey sky’. The conversation and the story end, but the question is how long can anyone, let alone her husband, survive? How long before he comes home? The final image might indicate relief or foreboding.
Writing about web page http://www.newyorkfuntours.com/dylan-thomas.html
I have been meaning to write up something about this for ages, but I have been completely snowed under with work recently. New York fun tours have set up a Dylan Thomas tour of Greenwich Village in New York: http://www.newyorkfuntours.com/dylan-thomas.html and, a good few months ago, I was invited with a group of Welsh artists and actors to go on the inaugural tour led by the writer Ianto Jones. The script for the tour has been written by the poet Peter Thabit Jones and Dylan Thomas’s daughter Aeronwy Thomas.
The tour took us around many of Dylan Thomas’s old haunts. It began at the church where hundreds attended Thomas’s funeral – St. Luke’s in the Field – and it visited the sites of speakeasies which he frequented, and the Cherry Lane Theatre set up by Edna St. Vincent Millay, where Thomas gave one of his most successful American readings. We were able to have a look inside the beautiful Washington Square Hotel, where Thomas used stay during his tours of NYC, and we also went to visit Patchin Place where E.E. Cummings, poet and friend of Thomas, used to live. It was also where Djuna Barnes used to live, and Ianto Jones pointed out her house. Finally, we saw the hospital where Thomas was treated – St Vincent’s – and the eponymous White Horse Tavern which was one of his favourites.
Overall, it was a really entertaining tour, and it gave a powerful sense of what Greenwich Village must have been like in the fifties. The facts about Thomas and the readings from his letters and writing were illuminating, but the tour also gave a more general history about the stories behind Greenwich Village, such as Thomas’s namesake Bob Dylan.
The people on the inaugural tour were an interesting lot. There was the winner of this year’s Dylan Thomas Prize, Elyse Fenton, whose poetry collection_Clamor_ discusses war from the point of view of a soldier’s wife waiting at home. It’s a great collection, and later Elyse gave a short reading of some very moving and powerful poems. There was also the cast and crew of the Welsh film Third Star, set in Pembrokeshire, including the writer Vaughan Sivell. There were a number of other Welsh actors too including Hywel John and Emer Kenny, as well as Welsh radio and drama producers, the British consulate and his wife, and many others.
Djuna Barnes’ house
Back online at last! Huzzah! (I’m not quite sure why I’ve taken to saying “huzzah”, I never used to). I spent most of last night dismantling the burglar alarm and trying not to get electrocuted, while the alarm screeched at me that someone was tampering with the system (alarm is too clever for its own good). Became obsessively convinced that this was why my new broadband wasn’t working, then BT sent me an email today to explain they were a day late turning it on. Ah.
New flat is wondrous, though it’s strange to live by myself. Peaceful though, for the most part, and I’ve stopped being scared! I spent the first month or so convinced that I would come home to find my home had disintegrated while I was at work, but now I’m starting to feel a bit more faith in the capabilities of the builders.
Mostly life has returned to normal after a month or 2 of excitement / anxiety while I was waiting for the purchase to complete and move in. I have been very busy at work, which is starting to take its toll. I feel like I need to spend my 3 weeks of leave in August asleep. Failing that, I need to spend the next 10 hours of my life asleep, so I’m going to sign off at this point…
1. I got my blog back (for the second time). God bless WGA.
2. I am going to Florence next weekend for Adam’s birthday (a BIG secret).
3. I am very lucky to have such good friends and family who love and support me.
4. I enjoyed my training course this week, especially the Sunningdale diet (lots and lots of lovely food).
5. I am generally feeling more positive, probably because I have stopped trying to live on three mashed up lentils and a carrot stick a day.
6. I am due to complete the purchase of my flat on 4 April, so I should be able to move over Easter.
7. I discovered facebook.
8. I am going to the zoo tomorrow to celebrate Leonie’s birthday.
9. I am going to the Isle of Mull with Leonie, Thomas and Helen in May.
10. It’s the start of the weekend and I can sleep loads.
I am so lucky!
My dreams will be forever haunted by the dulcet tones of our ski instructor Daffy shrieking “now put your skis wiiiiiiiider”, “snow plough snow plough snow plough” and “now put your skis parallel” up the mountain to me.
I was quite proud of myself on the first couple of days of our ski holiday in Bulgaria – no tears, and not too much falling over either. I did shout quite a lot of abuse at a ski school of around twenty under 5 year olds who cut me up halfway down a green run, but I felt that this was a perfectly measured reaction to what had, after all, been a bit of a nasty shock.
It was only as we started to try out some of the slightly more challenging routes that I suddenly found myself hurtling into deep banks of snow at great speed, clutching at my instructor’s arm and begging for a piggyback ride down off the big scary mountain, and sitting in the snow wailing like said 5 year olds because I couldn’t manage to get myself upright again.
A ski holiday is most definitely character building if nothing else. Yet in a way it’s curiously relaxing, because the constant fear of plummeting to one’s death or getting run over by a snow plough at least means that there is little time left to fret about the everyday trivia that usually unsettles the mind.
I went from feeling as if I was about to sit an impossible exam at the start of each day to walking into The Happy Duck at its end with a big grin on my face. The terror that I endured each morning never entirely dissipated, but it was good terror, terror that kept me on my toes. You might even say it was character-building terror.
Bulgaria comes highly recommended – cheap, high quality ski instruction, tasty food and beautiful mountain scenery. Besides the mysterious vomiting that came over many of us halfway through the trip, the woodsmoke tinged mountain air did wonders for my stress levels and general well-being. And, in the words of Jifko, the man who drove us to and from the ski resort each day, “Bulgarian men are very, very excellent.”
Actually, the ones I saw weren’t, but never mind.
We spent our last day having a posh day of lunching and afternoon tea in Sofia, which was a welcome reprise for the muscles in my legs, bum, stomach, arms, shoulders, feet, back, hands etc. etc. And despite my slightly tongue-in-cheek account of the week and moments of childlike stompiness and fear, I did genuinely love the sensation of racing down a mountain, the wind rushing against my face, the soft swoosh swoosh of my skis moving over the powdery snow.
Beautiful, powerful, overwhelming, emotional, terrifying. I want to go again!
Lots more pictures here
There is no way I would have chosen to read this book were it not for the fact that this is the book that Benedict has picked for book group this month. I am only halfway through it (as Sarah Waters has been distracting me today!) and while I can’t say that I’m enjoying it in the slightest, much of the language and imagery really is quite stunning. Nevertheless, there is only so much apolocalyptic nihilism and violent scalpings I can take, especially on a “school night”. I’ll write a proper review of this once I finish it, hopefully before our book group meeting on Tuesday evening. In the meantime, I’d give this 1 out of 10 for enjoyment, but a 7 or 8 for literary merit (the technical way in which our book group rates the books we read!), giving it an average of 4 out of 10 or 2 stars.
I emerged from reading Sarah Waters’ latest offering, The Night Watch, desperate to read it again, and read it from back to front this time round.
The novel moves backwards in time from 1947 to 1944 and then back to 1941; the hollow, displaced positions its characters find themselves in at the beginning are gradually explained by the revelation of their history. Just as Kay, the wartime ambulance driver who desperately seeks distraction from the drag of her empty post-war hours, often watches the second half of a film first- “people’s pasts, you know, being so much more interesting than their futures” – so the back-to-front time scheme for this novel imbues seemingly insignificant events with dramatic irony in the light of what the reader knows is to follow.
Unlike Waters’ previous three novels, The Night Watch is set against the dramatic backdrop of the Second World War and its aftermath. The historical framework is as significant as the Victorian period in which her previous novels are set, for it offers rich opportunities for emotional upheavals, character transformations and moments of happenstance, as well as enabling boundaries of class, gender, sexuality and wealth to be transcended.
The post-war years with which the novel opens are a time of exhausted listlessness, a sort of clumsy reshuffling of a world that refuses to fit neatly back into the pre-war order. The wartime landscape appears disconnected from temporal and geographical ties, all conventional markers erased to create a nameless, displaced limbo state in which characters must exist and form connections with one another.
As the city landscape of London is transformed by the night time air raids into a dark, eerie place fraught with both danger and possibility, the characters themselves are transformed as “so many impossible things were becoming ordinary, just then.” As well as death and loss, there are new choices and opportunities available for heroic action, shifts in sexual identity and newfound freedoms.
The characterisation and interaction between characters is what really stands out for me – that and the power of Sarah Waters’ storytelling and the narrative connections that she makes between events and characters.
I found myself identifying with Helen and wishing desperately that there would be some reprise for her at the end of the novel, but ultimately knowing that the unhappy, insecure state of emotional neediness in which we witness her at the end of the first section of the novel is the way it is likely she will remain. The other characters are equally drained and disappointed, struggling to patch up their lives and continue their existence in the aftermath of wartime trauma. In this way the novel lacks what Americans might call “closure”, which is frustrating for the reader but ultimately has more integrity and interest than some neat, facile tying up of loose ends.
The only part of the novel that did not entirely ring true for me was Duncan’s relationship with Alec. Duncan’s character and awkward situation is portrayed beautifully throughout the novel and and anticipation builds throughout his time in prison, but in the end I felt that the dialogue between the two young men and the reason for Duncan’s imprisonment was both false and simplistic.
However, on the whole the weaving together of all these stories against the historical backdrop of wartime Britain works beautifully well, and as such The Night Watch is both astutely and compassionately observed and compelling to read – my favourite Sarah Waters’ novel to date.