Saturday, March 03, 2007


I've been reading Amy Lowell's most famous biography lately (by S. Foster Damon). It's fascinating. It's so interspersed with excerpts from her letters that it's almost as if Amy is telling the story herself. I've been thinking a lot about Lowell's intense sense of place and how her home permeated so much of her work. Lowell grew up in a house named Sevenels, just outside of Boston, then stayed in the home (after renovating it) after her parents died. So, her sense of place was deeply rooted. Her childhood, her adulthood, were both intertwined and lay rooted in the soil of her family home.

She had a unique way of taking anything she learned about - but especially the classics - and planting it in Boston. She was never formally educated in the classics. But she read them voraciously throughout her life. Perhaps her lack of formal education, the fact that she came across these poets eye-to-eye as a poet, made her feel more comfortable renovating their themes and motifs into the new, modern landscape of America. She called Sappho "a burning birch tree" and replaced Arcadian meadows with the flora and fauna of the sunken garden of her estate in Boston. I think this aspect makes her a very American poet. And I think that the audacity of her poems (paired with the sheer honesty and confessional quality of them) was greatly influential on the writers in the generation that would follow her.

I think one of the loveliest versions of Lowell's Boston-Grecian themes is found in ΔΙΨΑ (Thirst) from A Dome of Many-Coloured Glass (1912):

Look, Dear, how bright the moonlight is to-night!
See where it casts the shadow of that tree
Far out upon the grass. And every gust
Of light night wind comes laden with the scent
Of opening flowers which never bloom by day:
Night-scented stocks, and four-o'clocks, and that
Pale yellow disk, upreared on its tall stalk,
The evening primrose, comrade of the stars.
It seems as though the garden which you love
Were like a swinging censer, its incense
Floating before us as a reverent act
To sanctify and bless our night of love.
Tell me once more you love me, that 't is you
Yes, really you, I touch, so, with my hand;
And tell me it is by your own free will
That you are here, and that you like to be
Just here, with me, under this sailing pine...

Sunday, February 04, 2007

A Birthday: Keats at Dawn, Sushi and Lear

This was my birthday weekend. And it was certainly a catalog of extremes (which seems fit, given my life these days).

1. Friday at dawn. I couldn't sleep so I came downstairs and read Keat's letters (for the first time). Had many revelations about my dissertation topic, none of which have solidified.

2. Friday night. WENT OUT. with new and old dear friends. Ate emense amounst of sushi (see before and after photo below).



3. Sunday. Went to the Folger Shakespeare Library and saw King Lear. Lear roared on the stage. Almost naked. His hair seemingly aflame with insanity. Had more revelations about my dissertation topic.

4. Sunday night. Jackson gave me a birthday card where he actually wrote his and Max's name in legibile letters. Amazing.

Needless to say, it was an incredible weekend!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

To Launder or not to Launder...

I am sitting in my basement right now completely ignoring the immense pile of clothes I have to fold. There is this quiet nagging voice in my head (it's been there since about the time I had my first child) that keeps telling me to go into the other room and fold the laundry (by the way, it is also telling me to get dinner going, pick up the living room, empty the dishwasher and take out the trash). I was never a slob growing up, but I never really though about housekeeping the way some of my other girlfriends did in college. Maybe it was because I always had my nose in a book, or I was thinking about a poem I was working on, I don't know. But, somewhere between here and there I developed this voice in my head. The one that won't let me go to bed without picking up the kitchen, getting the coffee ready and starting the dishwasher. I remember consciously watching my mother go through her evening thousand thinking that will never be me. It's strange how things change. I guess out of a sense of necessity. If I don't turn on the dishwasher, Maxi won't have any clean bottles in the morning. And if I don't get the coffee ready in advance, I'll have to try and fumbled through making it in the morning. When, given the sleep deprivation I've experienced lately due to sick kids, who knows what could happen. But, in the end, during brief periods of the day, I have control of the voice. Yes, I could be folding laundry now. But, it feels so nice not to!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Mama Gonna Knock You Out

Lately, I've been intellectualized lyrics by L.L. Cool Jay as I run on the treadmill. Maybe that's because I've been teaching hyperbole to my 7th graders, but I think it is more likely a sign that I need to get back to the books. I've taken almost two months off from my program and I'm itching to get back into it. If only the children could pick themselves up from school, make their own dinner and put themselves in bed! I'd have ample time to get back to it! : )

It is strange to be this side of the exams. To know that all that I need to study now is what I want to study. I've been gorging myself on books on Sappho. (I've actually found the edition that H.D. and Amy Lowell referred studied her from and it is surprisingly good!) I've also been applying for jobs at community colleges. I've definitely realized that teaching 7th grade English is not something I can do even for a little while.

D.C. finally got snow on Monday. We got a dusting, but schools were delayed by 2 hours. It was a great treat to have a slow morning and not have to rush the kids (and myself) of to school. It's funny how little snow shuts this city down. When I was in college there was a blizzard and it shut the whole city down for over a week.

In the spirit of getting back into the swing of my studies, I thought I would post a poem by Amy Lowell. This one is called "Generations" and is taken from her collection Pictures of the Floating World.


You are like a stem
of a young beech-tree,
straight and swaying,
Breaking out in golden leaves.
Your walk is like the blowing of beechtree
On a hill.
Your voice is like leaves
Softly struck upon by a South wind.
Your shadow is no shadow, but a scattered sunshine;
At night you pull the sun down to you
And hood yourself in stars.

But I am like a great oak under a cloudy sky,
Watching a stripling beech grow up at my feet.

It's not her best poem. But it is a poem that really showcases Lowell's style. She didn't fear repetition (repeating beech). And the clarity and emotional breadth that radiates from her images is gorgeous (the last two lines of the first stanza).