Heritage 3: Lunch in the Tuileries

It was a gorgeous day!

Self strolled down the Champs-Elysees. She saw a shrine on the sidewalk, draped with French flags and flowers. Oh. So that’s where the policeman was shot.

She bought a salad from a brasserie and decided to eat in the Tuileries, right in front of the Musee L’Orangerie (where the Monets are) but she did not bother lining up for a ticket. She hates lines.

Instead, she sat outside, watching people:

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The Tuileries, Monday Afternoon: Is that a Brancusi? Or a Picasso? Or a Henry Moore?

The wide avenues were alive with strollers, and the trees were so green:

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And guess what she saw, over on the other side of the Place de la Concorde:

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Iconic: 22 May 2017

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

#amreading “Salt” from Joan McGavin’s PASSING ARCADIA CLOSE

Rivers fascinate self.

Here’s a poem about rivers from Joan McGavin’s second collection, Passing Arcadia Close (Oversteps Books 2017).

Self met Joan 2012, in Hawthornden.

SALT

by Joan McGavin

The changing taste of rivers
told me where I was heading.
How could I fail to swim faster?
I’d hugged the coast for hours,
kept the lap of landbound waves
to my right, where the tang of fresh water
mixed in with salt would flood
the roof of my mouth
at each estuary.

At night I dozed in the hammock between waves
or beached and slept away from houses
but within earshot of tides.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

FAMILY: by Anna Moi for Air France Magazine

Early 1960s. The “war” was the Vietnam War, which pitted the North, where Moi’s parents were from, against the South, to where they fled:

How long does it take for a mother to read Alone in the World and The Story of Perrine to her child? My mother read to me almost every evening, because my parents went out only three or four times a year, and never had guests. It was wartime, but that doesn’t explain it — war had only just begun and nobody imagined at the time that it would last some 15 years and that we’d face shortages of everything, especially freedom, the basic freedom to move around as we chose.

This sense of frugality was something my parents were born with, just as others live with a heart murmur or an irregular heartbeat. It was the region of their birth, the North, that had triggered this simmering anxiety.

At bedtime, my mother would decide on a number of pages, but I would beg her to carry on, and she was always happy to continue the story of Rémi the abandoned child or of Perrine Paindavoine, an orphan searching for her family . . .  From one episode to the next, in those days before TV series, I traveled from one family to another, and from town to town, in the comfort of knowing I would fall asleep sated with emotions.

Battle in Robert Harris: p. 248 of Conspirata (Or, If You’re in the UK, Lustrum)

Cicero’s great enemy is Catilina. Catilina is dispatched, as self knew he would be (She’s read about Catilina’s dispatching in both SPQR and Tom Holland’s Rubicon). But, as Harris writes a few pages earlier, No victories in politics are permanent (This is a paraphrase; self has little time to be hunting up the exact page, as the day is almost done and she hasn’t met her day’s writing quota).

Still, Harris manages to make Catilina’s defeat exciting:

  • It was a terrible carnage and Catilina was in the thick of it all day. Not one of his lieutenants surrendered. They fought with the ferocious abandon of men with nothing to lose. Only when Petreius sent in a crack praetorian cohort did the rebel army finally collapse. Every one of Catilina’s followers, including Manlius, died where he stood; afterwards their wounds were found to be entirely in the front and none in the back.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

What the Writing Desk Looks Like Today, 17 April 2017

Writing. Writing and reading. Like mad.

Also, checking Facebook, lol

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The card on the MacBook is from Jacinta Oreilly, an artist from Dublin.

The small picture taped to my keyboard is from Bernadette Burns, an artist from Skibbereen, West Cork.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Mithridates’s Heart Breaks: RUBICON, p. 182

An old enemy of Rome’s, Mithridates, kept attacking and retreating, attacking and retreating. Pompey, unable to finish him off, struck “across the desert for Petra . . .  but midway, he was halted by dramatic news: Mithridates was dead. The old king had never given up on his defiance, but . . .  when his son turned against him and blockaded him in his chambers, Rome’s arch-enemy had been cornered at last.”

Just to show how wily Mithridates was, he had slowly been building up an immunity to poison by ingesting it in small quantity, for many years. But when his son sided with Pompey, he attempted to poison himself. It didn’t work. He was finally “dispatched by one of the few things to which he had not cultivated an immunity, the sword point of a loyal guard.”

His body is carried back to Pompey by his son.

#amreadingpoetry: Michael Graves in J Journal

Cain’s Father

by Michael Graves

Cain, I ate of it
Long before your mother did,
And not because some tempter spoke.

I feasted underneath the limbs
Of God’s forbidden tree,
And then I slept
Between two thick and twisting roots.

(posted by kind permission of the author)

All my reading, throughout this current residency at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Annaghmakerrig, has been about ancient Rome. I started with Mary Beard’s SPQR and now I’m reading Tom Holland’s Rubicon: The Triumph and Tragedy of the Roman Republic. I’m very struck by the theme of “double-ness” which recurs again and again, from the founding of ancient Rome (Mythic: Romulus and Remus, twins raised by a she-wolf, but all kinds of doubles appear in other world literature too).

And of course, just in the middle of my residency, comes this new issue of J Journal (New Writing About Social Justice, from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City).

J Journal has always had a special place in my heart. You know it. Because it blends the fields of law, social justice, and creative writing.

I kept sending them stuff, because social justice is a theme that reverberates with all Filipinos. They published Magellan’s Mirror, a story that’s a magical/realist re-telling of Magellan’s first encounter with Filipinos (They’re giants). You can read part of the story on their site, here.

A few days ago, the editors (Adam Berlin and Jeffrey Heiman) sent an announcement/preview of their forthcoming latest issue (April 2017). It included the Cain poems of Michael Graves, which were the “very first pages in the very first issue” of J Journal. I wrote to the editors to ask if I could feature one of the poems on my blog, they contacted Graves, and he gave his permission.

So here it is, one of Michael Graves’. It is powerful as all get-out.

Thank you, Michael Graves and J Journal, for letting me share this!

Stay tuned.

What the Writing Desk Looks Like Today, 3 April 2017

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Art by Bernadette Burns, from Skibbereen, West Cork : http://www.bernadetteburns.com

Bernadette Burns left Tyrone Guthrie this morning, early.

She told self to go to her studio; she’d leave something.

A few minutes ago, self ran through rain, entered the studio, which was completely empty, ready for the next occupant.

On a table, a note and two prints.

#love #sobeautiful

This is what her studio looked like, just two days ago:

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Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Now For One of Self’s: “The Lost Language”

This was published many years ago, in a magazine called Isotope.

Published in Utah and edited by a poet, Chris Cokinos.

It joined together two things: science writing and creative writing.

You would find, in the same issue, a play by a physicist, a nature essay, a poem by a mathematician. That sort of thing.

Self loved it.

Chris Cokinos, what are you doing now? Know that self considered Isotope a very noble experiment.

Here’s an excerpt from the story they published, which became the title of her third collection. It’s one of those hybrid things: part essay, part memoir, part myth, part short story.

The Lost Language

Filipinos once had an ancient written language. If I were to show you what the marks look like on a piece of paper, they would look like a series of waves. Or like Egyptian hieroglyphics. Like the eye of the Pharaoh I saw in my old high school history books.

The language was written on tree bark. Epics were probably written in this language, but I don’t know what they are. My ancestors are shadowy people. Shadows.

When I was a little girl, perhaps eight years old or so, my mother gave me a book of Philippine legends. The legends were mostly about beautiful maidens and enchanted animals. But the story I liked best was about Hari sa Bukid, which means King of the Mountain.

Read the rest of this entry »

Mary Beard on Edward Gibbon

Beginning a new book today: SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome, by Mary Beard

Beard begins by saying, in her Prologue:

  • “. . .  over the almost 250 years since Edward Gibbon wrote The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, his idiosyncratic historical experiment that began the modern study of Roman history in the English-speaking world . . . “

Self is quite tickled by the description of Gibbon as “idiosyncratic.” She just read Gibbon for the first time, here at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre. Her biggest quibble with him was that he spent an inordinate amount of time on the spread of Christianity and while some of that history was good — especially the parts about monastic life —  most of it was really broad survey. And surveys are dull.

In contrast, another history she just finished reading, Francis Parkman’s Montcalm and Wolfe, was amazing. Amazing in every sense: as history, and as narrative.

The Guardian calls SPQR “vastly engaging.” We shall see if it manages to unseat Francis Parkman’s as self’s favorite history book in years.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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