A Woman’s Place

I had a series of “love posts” planned for this week, but my students warned me not to write/post them because–from their youthful perspective–it might seem insensitive to those who don’t have a Valentine.

I laughed. Do people really take Valentine’s Day that seriously? No matter. I won’t risk it. 😀

Instead, I’m dropping in with a favorite postcard from my “vintage” collection of postcards, acquired when I was a teen (I think)–before email, swap-bot, and Love Notes–when my friends and I regularly sent newsy letters and postcards to each other.

This postcard, printed by Hallmark, echoes the end of today’s [class] discussion of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew: the very words used to demonstrate Petruchio’s successful “taming” of “Kate” can also be used to prove that Katherina really is the boss lady of the joint.

Quotes Challenge Day 3: Ride the Horse

Photo by my son, Vaughan M.

Behind one pain, there is another. Sorrow is a wave without end. But the horse mustn’t ride you, you must ride it. 

The final quote for the three-day challenge comes from one of my favorite books, Simone Schwarz-Bart’s Pluie et vent sur Télumée Miracle (published as The Bridge of Beyond in English). I feel I must provide a little context–without giving away too much of the plot, of course.

In Part 2 of the novel, Télumée, the primary character, is so profoundly grieved by her husband’s desertion that she sits on a stone in her grandmother’s backyard for several weeks, speechless and unmovable, reduced to a shade of her former self. Her trauma is understandable. After being obviously head-over-heels in love with her since they were children, Elie, her husband, suddenly and inexplicably becomes cruel and abusive and kicks her out of the house in favor of another woman. The events of her life become incongruous with the reality she’s crafted and the people she and her husband are and Télumée is so broken by this unfathomable turn of events that she “loses her mind” and can no longer function.

Télumée eventually “rises,” nurtured by her community and the steady wisdom of Toussine, her grandmother –“Queen without a Name”–who had suffered and survived many griefs herself.  I’m convinced it is the words Toussine instills at an earlier point in the novel that compels her to get up:

Behind one pain, there is another. Sorrow is a wave without end. But the horse mustn’t ride you, you must ride it.

As suddenly as she falls apart, Télumée stands up to live a life different from the one she originally imagined–one that is authentic and communal and necessary.

I have always loved this quote. When I first read it, I put the book down to pause and consider it for a while. And still, several reads later, I am blown away by the tenacity Toussine suggests we must conjure up to survive wild waves of pain and sorrow–the grit it takes to position ourselves so that deep sorrow doesn’t shape our lives, define us, or guide us and the creative prowess it takes to use that sorrow to re-plot the direction of our lives.

Sometimes when the crises come one right after another and literally knock us off our feet, it seems easier to just lie down and wallow in sadness and misery. There can be healing in (temporarily) shutting down, in resting, but at some point we (have to) decide whether we will ride the horse–our circumstances–or let the horse ride us.

There is way more to say about this quote and way, way, way more to say about The Bridge of Beyond. I hope you’ll pick it up and read it. I also hope that when life becomes too much, you’ll choose to ride.

Today’s nominees are [see a previous post for rules]:

Have a restful, fun, and safe weekend!

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Note about the photo: The photo above was shot by my son when he was eight-years-old. He is quite the photographer. I’m working on getting him to share more of his work. #proudmom

 

Matisse’s Icarus: Fall From the Sun

I mentioned in my post a couple of days ago that my student Courtney sent two postcards, and the second arrived before the first. I received the first postcard today!

It appropriately detailed (as much as can be squeezed onto a postcard) her early musings about her life in France. And it features one of my favorite French artists, Henri-Émile-Benoît Matisse.

Henri Matisse, “La Chute d’Icare”

If you’ve been following my blog for at least a few years, you might remember my sharing the work of 16 little Matisses that imitate his collage style.

La Chute d’Icare [The Fall of Icarus], from Matisse’s “cut-outs” period of his late career,  illustrates the tale of Icarus, the son of Daedalus who ignored his father’s warning and with wax wings flew too close to the sun. Matisse masterfully captured Icarus’ fall through the sky to the sea.

Courtney might know I have a ‘thing” for Greek mythology (re)interpreted in art and literature. Here are a few Icarus poems worth reading:

I think I’ll write a poem this weekend that recasts the story of Icarus in my own way. I already have a title, “Fly, Baby, Fly.”  I’ll include it in my reply to Court.

“Beware the Ides of March”

It has been clear to me for some time that my students didn’t read what I read in high school, so it was little surprise to me that students in my Shakespeare course had no idea what I was talking about when I walked into class this morning warning, “Beware the ides of March.” I’m not teaching Julius Caesar this semester, but I couldn’t let the “ides of March” go by without acknowledging the play that made the line “famous.”

I read Julius Caesar in junior high with Mr. Elliott, an amazing English teacher. As he demonstrated in his booming voice how we should read/act out the play, he drew us into the text and into the lives and motivations of the characters.

I haven’t reviewed the high school literature curriculum lately, but I’m pretty sure students are no longer required to read what I “had” to read–eons ago. I imagine English teachers today have serious challenges providing a curriculum that embraces the traditional “canon” of dead white men and the more inclusive contemporary “canon” to a generation that cut its teeth on e-readers and hyperlinks.

Anyway, in honor of Julius Caesar, Shakespeare, and my 9th grade English teacher, I’m dropping by not with a warning but with a poem about the unpredictable mid-March weather that makes us all “watch our backs.”

I shot the “foggy day” photo outside our home in New Orleans March 15, 2012–the “Ides of March” six years ago. If the poem is difficult to read on the photo, it appears below:

The Ides of March by Marcella Remund

The seer was right to warn us,
beware the ides of March.
It’s a dangerous time, peering
through iced windows at the jeweled
tease of crocus and daffodil.
We’ve weathered another season
of deep-freeze, locked up tight
in muscle and mind.  We’re tired
of winter’s grey and gritty leftovers.
But this is no time to get careless,
toss a floorboard heater through
the beveled glass and go out,
where spring flashes her flannel petticoat
embroidered in pinks and greens,
leaves us gaping, breathless,
in air still cold as a knife blade,
stripping off the down.

The author, Marcella Remund, is also an English professor. I wonder if her students came to her familiar with the phrase–“Beware the ides of March.”

Live, Love, and Write Good Sentences

Poets Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. Photo by Hans Beacham

I want to live, to love and say it well in good sentences.  –Sylvia Plath

I want to write because I have the urge to excel in one medium of translation and expression of life. I can’t be satisfied with the colossal job of merely living. Oh, no, I must order life in sonnets and sestinas and provide a verbal reflector for my 60-watt lighted head.   –Sylvia Plath

Postcard Note: The postcard, featuring Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, came from Gina B (aka Bianca), my pen friend/literary twin in Germany. I received the postcard a day or two after talking with one of my students about her senior thesis. I’d suggested to her that she include Sylvia Plath in her discussion about Anne Sexton’s poetry. Coincidence? More than that, of course.

Literary Wisdom: Still Lives…Waiting

“Chaton entre des livres” (Kitten Between Books)

Life is change. If you aren’t growing and evolving, you’re standing still, and the rest of the world is surging ahead. Most of the people are very immature. They lead “still” lives, waiting.  —Louise Penny, Still Life

Note: A-dor-a-ble postcard from Heather F. (AZmom on swap-bot) for the Cup and Chaucer group’s Literary Wisdom Swap #1. For the series, swappers send partners a book-related postcard with a quote from a fictional or poetic work that enlightens, inspires, or “shows us the way.” [I host the swap in two groups on swap-bot].

 

A Last Nearby Song: Ending Autumn with Haiku

“Native Awareness.” Photo by Gale D. (grstamping on swap-bot)

I just completed the novel The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman by Denis Thériault. It’s the kind of read one can finish in one sitting, but it took me a couple of days because I read slowly while waiting in the carpool line or just before falling asleep. The book is based on the Zen concept of ensō. It feels a lot like Kafka, whose absurdist works I love, but it also feels like haiku, which is a prominent feature of the novel.

And that might be the reason I returned to my favorite book of haiku and have been reading haiku all week. However, [Kobayashi] Issa’s poem, which I didn’t see in the collection, is worthy of the last day of autumn:

evening cicada–
a last nearby song
to autumn

Gale D’s photos are brilliant reminders of the best of the season and an appropriate end to the autumn posts for the week. The photos were sent for an “A Thousand Words” group swap. The top photo was shot in Mattawa, Canada. The photo below in Orillia.

“Drive by in Orillia.” Photo by Gale D. (grstamping on swap-bot)

Somehow, the novel set in Canada, the Japanese haiku, and photos captured in Canada come together and make perfect sense for the last day of autumn–in my mind at least. 😉