October 23, 2014

Poetry Friday--On Listening to A Moveable Feast

I recently listened to an audiobook of A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway's novels didn't interest me, but I developed a desire to learn about him as a person three years ago after reading The Paris Wife by Paula McLain, watching Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris, and hearing someone speak about Hemingway's letters in a program at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library--all within a short time.

I came across Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Fowler about a year later. Z presents Hemingway as a cad. I use the word "cad," because in A Moveable Feast Hemingway relates a whole conversation he had with Ford Maddox Ford about gentlemen and cads. Ford, assured Hemingway that he was not a cad. Then last year I saw the HBO movie, Hemingway and Gellhorn. Each of the works presented a look at the man. Who was the real Hemingway? Could a guy who loved cats really be all that bad?

Courtesy John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston, MA. The Library's Ernest Hemingway collection has a number of photos of Hemingway and his cats.

I thought A Moveable Feast, being written by him and not about him, might provide some insight.

The first thing I realized was that Hemingway was a funny guy! A Moveable Feast was so damn funny I often laughed out loud! The scene in which F. Scott Fitzgerald demands that Hemingway take Scott's temperature was a hoot. (Scott was sure he was on death's doorstep.) Another funny episode involved Ralph Cheever Dunning. Hemingway said, "...Ralph Cheever Dunning, a poet who smoke opium and forgot to eat." He then related a rather odd story of Ezra Pound, who, being fond of Dunning, left Hemingway in charge of a for-emergency-use-only jar of opium in case Dunning went a little crazy in Pound's absence. Dunning ended up throwing the jar at Hemingway, as well as a few milk bottles.
I only know that Ezra tried to be kind to Dunning as he was kind to so many people and I always hoped Dunning was as fine a poet as Ezra believed him to be. For a poet he threw a very accurate milk bottle. But Ezra, who was a very great poet, played a good game of tennis too.

I loved the line, "For a poet he threw a very accurate milk bottle," and it started me on a search for Ralph Cheever Dunning. I found almost no information about Dunning, other than he was born 1878 in Detroit, moved to Paris in 1905, and died there 25 years later (tuberculosis and starvation). There isn't even a Wikipedia entry for him!

A little of his work can be found online. There is a dramatic piece titled Hyllus, published in 1910, and "The Home-Coming" published in Poetry magazine, January 1916, which is short play-poem (I don't know how else to describe it). A sequence of poems appeared under the title, "The Four Winds," in Poetry, April 1925.


"The Home-Coming" was an interesting little ghost story, but the dozen poems from 1925, didn't do anything for me. I'll leave it to you to read them and decide for yourself! I think Hemingway, in writing "I always hoped Dunning was as fine a poet as Ezra believed him to be," avoided coming right out and saying he considered Dunning to be considerably less talented.

So, what kind of poet was Hemingway? Actually, he wrote short and irreverent verse, generally the type of stuff I like to read. I'm not claiming that they're good, and it seems he never broke free of second grade potty humor (I can't remember ever having read the word "fart" in a poem, but I discovered Hemingway loved to use it.) Before I can decide if he was a fine poet, I'll have to locate a copy of 88 Poems (Harcourt Brace, 1979). Here are two Hemingway poems, which I found online, that make sense to me after just having read A Moveable Feast:
Chapter Heading

For we have thought the longer thoughts
      And gone the shorter way.
And we have danced to devils’ tunes,
      Shivering home to pray;
To serve one master in the night,
      Another in the day.


Montparnasse

There are never any suicides in the quarter among people one knows
No successful suicides.
A Chinese boy kills himself and is dead.
(they continue to place his mail in the letter rack at the Dome)
A Norwegian boy kills himself and is dead.
(no one knows where the other Norwegian boy has gone)
They find a model dead
alone in bed and very dead.
(it made almost unbearable trouble for the concierge)
Sweet oil, the white of eggs, mustard and water, soap suds
and stomach pumps rescue the people one knows.
Every afternoon the people one knows can be found at the café.

Visit Cathy at Merely Day by Day for the Poetry Friday Round-Up.


October 21, 2014

October 19, 2014

Happy Haiga Day!

I missed going to the Big E this year, but I did manage to take in the Topsfield Fair!


Click on the image to enlarge for better reading. © Diane Mayr, all rights reserved.

October 16, 2014

Poetry Friday--My Trip to the Witch City

I headed to the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA last Saturday to see the Sketchbook Project mobile library. I was hoping to get some idea of the type of end product I should expect to turn in. (For more information about my participation in the Project, click here.)

But first, this rant! Whoever thought it would be a good idea arrange for a mobile library to visit Salem, MA on a Saturday in October, should have their head examined. Salem is an absolute circus in October. It seems to be a mecca for anyone who wants to don a costume, and for those who want to gawk. It took me forever to get through the traffic jam going into the city, and an eternity to find a parking spot. I ended up about a mile away from the PEM. Walking is normally okay, but, it was raining. And it was chilly.

When I got to the PEM, I found that the mobile library was set up outdoors. Yes, I understand how a trailer would require an outside location, but with the huge PEM lobby, there was no reason why the picnic table reading area couldn't have been indoors. It certainly would have been safer for the books! In the rain, there was no way I was going to sit outside, juggle my phone to request a book to "borrow," and sit at a picnic table that had a tendency to tip if two people were sitting at opposite ends and one got up!

Fortunately, I had borrowed my public library's pass to the PEM, so I went into the museum instead. It was a fantastic day to visit the PEM! The atrium floors and walls were covered with painters' tape art created by the visitors. Here's a photo, and a haiku I wrote after observing a child while I sat in the cafe area:

street art:
the girl playing hopscotch
between the lines

There was also a 30-minute sequence of animated films, one of which was Harold and the Purple Crayon. Another was Catson Pawlick, which I posted at KK's Kwotes on Sunday.

The best part of my visit was viewing the Alexander Calder exhibit of mobiles and stabiles. After walking around, I sat in the Calder exhibit area and wrote a few haiku. I suppose they could be labeled ekphrasis--art about art--but, since they are more reflective of viewing an exhibit, I wonder if the term still applies?

I would have liked to take a photo of some of the objects, but, photography of that particular exhibit was forbidden. This is a photo from the PEM site, it shows "La Demoiselle," but what you miss is the exhibit area lighting and the shadow play, which is outstanding, adds a whole other dimension to the viewing, and is what really inspired my haiku.


Alexander Calder, La Demoiselle, 1939. Glenstone. © Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. PEM website.


Calder mobile
wires and shadows
intertwine

museum guard
his toupee shifts
in the light

Calder exhibit
shadows step across
visitors' feet

When I left the PEM, I found that the rain had stopped and the sun had made an appearance. I was able to borrow several sketchbooks before the library closed. I snapped a photo of two very different sketchbooks. One, from Japan, was primarily manga characters, but, it also had a variety of interesting collage embellishments, for example, the cover and an inside illustration, used crocheted doilies. The other sketchbook, I believe it was from Baltimore, was an incomplete volume of verbal musings and pencil sketches. It ended a few pages before the end of the 32 pages with something like this: Once again, I've run out of time.


At this point, I'm still not completely comfortable in the direction I'm taking with my project, but, from what I saw on the shelves of the mobile library, anything goes.

To be fair, I think the Sketchbook Project folks must have been pleased with introducing the Project to vast numbers of people who floated by as part of the street show, so my earlier rant is to be taken with a grain of salt! However, to give you the flavor of Salem during October, take a look at this trailer for a 1997 documentary film called Witch City:



Michelle of Today's Little Ditty is today's host of the Round-Up, and, she is currently challenging readers to create a zeno! Visit her blog to learn more about the zeno challenge.

Photos, except for the Calder mobile, and haiku, © Diane Mayr, all rights reserved.

October 14, 2014

October 12, 2014

Happy Haiga Day!

I've had this in my files for many years, but I don't believe I've posted it before. I guess it's time!


© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved. Japanese print courtesy Library of Congress.

October 9, 2014

Poetry Friday--Me & Mr. Poe


When I created the haiga, posted this past Sunday, I didn't realize that the posting date would coincidentally be the day of the unveiling of a new Edgar Allan Poe statue in Boston, and that it was two days prior to the 165th anniversary of the death of Poe (October 7, 1849). But, when I found out (thanks to my favorite NPR station, WBUR in Boston), I decided to take it as a sign to write a little about me and Edgar Allan Poe.

I have fond memories of the Saturday afternoon matinees (admission price, 25 cents) that I often attended with my friend, Nancy Hubbard. One of the movies I remember seeing is House of Usher, starring Vincent Price, which is, of course, based upon "The Fall of the House of Usher." The film came out in 1960, which is about the same year I was in 4th grade. I think, too, that it was my 4th grade teacher who read the Poe stories.



I don't much care for scary movies now (I think the last one I willingly sat through was The Shining in 1980), I wonder if the Poe movies had any influence on that?

Also, when I was in elementary school, I remember a college student came into our classroom to talk to us. She told us about a course she was taking in etymology (word origins). For some reason I thought it was wonderful--who knew you could learn such interesting stuff in college? (When I took a etymology course in college, I'm sorry to say, it was a big snore. Nothing at all about the nitty-gritty of word origins. It was more about the history of the English language.)

I've always been interested in words it seems, and one of the first poems that sticks out in my mind was Poe's "The Bells," with it's "tintinnabulation." What a musical word! Here's the first two stanzas of the poem.
The Bells

I
Hear the sledges with the bells-
Silver bells!
What a world of merriment their melody foretells!
How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,
In the icy air of night!
While the stars that oversprinkle
All the heavens, seem to twinkle
With a crystalline delight;
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells
From the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells-
From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.

II

Hear the mellow wedding bells,
Golden bells!
What a world of happiness their harmony foretells!
Through the balmy air of night
How they ring out their delight!
From the molten-golden notes,
And an in tune,
What a liquid ditty floats
To the turtle-dove that listens, while she gloats
On the moon!
Oh, from out the sounding cells,
What a gush of euphony voluminously wells!
How it swells!
How it dwells
On the Future! how it tells
Of the rapture that impels
To the swinging and the ringing
Of the bells, bells, bells,
Of the bells, bells, bells,bells,
Bells, bells, bells-
To the rhyming and the chiming of the bells!

I don't much care for any of the other Poe poems I've read, and I don't believe I've read any Poe stories after college, but I sure think my early experience with Poe has been imprinted on my psyche! For better or for worse.

This week the Round-Up has a change of venue and Tricia will be hosting at The Miss Rumphius Effect. Tricia shared a great zombie poem a couple of weeks ago. If you missed it, I highly recommend you check it out here.