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Archive for June, 2014

the poems of summer

June 25, 2014 4 comments

The Muse has been fickle of lateRT is continuing onward with his writing/reworking of his mother’s childhood memoir, A Daughter’s Song and Dance, which has been making surprisingly good progress of late, subject to the odd bad signal or two on his emotional railway. But then, a couple of days ago, one of RT’s friends demanded to know how Gilgamesh is coming. Then someone else asked the same thing a little while later. Well, RT doesn’t receive too many requests for status reports on his years-long project to turn the ancient story into English verse, so he allowed as how he was honored by the questions. But the report itself was rather brief: no progress in the last several months, mainly as a result of the memoir showing signs of falling together into a coherent story. 

Where does the strength come from to finish the race? This quote, from Chariots of Fire, RT believes, has haunted him over the years of his struggle with absent-mindedness, and now he has to admit that he has been feeling nostalgia for the decades of his 20s and 30s. The past is with us always, but we can never return to it. Songs that were once brand new on the radio are now being covered as classics by emerging artists, all of them born after RT’s graduation from college, in hopes of attracting more attention to the current hip generation.

I could talk about the unbearable lightness of being, but that would only make matters worse. And seriously considering why RT never became a mega-phenom like, say, Don Henley, is only going to poison his pen. In the midst of this bluesy moment, maybe better help is available from another old classic, the novel Dune. RT has borne with him these unmentionably numerous decades the image of holding back your hand, waiting for the right moment to reach out and grasp the long-desired object. Mastering this art, the art of using time wisely, is one of the chief signs of adulthood. Life isn’t about success; it’s about getting what you need.

Some things are leaving; some are waiting patiently. Knowing where they are and when to engage them is a part of what makes a person greathearted. We’re still in the game.   RT

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Photo: Don Henley. Author: Steve Alexander. WikiCmns; CC 2.0 attribution/share alike.

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On Turning 54 (or Notes Toward a Supreme Potato Chip)

June 10, 2014 4 comments

A couple of days ago, RT found himself in the local Books-a-Million. Now, RT has to admire anyone who sells books via a storefront; what with the competition from Amazon and company, the surge in self-publishing, and the efforts of the blogging community, margins are probably tighter than ever. And a quick inspection of the large shopping space revealed that BaM had an entirely respectable copy of Moby Dick on offer for under $20, Bart Ehrman’s Lost Scriptures and Lost Christianities tucked away on the far side of the store’s considerable selection of Bibles, and even a passable, though small, selection of poetry (heavy on Homer and The Inferno).

Wallace Stevens (and his essay, Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction) didn’t make the cut. Much might be made of the absence, perhaps even the failure of American literature (and poetry, above all) to produce the story-epic-novel that will unite us all in its glorious vision of the world. Where is the American Dante?

But RT is reluctant to announce the death of American society just yet. He will gladly admit that while he is beginning to make progress on viewing the movie Cloud Atlas, he has now watched two of the Twilight Saga movies, thereby garnering an image of Kristin Stewart to accompany him as he continues his journey into the problematic heart of his fifties. Middle-aged men will be middle-aged men.

Or will we? Somewhere, hidden deep in his unconscious, RT still harbors a writer’s ambition. Fifty-fourth birthday be damned! This writer will continue his slow, plodding progress toward finishing Gilgamesh, toward publishing his mother’s memoirs, and toward whatever writing projects his reading might lead him. What’s on the bedside stand these days? The Gardens of Light, a novel about the life of the prophet Mani (definitely worth the read). RT will continue to write until he is found dead at his keyboard (or at least in the loving arms of Kristin Stewart). If a supreme fiction doesn’t exist, then we need to act as if there is one. Through the work of thousands and thousands of authors, we are making our way home.

In the meantime, a supreme potato chip will have to sustain us. There are worse fates.    RT

PhotographA Pile of The Real McCoy’s Potato Chips; author: Paul Hurst. WikiCmns; CC-By-SA-2.5, 2.0.

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Bobby Kennedy and America’s Struggle

There are a lot of what ifs about the 1960s: what if Richard Nixon had been elected in 1960? What if LBJ had held out for one more term? What if that terrible series of assassinations–of John Kennedy, his brother Robert, and Martin Luther King, Jr.–had never taken place?

No single person, however important at a particular moment in time, carries forward the hopes of a nation all by him or herself. If one of these leaders is lost, the forces for reform pick up the pieces, reorganize themselves, and strive onward towards the goal.

Many of the most radical movements of the 1960s–just look at gay rights–have assumed a place in America’s mainstream. A black man is President. Hippies are organizing festivals and gatherings on a scale that would have been unimaginable 50 years ago.

Sure, we face new problems, income inequality prominent among them. But the trumpets have been sounded–the great work of realizing the blueprint that the Constitution gives us goes on. There are bitter and heartbreaking moments of defeat and loss; but there are moments of shining triumph as well.

On this day in 1968, Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated. No assassin’s bullet can destroy America’s aspirations.

PhotographAttorney General Robert F. Kennedy speaking to a crowd of African Americans and whites (1963); photographer, Warren K. Leffler working for U.S. News & World Report. Image donated to the Library of Congress. WikiCmns; Public Domain.

Ah, Madrid!!!

RT never managed to visit Spain while his family was posted in France; the deal was that he got to go to Russia, and his younger brother visited Spain the following year. RT has always been satisfied with the trade-off.

But this marvelous early-modern view of Madrid makes him wonder. The seat of the Spanish government pretty much continuously since 1561, Madrid boasts an impressive inventory of architecture, museums, and Bohemian venues. And then there is the rest of Spain; RT at the moment wouldn’t mind spending a few days in Toledo, Spain’s “City of Three Cultures.”

RT has heard that an intense, spiritual beauty is to be found throughout the Iberian peninsula, in part the gift of a long, complex, and passionate history.

DrawingView of Madrid from the west, facing the Puerta de la Vega (1562). Artist: Anton van den Wyngaerde (called in Spain Antonio de las Viñas). WikiCmns; Public Domain.

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