Wednesday, February 27, 2008

February 26, 2008

House fragrant with the candle I burned all night. Hat, except for gaps in the lines, seems to be in better shape than the other components of Crown of Shadows have been at the same point. I spent yesterday in a daze of exhaustion and distant ache which I thought was turning into the flu that everybody has, but did not. Massage from David Gary. I asked him why he hadn’t been to see Crown of Shadows, and he said, "I can’t stand to see two boys kissing." I told him that part was over, and now it’s just girls and boys kissing, but I felt strange under his hands.

Conference call from Sunnyspot confirms that Edward is on for 10 performances in the middle of May. I’m relieved that all is on track. One anticipates disaster, or at least disappointment, right up to the last moment. They ask if I’m satisfied with the cast, and only after I’ve said "yes" do I perceive that they really wanted to know, and might have responded had I expressed concern. Some of my Asheville cast was better than my remembrance of the New York cast. Perhaps they wanted to hear that, perhaps not.
February 24, 2008

Gray Sunday morning at the café, I having decided church is not for me today.

Crown of Shadows surpasses my every expectation. I don’t suppose it’s going to be a great moneymaker, but it surpasses my very modest expectations even on that account. I have learned a number of things from it. The lesson which stands out most boldly at the moment is of those things I am not interested in doing anymore, and probably wasn’t very interested in at any time. If it had been purely up to me, the festival would never have happened. I came up with the idea, but without my partner Mickey and her taste for–or at least ability at–organization and plain hard ground level work, it would still be an idea. I fought my own reluctance at almost every point. They may have been my words, but her will delivered them to the community. I don’t like making schedules or finding props or coddling talent or even using the phone that much. I betray my supposed Virgo nature at every point, being–sometimes–impatient with details and blind to, or at least forgiving of, flaws. I feel the words are my duty, and other duties make me a little impatient. I can do and have done nearly everything associated with theater production, but there are certain things I hope never to be called on to do again. I can write and I can act. I can direct so long as nobody asks me where I want the lights. The days of doing it all myself are over; I just don’t want to anymore. Thank God people stepped up. Thank God I can count on people stepping up again, for I feel this experience has been good for everyone. It has one week to go, and I hate no one, and assume no one hates me, and I think that is a kind of triumph.

DJ won the raffle last night, and chose my painting French Broad at Asheville. I hope he liked it rather than thinking he didn’t dare choose something else.

Gilgamesh is better than it was at the Wortham. MM was at the show last night. It must be strange watching a new vision of a show you directed–which you were the first to direct–but he seemed to like it, and probably appreciated, as I did, that intimacy improves even an epic. These actors are better than the last batch, and the light and sound is at least as good-- infinitely better considering that Ann flushed $6,000 down that drain the first time around. The venue is problematic, but that makes less difference than one expected it would. When we arrived last night we had to disassemble a hip-hop concert before we could set up for ourselves. I did myself proud by singing as I worked, and not aiming one snappish word at those who had double-sold time we had already paid for. Like most things one wants to get agitated about, the mess and the late start ended up making no difference at all.

Actors are continually fascinating to me. Watching mine, I come to a clearer understanding of what I do that either pleases or infuriates directors, of when innovations or immediate discoveries are inspired and when they are merely weird. Everyone is doing fine, no embarrassments, nothing to apologize for. Several of our number are boundlessly talented. I seldom brag about never having taken an acting class, lest somebody say, "Maybe you should," but I always learn a great deal from those I watch on stage. A is very young and so prodigiously talented that the limits of his potential cannot, at this point, be imagined. He also has a gentle wit and personal sweetness that will fend off much of the garbage slung one’s way in the theater. I cannot imagine anyone being his enemy, or grudging him any success in the future, and this is good luck almost as great at his talent. I tell him I love him every night, and I hope he understands how literal I am. C is on some levels the best actor on stage, the best student actor I have ever known, but the best of his acting occurs in rehearsal. For performance he hardens and intensifies, and though intensity is good, too much, or intensity badly directed, is less so. He shouts all through Gilgamesh. I have said nothing beyond a few hints because he is a young actor trying something by his own imagination, and the fact is that Gilgamesh as Blow Hard is an interpretation that actually works. I sit in the dark theater and watch him veering toward the border of Too Much, but never quite hitting it, always staying within the bounds of the interpretation he has carved out for himself. It works less well with the script than the more nuanced character I thought we were developing in rehearsal, but it is a plausible interpretation, and he has the talent almost to bring it off. Plus, I’m essentially a teacher, and if he’s learning by this–I’m sure he is–then I feel he must see it through. How many times has a director let me have my head even when I made his flesh crawl? Thank God I don’t know. But the source of his interpretation bothers me more than its qualities. It seems entirely external. I’m not a method actor. I do not believe I have to have had an experience to portray it on stage, but I believe I must be imagining it honestly and completely at the moment of portrayal. C seems to be doing none of those things. When questioned about a choice he’s made, his answers cluster around the notion that a man like Gilgamesh or Gaveston should be doing such-and-such at this point in the action, a fully external and arbitrary process which harkens back to an older day of bombastic and insincere acting. I fear he is being badly trained by the theater department, which has poured all its energy into a method which teaches you, essentially, how to fake a tantrum when you need one, and not much else. The lucky part of it is that C is such a superb and dedicated student that the energy with which he is absorbing bad advice will, I am sure, be matched and over-matched by the energy with which he will absorb the good, when he learns to discern between them. Professional courtesy makes it difficult even to warn him against the baleful influence. I must rely on the gods of theater, assuming they will do what they can to lead such a bright talent down the right path. T is a completely natural and intelligent actress, always better than you think she could possibly be, always making the best of whatever awkward direction you may have given her. I dwell on her less because I think there is nothing she needs from me, other than opportunity. Her problem will be that her beauty is unconventional, and those who cast according to appearance will foolishly overlook her. We almost missed casting her as Siduri–which she does brilliantly– because she was not the sexpot we thought we wanted. We were wrong. Others, such as D, show that an actor may have fulfillment even when acting is necessarily an avocation. I don’t doubt he could be a professional actor, with his imposing (though also limiting) physical presence, and his elegant, no-wasted-energy method, but he seems to be happy here, getting better parts and more of them than anybody could in New York, having a real job and therefore a shot at a real life. The same could be said of S. The same could be said of me.

Do I love the theater? I think I kept myself from loving it as much as I could, to avoid the disappointment and hurt of betrayal by the beloved. But the more it works for me, the better I love it, and of all the things I’ve done, I think I’ve loved Crown of Shadows the best. Since it isn’t a person, I think I can say uprightly that I’ve loved it because it has been a success. I’ve never thought of myself as a "theater professional" any more than I have a "state employee" or a "Southern writer," but all those things have come upon me, and I add them, with pleasure as well as bemusement, to the tapestry. Oddly, now that I think of it, I’ve never thought of myself as a teacher, or a poet, or any of the things which should be so essential to my character, but only as little D wandering through the world, trying his hand at this and then that, hoping that they are the right things, or will lead to rightness before the end.

Afternoon: The Sunday matinee of Gilgamesh was delayed half an hour while our technician did not appear, did not answer his cell phone. I am amazed by my own tranquility in the face of such things. Word is he overslept– until 3 in the afternoon. I had to leave before all excuses were made, all explanations rendered, but it should be an interesting beginning of the week next week. I think we convinced B to adapt his ambitions for the set so that we might actually rehearse Hat. He begged at one point for two nights so he could work on the set without actors being in the way all the time. I’ll do him the courtesy of assuming he didn’t hear what he himself was saying.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Gilgamesh Opening Night

February 23, 2008

I’m going to stop having opinions about plays and how they’re going to play and how they’ll fly on opening night, for again, last night, Gilgamesh was triumphant against my misgivings. It’s not that I don’t trust the gods of the theater; it’s just that I’m astonished when they bestow their blessings on me. I sat in my back pew mesmerized, as though I’d never seen it before, as though I were a ten year old at a fairy tale. Gilgamesh is a fairy tale, and the power of that medium reached through it without any assistance, or even consciousness, on my part. The house was not full, but it was responsive and it was they who first telegraphed to me that we had another success.

At the raffle, and Ed Cawley won my painting, Twilight in the Emerald City.

The Usual afterwards, where we mingled with the cast of Moonlight and Magnolias. Ron Bashford’s unexpected kindliness beamed to all corners of the table. I am too private to be totally comfortable in a situation like that, twenty people at a bunch of tables pushed together, the loudest mob in the house, but I was loud enough myself, and I was happy walking home afterward, drunk under the cloudy moon, my ears ringing with voices in the cool, wet dark.
February 22, 2008

Woke after 7 this morning, the first time I have slept so late in years. I must have been exhausted after dress rehearsal for Gilgamesh last night, a dress rehearsal which had no light nor sound cues, and for which some, but by no means all, the costumes were ready. B hammered at the set while actors tried to shout over the din. Our luck with Edward on opening night was little short of miraculous. I don’t think it will hold tonight. But we’ll see.

Friday, February 22, 2008

February 21, 2008

I don’t know that I would want to repeat yesterday every day, but it was a fine day, and at the ending of it I was happy. I worked out at the Y. I went to the studio and painted well. But the evening was the best. We had a tech rehearsal of Gilgamesh, and though it didn’t go particularly well, it didn’t go particularly badly, either, and one anticipated so much worse. There was a mood in the room, a sweetness, a comradery which made all memorable. Cody was rambunctious, but one assumes he was feeling his triumph after Edward, and one concedes an evening or two of rambunctiousness. All the boys were running around shirtless. Everyone played like children in the smoke from the smoke machine. Outside, the moon was entering eclipse, and we kept sidling between hall and porch to rehearse a little, and then watch the moon turn dried blood red, stirring and strange and beautiful, amid the four stars which gleamed with it in and out of the flying clouds.

The pulmonaria is about to bloom.

An online publication called Livejournal, published a review of Edward the King. It loved the play and hated the production.
February 19, 2008

Full moon risen above the east. I saw it rise over the parking lot of Zaxby’s in Swanannoa, where I had never been before, where I will never be again. I was driving toward Concord, NC, to do a lecture at the library, but I realized I couldn’t. I turned around and drove home. I was dragging sadness behind me like a blanket, and soon the whole world would be tangled in it. I didn’t realize what the sadness was about. I was missing my cast; I knew that was part of it. But then I remembered a phone message from Linda this morning, where she outlined the places where dad’s cancer had spread. I think I was thinking of that. He and I both are the sort who would be able to believe that all this cancer talk is foolishness, that it’s just a smear on the film. But I suppose it’s not. I thought of the ancient photo of him now in my kitchen, the one he professed no further interest in. A tiny boy in a white shirt and a silly hat. I prayed that it might be easy for him. I observed how his life had been so hard, sometimes cruelly and pointlessly so, sometimes because of me, and how it would be nice now if the ending of it went easy. I was crying so hard I had to pull over, while the moon rose over the parking lot in Swanannoa, where I never was before, where i will never be again.

Stopped at Walgreen’s, and Riley was exiting hiding his face and pretending not to see me, in shame at missing class today. I have to pretend to care. I have to pretend that seeing him wasn’t the joy it was at that moment, my face wrenched and ugly from weeping. It’s all so stupid. We’re so ill-equipped in the face of everything.

I googled my father. There was nothing. That was sad, too, though I don’t know what I was expecting.

I googled Maple Glen, where he was happy as a boy. It’s a tiny neighborhood near Centerville, north of the River, a tiny road dropping down from Centerville Road and dead-ending in the Monongahela. I vowed to go there, maybe with his ashes, when it comes to that.

Monday, February 18, 2008

February 18, 2008

It is one hour into Monday morning, delivered here by eating and drinking too much before bed. I will write till the wakefulness goes away. The cats look at me wondering how the schedule could be so far amiss.

Edward the King closed its Asheville run this afternoon. I’d say it is the most successful showing of my work in this town, and is so to a degree which creates a whole new classification. I’ve started over. The playwright I was before is gone, and I am new. Steve Lloyd of HART could not stop saying that the script was "perfect. . . flawless. . . ." More people could have come, but all who came are, I think, convinced that we are doing a worthwhile thing. F appeared, cold but polite, and almost woundingly beautiful. As I sat at the back for the first few minutes, wondering if he were laughing, if he were enjoying it, not attending to the fact that everyone else clearly was, it dawned on me that, though he is envious, infantile, and not overwhelmingly bright, I hoped, and continue to hope, for his approbation because he is so beautiful. Now, there’s a window into your own soul! Do I really prefer the approval of the beautiful over the approval of the wise? I think not, generally, but sometimes, and clearly in this case. Seeing that complexity plain eased it, and I could laugh at myself, and lap up the joy gushing forth from every seat but his.

. . . a beautiful woman whose name I forget on Jfrap’s arm. . . bewildered folk music afficionados wondering what to make of a set and chairs in their dancing place. . . . Stephanie running the house with granite efficiency. . . people I did not know taking tickets and manning the door and helping all to be well. I had to leave early for Cantaria rehearsal, missing the last act and the last accolade, and the feeling of that was bereavement, like the last day of summer camp when you’ve made so many friends you will never see again. Except I will see them, for a while, anyway. The after-production emotions were all grand and irrational, and I enjoyed every minute of them. I miss Edward. I look forward to New York, and seeing him again. When I’m there I’ll miss the cast I’ve grown to love. I’ll stop myself from saying, "that’s not the way we did it in Asheville."

Everyone worked so hard. Everything came out so well. Let me remember this blessing for at least a day or two.
February 17, 2008

Sunday morning. Last night’s Edward was better even than the one before, and the audience was yet more in tune. I think we have a great show, and it may have been a mistake not to run Edward all three weekends-–but who could possibly know? MP left at intermission. I think it was his girlfriend, who’d insisted on getting the pre-sale price at the door, and who broke the corkscrew.
February 16, 2008

Wandered idly to the hardware store, where I couldn’t resist the flats of brilliant violas. Planted yellow and purple and scarlet.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Opening Night

February 16, 2008

Dark of the morning, I, miraculously, not hungover. The other miracle is that none of the issues that tormented me about the production ended up having any consequence. The actors triumphed over all adversity. I maintain they shouldn’t have had to triumph over adversity, that we could have made it easier for them with better planning, but to go on about this is to devalue the amending spirit which hovers, sometimes, over theater. Everyone is a more upright acolyte at that altar than I am, and I must learn faith.

Last night’s Edward the King at the Arts Center was a triumph. It was a triumph for every single element of the production. The set had a rough, punky, urban feel which fit, in the end, beautifully; tech was perfect; the actors, to a person, had never been better, or as good. Cody stepped back from the over-the-topness of dress rehearsal and was cunning, dangerous, beautiful, heartbreaking. Adam–in many ways Cody’s opposite as an actor, rising from the depths as Cody settles down from the heights– was the support and foundation of the show. Anne-Marie had a new wickedness about her–a wickedness compounded by how great she looked in her dresses–which made the audience gasp. Darren has, almost from the first, been flawless, and for the first time everyone was on his level. Bill’s bishop looked sorrowful for the evil he was doing with outward glee, and that is better than any direction he was ever given. The playwright is the last person to ask about the play on opening night, and, if the truth be told, I’m a little sick of it, and will have to build new enthusiasm for New York, BUT, not once did I cringe or wish I’d written a passage otherwise. Some people said, "This is the best play I’ve ever seen in Asheville." I hope those people were frequent theater-goers. It might have been. What little objectivity I could muster suggested it was damn good.

A couple did walk out, the man saying loudly, "I’ve had enough of this!" when Edward and Gaveston kissed in the first scene. I’d seen them come in, though, and saw in the man’s eyes that he was there to do just what he did, to make a statement, to demand his money back and stomp out, momentarily destroying other people’s enjoyment, if possible. I followed them into the foyer so the ticket girl didn’t have to bear the brunt of it. The man, who knew from my pre-show speech that I was the playwright, said, "This is disgusting. I want my money back." I gave it to him. The wife was crying. She was mortified, and reached out and touched my arm with her hand. I suppose I’ve done the same sort of thing, attended some function or other just so I could make a scene. I don’t remember it. I hope I didn’t look quite so ridiculous.

Mickey is the tide upon which all this rose. I watched her attending to the details-- thinking of everything, doing everything-- with an emotion of amazement and gratitude. I remembered myself doing the same in the past, but I think that time is gone. I am a playwright now, or an actor, but the production end of things has settled, I think, permanently on other shoulders. I’ve stopped seeing the details which must be attended to. I say too often, "Oh, just let it pass. Do something simpler." I see the play and think the play is words, and, whether it is or not, that now must be my purlieu. Mickey and I quarreled briefly in the midst of the tension before curtain, and she said, "I want you to know that every bit of effort by everybody on this show has been for you." At that moment, things were going so determinedly against my desire that I couldn’t see how it could be true, but what if, in a larger sense, it was the case? Then no gratitude would be enough. One would cripple oneself going around whispering, "but why?"

Party at the Usual afterward. I was happy.
February 15, 2008

Email from Virginia Premiere Theatre--

Robert Ruffin
Producing Artistic Director
Virginia Premiere Theatre

I have just finished reading "Doing Oberon". It's a gorgeous piece of work the quality of which I rarely see. I'm not sure it's right for our audience, however, and so will pass it to my Producing Director to get her input. In the meantime, I would gladly review anything else you would like to send with cast size no more than five. I am particularly looking for a comedy or pocket musical for spring '09, but am also thinking about 2010. For your records we have changed our name from Playwrights Premiere Theatre to Virginia Premiere Theatre.

I asked why it wasn't right for his audience, and he e-mailed that his audience doesn't know how to follow a piece which really has no plot. I suppose he's right. I never think of that. I think every moment has its plot.

Dress rehearsal last night involved a still-unfinished set, no scrims, no "performance art" by Lyle, and a cast trying as valiantly as they could, but unable, I think, to make up the calculus of the lost rehearsal time. We need two more nights onstage, full tech up and ready, to be presentable. We open tonight. This is ironic since we’ve had the longest rehearsal period of any play in the world, but no amount of rehearsal makes up for last-minute mayhem in the physical space.

Everyone tells me everything will be fine tonight. The quality of this day depends on my believing them, so–
February 14, 2008

Edward the King opens tomorrow night. Last night M canceled rehearsal because the set was not ready. On one level I understand the concept, "What has to be done has to be done," but that too often involves a situation in which one person has mangled his duty so much and so long that it, finally, becomes everybody’s problem. The play was written so it could be played on a bare stage with a few pieces of furniture. Ride it out. . . ride it out. . . .

Mickey gave me a white toy dog which I have named Marlowe after the presiding spirit of the enterprise. My former students Jen and Marshall left a valentine in my mailbox, ostensible sent by William Blake. I’d forgotten it was Valentine’s day. I hope nobody was expecting chocolates from me, for they didn’t get it. I sent flowers to someone once on Valentine’s day, long ago. I remember it now as though it were some sort of tragedy.
February 13, 2008

Rainy, chill morning. Last night’s tech rehearsal of Edward was a little horrifying, but I’m going to suppose, for the moment, that it was meant to be, and that all will be well tonight.

My own position is a little awkward. I see things that are wrong, or which could be better, but which battles are worth fighting? And does the fact that I see them wrong make them wrong, or part of some larger harmony that would be marred if I interfered? I am one of those artists who is willing for my own vision to be compromised on some particular occasion if it means the realization of the visions of others, but when that is happening and when something is simply wrong is not so easy to tell. The article that appeared on us in Mountain Xpress was a little odd–and misquoted Mickey and me lavishly–but good enough, and will probably attract the curious to the theater door.

Note from MM, student in poetry class, who claims he is so enraptured by me that he had to miss class in order fully to contemplate my uniqueness. He hands in, for an exam, a piece of wood, a length of cardboard painted to look sort of like the back of an alligator, and a mixed CD of. . . I suppose. . . his favorite rap artists. Explanation of all that in this morning’s e-mail. Maybe it’s well that he missed the class he did, for it was John Donne, and it might have sent him over the edge.
February 12, 2008

It’s already hours into the morning, and I have done almost nothing but the little chores necessary to start a day like today–dealing with the cats, readying correspondence to be mailed, clearing and answering e-mail. It’s no way to live. We all say that, and keep on living just the same.

Load-in at the Arts Center last night. I admire the patience of people like Ben and Mike C, crawling under platforms and drilling patiently away when I would long since have burst into tears of frustration. Maturity is the process by which we learn what we should not be doing. The Arts Center has been hugely generous. I am stunned by generosity aimed at me–though, perhaps, that’s the proper reaction.

Three big lecture classes in a day are too much. One is dazed, though not totally in a bad way–dazed sometimes by the beauty and acuity of student response, which requires more time than you have to sort, to fully understand, to prepare some manner of reaction. Brian is smitten by Shelley, and stops me on the quad to ask why he shouldn’t leave school right now to take in as much beauty, as much awful loveliness, as he possibly can. I make the lame–if true–observation that much beauty lies behind the walls of the library, and there’s no reason not to start there. But Shelley’s whirlwinds and earthquake daemons are still thundering in his ears, and nothing can outshout them. We talk of the infinite storm of beauty, and I myself am so moved that I can hardly speak.

Last night we talked of Donne, and a boy with tears in his eyes says he’s an atheist, but because of Donne he wants to love God so much–if only he could be convinced there was one. There is matter for a story– the lover seeking a lover whom he cannot believe exists.

I fight too hard for things that matter too little. I can release a bolt of heavenly fire in a classroom at will, and I almost never mention it.

Monday, February 11, 2008

February 11, 2008

Golden crocuses bloom along the front walk. They bloom in a straight line; I must have been manifesting by inner Virgo on the day I planted them. Buds appeared on the lenten roses on Ash Wednesday.

Playwright's Notes

February 10, 2008

Curved moon in the cold sky, great wind filling the void.

Stephanie asked me for a playwright’s statement for the program. This is what I sent:

Playwright's Notes

In addition to writing plays, I teach the writing of them, and one of the hardest things to convey to students is that when it is going right, it is also going easy. Each of the plays in this series, Edward the King, Gilgamesh, and Hat, was written in two or three weeks (though Gilgamesh has since been revised into a full-length play), amid the myriad distractions and demands of ordinary life. This is not to brag on my own prowess as an author, but rather on the insistent desire of the material to be known. The lines flowed from my fingertips onto the computer screen because they wanted to be said. I am grateful to that joyful fluidity, as well as still being a little amazed by it. I’ve worked on other pieces for long months, and I’m hard put to see that the intense and prolonged labor invested in them made them any better than those where I simply waited for internal necessity to flower forth almost (but not quite) automatically.

I want to thank Bruce Robert Harris and Jack Batman who plucked Edward the King out of the slushpile and gave it a staged reading at Gayfest in New York last spring, and a full production to open the GayfestNYC festivities this May. I want to thank them for the obvious reasons, but also because on opening night the play ended just after ten and I didn’t get back to my hotel room until 3 AM, having walked all the blocks around Broadway and 7th Avenue fifty times, wallowing in the effervescent, silly-making happiness of the moment. I want to thank my partner in this enterprise, Mickey Hanley, for having the idea to do this festival, or, rather, the conviction that it actually could be done. She is one of the best directors I know, and the iffy proposition of co-directing ended up easy, because everything she did was right, and where I needed to put my two cents in, she was patient. Additionally, I would never have thought to write of Queen Hatshepsut if she hadn’t put the idea in my head. Please, if you have ideas for plays, tell your playwright friends. Writing is effortless compared to the strain of getting ideas for what to write.

My actors are what you’re going to see on stage filling their mouths with my words, and I reserve a full measure of love and respect for them. I can’t imagine them being any better-- inventive and perceptive, skilled and adaptable, scandalously good-looking. If I write a better play next time, it will be because I know there are actors who can act it.

Finally, I want to thank Asheville, because–let’s face it–in what other city with fewer than two million people could something like Crown of Shadows happen? You can go to NC Stage one night, ACT another, Enigmatic a third, and see such radical visions that you might as well be on different planets. It’s a great way to live. Really.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

February 9, 2008

Milky yellow dawn sky.

Invited to two parties last night. The impulse was, of course, to go to neither, but I forced myself, after rehearsal, into a festive mood. I crossed the mountain on foot to get to Ed’s house on Hy-Vu, on those unlit mountain streets which are by night very dark indeed. Had I been traveling by the stars, all had been well, for the air was better than clear, and seemed to magnify the tiny white fires above, and the night stood still and cool and beautiful. Ed phoned while I thrashed through the darkest of the dark passages. Although I was on the right path, it seemed I wasn’t, and he came part way up the street to meet me. Ed’s is everyone’s strong friend, a bulwark, dependable and loving. I do not know where he finds the fortitude, let alone the time. I wonder if he knows I have written sonnets about him? And how deeply comforting is the cell phone ringing in your pocket when it’s pitch around you and you’ve been going uphill for a long time. Ed’s party was full of people I should have known, or did know at one time. One woman discoursed at length about my yard, saying, "it’s beautiful, but it’s definitely not the yard of a Virgo."

Wound then back down to Lakeshore, where Darren and his roommates were having a party at the house that’s numbered wrong. The local theater scene was there, doing jello shots under ropes of red lights. It was all much merrier and more innocent than the debauch I was led to expect. Came home. I don’t know what happened then. But I awoke in my own bed, with a headache and the cats impatient for breakfast.

I’ve vowed to stay put during Spring Break, needing to pay off credit card debt, needing to paint toward my show in September, looking toward a summer of who knows how much necessary travel. Nevertheless, my fingers walked me to the flight sites, and a heard myself saying that a week in London was less than my State tax return, and the like. I have not succumbed, but the effort not to is surprising. Travel is the one thing which makes me predictably happy. Well, sex and a new production, but it’s harder to plan for those.
February 7, 2008

DJ and I ate at the Usual last night, and when we came out there was a bouquet of yellow violas on top of his car, with dirt still firm around the roots and scattered over the roof of the car, as though some one had thrown a pot of flowers, or as though a pot had leapt from one of the windows of the building, though there was no sign of the pot, and the car was undamaged. There was enough dirt and the flowers were fresh enough that I planted them when we got home, in the rain and the dark, thinking they must be a message from someone, a message, since so mysterious, certainly incomplete.

Mickey and I presented Crown of Shadows on the radio yesterday morning. Witnesses suggest it went well. Mickey’s street-girl demeanor makes her eloquence the more impressive.
February 6, 2008

Jocasta was fighting with something under the rhododendron bush in the dark of the morning. I ran out and rescued her. She seems to be unscathed. She alone of all of us has tales to tell of the dark with the stars moving over and the strange things stirring in the shadows.

I do realize that I have spent a whopping portion of the energy of my life trying to grab more than was, evidently, meant for me. And I suppose furthermore that this has been a sin. I would consider it one myself if I stood outside of it. But it is also true that almost all the happiness I have known has occurred in that illicit realm, when I worked outside of the box that had my name on it. What should I think of this? That I have done well to refuse restraints? That I was meant to make a new world for myself, and I almost did? That I have invited ruin and sorrow by forcing my way into places where I was not meant to go? Even poetry seems like a jewel stolen from a treasury when I was very young. In my defense, I thought the treasures were meant for me. The lid was open. I thought we were meant to delight, and choose.

Ed C phones last night to invite me to a party. It seems like a voice from another world, the one I mention above, where I passed like a shadow, never at home.

Mardi Gras celebrated at the Usual with the Hat cast and their friends.

Evening: the day turned out to be a good one. Good workout at the Y. Went to the studio and painted almost to my heart’s content.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

February 5, 2008

Mardi Gras. J gave me a string of purple beads for showing him my bare chest, and I wore them all day.
February 4, 2008

Retiring in exhaustion early means rising early in cold indecision, and here I am.

Reading from A Dream of Adonis at Malaprop’s yesterday. I guess it went well. Friendly faces, an attentive front row, who cried "Yes!" when I asked if they wanted to hear the poem with cuss words in it. Of my cast, Stephanie appeared. I think there was a Superbowl party.

I’m in a frenzy about my career, a frenzy which gets worse as time goes on-- or, as I should say, as time diminishes--and yet I seem not to do those things which would further it. I should have gone to AWP, but didn’t. I should be reading in New York, but am not. Wherever I read, I’m widely the best, but that seems not to lead to anything. People don’t remember. "Best" is not what they’re looking for, or something they mistrust because it’s not what they wanted it to be. I haven’t the correct sense to further myself, and no one has ever helped me. Probably I never let anyone think I needed it.

Part of the darkness of the present moment is the fact that I can’t– and I have tried to–get over the betrayals at UNCA. I love my students, but the institution has finally defeated me. W’s once-intimate face become a stone wall, become a mask telling me that nothing can be done, when I know that full justice could be done if anybody wanted it. L’s stupid, art-murdering, energy-squandering face making decisions that affect my life and drifting there above the couch amid its mass of shining hair as if her authority were anything beyond a mass of shining hair. The only thing left is to strike hard and undo what can be undone, but that spirit is not, at the moment, in me. Defeated this morning, and I rose early, so it will be a long morning and a long defeat.

Why can I shrug some things off, and others not? I can shrug those things off which were a hazard, or about which really nothing can be done. Thefts and betrayals I cannot shrug off, especially those which could be redressed and aren’t.

But Kit sends me a book of Irish history.

Music of Anuna on the computer.

Registered to go to Miami with Cantaria this summer. This instead of Cambridge. Miami in July seems madness, but I’m a creature of the heat, so perhaps I’ll find my element.

One Hundred Aspects of the Moon arrives from Dublin.

If some good angel sat me down and said, "All right, then, what exactly is it that you want?" would I be able to tell him?
Yes, I guess I would.

Maud’s fascination with fluid dynamics is profound. If anything is drained, flushed, or run, she is there to watch.
February 2, 2008

Got through yesterday. Bright yellow-gray outside the window, the profile of a cardinal tail-flicking on a telephone wire.

Excellent run-through of Gilgamesh. Mickey said (of Edward) "I don’t know how your New York cast can be any better than ours," and I must admit I now forget how they were better. I hope soon to be reminded. But the fact is, I’ve never seen such consistently fine performances from a cast, certainly never in one of my works, done locally, and never under such outsized conditions. Each time they discover something new, do something old better. Unless something unforeseen happens, we are going to have a sensational run. Of course something unforeseen can happen in the other direction, and we have a legendary run.

Found a way to get back into communication with Ann.

I have sworn on nine gods to make it to the studio today.

Resurrecting Sea’s Edge.

Shane McGowan on the CD.
February 1, 2008

Danny Hamm’s Christmas card is returned marked "Moved."

By this minute’s count I have six appointments to meet today, not including, class, having canceled two others, and four of them happen at approximately, or exactly, the same time.