Wednesday, June 29, 2011


June 29, 2011

Morning new-washed after yesterday’s rain. I don’t recall ever hearing thunder in England before, but there was plenty of it then.

Deriving joy from companionship with my students. Either because of them or because of me this never happened before to the same degree. Cooked a vat of chili last night in the sad little kitchen on our floor, and delighted to watch them gobble it down. They bought ice-cream, and served out huge helpings for dessert. It’s one thing to try to keep up with 20-year-olds in physical exertion; it’s quite another to do so in eating, and I fear I must surrender at the outset. I must also set aside the thought of how much this makes me miss not being a father. I suppose I am one, for a little time.

J reports the first sexual encounter, with a barmaid at the Pickerel. Huzzah! we all cried. He is the same who reports that when he interviewed for this program, saw that the interviewers were women and whispered to himself, “I’m in!”

Nightmares, two of them, very similar. In the first I was playing a part in King Lear, Edmund or Edgar I think, and had missed many rehearsals, and arrived on the night of dress rehearsal mortified that I did not know my lines. I thought that if I could just read over them they might come back to me, but I couldn’t find a script. I searched and searched, but there was no script. The saving thought came to me, “This is just a dream,” but the dream answered, “No, this time it is real.” I woke, and after a while I dreamed again. This time Chall was directing a one-act with himself and me as actors, and, again, I had not learned my lines. I asked to see a script, but one could not be found. When I located documents that looked like the script, they were printed with gibberish I didn’t understand. Chall the whole time wore a mask of stony disapproval. Finally I said “where is my script?” and Chall said, “I threw it in the oven.” I looked at a burner that was on the scene, and pulled the script out, but it was covered with ashes, and, when I opened it, printed with the same gibberish as before. Again my subconscious argued that the horrible moment was real and I couldn’t just wake up from it. . . though I dd.


June 28, 2011

Good class yesterday, and early enough in the morning that all sound was not dissipated by the whirring of fans.

Sat at the table in the back garden as evening came on, with the tame blackbirds and thrushes moving close around me. One thrush had five flies in his beak. I wondered how he managed that, unless he killed each and stacked them up before pursuing another. Gentle creatures, almost near enough to touch. Downtown with Rob and three students afterwards. It was a marvelous, carefree time, and made me consider how infrequently I have a marvelous, carefree time, and yet how much more often that is than most men beyond the age of thirty. For every complaint I have about my life, an onlooker can probably find a blessing. It is irritating. We laughed and shouted and staggered home. Cooked a pot of chili tonight for the same students, who claimed to have been deceived into not bringing enough money for suppers.

Presentations on Newton in class, a personality so complicated even so many perspectives don’t bring it quite into focus. The five math majors came very close to explaining calculus to me. Newton’s one recorded motion in Parliament was to have a window shut.

Continuing devastating news from outside, and yet the only salvation is good news from outside, so one cannot completely turn away.

Monday, June 27, 2011


June 27, 2011

Lovely thicket outside my window, which the cunning gardeners let grow to protect privacy and limit access to the ground floor: two kinds of ilex, a wispy beech, several kinds of shrubs, a laurel struggling to surmount it all, loud with birds at morning and evening. It is far less bug-infested than such a place would be in Carolina, though in the morning one sees battalions of slugs feasting on the fallen of the night..

Today looks like a slightly dimmer version of yesterday, which was hot and brilliant, the light actually painful when taken full-on. After classes I wandered through the greens, then way up Trumpington Road and back. It being a beautiful Sunday, Jesus Green was filled with half naked kids playing and lying about and cooking on portable aluminum grills. An Italian girl slapped her boyfriend, hard. He simply turned and walked away, his male friend coming, astonished in his wake. She went back to the group and taunted another boy into wrestling with her. As I passed under the great aisles of plane trees a sadness came over me which was at odds with the brilliance of the evening. I remembered passing the same way under starlight, sometimes the stars of morning, sometimes the stars of night, full of ideas of destiny, which seemed itself an overarching firmament that there would be no end of. And now it is forty years later, and the flaming dome is no closer than it ever was, and to my longing is added perplexity, that all that just and able labor has come, essentially, to nothing. I may be very far fom where I was, but I am no closer to where I want to be.


June 26, 2011

All ensconced at Lucy Cavendish without much ado, except that Bethany seems to have lost her passport. I’ve “lost” my passport in my pocket in the past, so we have hope of retrieving it without a trip to the embassy. The kids seem to be happy with their digs. We all ate together at the County Arms last night, which was festive and binding. Scattered afterwards, several of us to the Pickerel, and then to the Eagle and Bath House. Rob and I came home to the experience of fireworks over the Backs. My first hours her were obliterated by fury over the inability to get my computer set up right, the wifi unusable and the ethernet connection requiring ever more precious degrees of adaptation. I was sick with rage at the end of it, and needed the drink. Several drinks. The attempt to keep up with the kids in respect of sheer animal energy will be the death of me.

Bethany finds her passport in her suitcase.

First classes taught, perspiring like a fountain in the box-of-sun class room.

Almost pathologically tired. Perhaps the entire London week unwinds inside me now.

The heroic friendship between John and Justin is group property, observed and cherished by all. People are capable of such gentleness toward each other, in this a gentleness without condescension, mutual and Olympian. Cambridge is exactly the place for such a relationship to play.

I am relieved to report that envy is pushed way to the rear of the emotions.

Sunday, June 26, 2011


June 25, 2011

Perfect performance of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead at the Haymarket last night. Made me envy all playwrights with perfect casts, perfect sets, perfect whatever it takes. The Haymarket is a little gold jewel of a theater. Rob and I took Celeste, John, Margaret, and Justin to O’Neills afterward, where there was much mirth. We staggered home and left the kids behind.
June 24, 2011

Last night at the Olivier it was a spectacular production of Ibsen’s Emperor or Galilean. The production could not have been more lavish, more indicative of a late work of an icon of the theater. The play itself is perplexing–not in its plot, for that was very clear-- but in knowing what impression one should come away with. It was the story of Julian the Apostate’s rise to and fall from power, and the problem is that every single character is insane. There are no opinions but violent ones, no options for action but bloody ones, no states of mind but hysteria. Where is one to find reason? “Away from these people” is the answer, I suppose, but what kind of playwriting is that? The opportunity is mitigated by Ibsen’s need to make a point, and making a point is ever the death of theater. The pagans are given the best argument, then hampered by having a megalomaniac as their spokesman. Emperor or Galilean is epic theater in several senses–one that it is grandiose and globe-spanning, but negatively in the fact that there are no human emotions recognizable on stage. There are Olympian gestures and titanic flight of rhetoric in which one may distantly recognize one’s emotions, but there is no real tragedy because there is no identification. It’s a battle of Christians and Pagan done in marble on a temple wall. Not that it wasn’t fascinating–it was–but that it makes a show of itself rather than offering anything to an audience. Julian’s sense of betrayal by Christ is fertile ground–which I might fully have shared–except that it becomes just one more moment of hysteria, as likely to be a delusion as a perception. A gorgeous evening, if of a play torn apart by its own inflexible intentions.

Met Rob in the street, and we went to O’Neills for drinks. We talked mostly about the ruin–so long in the making nobody remembers when it was not ruinous–of the Drama department, and about the jaw-dropping arrogance and ineptness of university administration.

Afternoon. Lovely slow breakfast coffee at a sun-drenched table across from the Philharmonic offices. Wandered then about London. Turns through Soho and Covent Garden. Decided against a 120 pound opera ticket, not sure whether I could stand that much Massenet. Wandered to a wonderful restaurant called Le Garrick, on Garrick Street, across from the famed Garrick Club. The “director” was a personable Basque named Lepelletier Charles, who took a liking to me, chatting me up, and bringing me a second entre to sample when the one I ordered was finished. What a ordered was a duck comfit with a kind of thick bean stew. What he added to it was black pudding and apples, and each was delicious, subtle and assertive in alternating bites. I am not the great gourmet of my time, but I’d recommend the place to anybody. And I will probably never need to eat again.


June 23, 2011

Morning. I have had my coffee at a little café I wandered to, on one of these lovely streets I never seem to have occasion to explore. Meet the kids in an hour. The sky is dappled with light and cloud, exactly the kind of day you cannot figure out whether rain or shine.

Last night at the Wyndham’s, Much Ado about Nothing. The production was a little over-wrought, but that turned out to be a quality rather than a deficit. It was accessible, radiant, joyful. It was expressed like a TV show, in the best possible way, with all of that medium’s immediacy and low humanity. Beatrice was a bit of a hag, and clearly twenty years Benedick’s senior, but that folded into the radiance and all was well. It was the first production I’ve seen which allowed Claudio to look like more than a stupid boy, doing so by giving him a scene of silent anguish-- which Shakespeare might have done himself–who knows? Benedick was David Tennant, a recent Dr. Who, and he may have been the reason why the theater was packed and why I could only get a ticket in the wheelchair accessible box with a door that opens from the street. Whatever the draw, the huge crowd laughed uproariously at all the right places. No one had told them this was not a popular entertainment. The usher staff at the Wyndam was kind and gracious, which must be noted, and helped the man who was really in a wheelchair in and out with undramatic solicitude. This Much Ado joins the select ranks of those productions– The Tempest at the Globe, Playboy at the Abbey, Othello at the Trafalgar– which made me weep in gratitude. The woman to my right is a grad student at USC here for a year to study at the London School of Economics, and an autograph collector who was laying her nets for Mr. Tennant.

I remembered good company at O’Neills on Great Queen (I think it is) from the last time, so I stopped there, and it was golden again. Many beautiful young women– I mean shockingly beautiful, from svelte golden goddesses to sultry deep-bosomed Hispanics with hair like night. It must have been a convention of Dryads, out of the woods and into the city for a night of theater. The man to my left is a businessman who had been to most states, except North Carolina, including the Goodyear plant in Topeka. When I told him Goodyear had been my first employment, he remarked on the littleness of the world. His name is Mark. Vomited copiously on the way home, behind such cover as I could find in this over-lit city. When I came through the door, Rob informed me that John was unaccounted for. I assumed nothing could be done right then. If he is not at roll-call this morning, a new drama opens.

A happy baby lives in the flat across the way. Its laughter lights up the air

Afternoon. Took my charges down Farringdon to St Paul’s, where they climbed up into the dome, and I did not. We are not set up so that I get their impressions of things immediately; I hope the impressions filter down in time, so I know if they were changed or delighted in ways that did not spill out of them immediately. There was a military service in the crypt, with prayers and men at attention and, eventually, a trumpet. Across the Millennium Bridge– everyone calls it the Harry Potter Bridge– to the Tate Modern, where I set them at liberty, essentially until Saturday morning. The special exhibit at the Tate is Miro, who delights me more deeply and more consistently than most of the Moderns, whom I always find radiant and soulful and worth contemplation. As well as an encouragement to my own work. The Miros made me happier than anything yet on this British sojourn– except maybe the discovery that my students are sweet, and respectful of where they are and what they are seeing, which was not notably the case last year.

Romans are suave. Florentines are aristocratic. Dubliners are soulful. Londoners are fun.

John had come safely home even before I was alerted to the situation, as the marrow of me assumed.

No internet access here. Not sure whether that is a good thing or a bad thing. It keeps me from worry, but it also makes me worry about things which, maybe, I should be attending to.


June 22, 2011

Last night we went as a group to Drury Lane to see Warhorse, which is affecting and decent without being the future of theater. I hoped to get through it without sobbing out loud, yet no one could accuse it of sentimentality, for the horrors of the war it depicts are not exaggerated by one shade. We would never stop weeping if we could see every human life rendered as a script. The odd thing is, though I had seen the show before, I forgot that it had a happy ending.

I gave them money for tickets at the half price stands, and we all scatter to the winds tonight to enjoy our separate choices. I left Leicester Square to go directly to the theater to get the last ticket they had–some weird box somewhere, for Much Ado about Nothing. Late drinks with Teddy last night, who said he lives on the Masculinity Floor at Western. I supposed you go about. . . being masculine. . . Mortification seemed to steal his tongue when he tried to explain it. He’s the stranger, and yet his sweetness and attentiveness is making him friends fast. Halcy is this year’s Graelin, the fast-walking independent girl whose leadership qualities are at one wearying and gratifying. When someone is astray I ask, “Is she with Halcy?” and if the answer is yes, I stop worrying.

We spent the late morning and early afternoon at the National Gallery. I told myself I’d be back twice more in a month, and so have no anxiety about seeing everything. The kids’ enthusiasm fed mine, and I remembered what a treasure house it is. Norwegian paintings with fine detail of the natural world. The Nordic and Germanic in art answers the specificity of my soul. Discovered the way I want to look in a painting by Veneto, a Renaissance prince all beauty and attitude, with clothing of almost too much splendor even for him to pull off.

Bought an umbrella and the rains stopped. Magic is alive


June 21, 2011

Apartment 15, Crawford Place, London. It’s the same apartment I inhabited a year ago, though downstairs rather than up, an occasion for nostalgia. All made it across the water without incident, in what Rob remarked was a comfortable ride. Read from my Kindle a book about the making of the movie Jaws, and studied Italian. Some of those who were going to precede us and meet us here got tangled in the incompetence of the airline and rode with us anyway. Individuals are forming in my mind, though the names keep rolling off into the air. Too many names we never heard of back in our day. Train from Gatwick to St. Pancras, then we walked, hauling our luggage, to Bedford Place to store our bags. In the hours we had to kill while Acorn readied our digs, I led them to the British Museum, though I know plenty of them did something other (ate lunch, explored) than wander through those sanctified rooms. I visited my favorites and then sat in the café, paralyzed with exhaustion, watching the passing show. Watched a man’s coffee while he bought a book; when he returned we had a surprisingly long discussion about the virtues of frugality.

Toward London

June 20, 2011

Asheville airport. Half an hour before I was to leave for the airport, I discovered that the entire folder “Novels” had disappeared from my computer.. Every novel I had ever written is gone. The folder was not in the trash bin, so I had not deleted it accidentally. I looked in every other folder to see if I had moved it (unconsciously) somewhere else. Nothing. All my novels are gone, and the AWP judge wanting on email for me to send yet another version of Riding Fun House. So, I turn to Carbonite, but Carbonite had already backed up for the day, and backed up a documents list without the novels. I am utterly lost and annihilated, and already on the road, so if I think of a possible solution, that solution cannot be tried. The Lord is mighty indeed.

Friday, June 17, 2011

June 17, 2011

Some hoarse bird doing his best to call from the rose tangle.

Strangely lyrical, mystical day. Began it sleepy and worn out, some from the concert last night, mostly from the mental strife of the last few weeks. But I cleaned off the little table on the front porch and sat down with my notebook and began to write, and the focus shifted to something dreamy, misty, silvery, like looking at my garden through the subtlest panes of glass, that lent a little radiance to the objects visible in them. The goldfinches were mystical presences, almost exactly the color of the towers of mullein they rested in. When they sang, their little chests throbbed with the effort. Here are so many of them. Maybe it’s the mullein which draws them. I wrote poetry in the diary I bought to keep track of my investments in. I thought this was amusing. I stopped keeping daily accounts in February, because sometimes it was depressing and sometimes it was falsely exhilarating, and keeping daily accounts (as my father did) was putting it too close to the center of my being. The poetry flowed, and I was happy. When the poetry finished, I read my ballet book, and the goldfinches sang, and a chipmunk nibbled near my toes as if I wasn’t there. If I thought of the past or the future, I sank down toward despair. But as long as I kept in the present soft moment, all was well, as it continues to be now.

I felt I was Nijinsky, probably inspired by the ballet book, feeling the summer afternoon the way he felt it.

Near to finishing my article on Pound for The Asheville Poetry Review.

Casey is writing brilliant fiction in a new blog of his.

Wrote a blurb for a book by Donna Cowan, who professes to be a fan of mine. Luckily, the book was good.

Thought of when I was in the first grade and we were told we were about to learn to read. Mother had been away so long, and the first thing I thought was that maybe I could be with her more if I could read to her while she was sick, as they did in the movies. The image of me reading and her lying in bed under a red quilt is as vivid today as it was then. It never happened.

Daniel’s love affair on the ship put me in mind of my own first love, the one about which no word could be spoken except through the labyrinth of poetry. Leaving camp that last day, Stephen invited me to meet his father. I slid into the back seat of their car. Everything was cream and beige and pale. His father sat in the front seat, blond, sculpted, the most beautiful man I had ever seen. He said, “Stephen has told me all about you.”
“Yes sir.”
“He says you want to be a writer, just like me.”
“Yes sir.”
“Well, I know from what he’d told me, you are going to to be one, and Stephen will be proud.”
Then I got out of the car. But those, maybe, three minutes undid me forever. I wanted to be Stephen’s brother, with Stephen’s glorious father as my father. I wanted with desperate desire what I had known for no longer than the conversation recorded above. I think even now if I could go back and live that life, if I could have crawled in the creamy back seat and been whisked away, all might have been. . . . immensely, unimaginably well.

I have looked up every possible Maltby. They all seem to be British, none writers, few the right age, none in the right place at the right time. Did I get the name wrong? I doubt it.

Is Stephen proud of me? Would I ever be able to find him to find out? I cherish the hope that he would remember me. If not, the shock would not be that great, though the sorrow would.

The entire book Riding Funhouse is written about finding him, a fact of which I was–amazingly–unconscious through the process.

Some door is open, and I am letting everything through.

One student alone has not turned her humanities paper in on the due date. She is the one who always has a problem, who doesn’t understand, who is put upon and unprepared, who wanted people to carry her extra luggage, who has dropped my classes three times because “I don’t know how to pass a class of yours.” Now she is trapped. I’d put money on the paper appearing at one minute to midnight, with a note reading, “You said the 17th!.” the Greeks were right. Most of us act the way we act no matter what.

Some of us do not.

It is not yet quite evening.
June 16, 2011

Bloom’s Day. Bright and coolish today, washed last night by the most welcome and prolonged rains.

Recent days have been hard. Last night I was in bed by 8, worn out by depression and sadness, which are more debilitating than any labor. I was prepared to lay out my cry to heaven, but now that I’m actually behind the keyboard it seems too exhausting, too pointless. The tragedy is for the moment out of it, and all that’s left is whining. What I can say is that my life-long resilience has been a form of idiocy.

A more immediate foe is the university accounts payable system, which makes the Cambridge trip problematic. In its own mind it is not doing so, but merely making sure the funds are available only in what they imagine to be good time. The very fact that their delusions in this matter go uncorrected shows the inadequacy of the system. I don’t deal with the financial side of the institution very much, but when I do I am astonished by two things. The first is that the system is a kind of mystery religion, Masonic, hierarchical, autocratic, obscurantist, superstitious, forgetful of its own actual original function. The second is that otherwise reasonable people allow it to be this way. One’s complaint is acknowledged as valid, but then one is told that the “rules” dictate the situation, and however contrary to reason those rules are, there seems to be no way of countermanding them, nor, it seems, has anyone asked. When one inquires who made the rules and how they may be approached, nobody rightly knows. What they do manage to say is the exact secular equivalent of “God wills it” with the exact same measure of superstitious acquiescence. The hierarchy is mystical and invisible; the one causing the trouble is never present to be dealt with. That this is meant to be an educational experience would not be guessed by an outside observer. Actual delivery of curriculum is never mentioned. Anyone would assume it’s all about how an institution keeps money from being misspent, how it assumes everyone is going to steal if given their head. What they want is to send along one of their accountants to carry the credit card and make all the financial decisions, and I would be perfectly happy for it to be that way. But they do not commit to this scenario. They are instead forced to pretend that they trust the faculty, while throwing every possible block in their path. Like many compromises, it is worse than either extreme would have been.

Late afternoon: limpid light on the garden, a few birds going cheep. . . cheep. . . as though mumbling in their sleep. Concert in three hours.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

June 14, 2011

Kenny’s bookstore in Galway sends my a copy of Bridge’s The Chilswell Book of English Poetry, which was owned by D Carroll of St. Kieran’s College. Kilkenny. The date by the name is April 26, 1930.

Kimberly Avenue is lined with flags for Flag Day, a holiday otherwise little honored. Very festive.

R, who has been sitting on Earthly Power for three years, finally writes from Ford’s Theater:

*I finally got around to reading your rewrite of Earthly Power. Nice work. There is some truly beautiful writing in the piece, and the structure is lovely.

*I wanted to let you know that I’m leaving Ford’s at the end of June to take a teaching position in California. They don’t expect to have a replacement in place until September. I’m trying to give my successor as clean a plate as possible, but I will be leaving behind a few special scripts for consideration, and I will be including yours in that select group.

I tugged my forelock and thanked him kindly for his trouble. It may not be true that you can’t win, but it is certainly true that you don’t.

Vance must actually be on, for they have asked me for bio and head shot.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

June 13, 2011

The roofers are busy on Carolyn’s house just outside my study window, so I have to be careful how I curse at the printer and the Internet.

Grueling Sunday just past, singing for three services and the last full Cantaria rehearsal before the dress, and then the concert. Anxiety over missing the studio stroll dissipated because I couldn’t have mounted those broiling stairs anyway. Vomited during Cantaria (no one knew) and, when I finally came home, tightness in my chest hinted to me that I was having a heart attack. Even when I found that the tightness in my chest was exactly that, a cramping muscle that I worked out with my fingers, anxiety did not fully pass away. I slept fine, but with a strange dream. I was following somebody in my car in Cuyahoga Falls, when I missed a turn. The streets were very wide and made of red brick. I was backing up to make the right turn, when I saw an accident happening in my rearview mirror. A convertible car flipped over and a teenage boy came tumbling out. I backed up to help him, but he had turned into a talking cat. The cat was incoherent, but apparently not badly hurt. The owners of the cat came up and assured me he was OK, and then we went driving all together, where, I am not sure. When I woke this morning I was still anxious about how I felt, so I did what I did after my heart surgery when I was feeling iffy. I went to the Y and ran flat out for 1.8 miles before I finished off jogging, then did an impressive weight set. Clearly I was not having a heart attack, and I feel better now than I have in days. I think the discomfort was pure anxiety, about the day, and more distantly about Cambridge, for which everything is almost, but not quite, ready.

The roofers are whistling along to my CD. They do not know they are whistling Lassus.

Monday, June 13, 2011

June 12, 2011

Relatively hellish day at the studio stroll yesterday; nevertheless, the fact that duties at church will keep me largely away from today’s round fills me with disappointment and anxiety. The hope of selling one piece at my ludicrously deflated prices is so tempting, such a seal on otherwise invisible effort, that I can barely resist abiding for hours in heat and boredom to allow it. Some interesting visitors–mostly kids, and Ed K, and Erica–but mostly hours of furtive painting and glancing out of my windows toward the real action. Did revise Michael Furey. Our parking lot was taken up with vendors, which infuriated me. This one weekend there should be no vendors but us.

Linda home with happy tales of the Caribbean cruise with the boys. Both found girlfriends, who themselves were best friends. They were love sick all day yesterday, the day of the parting from their new friends. It is dear and sweet only from this perspective. I remember it, and from that perspective it is agony. It is the first agony. I remember coming home from camp with that feeling, the two prongs of love and bereavement, only it was over a boy, and could not be spoken of, and all that emotion had to sink down inside and remain–but for poetry–mute. And in fact, that same week, lovesick and inarticulate, I wrote my first poem.

They won’t need take such a life-determining step.

The more I steep in the words just written, the more I understand one of the pivotal moments of my life– from the perspective of vocation. THE pivotal moment. Like Apollo plaiting Daphne’s branches, I came to art through thwarted love. My situation was more complicated that Apollo’s, though, for though he could sing directly of the thing lost, it would be decades before anyone could sing outright my song, and decades before I would know how to do it. All those pages of ancient poetry prepared one for something different. Whether the needful indirection was glory or tragedy cannot now be known. I think both.

Andy took the very day they returned to slap Linda with a subpoena to appear in court, where he intends to cut child support for his sons. He is an envious, warped, hypocritical creep, always going on mission journeys but damaging anyone who is actually within his grasp. Linda’s nature is excessively merciful. I heard myself hissing over the phone like some demon, “take the bastard for all that he’s worth.” But some do deserve to be taken for all they’re worth.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

June 11, 2011

Dawn before the summer gallery stroll. I think I’m as set up for I as I need to be.

Good production of The Glass Menagerie at NC Stage. Amanda was flawless. Some directorial or interpretive eccentricities, though new things must be tried so modern classics don’t become a kind of Chinese opera of received interpretations. JC and I did a panel discussion afterwards about the gay playwright. That was not the forum to get into it, but, if asked, I would have said that the time of the “gay playwright” is passed and I am not one. . . except for being gay and a playwright. . . a difficult concept to explain. What I aim for is an art where a gay character’s sexual identity is no more an issue than it is for Macbeth or Henry Higgins. The time of the how-heroic-it-is-to-come-out play or the we-are-all–girls-beneath-the-skin musical where the paramount of self-realization is to put on a bustier is gone, and I squirm when I have to sit through them. It’s like a black troupe thinking it must put on a minstrel show. Anyhow, we got through it, and had a drink across the street among all the rowdy 20 somethings. ID’s were being checked. The enormous tattooed bouncer scorned mine and said, “you’re great.” Those little daily heartbreaks. . . . .

Friday, June 10, 2011

June 9, 2011

The Saharan weather seems to have been good for the hydrangeas, which are blazing acid blue in the gray-yellow dawn.

Strangely healing dream. I was ranging over wide, rolling meadows when I came to a small forest, and in it a stone cave or grotto. At the mouth of the cave was a toad. The toad seemed very large sometimes, very small at other times. I picked the toad up, and carried it to house, and set it down in the anemone thicket on the terrace, where I thought it might be happy. At that moment began the most beautiful and soothing rain.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

June 7, 2011

Continuing heatwave/drought has me in the garden hosing and hosing, just hours before withering for some of my beleaguered charges. Rained for maybe a minute yesterday afternoon. Pulling gigantic weeds with roots big as my wrist. Dig down with the trowel and twist. Tiny tiny mosquitos leave wounds the size of nickels. It’s a jungle out there.

DJ and I watched A Room with a View and sighed for Florence.

Obsessed with finishing the revision of Night, Sleep, and the reworking of Love and War, now both, for the moment, accomplished. I can record life when it’s just life, but when I’m writing, hard, that energy gets sapped, and there is nothing on these pages to remember the hours by.
June 4, 2011

People come to my studio as I paint. They ask if it’s disturbing me, but it never is. I like it. A bunch of kids come from the Asheville High photography club. They are so cute I don’t know what to do with myself. One kid sees me dipping my paint into the turpentine I pour into condiment jars and says, eyes wide with astonishment, “You paint with pickle juice?” Couple from Durham, NH yesterday. She interprets one canvas as my analysis of the conflict between Muslims and Jews. The title?: A Dream of Florence.

Finished the rewrite of Night, Sleep. It is 25 pages longer than its previous form. I thought I had been mostly taking things out.

Late afternoon. One whole read-through of Night, Sleep was dedicated to removing the word “had.” Chopped out 103 instances, and probably missed a number.

Friday, June 3, 2011

June 2, 2011

Blast of heat, four days or so now. I don’t mind so much, but there is no keeping the gardens sufficiently watered.

Madly rewriting and revising Night, Sleep, and the Dreams of Lovers.. I don’t know why I have such a feeling of urgency; it’s not like anybody is waiting for it with hands outstretched. I’m amazed at how skeletal the earlier version was, a framework upon which a story was barely hung. I’m glad I hadn’t sent it out.

Chris offered me a ticket to Angie’s Coppelia at the Wortham, so I went. Sarah was Swanhilda, and outstanding at it. Her long strong arms lift her performances. The evening was magical in many ways. The corps was entirely children, but I’m not enough of a connoisseur for that to have made a difference. Have been reading Apollo’s Angels, so the history of this ballet and ballet in general was in my head as I watched. There was far more peasant girls prancing around on market day than I have a stomach for, but when it actually got to the story, it was told with dispatch and power. What I noticed last night was that the acting was excellent. A narrative was in fact being delivered without words. Mime and pantomime have bad names in the theater, and I suppose in many ways they should, but my mind was full of the possibilities of telling a story with the body alone, or using the eloquence of the body far more than it is on the modern dramatic stage. Why couldn’t actors and dancers have the same training in acting? The training of actors (I mean stage actors now) today is dismal, competing schools that glorify themselves to the detriment of the art. Screaming and slow-talking and emoting and God knows what. Can pantomime (in the balletic, non-idiotic sense) get back into the mix? One saw that the story ended with the violation of the doll; the fact that there was a whole act after that has historical significance, in that when this dance was born people were more interested in the spectacle of all those pretty girls showing their legs on stage than they were in the story. Modern dance had–but seems to have dodged–the opportunity to tell the story with power and skip the endless wedding dances. It went somewhere else, forgot half the things it has the power to express. I think this is what Yeats was groping for when he turned to the No.

The Asheville audience was, as ever, infantile and ignorant. How can a “city of the arts” have such barbaric audiences? The blue gleam of smart phones never quite left the theater–I wish my life were so momentous that I could never be parted from it for a second–and there came the dreaded, inevitable standing ovation, which is awarded here as an ignorant reflex and not for any special achievement. The theater was full of children, which is good in so many ways, but also surrounded one with squirming and petitions to go to the bathroom. Ran into Lyle and Alison. Alison looked like a movie star.

Ran into Susan, who was with a woman whose kids were playing in the Pack Square fountain.

Kelly gave me lettuce from her garden. Russell gave me a copy of his CD. He has one of those pure, American, young male Sunday-school going voices that one listens to partially with the conviction that listening will make one a better person.