Friday, May 31, 2013

May 31, 2013

Woke continuing out of sleep a sort of Beckett monolog– in the voice of David Thewlis–one thing linked to another with connections suggested but not explicit– but better than Beckett, of course, because Beckett was like one of those theaters making things worse because they cannot make them better. I never cover up my fear, my confusion. I dare, and dare, and things break around me. It was not like me at all, except that the materials of the monolog were things about me in the dark room, were events dragged in from other days, that were mine.

Wild with anxiety about Lincoln last night, for a few minutes last night. I have walked down every path. I have opened every door. That a man has no power, ultimately, over what happens to him is clearer to no one more than it is to me, Yet one tries. One opens the next door. One probes the night air for one more spirit to conjure, to plead to, to reason with.

I have not made the life I am living. People argue convincingly that one always makes the life one wants, and I smile, knowing how reasonable it is. But it is also wrong.

Brood over my lavender rose, watering, touching.

Had my afternoon at the ManSpa yesterday. It was luxury and sensation at the edges of my capacity.

So much to do, so few days to do it in before New York, London, which are in my head as I type.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

May 30, 2013

Bird-tweety AM. Kevin the frog a solemn basso beneath. I had decided to let the hybrid roses go as too much fuss, but the rose show at the Arboretum turned me around, and I went to the hardware store and bought the fertilizers and sprays you need to use. Acquired Sugar Moon, a stunning white rose, and planted it on the back terrace, having to gouge out the monoculture of anemones in order to do so. Transplanted beside Sugar Moon a lovely lavender rose that was doing badly. Fertilized and watered. Crossed my fingers. I keep remembering MG’s “Roses are not for you.”

Abundance rules all thing in the garden. I contemplate how to make that spill over into all life aspects.

More excited about Lincoln in New York as the time approaches. I usually try to tamp the excitement down. Not bothering this time. Something seems different . . . .

R came over late last night, and we became reacquainted.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

May 29, 2013

Fascinating meeting with SS. Part of it was a lesson–one which Blake would have appreciated–about mystery. SSS is hugely more direct, his ideas imbued with more coherence and principle, than I imagined when I was simply guessing what was on his mind. I think he felt the same about me, for he dreaded a meeting with me, assuming I was temperamental and guarded and resistant to suggestion. These qualities practically lead the parade of things I am NOT (well, I’m a little guarded), though he was not the first person to think so. I have the reputation of being scary n the theater, though not once have I thrown a public temper tantrum or even questioned direction from a director; never have I asserted, or believed, that my work was inerrant or above criticism and revision. We partially discussed a play which I sent to him unedited and unrevised, to prove the point that I could toss off a work better than their usual fare. This point was NOT proven. I had interpreted caution as antipathy; simply to have come out and asked would have been the nearer way.  SS takes as his models Moliere and Shakespeare. Though I never thought about it in that way, I suppose I take as my models Shakespeare and Peter Schaffer, though the second of those may change tomorrow. ANYWAY, a useful discussion, and one which made me consider that I have never systematically expressed my convictions about the theater, even to myself. Perhaps I am a little guarded. Well, toward the amending of this:


I desire a theater of elevated language, which catches the audience in a reality above, or at least outside of, their everyday existence. I believe this is necessary to awaken the mind to new adventures and the spirit to new perceptions. I have no use for theater which does not challenge. I have no use for theater that sounds the same every night, which is strictly under control, which expresses the playwright’s convictions or opinions rather than immortalizing his revelations.

I resist the label “poetic” theater only because it is too easy to assume that the poetry of a book or a reading is the same that works on stage, and that is not the case. The poetry of theater has a completely different rhythm and velocity. It is so hard to learn that most playwrights will not try, and rather mock those who do, as people do when others carry on a task which they have given up. Shakespeare is my obvious model.

Let us remember that Shakespeare was a popular entertainer, and remains so today. Not one Broadway headliner of today will outlast his own lifetime, I suspect, more than a generation, because we have forgotten, or been strenuously taught to forget, that lasting entertainment value is based on truth. With the example of the contemporary stage, one notes that truth and endurance are never companions to pandering.

I have no (or rather, little) patience with theater that does not change and elevate. I want actors who can deliver elevated speech in the most down-home and realistic manner possible, to underline the fact that revelation is the common property of all people at all times. I give the same advice to actors doing Shakespeare– when the language is wrought, the delivery must be plain, recognizable, without frills, as the austere setting of a priceless gem. The meaning of the words is all. I believe that audiences crave what I have just described without knowing it, because producers are so squeamish ( and superstitious) about what will “sell” that it is seldom properly sold. Even when it is staged it is wreathed with apologies, so people don’t assume the producers didn’t know better than to present such a high falutin’ piece of work. Most modern producers will do time in Purgatory for arrogantly underestimating the desire and hunger of their audience. I believe that Pericles would sell, if performed right, in a barn to an audience of farmers, for all souls hunger for paradise, and will follow whatever trail of crumbs might lead to it.

Sophistication is the enemy of the theater, for sophistication judges without experiencing. “Sophistication” in art is a tragedy and a delusion.

I take it as a deliberate quest to encourage the audience’s attention span and intensity of concentration, to vilify art which panders to diminished attention span or impatience with concentration. No one is bored in the theater unless someone is working too hard to ensure they are titillated every second.

The beauty of the play should catch the heart. We must prepare for some flops and disappointments at the outset, for people have been trained (partially by the theater industry) to equate beauty with elitism. If given their heads, an audience (though not necessarily producers or directors) will prefer good theater, the theater I have just described. Broadway juggernauts make money because they are expensive. We are telling the audience what the sophisticate would prefer by charging them astronomical prices. Nobody would see the recent crop of Broadway spectaculars if they hadn’t been expensive. This is not to encourage raising prices on holy theater; it is to say that judging worth on the basis of profit margin is–today–wholly specious, because the books are cooked, the data skewed. It is a set-up. Quality is objective. Sale-ability is completely unknowable and unpredictable, unless you manipulate wildly and wickedly.

I want what the people want: to be changed by beauty and truth. And if you’re scoffing right now, or smiling indulgently, know that you’ve bought into a deep evil.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

May 28, 2013

Redemptive dream before morning. I was returning to graduate school at Johns Hopkins. My first stay there was the first prolonged disaster of my real life, and in the dream I was morose, frightened, lonely, despairing. Ii didn’t know why I was even bothering.  had a file of all my former friends there, but I didn’t know how to contact any of them. I did score an excellent apartment, high on a hill in a row of fine houses. Dream Baltimore, now that I think of it, was like a gigantic Florence, with bridges covered with buildings spanning a great river. My spirits began to lift. I opened a file I had with the poems I’d started there and never finished, and saw that they were good, and I could finish them with little effort. They were also illustrated, in my notebooks, with Impressionist paintings. I began to make calls, and had unusual luck getting the things and people I wanted. Near the end, my best friend from that time (a dream friend not remembered from real life, but he resembled Russell) appeared, and I was embracing him as the dream faded. It was as though my dream consciousness meant to reach back and redeem my biography.

Slow Memorial Day. I watered the Roberts Street garden, painted well if briefly. Spent too much of the evening watching preposterous monster shows (Sharkoctopus, Megagator vs Dinocroc, etc) on TV. Rose from sleep twice with savage and unaccountable diarrhea.

Monday, May 27, 2013

May 27, 2013

Yesterday divided between wet and solemn, and cool, dry, blue, as recent days have been. The sky just before evening was blue agate, the calm almost supernatural. I sat at Edna’s and wrote poetry, then–freed from mass for a good long while, I think– went to the Arboretum. I wandered the maze of gardens near the Visitors’ Center. It was raining lightly, and all was cool, gray, muted green, the drops hanging in silent pearls from the edges of the plants. I thought it must be like those sections of paradise where souls go after violent death– soldiers blown up on the field, innocents murdered on the street or taken down in sinking ships. There they sit amid the quiet and the calm and the healing mist, until they are ready for the onslaught of full heaven. Right for Memorial Eve.

Had blundered in on the last day of the Rose Society’s rose exhibition. The scent hit you as you entered the doors. As I seem to have opened a paradisal theme, I might as well mention it. The room was almost impossible to get through– each new rose smote me as a masterpiece on the wall of a museum, perfection close following perfection. It was almost oppressive. I had to leave the room once in a while to clear my head. There is almost no point in writing about roses; the superlatives and comparisons were exhausted centuries ago. I wrote down a list of those I wanted for myself, though I know not where I’d put them, how I’d care for them. Do you adopt a coruscating spirit and expect it to prosper in your backyard? True, they prosper in somebody’s. There were green roses. There were orange and purple.

Thought in Edna’s: Reference to jazz in a poem by a white person is always a cry for help.

Arrived at the studio before anyone else was about. Painted happily, left, and still no one else had come. I devour my mornings fully.

Trinity Sunday. God is the kind of cruel lover who pursues you if you turn your back on him– I have the evidence of others to suggest this– but turns away laughing if he is pursued. He allows you to come close in secret only that he might betray you in public. A heartless coquette, he says “come hither” without ever intending to permit intimacy, he says “wait,” blazing his beauties in front of you, never intending that you touch or taste. He makes the invitation into your life a cause for the savage blow, close, where it counts, mortal, though you never seem quite to die of it. Love of God is the worst thing that ever happened to me.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

May 26, 2013

Bach on Spotify.

Cold kitchen light first after waking. The cats must be fed before the recording of dreams, before the taking of words into the mouth and fingertips.

The Roberts Street garden is accomplished, as much as it is likely to be before the autumn bulb time. Suggested, conceived, dared and done in five days.  Jolene got me an assistant yesterday, too late for anything but the spreading of mulch, but the mulch he did spread, so that was one task the less for me. Derek is a hairy young man with a GED and a five week old daughter named Lucia, with (the daughter in her photo) the most beautiful eyes. He begins Americorps in a few weeks, and his girlfriend just lost her job, and he is too young to be affected too much by his looming destitution.

Interesting archaeology in the digging of an urban garden: old gardens with their buried and decaying frames, evidence that the space was an imperfect pottery dump, random assertive bushes which must have been stabs at horticultural permanence.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

May 25, 2013

Watched the streaming table-read of 16th and Curtis on It was fun to watch, and not at all cringe-inducing. My body language is foreign to me, when I see it like that. It is far less fidgety and extravagant than I feared. I do have an enormous head. Luckily it’s almost too late for vanity.

Din in the holly is a family of baby purple finches being fed by dad, outside the nest, a sort of picnic.

Second attack on the Phil Mechanic garden. Planted yellow canna, pink hydrangea, a yellow daisy I forget the name of.

Douglas hugged me last night and said, “Oh, you smell good!” Not the reaction you expect from a straight man.

Pope Francis is a Universalist. Best religious news in the West in my time.

Went to the Cathedral to hear The Madison Singers from James Madison University. Perfection. They sang Penderecki’s harrowing “Agnus Dei” right before Palestrina’s “Sicut Cervus,” one so agonized, one so transcendently sure and filled with light, perfect contrasts, the extremes of one spiritual impulse. When I returned, the moon was rising over Merrimon Avenue in the twelve pure splendors, stupendous and silent and sublime. Nothing stood in heaven beside it, the dark not yet dark enough for stars.

Friday, May 24, 2013

May 24, 2013

Cold through the windows, rather invigorating than fearsome. In the last dream, Peg Downes had gotten me a job at Starbucks. On my first day, I did not make or serve any coffee, but rather assembled and disassembled intricate machinery that they used for something. I was happy doing that.  I also noticed that I cold kneel and squat without effort, something I cannot do in waking life. My shift began at four, and I was worried about have to choose between Starbucks and “the play,” and at waking was briefly relieved to recollect that I am not in any play.

Yesterday a day of innumerable disasters. Every single thing that could go wrong, did, as well as much that one didn’t see coming. Fought desperately against the gremlins to get to an appointment which, it turned out, I didn’t even have. Couldn’t even creep home with tail between legs, because of the cleaning ladies, so I went to the mall and bought a tuxedo and a Nook. Saw the Nook bag sitting on the table this AM and thought “what the hell is that?”

Deeper illness came upon me yesterday. There was a periodic cold-dull pain in my groin, which I fancifully identified as kidney stones. It was a lymph gland–like some evil hornets’ nest-- warning that it was about to dump toxins into the system, which it did as we were setting up the church for the Cantaria concert. That could have gone one of two ways, an advancing and devastating systemic infection, or the bacteria’s being wiped out by the antibiotics already in my system. Thank God it took the second road. It was touch and go for a while, though, and I was probably not singing at my best. It’s amazing how immediate and measurable the loss of vitality is during those attacks: I knew how weakened I was because I couldn’t lift one side of the altar by myself, as I usually can.

I wonder why Spotify thinks that Mozart’s Requiem is right for a channel dedicated to Bach?

The baby mockingbirds were fluffing about in the garden yesterday, flapping their stubby wngs to scare up prey even as their parents do.

Our usual course is to sing better at the concert than we could have expected from the rehearsals, and we pulled that off again this time. DJ, who could hear more from where he was (including the whole pond of croaking basses), thought it was less successful than I did. Some of the songs were quite affecting, and it was good– in a way– to look out at people’s faces crumpled with sobbing.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

May 23, 2013

Bad dreams. They started out well, but one by one bad things happened to me, snide comments, a bad choir rehearsal, incidents from the inconvenient to the tragic. Anger boiled inside. I hated the people around. The cats were scratching at the door (this probably was happening in real life) and I, magically, struck them through the wood. When I went out to look for them, I’d killed one of them by, apparently, turning her inside out. I understood the progress of the dream as I was dreaming it; it was a critique of the idea that we are solely responsible for our misdeeds. It was clear to me that Fate was the cause of my reverse of attitude, and though I probably could have avoided mood-change or retaliation, why should I? The lords of karma must be held responsible for the brutality of the acts to which the soul responds. Who is God to put us to the test? That rebelliousness has always been in my heart–Who is God to put us to the test, to withhold or grant in ways unrelated to our needs or achievements?–but seldom in so pure a form. A way to stop our bitterness is not to put us to the test; this needs to be part of the dialogue.

Spent 40 minutes weeding out formatting problems after I downloaded a Loves of Mr. Lincoln rehearsal schedule.

Wednesday, paradoxically, had been lovely. I rose and gathered my tools and before 7:30 was digging Jolene her garden. Pulled out a sprawling rose bush and a couple of weird trees and lots of pottery-related debris. The soil is stony and bad– I had to open it with a mattock before I could shovel-- so in went pounds and pounds of store-bought garden soil and fertilizer. When enough was prepared, I bought flowers: lupine, peony, ice plant, iris, phlox, hen & chicks, various succulents. Before noon I had done about 1/3 of what I conceive now to do. I was happy. I sang and hummed all through the doing. I was very dirty and sore when I got home, though both conditions have now been amended.

The day ended in paroxysms of rain. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

May 22, 2013

Mists of morning. Shapes through the mist– a strange cat sitting on the top of the garden stairs, quietly surveying all. The colors of the flowers, dimmed a little, as though they were in a painting of the rain. Sounds muted. A little moisture even on the floors, over which you walk as on the evenist of all cool lawns.

A day of no duties: delight! Delight!

What does an off-Broadway rehearsal schedule look like? It looks like this:

Hi everyone,
Apologies; there was an error in the call sent out about 45 minutes ago, where the left hand column did not match the updated right hand column. Attached is the revised and corrected call.
CAST Call Daily Call
Don Burroughs ------- Abingdon Theatre Rehearsal Studio
312 West 36th St, btw 8th & 9th Avenues, 6th Floor
11:00am Staging – Act One (p13-18)
Steven Hauck, Stacey Todd Holt
12:00pm Staging – Act One (p18-26)
Leah Curney, Steven Hauck
2:00pm Continue staging Act One
ADD Tobias
Leah Curney, Tyrone Davis Jr, Steven Hauck
3:00pm Continue staging Act One (p26-28)
ADD Joshua
Leah Curney, Tyrone Davis Jr, Steven Hauck. Stacey Todd Holt
4:00pm Music – Tobias
5:00pm End of day
Leah Curney 12:00pm
Tyrone Davis, Jr. 2:00pm
Steven Hauck 11:00am
Stacey Todd Holt 11:00am



Aislinn Curry
Production Stage Manager
The Loves of Mr. Lincoln

On May 21, 2013, at 9:04 PM, Aislinn Curry wrote:
Hello everyone,
Wonderful to meet most of you today! I'm looking forward to sharing this fast paced wild ride with you.
Attached is the call for tomorrow. Please note that it differs from the original rehearsal schedule, but is as we discussed in person today.
CAST Call Daily Call
Don Burroughs ------- Abingdon Theatre Rehearsal Studio
312 West 36th St, btw 8th & 9th Avenues, 6th Floor
11:00am Staging – Act One (p13-18)
Steven Hauck, Stacey Todd Holt
12:00pm Staging – Act One (p18-26)
Leah Curney, Steven Hauck
2:00pm Continue staging Act One
ADD Tobias
Leah Curney, Tyrone Davis Jr, Steven Hauck
3:00pm Continue staging Act One (p26-28)
ADD Joshua
Leah Curney, Tyrone Davis Jr, Steven Hauck. Stacey Todd Holt
4:00pm Music – Tobias
5:00pm End of day

Leah Curney 11:00am
Tyrone Davis, Jr. 1:00pm
Steven Hauck 11:00am
Stacey Todd Holt 2:00pm


Aislinn Curry
Production Stage Manager
The Loves of Mr. Lincoln

On May 20, 2013, at 9:48 AM, Aislinn Curry wrote:
Hello Company,
Here is the daily call for tomorrow.
Please remember to bring shoes as requested to your fitting. Additionally, please make sure to allow for a little extra travel time; the rehearsal studio is on the sixth floor and can be difficult to find.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

May 21, 2013

Drifting back into the land of the normal. Back to the Y, coffee with Tom, then a most satisfying day at the studio. Two pigeons had moved into the space, so the first task was ejecting cleaning up after them, but then painted happily. Jolene wants me to put a garden in at the front of the studio, a task I’ve been doing in my head ever since the conversation. Late afternoon trip with DJ to the cinema to see the new Star Trek, which I found delightful. It is not so very late now at night; something might be accomplished, or I might get early to bed.

Monday, May 20, 2013

May 20, 2013

Pentecost passed. I didn’t feel the tongues of fire this year. I didn’t hear my language spoken from the upper room.

Open dress rehearsal for Cantaria, a very good idea, I think, though an audience less inclined to approve would have heard some pretty awful passages. Most of the awfulness comes from two singers with powerful voices, no sense of accuracy, no sense that the notes they are trying to overpower around them are actually the right notes, the ones they should be matching. Steve was frustrated to the point of steam from the ears, but it’s difficult to know what to do other than say “get out,” and in an organization like that, that’s immediate schism.

When I go out at first light, I expect the black iris to be in bloom. I adore black flowers. In my head now I see a great field tossing with black and purple.

Jeff, whose character I eliminated in the revision of the play, was a beatifying angel. I heave sighs of relief.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

May 19, 2013

Theater last night at NC Stage, This. Acting and directing were stellar (there it’s hardly ever anything else), but the play was disappointing: well written, funny in places, well observed in minutiae but faked in the large issues, aimless, static (in the sense that no character in it really went anywhere) ultimately both dishonest and manipulative. I have no idea what the process of play selection is, but I find it baffling. Likely there’s a principle being served that I don’t understand. As opposed to my universal respect for the casts, I really respected one play done there this season, and I like to think of myself as a relatively eclectic and accepting audience. Drinks at the Vault before, drinks at Avenue M after. Too many drinks. I hope the Pentecostal fires burn away my hangover.

In a related issue, attacked Awake! Awake! Deborah!, removing 11 of the 59 pages, and eliminating one whole character. Each time I found something superfluous, I remembered the reason I put it in, and in most cases it was to make a point, to score a point. That’s a violation of one’s pact with the Muse, but somehow, in this play, I felt entitled to do everything wrong. It didn’t work. Better now. Much. If it’s still a debacle, it won’t be such a protracted one.

Dream last night: there was an athletic event where a woman would run a kind of sprint, and then a man would measure off the space she ran with a sock turned in to an art object. He would turn the decorated sock lengthwise end over end until the course was measured. The woman had already won the race when this was done, but somehow the results weren't final until the sock came into play. I was one of the men measuring my runner's race off with a sock, which I had decorated, maybe as decoupage, with headlines from old newspapers.

Phlebitis run-down still (at a reduced level) somewhat in play. The end-of-night is screaming with birdcalls, Kevin the Frog the deep bass under them.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

May 18, 2013

Maria came to my garden and harvested flowers for the meal she was making to celebrate her anniversary. The flowers were to be part of the food, edible and lovely at once, mostly the pink and white roses.

The exhaustion of the past days had been, of course, the infection rising up from my legs. I was active in the morning, but early afternoon I was sleeping nearly continuously, popping antibiotics in the intervals of waking. I’m still exhausted, but the angry red is gone from my legs. The upside of this is that there are few things more delicious than sleeping all day, especially when you know there’s no other choice.

Did have the energy to go to Reems Creek and obtain bullfrog tadpoles to live in my water gardens. Did have the energy to work on the awful play.

Friday, May 17, 2013

May 17, 2013

Reading last night here of my play: Jake, Jeff, Jack, Trinity, Derek, MM and me. Tiny Sean was here for a time.  When was the last time there was a baby in this house?  It was a sensational social event, though artistically I’m stymied. The play is long and wrong and I don’t know exactly what to do about it. I think I wrote it to prove a point, and that’s never a bountiful idea. I think I wrote it because someone wrote something on the same theme and I wanted to prove I could do it better, which I did, but not better enough. Await the Muse.

Dream before waking: I was at an academic conference, where we sat around a huge table and discussed the esoteric readings which had been selected for us. Roland Barthes was our sacred cow moderator, though I don’t know if the dream figure resembled Barthes in any way. I hadn’t done the readings, so was spending my energy thinking of ways to bullshit if I were called on.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

May 16, 2013

Dream before waking. I was a young man lured by his friends to a medical examination I apparently needed. The waiting room was outside, and we discussed this and that at picnic tables under the sky while waiting for the appointment. The doctor came and to chit-chat, and though I hid from him, he found me and told me what room the appointment was in. But when I went to the room there were long corridors filled with confusion and distraught people, and then Circe scratched on the door. Two nights in a row dreaming about some kind of physical problem. One of them very specific.

Must rise ever earlier to beat the sun. 4 is still safe. Working hard on my Celestine play, but suffering a little friction from the perception that I have so any plays now that have not found a home, and selling and writing are, to me, activities which cannot happen at the same time.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

May 15, 2013

The purloined garden trowels re-appeared, side by side on top of a stool in the garage, returned by the purloiner. What small mysteries unfold in the world every day!

Poking around in my journals., I note that the premiere performance of Pisgah Players was March 29, 1989. The beginning of my life as a producer.

Vivid and compelling dream. I was William Shakespeare. I was staying in the Glass House Hotel in Sligo. One day I was wandering around in the rolling green fields when I was attacked. A blow on the head sent me into a state of unconsciousness, and when I came out of that I realized I had been stabbed in the chest several times. I lay in the field waiting to die of the wounds, or of the infection I knew would set in. But I did not die. The pain lessened, and I got up and began to move around. I could still feel the wounds in my chest, but the pain was endurable, and I knew I would live. I thought, “I am William Shakespeare, and I have a life to live nobody had anticipated.” I knew the Irish wouldn’t be impressed, so I kept it to myself.

Dug a new plot out of the remnant grass and planted eggplant.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

May 14, 2013

“Like Some Hyena of the Jesuits” is a finalist in the Cultural Center of Cape Cod poetry contest. I’m hitting the jackpot lately. Their judge did not respond, so the organization is evaluating the poems. . . . some other way. We’ll wait.

Threats of frost from all sides, from the nurseryman at Reems Creek, from the TV, from Facebook. I decided that it was not going to frost, helped partially by the fact that all my delicate plants have outgrown the pails and pots I have to hide them under. Even bought a pitcher plant and set it in the backyard water garden against the nurseryman's advice, thinking that the pool around it would keep it warm. To honor the merest possibility, I rose in the sleeping dark and hosed everything off. Back in Akron we thought that if we hosed the plants off before the sun rose, the frost wouldn't hurt them. In any case, there was no frost. it didn't even seem particularly chill. Watered the plants anyway.

Monday, May 13, 2013

May 13, 2013

In Cage appears as my first play publication in a periodical in South Florida Arts Review, except that it consists of a very elaborate web site and I couldn’t find my play, or much of anything except a sort of horrifying song with the words “e pluribus unum.” The graphic is Dylan Thomas dressed as –what? Shakespeare?

Cantaria rehearsal last night amazing for how many mistakes and how much approximation two weeks (less) before a concert.

Rumors of a freeze last night. I didn’t prepare for it because I refused to believe it.

Practically drunk with joy at the prospect of a day with no pre-assigned task.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

May 12, 2013

Somehow it had gotten stuck in my head that yesterday was the studio stroll. It wasn’t, but I did go to the studio and painted to my heart’s content. Weeding when I came back, until the rains came again. Some revising then before the light waned.

Reacted badly– prima-dona-like– at a suggestion Sidney made about the play. Aside from the virtue of the suggestions, what it revealed to me (again) is the degree to which I loathe the protracted, to which I detest repetition. Persistence is a bad technique to use on me. It does not wear me away, but rather turns me to adamant. Ring my phone five times and you can be sure I will never, ever answer. S has been worried about the ages and birthdays of Lincoln’s sons since the outset. I have won the argument a dozen times (having, really and truly, done my research beforehand) and when I heard his voicemail, still concerned about the matter, I went, momentarily, ballistic. I did manage to see his point and did retract my refusal to consider it again. I hope my compromise is remembered rather than my enraged rejection of the entire issue. It is practically organic, though; if an issue rises once I think I have laid it to rest, murder comes into my heart.

Cold today, but blazing bright. Weeded monumentally. Wrote at the café.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

May 11, 2013

I was lying on the massage table yesterday when it occurred to me that I had not deducted the rent on my studio– by far the largest single deduction–from my taxes. Aside from the stupidity of the oversight (which my accountant also had not noticed), what I wondered was why it should have come to me then and there, when I was thinking of anything but that. I had been bothered by the comparative modesty of the return, and perhaps had been searching the corridors of memory subconsciously.

Finally yesterday, a quite productive day at the studio. Afterwards, in the flush of accomplishment, I opened a bottle of exceptionally good white wine. That was about 5:30. I don’t know exactly when I went o bed. But I rose at 4:40 this morning, having slept a good long time and having had hours of REM, the images of which still people my mind.

KF emails that I’ve won 3rd place in the William Matthews poetry contest– out of the money, but still a delight.

Also, in the email today: Congratulations! The Editors of Nimrod International Journal are pleased to inform you that your poetry entry, including the poem "Under the Morning Star,” has been selected as a finalist for The Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry. There were 568 poetry manuscripts submitted to the Nimrod Literary Awards competition for The Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry.
The finalists will be submitted to the poetry judge for 2013, who will select the first and second place winners; those results should be forthcoming by the middle of June at the latest and we will notify you as quickly as possible. We hope that you will not sell the poems to any other magazines while we await the results, as Nimrod will publish the winning manuscripts and as many finalists as possible. The winners will also be brought to Tulsa in October for our Awards Celebration and Writing Workshop, this year on October 18-19th, 2013.
Once again, congratulations! We will be contacting you again as soon as we have the results.
Fran Ringold

Friday, May 10, 2013

May 10, 2013

You cannot microwave ants.

Woke from fabulous, Aeneid-related dreams. In the first part, I was some sort of adversary of Fate (an erring priest or something, dressed in purple), who found himself on the losing side, and had to explain to the victorious proto-Roman authorities why I was not REALLY culpable for the death of Aeneas. In the second part, I had morphed into a sort of crime scene investigator, part of a crew charged with the task of sifting through the ruins and relicts of several battles to see what actually had happened. This was a decade or so after the events of the Aeneid, which seemed to have happened in modern times, replete with modern forensic procedures. Too much NCIS before bed.

Lightning coffee with Marco, always exhausted, always on the fly. Each new meeting follows some financial disaster. It's hard to know how someone can earn such bad karma with the gods of solvency.

Early dinner at Boucheron with Jon and Dalton and Sara.  Excellent food and excellent company.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

May 9, 2013

Funeral for Cary Owens. The crowd spilled out into available rooms, not merely the sanctuary. Kyle estimates 500. Full of luminaries, like those state funerals on TV with the crowned heads. I knew her as a kind and well-dressed lady, but her varieties of influence must have tendriled out into all the world. We say we’d like to be present at our own funerals, but I think only people like Owens really would.

Didn’t step into the rain soaked garden, except to sow destruction for the slugs around the cabbages.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

May 8, 2013

My recent sojourn was eerily without negative incident, on plane, in airport, upon return. By this I am stunned and for this I am grateful. Seat mate between Albany and Atlanta was Leslie, a real estate agent dividing her time between Memphis and Saratoga Springs. I told her my ambition was to grow my own forest and she replied dryly, “Forests take a long time to grow.”

Dreams last night which continually referenced moss and algae and the like. I criticized myself for that even during the dreams, but couldn’t stop.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Williamstown 3

May 7, 2013

My emotions for the past few days, since setting down in Williamstown, have been unusual. All the valves seem to be open, all my experiences fluidly available to me, my judgments without doubt or second-guessing. My mind is like an aqueduct leading clear water from the stone of the mountain, or like a system of deep pools pouring into one another, transparent, reflecting calm sky.

Yesterday was exactly as brilliant and stainless as the day before. Went early to the Tunnel City Café, where I read in their books of poems (and wrote inside the covers that I had done so) and wrote poetry hugely. I stayed long enough to watch shifts of students and professors come in and gossip and go out. Turned and found Water Street, with its river I don’t know the name of, and small untidy shops unlike the posh compactness of the town itself, and an empty factory, and wildflowers I remember from my youth glorying the grass. Tried to go to he university art museum, but it is closed on Mondays. Late in the afternoon I went to Griffin Hall (very elegantly Georgian) to hear a reading by the student creative writing prize winners. One poet was promising and one story was very good. The rest, not. Of course I was comparing them to my students, and I think, despite multiple inequities between Williams and UNCA, we come out slightly ahead. We are certainly far more avant-garde, though that impression might also be translated as “trendy,” so if that’s an advantage or not one cannot say.

The reading of my play went well, I think. One or two read-throughs had been better, but that’s how it goes. The play is good, and if I came here to be assured of that, well enough. Drew close to my actors, and the fact that I will never hear from them again makes me sad, however often this same scene has played out before. We went to the Purple. . .  Something for drinks afterwards, and gathered around us a cloud of local theater people, some from the Main Street Theater in North Adams. It is curious to me how much I am NOT a theater person. It is not my only topic of conversation, not even in the top ten. I never recite my credentials the first thing when I sit down, never recount old productions, have relatively few war stories in my repertoire. It’s like dogs spraying the trees or grouse strutting around with their feathers spread. But it’s also part of the culture, and I regret not being more natural at it. Talked long with actor David, who presented his time in LA as a sojourn among Satanists and creeping shadows. I liked him, and was jealous when he talked to someone else.

Excellent sleep, and now an excellent morning, indistinguishable from the ones before.  

Monday, May 6, 2013

Williamstown 2

May 6, 2013

When Patti me took me to the hotel after dinner, I looked up at the moon and exclaimed, “It’s purple!” meaning that the sky behind the moon was deep, assertive, unmistakable purple. She seemed astonished. She said, “People call this the Purple Valley, and that’s why, but I’ve never seen it.”

Blazing perfect day yesterday, absolutely cloudless from sunrise to sunset, the sun cutting objects from the horizon like a crystal knife. I found the one café open at 6 on a Sunday morning, and had my cappuccino with a volume of the Harvard Classics from Tennyson to Whitman. Re-discovered George MacDonald, wept over Whitman’s “Last Invocation.”  I knew I was going to be happy all day, and I was. I had nothing to do but walk around, and walk around I did, in the cut-glass air, with the catbirds singing to me from the flowering branches. Discovered the Camperdown elm, which I now covet. The grass was blanketed with veronica, as I remember it being. Made my way to the Clark Museum, with its excellent and not overpowering collection. Was given a pencil by a security guard, so that I would stop using my pen with which to write in my journal. He explained that I might accidentally pitch forward and drive my implement into one of the paintings, and a pencil was likely to do less damage. Bought cards with warblers on them Wrote an intricate rhyme-y poem in the museum café.

Williams and Willamstown (they seem to be almost wholly congruent) make a kind of paradise– a bit of flowering woods, a bit of college, a mansion, a bit more of woods, a museum, another mansion. It is a kind of superior Hiram, and that place was on my mind as I strolled. It was if I were a good Egyptian and died in one place I loved and resurrected in another place like it, but much better.

Rehearsal for 16th and Curtis went well. An actor’s names is Curtis. One of the actors is David. Patti’s husband is David. The talk-back host is David,  Every third man in this town is David. As I said, the rehearsal was satisfactory, Curtis of the many voices was sensational. Cute Patrick the Pigeon was very passerine and very funny. David the actor was very. . . uhm. . . professional, very anxious to get it right, and we polished several passages at his behest. Passages had to be explained to him. The play is funny. Parts of it were funny the 4th time through.

Left Patti’s living room and went to a performance of the college choir’s Mendelssohn’s Elijah at Chapin Hall, with the light streaming through the windows. It was not an outstanding version of the piece, but it was a satisfactory one, A smear of light reflected onto the high ceiling from one of the cellos, moving when the cellist moved. I sat wondering HOW to listen to an oratorio. Is it an elevated kind of reading? Are we meant to absorb the sacred text on some more consecrated level? Is it an opera not to be embarrassed by staging? I kept weighing in my head the possibility of writing one. Saw cute Patrick and Linda the casting expert at the concert– one day and I’m already running into people I know.

It must be said that I was peculiarly happy all day. As I look out the hotel window at the swelling pale light, I see no reason why I might not be so today. Part of it had to with traveling, with discovering a new place. Part of it had to do with obtaining (if not exactly buying) The Silver Linings Playbook at the airport. I’m enjoying it, but I also note that any of, all of, my stories are better than this famous and valuable book on every level. This is comforting because, whatever is blocking publication, it is not–I was at that instant persuaded– me, not the quality of the work, not anything I can help except through persistence. There was, for a day, truce between me and heaven.

Dinner at the Thai sushi place on Spring Street, meltingly delicious because I had barely eaten all day. The campus is weirdly underpopulated, maybe because it was a weekend. Maybe everyone is just too elegant to be out and about.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Williamstown 1

May 5, 2013

The Williams Inn in Williamstown, Massachusetts. It’s roomy but by no means over-luxurious. Passed through Vermont getting here, passed through, in fact, ravishingly beautiful countryside, more “finished,” somehow than North Carolina. My hostess Patti took me on a tour of Willamstown (which is practically co-terminus with Williams College) and North Adams, both postcard-worthy New England towns. While I was checking in, the desk clerk said, “Harumph, There are two people with the same name.”

“You have another person with my name here at this hotel?”

“Yes. He’s from Maryland.”

I asked if she might bill my room to him. She said that wasn’t the usual procedure.

On the flight from Asheville I sat beside an architect and restauranteur from Palm Beach, Pete, who was also an excellent photographer and showed me about a million shots he took in Mayanmar and India and Morocco and all places he claimed nobody else goes, They were truly beautiful photos, and he is gathering them together in a book. His last conversation was about how he was not ashamed to be a success. I wondered who said he should be. Delta delays cut my thin margin of connection time, and I got from Concourse C to Concourse A in Atlanta in what passes these days for a dead run, arrived at the gate at the exact instant they were beginning to board my group. I was angry, but the run did me no harm, and I’m going to count it as yesterday’s work-out. My seat mate to Albany was an actress who lives way up in Harlem but works building costumes for a dance company in Brooklyn. She was coming from Mexico City, where her backpack had been stolen, her passport and ID and phone and everything, except for a clearly beloved teddy bear which rode on her lap.

Patti and I talked theater in the ride from the airport. She made her husband, David, and me tacos for dinner. David is a historian of the origins of wars, which I think is remarkable. They move to Boston on Thursday, and their house is empty but for, it seemed to me, a dining room table and enough groceries for last night. I did force the issue of coming to a hotel instead of staying with them, for which I am grateful on every possible level, especially for knowing there is another version of me in Maryland.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

May 4, 2013

Maybe I’d like to be small enough to walk under my mayapples, their green roofs, their flowers like lanterns hanging..

This is the terrible anniversary.

Off to Massachusetts today. Seldom have traveled with less desire to do so. Trapped by a moment of enthusiasm six months old.

Amazing comment on my blog about the Nortons, with whom I lived in Cambridge in 1970. The correspondent is Rab Turner, who runs a gallery in Melbourne: Maggie passed away some fifteen years ago sadly. Mark too left this world in Thailand in less than perfect circumstances, sadly he was never able to free himself from his geas. Maggie's other son Derek has a very successful indigenous art gallery in Canada. Nichola possibly has an antiques business in Adelaide but has left her past behind. An amazingly talented family damaged by parental relationships ... Regards Rab Turner Melbourne Australia on Cambridge 6

This led me to Derek Norton, the son I never met, thin and leathery in his photo (like his brother whom I did know, though it was too soon for Mark to be leathery) who runs an Inuit gallery in Vancouver. This information was more valuable to me than I would have expected. A door closes behind me with an audible click.

Friday, May 3, 2013

May 3, 2013

Elevated and strange dreams. We were newly-born gods, or gods newly made from ordinary men. We stood in our Valinor and tried to perceive what the rules of our new lives would be, what actions would be necessary to us, what actions forbidden. What were the stories our creatures would tell of us? We were very careful, and when we actually began to move about and do things, we found that our plans were working. When we descended onto the earth, the place where we alit was Ryder Road in Hiram, between the cemetery and the Amish cornfields, as they were once.

Humanities exam yesterday, with the one girl who writes an hour after everyone else has left. I have to leave the room to subvert my rage. I said something to her the last time and she descended into sobs. The exam scores were colossally bad, and I can’t figure out why. They passed in their notes, and all the answers were there. They had at least heard and once recorded the necessary facts. How do they study? Their comments about me are favorable, except twice I am called an old man.

Golden tree peonies form a firmament. Windows shut against spring cold.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

May 2, 2013

Dalton’s reading at the Apothecary last night went excellently. The room was full, and he was hugely engaging. His friends the band Baby Rattlesnakes played surprisingly poppy, mellow originals beforehand, and covered the space while we waited for his publishers, who had determined to drive in from Chicago in one day for the event, and to drive back almost immediately after. I hope it was all they’d hoped it would be. Peter and Merritt came from the faculty. The sky was trying to rain, but never quite made it. I’ll look this morning; if it hasn’t, I must. Justin, Jon, Sarah, Brittany and I repaired to the Pack Tavern afterwards. I like that place, though find myself in that corner of the town too seldom to make it a regular watering hole. I try not to remember that all those people will be gone in a week or two, we sliding mutually into each other’s half-remembered pasts.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

May 1, 2013

Before noon yesterday I had photographed the new flowers of the garden, set a tiny garden up that might twine up DJ’s deck, prepared and mailed manuscripts whose deadline was April 30, done an hour of step aerobics at the Y, chatted with Tom at Starbuck’s, filled in the trench under our cars in the access road (shoveling in rocks the plumbers dug up and vegetable debris that my neighbors leave, inexplicably, against my fence), and I wasn’t even especially tired. Sore now, but that is well. Auditioned at Montford Park in the evening, and saw many faces I’d missed and was glad to see again, but that enterprise felt, finally, almost mystically wrong. I don’t think the gods want me going that way just now.