Saturday, December 9, 2017


December 9, 2017

Snow continues to fall, though what’s already fallen appears to be compacting, so it doesn’t get that much deeper.

Early afternoon: a gleam of sun from the south, too late to save Lessons & Carols at the Cathedral, which is cancelled, or my reading at the Black Mountain Museum, which is rescheduled to next Saturday, when it conflicts with the Cantaria Christmas Concert. The irony is that I don’t know whether I’m singing in the Cantaria Christmas Concert, which depends on the outcome of a meeting with B and S, which was also postponed because of the snow. More free time than I had intended. I was sitting on the toilet worried that, after a couple of brief power outages, the furnace breaker might have been thrown, when there was a great noise and cloud of snow, which was a limb of my pine crashing down upon and annihilating the wooden fence. At that second the furnace came on, so the relief of one thing counterbalanced the horror of the other. The limb fell completely out of the street, so my duty to the community upon this point is done. Did get out and drive a little. My own driveway was the worst of it. Want to work on my play, but can’t stay awake long enough.

Friday, December 8, 2017


December 8, 2017

Oddest dreams before waking. I was in a kind of hospital for those who were self-destructive, only I didn’t remember being self-destructive. Russell was there, too, and we owned a car in common, but for some reason we couldn’t get to it to make our getaway. They calmed us by giving us stories to read, but the stories kept folding back on themselves, as though to come to a crisis or to end would damage us in some way.  I was frustrated because I knew something was wrong but couldn’t find anyone to whom to put my case. Pretty much my actual life, now that I think of it.

Vast snow had been falling as I slept, and though we got to school for our exam, the city has closed down since. Meeting with B and S about the commission atrocity is postponed. First production meeting of Night Music is postponed.  Any attempt to get to the studio is thwarted.

One of the worst days ever for muscle cramps. My hands cramped as I was trying to grade exams. Whole body fell into an agonizing rictus on the toilet at school. That was an interesting moment. At one point my wrist flattened with a muscle doing what I couldn’t imagine. You drink and you drink, and you curse into the snowy air.

Washington Place is a semi-finalist at the O’Neill.

December 7, 2017

Never asked my parents how they felt about Pearl Harbor. My mother was seventeen.

Thursday, December 7, 2017


December 6, 2017

Voice lasted through rehearsal. Got to sit with Janis, which was lovely. Making headway on the sci-fi play. Night Music cast almost as I would have done it. Excellent, though quite brief, bout of painting. An ancient work is finally in its final form. Comparing Steve’s loss of his theater with my loss of the 20th anniversary gig: I feel terrible enough, whereas his loss was levels and levels of magnitude greater. That he was able to rise in the mornings was laudable.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017


December 5, 2017

Thought for a moment I did nothing today but sleep, though in fact I began a new play (a sci fi play; I’m all the time nagging about there being so few sci fi plays). I had a final conference with M about his senior project, a very elaborate and warlike science fiction novel. He is student body president at Owen and has a full scholarship to Brown. Talking with him I couldn’t help smiling at his almost absurd excess of energy and presentness and promise. Then supper (under deep rain, beside a rising river) at the French Broad Supper Club, a lovely restaurant welded out of railroad cars, with the Ks, which I accepted in lieu of payment for my painting of the bladder campion. I think of them whenever someone brings up the subject of a solid, lasting, and workable marriage. Did some antiques shopping, but hated everything I saw. Email says K has been “dismissed” from Cantaria. Never heard of that before, though K is toxic, always has been, and I’m sure the reasons, whatever they be,  are sound. 

Monday, December 4, 2017


December 4, 2017

Feathers floating at the edge of my pond. I assume a hawk got a dove.

Went to my office to get some grading done on Saturday. There was an odd fluttering, a ghostly murmur in the room which I couldn’t figure out until I saw a wren perched on the edge of a bookshelf. I opened the window, left the room long enough for him to find the way out. I felt for the little soul. I thought he was me, in some way difficult now to expound.

Downtown yesterday to see Maria in Twelve Dates of Christmas. The play is nothing, but her performance was dynamic and flawless, her concentration superhuman. A merry company to the Capella rooftop afterwards. Girls in fringed flapper dresses were having their pictures taken. I could hardly walk from the theater to the hotel, and then from the hotel to my car. Do I wait for this to right itself?

December 3, 2017

The cleaning ladies, for some reason, turned the litter box around so that the entrance was against the wall and inaccessible to the cats. I didn’t notice until today. The cats chose the guest room carpet to take their dainty craps on, and dips in the plastic surrounding unopened L L Bean parcels to deposit their urine. I report this because it is unexpected.

Trying to write, trying to mark papers, my hands clawed up in agonies of cramps. You sit and with your eyes narrowed, tears of pain squeezing from the edges.. You don’t know whom to strike. 

First day of auditions for Night Music. We could cast it easily from those who showed up this afternoon.

No official word from the Powers at Cantaria. How wasteful and hateful and unnecessary it all is. With some, abuse of power comes with the tiniest measure of it. I consider the existential struggles that occur from time to time in life, violations so heinous and so clear you think the outcome must be simple: I have never been in the wrong, and I have never won. Marvelous record.

Maud back in vomit mode.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

December 2, 2017

The Cantaria issue is becoming one of those make-me-so-depressed-I-have to lie-down things. The more I think about it the more absurd it becomes; you’d think the perception of absurdity would ease the hurt a little, but it hasn’t so far. So far from the offending powers I have received a response only from B. They are circling the wagons to insure a unified front. Even that is an absurdity.

Off to school last night to take in Sophie’s Winter Dionysia. It was gallant, sweet, a lovely idea. There were belly dancers. I think you have to be straight to get much thrill out of that. The centerpiece was a new student translation of Medea performed in HLH. Good translation, bad performance. If the speakers cannot be heard, all is lost, and there’s no reason to continue. Medea himself–yes himself– could be heard well enough. I can see an all-male cast, in the ancient tradition, but the other women were women, as was King Creon. Medea was twice the size of Jason. The Nurse was actually quite good. Quinn told me of the boy playing Medea. He is one of those who insists on being called “they” because neither “he” nor “she” takes in the fullness of his self-identity. The day when I call one person “they” will not come. What a thing to imagine, that you have or should have power over how others perceive you, over how others identify you. But, most of us grow out of our most vivid absurdities.

Received a thank-you note from the Washington Place people for the receipt of my play– two years after I sent it.

Up early, facing a busy day. Night Music auditions this afternoon. I swear I will find something not to be grumpy about.

Friday, December 1, 2017


December 1, 2017

Because of the cleaning ladies, I drove to Marshall to see Amy in her bar, which I should have done a while ago. Marshall is a quiet, sweet place, determined to be itself, and I can see how one might be content there, granted the several roads leading back into the world.  We chatted, in part about the possibility of doing a little theater there, possibly in her space, which is mostly empty. We reminisced about Ellen and shared our sadness that she turned her back on us. Ate lunch, strolled, bought a book. I’d parked in the bank parking lot and looked around for the bank, which had moved out a while back. The town is essentially a ghost town, which has its charms.

Q has arranged a production of Antigonus with the drama club for next semester. Only his drill-like energy could have made that happen. The Theater Department has erstwhile backed away from me and my work as though we were a spider. I think this will be joyful.

Cantaria– that is to say, a committee of Cantaria-- commissioned a new piece for our twentieth anniversary. They did not choose me for lyricist. I know the work of the man they chose, and the whole enterprise is, now, beyond ludicrous. It’s like Pope Julius, with Michelangelo in his household, roaming the Roman streets looking for someone to do the chapel ceiling. Some of us have assumed ownership of the group for far too long, making decisions that are not ours to make on the basis of expertise or sensitivities we do not have. Now that I think of it, my not being on the commission committee was itself absurd, as, so far as I know, I am the only one there who has ever received and worked through a commission.  What do I do now? Leave? It would save me a solid chunk of time.  Will I be able to perform through the curtain of contempt and violation? Will I care one way or the other in a week? Wait and see about it all.

Dark of the morning. Need only for Starbucks to open to get me to school to start working on the ever deepening stack of papers.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017


November 28, 2017

Clear paradisal day. Elizabeth said “It’s like Ireland.” I suppose it is. Drove to Mars Hill to have a look at the Weizenblatt Gallery. The show there now is feeble, not to judge, but to say it calmed anxieties about my own. It is all going to be very casual, and the hundreds I looked to spending on framing might be saved. Was too exhausted to paint afterwards. The least effort exhausts me; I guess it’s anemia, as it always has been, but if it is it means the defect has not, as I expect it should have, healed itself.

Have been thinking about my parents. They may have been good parents in the general sense, but they were not good parents for me. They never stood before me, drawing me forward, but always behind, making me doubt, or allowing no concept at all of, the life of imagination and creativity I would eventually live. I was unknowable to them, and hence, for a long time, maybe even to the present hour, unknowable to myself. It was not their fault.

Have been thinking of the rebellion of women against predation by men. I assume that though perhaps this brutality has not been universal, it has been common, and started at the beginning of the world. If that is the case, the change in the tide now is monumental, overwhelming, on par with the making of democracies and the dismantling of slavery. I am glad to be living in such a time.

Monday, November 27, 2017


November 27, 2017

Maud purrs on the other side of the computer screen. Dragged myself through Monday. Spent Sunday painting with, I think, spectacular success. Big canvases bending to The Vision. Presented Djuna Barnes’ Nightwood to class, all of us having read it for the first time. It baffles me because it does not tell, and does not particularly seek to tell, the truth, presenting the world as though nothing can be made of it except fleeting impression. It is beneficial to me as a writer though, for I tend to forget that SOME of the truth is fleeting impression.

Saturday, November 25, 2017


November 25, 2017

A great shape haunted the trees at the edge of my yard. It was a hawk. I got out the binoculars and saw an immature red tailed, its breast still speckled.

White roses lingers. An orange one is in bud.  David claims to have heard a frog jump into my pond.

Trip to Atlanta for Thanksgiving. The clan grows, two of the three nephews adding girlfriends, the niece adding a husband and a baby in her womb. Michael, Bekka’s husband, is a tall unflappable Dane whom everyone (including me) likes instantly.  Made it through the entire day smiling and participating. Though fully socialized, I am somewhat zealous of peace and autonomy– out of habit more than conviction-- and so many individuals at the same time present as a task. A task, however, which is remembered as a blessing. I don’t expect anyone to share my interests, so when asked, “What are you doing these days?” I must come off as a dullard. 

One sleepless night in the Hyatt in Alpharetta–who knows why? The next night I dreamed of making art, great canvases of mostly orange with hot sun-shapes in the midst of them. Friday was annihilated by exhaustion and the drive home, but today I actually did make art, though with very much less orange. Interesting tourists climbed the stair. “Do you dream your paintings?” asked one. Am calmer about my show. I think there will be enough work by then. Found two complete and usable frames in the mess.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017


November 22, 2017

Strange dreams last night. I was one of a race of beings whose substance seemed to be mostly air or mist. We lived in a great forest and went about touching things, to see how light the touch could be and still be tangible.

I think Maud is ill, but if she were a person I would diagnose the illness as melancholy. She looks like a kitten again, having lost hair (she has so much you only notice that when it bunches n the floor) and weight, but her appetite is good, and she has stopped the vomiting that was her past time for a while. She has started seeking high places, though the patterns of her life have always been fluid and evolving. When she was on the counter last night I looked into her eyes and said to the spirit that has taken cat form, “Little spirit, please do not leave me.” I repeated it so the spirit would have no doubt what I meant. 

Tuesday, November 21, 2017


November 21, 2017

Nap dream of Galway: in the dream it was a dark medieval city spread over many hills. The hills and the windows were a constellation of lights, and I kept wandering through the streets to revisit my favorite places, none of which exists in daylight. Cantaria had a concert last night for AIDS day that I had put on my calendar for next Monday. Alas. Q keeps critiquing my plays and I keep rewriting them. He likes especially the ones which got no play and which I put on the reserve pile years ago. He is either the luckiest thing or the cruelest thing to happen to me in a long time, depending on what lies further down this road. He is going to try to do Antigonus in the spring for his directing project. My assumption is that the drama faculty will nix the project because it involves me. But, as in all things, lie back and wait.

Sunday, November 19, 2017


November 19, 2017

Yesterday was a perfect day. Spent the morning, as I had intended, painting, and discovering that the walls of the gallery are not going to be as bare as I feared. Took a few to the framer, and realized that getting them professionally framed will be ruinous, so I’ll do that myself, as I did in days of yore. Tony mowed and mulched the lawn (this was a surprise; I thought he was done for the season) and showed me how his truck had been wrecked (it looked like it had been attacked by a crocodile) and M borrowed the truck to move firewood, and in the evening it was off to the Magnetic for the final night of Uranium 235. Drove forlorn Q to his call. He is the most fearsomly focused and advanced young man. The theater was full of colleagues and friends, and proved a last triumph topping three weeks of triumph. Though not my best work, this has certainly been the best received of my stage pieces. David and Daniel and their girlfriends came up from Atlanta, arriving at literally the last second before the show began. We drank beers and partied at the house until went off to their hotel. Daniel’s girl had just had a tonsillectomy and was braving it through. Parts of the day I was frantic with the mess and fuss and upheaval, but those moments sink into the general golden haze of at least momentary satisfaction.

Found the latches to close the French doors in the dining room completely. It is possible they have not been closed firmly since I moved in.

Saturday, November 18, 2017


November 18, 2017

Yellowish gray in the north, which is what I can see from this window. Last night’s U235 found the Muse off her game, dropping lines right and left, though maybe nobody knew but me. The guy who sat beside me said, “We had a choice between this and Red at 35 Below, but we heard good things about this playwright.” Then he added, “Besides, I wanted to see a play with more than two actors in it.” Let that be a lesson to me.  Ass on the other side never put away his cell phone. I wanted to confront him, but judged that would disturb more people than the phone. People are just fucking ignorant. I did ask him as he exited, “First time out in public?”  He didn’t get it.

Way, way too much selling of Bernstein Christmas throughout the duration of my show. I bet Night Music isn’t mentioned during its run.

Full houses. My nephews come tonight.

Six or seven girls in my Enlightenment to Modern class cheated on their exam by faking trips to the bathroom and checking their phones in the hall for the answers.  Did they not think I’d notice people going to the toilet three times in 75 minutes? They must have been texting the idea to their friends, for you’d hear a gasp of recognition, and another would rise from her seat and need to use the facilities. A student confirmed my suspicion, and heard them in the hall bragging about the escapade. So exhausting, so discouraging. I sent them an email designed to ruin their weekend, and will decide by Monday what to do. As I suspected, the innocent came to my office as fast as possible to talk it out, while the guilty stayed away. There was one exception to this, an advisee who I knew to be one of the offenders. She didn’t exactly claim innocence, but she argued that she had come to a time when she needed recommendations for grad schools, etc, and was there a way to put this behind? Doing just what she did was the way to put it behind. She defended her co-conspirators by saying that they were good students who shouldn’t have to resort to cheating. Though not quite honest, I thought this was brave, and perhaps what I would do in the same situation, tell a nobler lie to redeem a squalid one. I hope they think I’m angrier about this than I really am. But, why, I want to ask, is it always women with the corporate cheating scams?

Day of painting, unless something goes wrong, to prepare for Mars Hill.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017


November 14, 2017

Conversation with K on the phone provides the shocking news that the show he plans for me at Mars Hill is in January. I had in my mind some vague summery future. Someone has some painting to do.

Got the play version of Night, Sleep, and the Dreams of Lovers out of mothballs. It’s good. I had no reason to abandon it, except for that attenuated man at NKU saying, “Of course it’s not publishable. There’s a long way to go before it’s publishable.” Except for John Guare sniffing, “Studios just don’t work that way.” I don’t think any development situation has ever done me good. They make me hide my wounded treasures away without even considering that the criticisms might have been idiotic. I EXPECT them to be good for me, and when they aren’t, it takes me too long to blame the badness of the critique.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017


November 13, 2017

E-mail from one of J & L’s friends at the play:

We spent an hour last night talking about Truman and the complex, terrible choices of that moment. It was disturbing in the best possible way. I thought the two young characters were a powerful dramatic choice to help us experience the consequences. It was so painful to move from Truman's compassion for the next generation of youth to be conscripted in an awful war and the young girl's yearning for her home that will be incinerated by the bomb. The arguments by the military were also complex. As the ending wove the various stories together and took our breath away with Truman's abrupt signature and all its consequences, I felt a profound grief. Thank you for this work at this time when we again face the possibility of nuclear weapons as a strategic choice. It was difficult to sleep last night with all those images running through our minds. 
Jack and Leland have always described you as a Renaissance man. 
Larry

Taught a few of The Cantos, the first time in my career when I have. It was joyful. At least some of the class sat there with grins on their faces.

Came home and planted what I believe and hope to be the last carton of bulbs and roots. Nine peonies, three allium. In digging I uncovered a beautiful brown snake who apparently crept under my topsoil for a winter sleep. I laid him carefully back, replaced his dirt, gave him an additional blanket of mulch. I don’t think he even woke up.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

November 12, 2017

So concentrated on getting through that I may have neglected to observe what a remarkable weekend this has been. Dragged myself to the studio for the November stroll, and had the first surprise when R and his beautiful eyes appeared to keep me company, the second when he brought his rent money, the third when people began buying my paintings, at a rate for which I had no precedent. Five, all in all. Rosemary took the bladder campion on art paper; some woman came in and took the radiant toad (which I will have to repaint, not wanting a toadless wall); a husband and wife from Southern Pines chose three, and may have taken more had I dropped the astonishment and picked up salesmanship. They have the moody moonlit picture of me on the Tubber Road in Ireland; the parula warble on golden paper, and–most astonishingly– the big “Moonlight,” with its mystical animals on an African plain, rhino, giraffes, and, downstage, a black crowned night heron.. I thought that would hang on my own wall forever. It would be interesting to see the rest of their collection. J and L had come up from Atlanta. They suffered the ordeal of Biltmore House at Christmas; then we had some barbecue at Moe’s and it was off to the theater. Our meal included the Platonic Form of yellow squash casserole. Friday the Magnetic was all but filled to the chair; Saturday was absolutely filled, with not a spare chair. The room was full of friends, and the performance went well, and I was very happy. Q’s dad came from Durham (is it?) For the second time, bringing Q’s sister. So, this is to say, trying to put modesty and anxiety aside, it was triumphal, the weekend, and I will try at once not to get used to it and prolong it such as I may. Everyone is asleep downstairs as the north, which is what I can see from the study window, pales.

November 11, 2017

The Fs appeared from Atlanta, and after the show we ate at the pizza place on Depot Street, catching up. I was disenchanted with them after The Birth of Color, so it was good to get back into a place of friendship and conviviality. Much news of people I barely know, which, then, becomes a kind of fiction. I’m beginning to anticipate the quirks of my actors, what mistakes they’re likely to make and how they’re likely to get out of them. J just sits until someone else picks up the scene. M turns the phrase around out loud until she gets it right, like a person in a conversation figuring out exactly what she wants to say. Y just bulls through. The last two are acceptable. Brilliant winter weather.

Saturday, November 11, 2017


November 10, 2017

Planted a late-arriving carton of bulbs, mostly outside the fence facing the street, for the edification of passers-by. Got The Eye of Horus to the half-way mark. Big Cantaria rehearsal, with almost everybody there. Too much is happening there. I’ve begun to let information leak out of me like water from an overflowing pail. Was in good voice. Less mucous when I wake. Most of the music tawdry, but I have lost that battle. These little blessings--

Thursday, November 9, 2017


November 9, 2017

Supposed to be at a radio station in a few hours to talk about the play. So I have a chunk of morning darkness to work on another play, and on my window list are three plays I’m trying to complete or resurrect simultaneously. One could be done today, one I started ten years ago, maybe, and never thought of the simple thing it needed to bring it out of the fog. Resent the moments taken away from it. I want to finish it and fire it off to Q, who of all the people in the world through these last–what?–twenty years of effort is the only one who really bothered to learn my plays, to be hungry for them, to corner me in my office to talk about them, to think that they amount to what I think they do. I revealed that I had never even tried to publish one. He said, “Look, I’m no expert, but you have 30 plays, and I have seen the quality, and that makes you the outstanding dramatic talent of our time. I think you could publish something.” I don’t say what I’m thinking, which is that my being the great dramatic talent of our time has, so far, been almost completely irrelevant to the progress of my career. I have not submitted anything for publication because, though I am used to rejection in every other area, I don’t think I could endure “No” to one of my plays. One gets used to these things, of course, or one says one does, slinking home to chew one’s heart in the darkness. I’ve never met anyone with exactly Q’s brand of energy. His ambitions seem are conspicuously lower– or other–than his abundant talents. On stage is a different creature from the others, aware, present, inventive long after some of them have gone onto autopilot. His thought is swift and does not always reveal its path from one point to another. He is the liveliest of the six or seven young men who come to my office regularly to open their hearts. Katherine calls them my fan club. I call them blessing.

Jim Cavener writes in the Citizen-Times:

'Uranium 235' recalls Truman and The Bomb at Magnetic
Jim Cavener Published 2:40 a.m. ET Nov. 8, 2017

Asheville Renaissance man David Brendan Hopes has another feather for his highly decorated cap. In addition to being a poet, actor, novelist, humanities and literature professor, musician, gallery owner, Celtic connoisseur and bon vivant, Hopes is an often-published playwright. His newest work has just hit the boards in its premiere production by the Magnetic Theatre, in a production that is director Andrew Gall's first as the company's artistic director.

Hopes has not been known to shy away from controversial themes or touchy issues in past undertakings. Nor with the current "Uranium 235," which is based on one of the most debated events of the past century: Racing against Nazi efforts to utilize atomic energy for destructive purposes during World War II, the Roosevelt administration launched the Manhattan Project — which Vice President Harry Truman was told nothing about. So when he inherited the presidency, he harbored great resentment.

Why was he not told in advance? Should he authorize dropping the bombs on Japan? This is the crux of the story in "Uranium 235." And for a first production, the play raises the right questions. Further work on the script could bring forth a quite rewarding dramatic experience.

A great deal of research went into the story line and the sound and visual cues of the era. A thoughtful dramatic conceit is the introduction of a fictional muse for Truman's reflection on the struggle of whether to use The Bomb. Clio is given by Mary Katherine O'Donnell, dressed in the style of the era and with vocalizing that is spot-on in effect. Her rendition of the 1939 British tune,  "We'll Meet Again," popularized by English songstress Vera Lynn, is one of several nostalgic backgrounds.

Some of the most touching and effective scenes in this drama involve a young Japanese girl, most impressively portrayed by Brevard College senior Lily Bartleson. Her nuanced sanity is a welcome change from all the current and former nationalistic bull-picky. Another pleasant portrayal is that of Dan Clancy as physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, who needs do little more than wear the cocked hat and hold the ever-present cigarette. (Oppenheimer later died of throat cancer.)

The noble but bewildered President Truman is interpreted by Mike Yow. Truman's struggle is touching and authentic. A fairly stiff General Groves is given by Jim Weyhenmeyer, and a bouncy and boyish Jimmy is presented by Kiran Bursenos.

A novel innovation in the presentation is a combination of masked actors and puppeteering to portray a Japanese-American family in an internment camp during that terrible mid-1940s period. The masks are photo reproductions of children of an actual family— sad reminders of a clearly unconstitutional confinement of American citizens, out of irrational fear and blind prejudice.  A disclaimer printed in the program explains the racist and ethnocentric prejudices of the era.

Contact Jim Cavener at jimcavener@aya.yale.edu.

One is terrified of the first review. The terror is gone.

Excellent Review also by Tony Kiss in the Mountain Xpress--and with far fewer errors in fact:

In the powerful premiere of Uranium235, onstage through Saturday, Nov. 18, at The Magnetic Theatre, President Harry S. Truman wrestles with perhaps the most horrific decision of the 20th century — whether or not to drop the atomic bomb on Japan. If the device works, it might bring an immediate end to World War II, saving the lives of ground troops who would otherwise be forced into a bloody land invasion. But the untested bomb would also kill many Japanese civilians and sentence others to radiation poisoning. The bomb might even set the atmosphere ablaze and destroy the world.

Asheville-based playwright David Brendan Hopes, veteran director Andrew Gall and a capable cast handle this intense subject matter with skill, weaving a mix of history, drama, fantasy and even song and dance.

Uranium235 contains certain slang terms for the Japanese and the Germans that are considered offensive today. Those slurs fit the era (1945), but some in the audience may squirm when hearing them. A disclaimer is flashed on screen before the show, but it might have been useful to have this explanation delivered by a speaker before the performance.

Uranium235 mostly takes place in the president’s office. Mike Yow gives a convincing turn as Truman. A compelling Mary Katherine O’Donnell is his mysterious muse Clio, an unconventional character who counsels the president. The play has a surreal feel, largely thanks to O’Donnell’s strong performance. (She also shares her notable singing voice.)

Truman is fresh in office after the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt. He is overwhelmed and angry about only just being informed of the atomic weapon. Adding to his frustration, others have long known of its development.

Jim Weyhenmeyer plays Gen. Groves, who attempts to explain why the new president was not in on the big secret. Dan Clancy delivers as the cocky physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, who helped build the bomb, but admits he doesn’t know if it will work.

A smaller story involves Jimmy (Kiran Bursenos), a young American student, who befriends Kiko (Lily Bartleson) a Japanese girl. Kiko dreams of her ancestral homeland, which is soon to be forever changed.

This heavy material is appropriately lightened by an ensemble of singer-dancers (Bartleson, Bursenos, Bia Holmes, Eugene Jones, Samuel Quinn Morris and Hannah Williams-Beaver), showcasing wartime songs. They sometimes enter from the back of the theater or even come offstage and into the audience.

Authentic-looking dress for all the players adds icing to the cake. A cheer is deserved for costume designer Kayren McKnight.


LATER: Interviewed on Asheville FM this AM. Had a good time. The host--and therefore the interview–was very political. I had a good time, and hope I didn’t come off sounding, to whomever might have been listening, like an idiot.

November 8, 2017

Encouraged S to get together a letter-writing campaign to support A’s re-appointment, which she feels to be in danger because of The Boy’s malignance. He’s like Trump. Everyone hates him, and yet there seems to be no remedy. Liberals think that part of their liberality is protecting those of their own who transgress. I don’t think that. Our tolerance protects his self-protective intolerance. I wonder to what degree that is excusable.


November 7, 2017

Dragged myself off the couch to attend the opening of Chall’s bar. I don’t know what I expected–maybe something more streamlined and modernistic, but it turns out to be exactly right for the building and the neighborhood, a sort of studied pre-WWII parchment-colored caressing ambiance, welcoming and neighborhood-y. Pleased by the big handsome bartender, and by the drink he made me, something citrus-y and Venetian. I always say “you need to get out more.” Sometimes I do.


November 6, 2017

Sunday devoured by church, ending with what I thought must be a fine rendition of the Brahms Requiem by the All Souls choir. What an honor it is to do such repertoire!

Monday, November 6, 2017


November 5, 2017

Odd that yesterday I should feel so physically bad and today relatively good. Was it too much rehearsal? Too little water? Perhaps anxiety over actual opening night. If it was the last, the anxiety was useless, for opening night (aside from Groves’ going up again) was triumphant. Nothing but fireworks. The room was full. The crowd was responsive. The cast was brilliant; friends came from all over the map– Denise and Ted from Nashville, John and wife from Chapel Hill–and everyone said that it was brilliant and I was brilliant and that’s all I ask. It may have been the most pure Opening of my professional life. Slept well, waking with an extra hour, thanks to the return to God’s time.

Saturday, November 4, 2017


November 4, 2017

Radiant summer/fall. A blanket of drowsy exhaustion settles on me, so that thought or action of any kind seems far off and irksome. It’s like moving through warm mist, not unpleasant, but perplexing. The medicine I take to reduce the inflammation in my joints adds to it, but it had settled in somewhat before I took the pill. Almost had to leave rehearsal for the Brahms this morning because of side stitches, cramps in my fingers, and a half-dizzy exhaustion that I thought would make me pass out, but in the end didn’t. Part of it is dehydration, something one often does not think to foresee until it is too late.

Bought furniture at Village Antiques, giving the people there cards for Uranium 235, and I’ll be damned if one of them didn’t actually show up last night with his whole family in tow. Thursday night performance left me in limbo. I had no idea whether the audience had enjoyed it, or whether it was any good– observation without judgment, a shoulder-shrugging blank. Last night, though, was triumphant. Dinner with A and S at the Bull and Beggar, then a show that was alive, funny, compelling. I could feel the pleasure of the audience. General Groves went absolutely up at the beginning of his scene and never came back; Truman saved the scene by soldiering forward undismayed, asking and answering as, perhaps, such a man would. All Groves had to do was answer the questions he was being feed, but his panic was so great he couldn’t think of that, or rather answered exactly wrong, as if it were Opposite Night on the Magnetic stage. I doubt anyone noticed but me. The playwright wants to say, “Just get the words right; that’s all that really matters.” It is my experience that such a thing almost never happens. But still– for last night, triumph. Maybe in some ways the purest triumph of my career as a playwright, in that nobody was walking out with gloom on their face.

Pissed because people can’t buy tickets for my show without being offered tickets for the upcoming Christmas feature. The people who produce the Christmas piece are the people who mind the web-page, so protest is probably futile.

A few hours left to beat myself into consciousness before official opening night.
November 3, 2017

Halloween run-through was no worse than it ought to have been, but bad enough that I was glad to use choir rehearsal as an excuse not to watch the next night. Most of the problems were technical, all of which had to do with designers expressing themselves in ways that had, actually, nothing intrinsically to do with the script. One offers a falcon and receives back a peacock. Yet I trust all will be well, and all the additions are probably lovely, if one could see them working.

November 2, 2017

Sitting on my porch barefoot on the 2nd of November with a gin and tonic in my hand.

The Stewartia turns pale orange over night.

One white rose in the back garden, made whiter by a pinkish bud beside it.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017


November 1, 2017

Watched Tech last night. The problems with the show are pretty much all technical issues, which may be ironed out tonight (when I will not be present) and present perfection at first preview tomorrow night. The one thing that tightened tech will not cure is the sore throat and voicelessness of our lead soprano. May prayer avail. Lead actor fumbles, dependably, one word in each speech. You’d think that you wouldn’t hear it, wouldn’t let the fumble cast shade upon the whole passage, but you do. One of my worst theater memories was in Valdez, when the lead actress stumbled over one word in every speech in Night, Sleep, and the Dreams of Lovers. After a while, that’s all you heard. I thought the afternoon would never end. May prayer avail.  Endlessly impressed and grateful to see so many people working so hard to realize my vision– though, I hope, it is become their vision as well. M is sublime.

The interview by public radio–the print press release, anyway-- turned out to be something of a disaster, misrepresentation by misquote. I think it better to say nothing.  I missed the broadcast. Maybe that was well.

Dream in which I rented a house to T for a reduced rate, and discovered he had installed an amusement park on the property. When I awoke I was still confused as to whether I had a grievance or not. We can only speak until a woman of a certain kind– very thin and decades too young for him–walks into the café, at which time 100% of his attention rivets–un-apologetically–on her, like a dog’s upon a squirrel. He says, “How can I help it?”  By simply not doing it, I refrain from answering. We haven’t talked more than a minute in months. After a brief, accidental encounter at the High Five, he lunges over to the corner to chew on their unsalable screenplays with Wind. I am too old still to be so perplexed by human conduct. 

Tuesday, October 31, 2017


October 31, 2017

All Hallow’s Eve. I thought of the best Halloween of my life, It must have been– what? 1971. George and Denny and Kit and a few others of us ran to the Hiram graveyard, because we knew we would never see a Halloween like that again, under a full moon, the night clear as steel, us friends and, though we never put the name to it, lovers. I knew as I ran there that there would never be another one like it, and I was right. I’m running there now in my memory, but with an odd perspective, ten feet above the sidewalk, as if a I were a giant, or a floating spirit, and the round moon looks directly in my face.

The Halloween of 5th grade, I think it was, when I was getting to go out at night in my costume, when my father stopped me and said I was not going to trick or treating that night, but instead I was going to work in the garden.
“Why?”
“Because I said so.”
“But, it’s already dark–“
He hit me in the mouth and trotted me out to the tiny garden beside the house and showed me what he wanted me to do. I had no idea what I had done. I had no idea what was on his mind. I sat against the wall and sobbed, drawing myself in so the trick or treaters wouldn’t see me, nor I them. I felt the joyful spirits of the night drawing away from me all around. It was the worst night of my life up to that point. It was too dark to do anything he said, so I just sat until it was time to come in.  I wouldn’t have hated him had there been something to balance nights like that, but there was nothing which quite fit into the balance.

I am going to see a run-through of my play. I have not been home on Halloween to give out candy in thirty years.

October 30, 2017

Spent a few minutes at tech rehearsal, which was no more chaotic than it needed to be. By and large, the things which could be under control were. Several things looked great, including Q on stage. Left because I was not going to be able to see much that night. Tech is ever hell. Odd pale blob of moon.

Sunday, October 29, 2017


October 29, 2017

Dream at morning. I’m involved in a vast battle in semi-darkness. I’m moving from one place to another on the battlefield, when I encounter a soldier with pale skin and dark hair. He seems stunned and frightened. I ask him what’s wrong, and he says his head hurts so much he can’t move. I begun to rub his scalp and temples, and he relaxes. The battle is far away, so when he falls asleep in my arms, I let him. At some point, though, I get up and rejoin the action.  Later on, a group of officers approaches me and asks me to come with them. As we go, I learn that the soldier I comforted was the emperor, and my job from now on is to massage and comfort him when his headaches come upon him. The dream ends before I have decided what I think of that.

One more crate of bulbs arrived, and got into the ground before yesterday’s hard and bitter deluge.

Lunch after church with student M, who is off to Durham, UNCA’s education department having failed him. Very bright young man, very good company. He had some disturbing criticisms about one of my colleagues–not totally unexpected, but rather worse than expected. What to do? I will not “tattle,” and direct confrontation NEVER works in the elliptical South.

Movie after lunch with DJ and Russell. Snow flew in the air as I drove.

Saturday, October 28, 2017


October 28, 2017

Q follows me to my office to talk about the plays I sent him, seriously and at length, his having considered them more deeply than anyone who was not involved in actually producing them– which he, in fact, longs to do. He repeats that his perspective is that of a born director, which explains, he says, why I sometimes don’t see things as he does. But weaknesses he indicates are weaknesses I’ve seen or suspected myself. He says my plays are “small” in that they arise and develop from quite tiny moments or perceptions. Considering what he’s seen, that’s true, and interesting, since I never intended or really thought of it before. He says they are like jewels which a director must “open up” and into which introduce light. An audience may not perceive them as “real” unless this light is introduced. This part I don’t understand. I say so, adding that’s it’s probably one of those things I’d have to see in action to comprehend. He plays off You Tube music he has chosen for Night Music, though I have pointed out that, this time, somebody else is directing the show. He dances around the room, humming the tunes. I confess to him that I have done everything I could to “director-proof” my plays–and actor-proof them to some degree– guiding firmly away from the most egregious of possible misinterpretations. He suggests it is exactly this strategy, being successful, which necessitates the intervention of a director. I don’t get it. Willing to believe it. Will keep watching.  In any event, this is the longest conversation I’ve ever had with anybody about the actual substance of my dramatic work. I never had a mentor in playwriting, having commenced that life in isolation, perhaps even in secret. Have talked with directors, of course, but most of that talk was operational, how to achieve the production rather than purely what I intended by the work. I took this as a kind of compliment, an indication that my vision was trusted. In New York, SB asked me what I meant by certain things, but never made one structural or interpretive observation. SS seemed to trust me and move forward with minimal soul-searching. This is to say that on one level I find all this attention–and from a twenty year old–perplexing, but of course on another, beguiling. So far it’s entirely theoretical. My habit is to, for the most part, stand back and let actors and directors do their work, as I would do with him if he were actually directing, saying “Ah!” when, for better or for worse, I got his point.

Interview with the Dean concerning our new Chair. I never met her before, but sensed immediate sympathy. We even talked to each other a little in German. I said  Es tut mir leid, dass wir uns noch nie getroffen haben, and she answered in German, probably without having noticed. I made clear I would make an awful chair; she made clear (or semi-clear) that the MFA in creative writing is a done deal. Satisfaction all around.

Love the sound of my little gas heater hissing away in the corner.

J had the idea we should meet at the AC Hotel Capella rooftop on Friday night, and so we did, and it was immensely festive. I need to write on my wall where I see i every day, “Go out and party.”

 Montford’s female Othello opens the same day as my play. It is a terrible conception, a terrible idea, one that, from the root up, cannot succeed except to hack a colossal vision into one thin stick of political pleading. Of course, no one will dare say it.

My inner clock, upset by Ireland, is only now back on course. It is still dark and already I have accomplished much. Must plant. Must paint. Must----


October 27, 2017

Somewhat to my surprise, a carton full of books, my books, arrives at the door. I open it, trembling with excitement. I think that the print is too pale, but then I think I think that just so the gods will turn their envy elsewhere. 

One orange rose, like a distant sun, still hangs above the front garden.

We seem to have acquired an actual Asian actor, and a good one, so it is said, which allows us to dodge the whole white-person-playing-Asian issue. I think it’s a silly issue, but am, alas, not the only person in the world.

Music introduced to Cantaria for Christmas is very disappointing, in fact makes me wonder if I want to continue. Several of us imagine that our trivial taste must surely extend to the audience, and insist that the stupidest choices must of necessity be the most popular. I think I want to close the issue by saying things like, “Life grows short. I will never sing ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’ or ‘Sleighride’ ever again.”

Thursday, October 26, 2017


October 26, 2017

Cold bright days. Good classes, though I hear myself asking, “What were we meant to do today?” the material of two of those classes pretty much running neck and neck. Students leap up to give impromptu lectures on plot structure. I ask myself, why don’t I give lectures on correct plot structure? Because I believe that great writing can be analyzed but not anticipated– improvised but almost never made from a menu. People want the check list, though, the things which, if they do, shall render them a masterwork. 

Council approves plans for a luxury hotel in the River District, right next to the Phil Mechanic. Impossible to imagine how this is not the end for us.

Had postcards made for Peniel.

Monday, October 23, 2017


October 23, 2017

Sweet M chatted with me through my late morning office hours. It was almost absurdly pleasant, like watching a movie of somebody else’s life. Have begun to receive benign visitations and know not why, and do not ask why lest they become self-conscious and creep away.

Maud seems to have disappeared, though she can be nowhere but in this house.

My beautiful designer wants to make a statement about racism out of the fact that our Japanese characters are white people with masks on. In fact, our Japanese characters are white people with masks on because we have no Japanese actors. I think we could say that and be done, but perhaps I’m missing a larger point.

Sunday, October 22, 2017


October 22, 2017

Peniel’s official release day is November 17. Just now getting excited, as the numbers of things that could go wrong diminish toward zero. In its genre, this book is unanswerable. Gave my first copy to Evan in thanks for his blurb.

Yesterday evening planted tiger lilies and golden loosestrife. I always garden in the morning, so gardening in the evening seems melancholy and elegiac. One is called at by different birds.

Days of blazing autumn brilliance.

Dropped in at the Magnetic for a production meeting. Six grown people sitting around extending their energies toward the realization of your play is very exciting. Returned for a rehearsal, and was on the cusp between happy and relieved. The music is sounding very good. There is a bit of wandering about on stage– if that Is a directorial problem or a problem of nerves and an early run-through I’m not certain. Much obliteration of lines, and yet much achievement of lines. This early on I’ll look at the bright side.  M always has troubles with paraphrasing, which I don’t mind unless they’re my words. But, I was happy, and, again, amazed that people put so much labor into realizing my play. Brought vivacious Q to them, and they were happy, as I knew they would be.

Went to the studio, but there was no inspiration, and I just sat for a while. R had destroyed the window by prying it open, and then just left without repairing it or trying to close it at all. Sigh. One is ill-prepared to be the only adult all the time.

Put in a bed of yellow wake-robin, telling myself it’s the last planting of the year.

Friday, October 20, 2017


October 19, 2017

Turned on the upstairs heater with minimal struggle. Brahms beaten down in the evening. Zach ill, so no massage. Some progress on my Zoo story. Uranium down a couple of actors. Which worries are mine? Ate at Gan Shan Station, and one of the servers came up and confirmed my name, and said, “I knew that was your profile out here.” He is Dustin, my son when we did Amahl and the Night Visitors years ago, whom I went to see in Into the Woods at his high school. I was hurt because I thought we had a relationship, which simply disappeared after that. Apparently it did not disappear at all. It went to Africa. It fathered children. It started to manage a restaurant. Prototype of Peniel appears in the mail. it is perfect.

Thursday, October 19, 2017


October 18, 2017

A black-capped vireo sports in my yard.  Merry little thing, fluffing his feathers in the cool sunlight.  God thinks this makes it all OK, and it very nearly does.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017


October 17, 2017

RC decided not to continue as chair, me fighting the inclination to think of the department as falling apart. It is, in way, but mostly through pressure from outside that wants educational institutions to stop being educational institutions and start being corporations. It’s ruination, but if there’s something little D can do about it, I haven’t thought of it. Such things are usually gotten through by sheer cussedness, but the portion of cussedness in our department seems to be limited to me now. I say things like “Let’s just ignore it,” or “Let’s just not do it,” which I know, absolutely, work and had worked in the past, and I get blank stares of incomprehension. Same with my classes: “What? We actually have freedom of will????” If it were only half terror and half delight it would be well, but is mostly terror. We planted Merritt’s dogwood tree in the upper Quad. I was invited to push the memorial plaque into the ground, which I did with such vehemence that it broke. Well, an anecdote for all. . . . 

Monday, October 16, 2017


October 16, 2017

In the wake of, I suppose, the latest Hollywood scandal, women started a Face Book campaign where everyone of them who has been molested or hurt or raped or diminished by a man writes in their space, “Me too.” At the end of the day I sit reeling from the sheer numbers. I never understood. Women live different lives from what we do, lives full of uncertainty and terror, sometimes buried terror, sometimes terror on the surface, that I am, or was till now, incapable fully of apprehending. They are in danger from us at every turn. It is the most shocking thing. The angrier of them hiss “You should have known,” and perhaps one should, but I didn’t. Part of my dumbfoundment is that two times I have been accused of “harassment” and it was by entitled brats who not only lied but were vague enough to keep their lies interesting until I was able to say, publicly, to their faces, “what exactly was it that I did?” and that ended it. Personal experience made me suspect a raft of mean-spirited innuendo that the light of day would not sustain. But, no, this is something completely different, cavalier brutality and collusion and inhumanity of a proportion I am still not able to comprehend. I love men. I am in the habit of defending us from what I think of as the irrational edge of self-serving Feminism. But not here, not this. I feel like Dante crying out “Who would have thought death had undone so many?” We are brutes and I can’t understand why. The hatred for men I have heard in the rhetoric of some women is not, as I had thought, insane. It is in some senses not even enough. It is the most confusing and distressing moment. It is also the fiftieth time this month I have cried out “What can I do to help?” and no answer has come back. I suppose, to begin with, find out where I too am brutish and stop it.  I think I’m innocent of this, but I probably am not. Maybe that slob Weinstein will end up as a kind of accidental angel.

Good classes, I think. My intro to creative writing class calls me “David,” as no class in 34 years has done. Have no idea what I think of it, but I hope it’s affection. Spent one class listening to presentations and staring at the beautiful neck of the man in front of me.

October 15, 2017

Purple blossoms cover the eggplant vines, which I did not have the heart to pull out just yet.

Seized by cramps mounting the stairs to the study. Could barely move up or down. Cursed all the way, clawing the wall, to the sink. If I were God I would not do those things which leave him open to such vituperation.

Sunday, October 15, 2017


October 14, 2017

Rose before the light, had coffee and began a new story at High Five. Sat on the terrace, where at first my only light was the red neon OPEN sign. A rat emerged and gleaned a little in the darkness, looking elegant, looking like a wild animal. It was still barely light when I picked up the shovel and finished planting almost all that had been left unplanted: the second sassafras, ferns, trillium, windflowers.  The day was a little poisoned by thoughts of The Boy, and the ways in which his actions are parallel to those of our President, being mitigated some by their smallness.

As for our President, the game is now to see how long he can last, how many stupidities, blunders, arrogations, cruelties (any one of which would have sunk any other politician in my lifetime) can be piled one atop the other until his rotten party is finally moved to act. Is this the most interesting time in American politics? Watergate was interesting, but somehow less riotously absurd than this.

Cantaria concert at the UU in Hendersonville. I think it went well. It felt like it went well. I was in whole voice nearly to the end. Exquisite white wine at Avenue M afterwards.

Friday, October 13, 2017


October 13, 2017

Days of school alternating with days in the garden, both leaving me exhausted. Restored much that I allowed be gobbled up by grass during the summer. Transplanted struggling acanthus. After trying for several years, and futilely planting bare sticks that mail-order nurseries claimed were sassafras, I finally found the real thing at Reems Creek, and bought me two. The sassafras makes me unaccountably happy. The sweaty burly nurseryman was inexplicably to my taste. 

My story of disappointment in Vienna has been accepted for publication.

Good classes, except when giving presentations, my students refuse to attempt pronunciation of foreign words. “You’re the specialist now,” I want to shriek, “say the damn words correctly!” Students are not taught boldness; they are taught resentment, which looks similar, sometimes, but is really very different.

Do the ones who do badly actually not know they’re doing badly?

Fury over the impossible form the New School sends in order for us to get our pittance of honorarium. Necessary forms are literally unavailable. A tentacle of the bureaucrafication of the whole world of education, where nothing, now, can be accomplished without a blizzard of steps and paperwork necessary only because someone is being paid to require it. Even as every advancement at UNCA is hedged about with sidesteps and blind alleys, jackals which must have their little bite. Almost fainted when I actually got my travel reimbursement this morning. I’d given it up in my heart because one document they said they required did not exist and never had existed. Assumed that would be the end of it. 

The postcards for Uranium 235 arrived, and they were well.

Good choir rehearsal, all Brahms. Cantaria rehearsal at which I never quite lost my temper, and that is notable.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017


October 10, 2017

Downtown for an interview at BRPR with M, who turns out to be cute and compact, new to the area, and a singularly good interviewer. He had done astonishing research about me and was able to ask insightful questions. I had misjudged the occasion of the interview, thinking it was and being prepared for the usual PR about Uranium 235.  It was much deeper and more personal than that. I hope I wasn’t flummoxed.

Arrived downtown early, and sat on Pack Square watching a guy making gigantic soap bubbles with an apparatus he had. Some sailed over the roofs. The sky was gray so the bubbles seemed like pearls, subtle and subdued.

October 9, 2017

Transcribing the play I began in the Paramount and sliding toward drunkenness Sunday morning in Newark airport. Harder than usual to decode my own scribbles.

Another huge gardening day. Drove to Jesse Israel and rescued half priced ferns to plant behind the pond. Great digging, awaiting plants coming through the mail. Even after two days’ of deluge, the ground was not sodden–just pleasantly damp. Yellow jackets patrolled the ground, singly, or a few together. They looked forlorn and vulnerable. I didn’t know if they were looking for food or for a place to burrow in for the winter. My loosening up yards of soil may gave them choices, if the latter.

Sunday, October 8, 2017


October 8, 2017

For a couple of years now I have been afflicted with floods of mucous, which kept me from sleeping (or would have, if anything could) at night, and damaged my throat so that it was sometimes impossible to sing, or even to speak. Coughing, cataclysmic sneezing. Couldn’t find a medication or a cause, until I realized that it happens only in the winter, before I turn on the furnace (which I had blamed for drying out the house and my throat), but after I get out my winter sleep covering: an Afghan Dale knitted (or crotcheted, or whatever you do) years ago. Am I allergic to that? Slept without it last night; am mucous free this morning. Part of the sensation is deep relief, part irritation that so many months were lost to so inconsequential a thing. Did Dale know what he was doing? An ex-boyfriend’s revenge, like those blankets soaked in smallpox that the whites gave to the Indians?  

Afternoon: warm, hurricane-driven rain, so like the temperature of human skin that though to the eyes it appears to be raining hard, the body barely feels it.

October 7, 2017

Arose in the dark to sing for the Buncombe County Democratic Ladies at the Renaissance. I support their politics, but they were the worst conceivable audience.

Another day of heavy gardening, redigging the “blue” garden after a summer’s neglect, planting what present themselves as “tree lilies.” We’ll see. Dug around an acanthus and a rose , which are of the few survivors in that part of the garden.

A vireo– I think, sparrow sized, pale beneath and slate gray above– swept across the top of my pond, either gathering insects there or outright fishing.  

Party for L’s 65th– festive, but for me too many people in too small a space. I promised to approximate a painting he had seen in the Democratic Ladies’ auction and liked, only that painting was bad and mine won’t be. All society that doesn’t have something to do with the arts is beginning to wear on me.

Saturday, October 7, 2017


October 6, 2017

Dream that a man I admired handed me his sword to polish. Spent the rest of the  dream trying to find the right polish, trying to find a place to work where I wouldn’t be disturbed. Dedicated the day to heroic gardening, and though I started out tired, I got no tireder. A great raft of iris into the ground and mulched.

Thursday, October 5, 2017


October 5, 2017

Handel from the radio downstairs. The morning was supremely beautiful, silver against silvery blue. Last night spent singing Brahms and having cocktails afterward: a kind of paradise.

Coffee with SS, much new information about the situation at the Magnetic. I am amazed by my capacity to, with a whirlwind thundering about me, sense nothing, anticipate nothing, fail to see the herd of dinosaurs rocking over the hill. Part of it is innocence, I hope.

Planted two more expensive tree peonies, where I will see them this spring when I walk out the front door.

October 4, 2017

W opened his book tour at Lipinsky, and did a reading with support from balladeers and other storytellers. I rejoice in it all; he is the last person on earth whom success will make an asshole. About fifty alumni rushing up to say how they remember me and how I changed their lives. My first thought, “is someone paying them to do this?” But my second thought was otherwise.


October 3, 2017

Return to classes, triumphant, I think, except that my voice was ruined by the winter flux, which seems to be better this morning. Shelley in one class, Keats in another, the writing of poetry in the third. Discussion of comprehensive exam grades. No failures in our batch.  Night Music rescheduled for February. Uranium 235 proceeding apace, but lacking men. What with two plays and one book, almost too many details to keep up with: a situation long dreamed-of.

Of all the people I know in New York– who were warned by Face Book that I would be there–none bothered to look me up. Some made excuses– “Oh, that weekend is SO crazy. . . I’ll be out of town. . . “ One deals with the truth that nobody wanted to bother.

Tom Petty is dead– a year younger than me.

So, the big Scribner’s New School reading– the take away is that even in that august company I am the best, or at least among the best, and among the few who entirely “get it,” who get what a poet should be and do and for what reasons. And I am surely among the most obscure. What to do with that truth? If I thirty years ago I could have thought of anything but “soldier on,” I would have done it.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017


October 1, 2017

Stroll Sunday morning from the hotel to Columbus Circle in the clear autumn light. The Trump-stench hovers over that part of town, but it could almost be forgotten. Horse carts moving up 8th Avenue for their day’s work by the Park. People lament this, but the horses looked happy and fulfilled to me. Huge controversy in Spanish in the shuttle going to the airport. The people behind me were angry that things were scheduled so that they would wait five hours in the airport. They wanted to be taken back to their hotel and be picked up later. Finally, no. I wanted to ask them if they hadn’t, as I had, scheduled themselves. Multiple bloody Marys in the Newark airport.  Wrote on my new play.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

New York 3


September 30, 2017

Dedicated the day to the Metropolitan, which is deucedly hard to get to from this side of the island. Bought Michelangelo’s Notebooks, Spent a good time in the Classical sculpture, which looked so cool, clean, tranquil, and, tranquil, mused upon tranquility. A Chinese woman was abusing her child—she snapped at him, looked around, and when she felt herself unobserved, slapped him viciously across the face. I moved toward her, staring my most teacherly stare. She recoiled, then bent down to the child and pretended to explain patiently the reason she had hit him. I hoped she would attack me, so to learn what happens when one attacks someone your own size. Happy, full day. China’s revenge was to give me a Chinese cabbie on the ride home, who spoke not one word of English. It was excruciating.
          
Evening to the Beckett at Theater Row to see, The Suitcase Under the Bed, short plays by the Irishwoman Teresa Deevy. She is one of the “neglected voices” that the Mint company specializes in reviving. Had I read the pleading producer’s forward before, I might not have gone. Why had I never heard of her, when I am in the top 1%, probably, of those who know the Irish theater? The suitcase under the bed was where her manuscripts lay un-looked at for fifty years. The theater was intimate, the acting good. The plays were, sentimental, modest, well-made, almost exactly what one would have expected.  As for her assertion that they represented the truth of Irish life in her time, who knows? The Irish must have been very innocent.
        
Wrote two poems. My bottom line was that they be better than when we heard Thursday night, and they were.


Rather lovely day wandering around in the Village, both West and East. Sat in the Think Café in the north of the Village, among actors discussing acting, among writers tapping furiously at their lap tops, and where I myself began a new play based on the reminiscences of an old woman I met in the Paramount Bar the last time I was here. Bought a jacket at a military surplus store. Cruised Washington Square, visiting the scene of the Diamond Shirtwaist Fire. A red haired man played a grand piano in the light rain of the Square. Lunch at a sports bar off Astor Place, where cheers went up for one soccer team or the other.  Saw As You Like it at CTC on East 13th. It was radically cut—by ¼, I would think—to accommodate doing it without intermission, I guess. It featured movie star Ellen Burstyn as Jacques, rather a mistake, for she was frail and tentative and it was hard to see exactly how she fit in. Duke Senior and his men were absent, to make way for the love story. It was, all in all, not the ideal rendition. What I remember most was how bad I had to piss when it was over, and the restrooms were packed, and I couldn’t find relief until Bryant Park.  

Friday, September 29, 2017

New York 2


September 29, 2017

Began yesterday with my visit to Bryant Park, mossy green under the brilliant sky. Walked to MOMA, where I was apparently early and people keep shouting at me that this gallery or that was not yet open, but some were, so it was confusing. Gorgeous Max Ernst, kind of sickening Louise Bourgeoise, the permanent galleries, as usual, profound, and the rest largely of the moment. Sat in the garden and contemplated the moving waters. Ate falafel at a deli near the Park. 

Late in the afternoon I began my trek to the New School (which is wonderful, and I wish I had known it when I could have used it). Deep tiredness was on me, and for the first time in my life I suspected I wouldn’t make it if I tried to walk, so took the subway and arrived early enough for a merlot at a sidewalk café on 6th Avenue. Twenty seven poets of some renown gathered in the tiny green room before the reading, passing our books around to be signed by the others. There were famous names: Robert Pinsky, Sharon Olds, Joyce Carol Oates. Our editor started the evening by reading a long poem by John Ashbery, who is in the anthology though recently deceased. It was awful, the poem was, like all Ashbery poems I know, learned, self-satisfied, flat, assuming much and discovering nothing, the conversation of elegant Upper East Side fags over prosecco and hors d’oeuvres. Long boring poems were the rule of the evening, in fact, which began at 7 and ended just before 10. Joyce Carol Oates’ was among the longest and easily the worst, a desiccated and barely imagined diatribe against, of all things, Marlon Brando. I need to teach a class in The Long Poem, which should not be like an unruly lawn, just spreading out in all directions willy-nilly, but like a great tree, growing from a point toward a point with green and solidity between. In all that mass there were four poems worth listening to: mine was one. Mine was also quite the shortest. The audience was huge (about 300) and young and very kind. I prayed our tediousness didn’t set any of them off poetry. What happened afterwards I don’t know, as I was launching toward 14th street and the subway.

         
Wandered Times Square, then back to the Paramount for drinks. Met A, VP of Sales at Casa Dragones, a liquor importer. I noticed him because, though I walk down the streets of New York noticing handsome men, he was the most handsome I had seen all night. Big, blond, a little thick with middle age, he looked like a model for a Join the Marines commercial. He was in fact a Vet, and very much the businessman, and about as right-wing as you’d expect. He buttoned a button that was undone on my shirt. He bought me a drink and showed me his son (in military uniform, at VMI, his own alma mater) and his three wives, all heart-stoppingly gorgeous. The current one is the least gorgeous but the most beautiful, which I said and which he seemed to understand. He said, “You are the one professor I have ever met who was not full of bullshit.” We actually were able to talk a little educational politics. He’s afraid his son is being “brainwashed” by liberal professors, and my response was that liberal professors often take that stand for fear their students are being brainwashed by right wing bigots; it’s all to balance the input, all in genuine concern for the young. This seemed to sound reasonable to him. The bar man cut him off, which angered him and puzzled me, as he wasn’t drunk or disorderly that I noticed. I need encounters like that in my life. I love hotel bars.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

New York 1


September 28, 2017

          Seventeenth floor of the Paramount Hotel. View into the ventilation shaft, as usual. My seat companion for the flight was Brendan, an investor on his way to present his company, Singing Machines, the world’s largest maker of karaoke machines, to a group of investors. The company’s stock fluctuates between 2 and 20 cents, so he thought it might be an excellent buy for me. His knowledge of the markets was detailed and fascinating, but he seemed at the moment slightly diminished from former glory. He sold his two houses and now rotates among the houses of friends. He did not vote for Trump but was glad he won, because Hillary is a murderess. I asked him how he knew this and he said there is a book outlining how all the Clintons’ associates end up dead in mysterious housefires or commit suicide with TWO shots to the dead. This seemed implausible to me, but I realized I had no facts to support my doubt. He was an attractive man and I saw how he might make his way.

          Slightly unpacked, then made for the Iron Bar, which I do because it is, sort of, my local. Waitress Jennifer (from Staten Island, right beside the central fire house) talked to me about the Midwest, which In didn’t understand until I realized the credit card I’d given her is from a bank in Omaha. The city is not packed or frenetic just now, so the tour through Times
was nostalgic.





























Wednesday, September 27, 2017


September 27, 2017

Christine here last night to discuss the production of Night Music over pale wine. Discussion of two different play productions, me correcting proofs on a book– two days of what I thought my whole life would be.

Kent State on the Vietnam War series last night. I was there. It is still a shock, and the shock is made deeper and more hateful by the discoveries of time. Also, Nixon, who I had thought was a smart man blundering into a series of unhappy mistakes, was actually evil and crooked from the first. People said so; I should have listened. He may have been even more evil than Trump. Trump is a stampeding elephant; Nixon was a viper in the grass.

Uncovered unrevised poems from Budapest, Venice, Ireland, with no time today to look at them very deeply.

The day of travel is always upheaval.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017


September 26, 2017

Read-through of Uranium 235 in the basement of the Grove Arcade last night. I’d arrived early and had time for a leisurely glass of wine at one of the sidewalk bistros, a lovely ritual which I could pursue almost daily if I set my mind to it. Limpid, sweet, European. The read-through was satisfactory in most every way, and in some cases truly exciting. Several parts written for men are being taken by women–a personnel necessity, I suppose, but one of my pet peeves. Genders are NOT interchangeable, and the play will be marred by this. AG seems less agitated by it than I, so I’ll look the other way and let it drop. I am always grateful and amazed when people take their time to say my lines and actualize my vision.
\
Tumultuous creative writing class yesterday. Chaos or excitement? I’m not sure. Superb poetry class, in which I introduced Shelley to general approbation. Today I need to get 58 things done in order to fly off to New York tomorrow. I tick them off one by one.

September 25, 2017

Rose ghostly early, caught up on bills, changed out the litter box that we were using when we moved here. Of course the new is not so good as the old.

No day goes by that our President does not embarrass himself and his country. Anyone else would have been impeached before Inauguration Day.

People getting into a sweat about what other people do during the National Anthem. Always a disaster to worry about other people’s symbolism.

My handsome leopard frog leaps into the pond with a squeak when I so much as walk out onto the terrace. This is disheartening. Who does he think dug the pond for him?

Sunday, September 24, 2017


September 24, 2017

Theater last night, Lucia’s new play, one of the local pieces which I can, at last, unreservedly praise. The perspectives in the two person play are not equal– one is clearly right, the other clearly wrong– but the writing does not judge between them. Good performances, too. I have a peer. The people in the seat behind me said they saw Washington Place several times, and thought it was the best thing the Magnetic has yet done. AG paid for my drinks. Nevertheless, I was uncomfortable all evening, fearing that to enjoy myself would somehow be a betrayal of SS, not even sure anything I would do or say or feel were applicable to the situation. Wanted to offer my help as the theater moves forward, but ought I? WILL it move forward? No one was talking about “it,” and neither did I, unsure whether I was meant to know or not. But AG has not cancelled tomorrow’s rehearsal, so onward.

Thought of Aunt Barbara. When my cousin Diane, her daughter, was not much more than a baby, Barbara and Diane and I were blackberry picking. Diane (being a baby) was smashing berries and upturning her bucket and not doing it “right.” I wanted to point this out, so our outing would not be futile. I realized that Diane was Barbara’s daughter, and so she would be predisposed to be on her side, but also that I was right, and trusted an adult to be on the side of the right disinterestedly.  So I made my complaint. My aunt’s response was, “You are hateful.” That was more than sixty years ago–perhaps I was six-- but it is as vivid as this moment. I stopped at the time and considered, Am I hateful? Have I been hateful all day, or was it just that one comment? I realized I had been foolish to think that she would take my side against her baby, but I had thought she might, given the reasonableness of my stand. I wonder today if “You are hateful” was her final and permanent evaluation of me. I can’t think of much I did to encourage her to change her mind. She is alive. She can be asked, but I do not have the courage. Perhaps she does not remember at all. Who ever means to be hateful?

A little more planting. Watching the orange fish in the pond circle slowly, glowing torpedoes, growing without aid from me.

Saturday, September 23, 2017


September 23, 2017

Office hours yesterday were taken up by visitation from three students, S, C, Quinn, who pretty much “just wanted to chat” and who each was a unique blessing, cheery and smart and candid. I counted them against great swaths of the Darkness, and they came out ahead. S was Exploration; C was Music; Q was Performance.

Hugely active day. I was digging in the garden before full light. Cultivated. Cleaned out about an acre of crabgrass (grown over mulch, so came out fairly easily with a rake), planted Dutch iris, German iris, double snowdrops. Lately I have been afflicted with tiredness coming on fairly quickly–one flight of stairs, a couple of heavy lifts– which does not involve pain or shortness of breath but simply a leaden, pervasive exhaustion. I thought this would get in the way of gardening.  The tiredness did come on, but did not grown any worse after the first iteration, so on I went. Less tired now than I would be at the end of an ordinary, not-much-physical-exertion day. After gardening I went to the studio and painted well, but no one was climbing the stairs, and I left a little discouraged. Second bout of gardening ended by rain.

Tried to buy a ticket to the Magnetic for tonight. The web page was out, and when I warned SS about it, he emailed back that he had been relieved by the Board of his duties. Impossible to know what to say on the basis of limited information, except that I had the impression he did 85% of the work done there, and what will they do now? Who is the Board and what were the issues? Asheville Arts organizations have a history of Boards turning on founding or dynamic directors, and it has seldom turned out well. Though, it must be said, sometimes. What does this mean for me, who have two plays scheduled there in the next four months, and hope for more in the future? What of him? Is there another theater to run? Should there perhaps be one? Can I get submerged in all that again? I did finally get a ticket for tonight– the piece looks boring online, so perhaps it is wonderful on stage–and maybe I’ll discover more. You never know whether to reach out to someone in this situation or to leave him alone. Even if it were me, I wouldn’t know which to prefer.

TG sends a touching blurb for Peniel. Realized I expect that, too, to fall through in some presently unforeseen way.

September 22, 2017

Woke the last two mornings with a recently rare sense of physical fullness and well–being.

Autumn. Cleaned the pond filter. Raked fallen branches out of the murky water, watching the dim silvery flash of fish beneath.

Friday, September 22, 2017


September 21, 2017

Summer turns its back. Autumn knocks at the door looking exactly like summer. The volunteer goldenrod are in misty gold bloom (the goldenrod I planted elsewhere having vanished long ago). I keep wanting to dig in the garden, but arrive home at the wrong time, or too tired.

Odd class day. There is one student (such students are always female in my experience) who has taken it upon herself a tone of imperious disrespect, like a judgmental older sister tired of my missing the mark all the time. If only you would do THIS we might learn something. . . if only you would explain the assignment in THIS way we might understand. A few days ago it was her literally shrieking at me, red-faced, at the end of class, “Grammar is subjective! Grammar is subjective!” I had told them that the grammar of a poem would reveal its meaning. Yesterday it was. . . I’m not sure what. . . the fact that we had a paper due on Monday, and that I had thought assigning the paper and giving the topic and putting it on the syllabus was enough. My program of underexplaining is quite deliberate, giving the student greatest leeway to exercise personal inspiration and individual slant, though I do therein admittedly neglect the student 1) too lazy to think for herself, 2) too frightened of doing it “wrong” to dare any personal commitment, 3) who has somewhere obtain a sense of entitlement whereby she comes away with a sense of grievance of things are not directed specifically to her expectations.  I also resent time spent in class talking about the conduct of the class. Just listen, and all will be well; I know from the testimony of generations that this is right. This student is unusually snotty about it all. After class Wednesday a crowd of my students followed me down the hall, and they did so to praise the class and my handling of it, to say it was their favorite, to say that they loved my lectures and were put off when missy redirected discussion to her anxieties, and what could be done about that? Two young women in the lobby said, “We can’t believe the disrespect she’s showing you.” I had interpreted the student’s attitude to grade-panic and perhaps mishandled humor; the class saw disrespect, and now I do too. We’ll see what onslaught comes today. I suggested that they could say things to her that I could not.


September 20, 2017

Long session with RS last night getting Peniel formatted. It’s exactly the sort of thing that used to drive me into passions of impatience, though this time I found it interesting, and had to get up and pace around the room only once. I think it’s going to be sort of glorious. I think it was that activity which gave me extraordinary dreams. I went to a Rock concert where the performer was godlike, and above him hovered a gigantic silver airship that changed shapes. The show was spectacular, and when it was over the performer collapsed on stage and the airship fell out of the sky, and you knew there would never be such a performance ever again. But as I was going home– I must have been slow for the parking lot was empty– a man stopped me. He held a package in his hand. When I said, “That was wonderful. Godlike. We’ll never see the like of it again,” he said, “Not true. I’m  -----‘s former manager, and I have chosen you.” The package in his hand was the collapsed airship, which began to grow and ascend into the sky as we talked.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017


September 19, 2017

Tried not to resent going to school only for a meeting, and going early to get some work done, and discovering that half that work could not be done because others were behind in theirs. Mostly sleep other than that. I’d look more deeply into why I’m always exhausted if it were uncomfortable in any way, but the exhaustion is kind of sweet and the sleep is sweet and the waking is sweet, so motivation lags. B is pregnant, so my sister is to be a grandmother, and I a great uncle. I foresee it is a girl.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017


September 18, 2017

Amazing day in class. Faust at 8 AM, then Tintern Abbey, then in the afternoon my creative writers in an odd passion over the novel Invisible Monster, which I thought was monstrous but they felt pretty much identified their lives. Had a discussion in which it was clear they felt– to a one, if I could judge by the nodding of heads–defeated by the crass consumerism and emptiness of modern times. Helpless, hopeless. Overwhelmed by the sheer power of hideous things. I felt like a child among cynics. But some wise spirit entered me and I read them Yeats’ “Lapis Lazuli” and Rilke’s “An Archaic Torso of Apollo.” The room went silent. Somebody said, “Well, that’s the real stuff,” as indeed it is. I wonder if I turned the day or if they just perceived a gap between us that could not be bridged. Three were weeping when I was done with “Lapis Lazuli.” Bless the greats. Bless the ancients. Bless wisdom which does not change. Gave them a prompt to respond to Jarrell’s “The Woman at the Washington Zoo.”

Whoring for blurbs for Peniel.

Monday, September 18, 2017


September 17, 2017

Schutz in church, then iced coffee with D and his son M who, over the last few years, has turned into D. Really quite lovely. You don’t usually see such playful harmony between a man and his teenaged son. I am to be the mentor of his senior project (writing a novella) at Irwin High. Why is fantasy the go-to of  beginning writers these days? Lack of rules? No real necessity of observation? The example of cinema, where there is almost nothing else? One reads and critiques, trying to find the proper admonition. Read Faust for the morning class. Each time it seems more brilliant. Watched French porn and could actually follow the conversation.

Saturday, September 16, 2017


September 16, 2017

Morning at the studio, where I painted well and sold a hummingbird on silver mesh background to two girls from Knoxville, one of whom wanted the painting for her grandmother. Some writing, mostly sleep and the longing for sleep. Meant to garden, but it didn’t happen. Part of the longing for sleep us fantastic, epic dreams. Giant spider haunted my living room window last night, right in the exact center, big as a fist.

September 15, 2017

Cable guy arrives, the Cable company finally agreeing that my problem lay outside the automatic menu of inquiries. He was a charming red-neck from Leicester, who took time to play with the cats. They send sweet boys on purpose so there’s nobody to blow up at. Modem fried, cablebox antique, some doo-dad loose on the utility pole. Oddly my clock radio was stricken too. The radio plays but the time is 6 hours off and cannot be reset.

Long talk with Mike, who wants a recommendation for a Fulbright to Germany. That is exactly right for him. We talked of Donne and MacDonald and Goethe, but mostly of religion. He had to fight for liberal perspectives I got pretty automatically by growing up in the UC of C.  Christ’s death necessary for atonement of our sins? Itself a grotesque and sinful thought. Sin? Not a philosophical concept but a whip in the hand. Hell? A fable told by scoundrels in order to control children. I landed soft; he came slamming in like a comet.

Constant prayer: Lord, allow me to love you.

September 14, 2017

Bought a keyboard for the Magnetic, unable to see how they could have rehearsed music in the past without one.

Smiling Mike in my 8 o’clock–who wants me to read Phantasties-- confides that he wants to drop put of school because he is not being challenged, and is forced to do busy work in most of his classes. He has a baccalaureate degree already, and returned to get a teaching license and another degree in English, so my usual advice’‘ No! Stick it out!”–was not sufficient this time. He is a bright and charming boy, and I’ll miss him. He wants to study Donne with me one on one, and I said “yes,” though we’ll see what actually happens. Donne may in fact be the gift I’ve given him.

Brahms at rehearsal last night. Paradise.

September 13, 2017

Cable continues to be out, which means I cannot work from home, and that I have strands of rage to fight through on my way out into the world. The phone reps are given exactly the most provoking thing to say to callers, that we don’t know what’s wrong, can’t tell you when it’s going to be fixed, so just be patient and hang up. My own species of rage would be placated by, “There’s a big old Oak down on Pine Street, and we’re hoping to have the problem solved by Thursday morning.” Just a little hint that they’re actually working on it and not just fielding calls. The damage here was not bad enough to require much intricacy of repair. Or if it was, they should say so. Cable companies, airlines, Congress can’t do anything, or fail to do anything, without everyone’s assuming the worst imaginable dereliction.

Mary Grant, our Chancellor, is resigning to take a better job. I’m truly sorry, and think the campus is as well. She was good for us. I can’t remember the last time I was sorry at the resignation of an administrator.

Like Data the TV robot, I have to remind myself to use contractions.

September 12, 2017

Then tropical storm Irma drove through, switching the power off and on through the night, littering the yard with trees and branches, but leaving me materially unharmed. Trees fell across streets in the night, meaning one had to detour and pick one’s way to one’s destination. Surprised how at sea I am without my cable. Even after a night of storm I assume that the outage afflicts only me, and that if I thought hard enough I could figure how to fix it on my own.

Contemplating deeply and sadly in the trances of the storm. I know the shape of my life, and that it has not changed from the earliest time I was moved to take stock. No effort of will or work or study or faith or patience of fury budged it. It adds credibility to those who argue for fate and pre-determination. Tried to dismay God by saying, truthfully, “I would rather not have bothered.” I’m sure He’s heard that before.


September 11, 2017

Anniversary of the dark time. Trump on the TV cannot even look solemn. He looks like a naughty boy struggling not to cuss or burst into raucous laughter. My students are barely old enough to have this event firm in memory.

Sunday, September 10, 2017


September 10, 2017

Good session at the studio, then preparing the “front matter” for Peniel.

Reading the miseries of my friends on Facebook I call to mind the fact that I never have a sleepless night, almost never have a headache, defecate regularly twice a day, have enough money for ordinary uses. One gathers the blessings, however mundane, however oblique from the fury of the heart.