Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Volunteer with #OutWrite2016

Interested in serving on the planning committee for OutWrite 2016? Meetings are at the DC Center on May 17, June 7, June 21, and July 19
at 6pm.  For further information contact co-chair Dave Ring —

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Mark Doty at the Phillips This Thursday!

Gay poet Mark Doty, winner of the 2008 National Book Award for Poetry, will give a reading this Thursday, March 10, at 6:30 p.m., at the Phillips Collection, 1600 21st Street NW. Reading with Doty will be Asian-American poet Aimee Nezhukumatathil. They will be reading work in response to the current Phillips exhibit of landscape masterpieces: "Seeing Nature". The reading is cosponsored by the Folger Shakespeare Library poetry series. For tickets, visit the Folger website. The event is general admission, free to Phillips members, $12 to Folger members, $15 for others.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Bow [comma] and Arrow

We had great fun the other night with the comma in the title but I think now that it means something and I have an idea of what it means. But first, since it's short, the poem:

Bow, and Arrow

Not the war, but the part just after,
when a great stillness whose beauty we'd have
missed, possibly, had we instead
been spared, hovers over the ruins.

Put your head in among the flowers—
do it: but for
me this time, not yourself,
is what I think he said.

"Bow and Arrow" makes perfect sense in the first stanza, the ancient archery weapon standing in for the Queen of Battle (artillery, the mass slayer of troops in WWI). But the second stanza? What's it got to do with bows and arrows. Apparently not much. But here the comma after "Bow" in the title suggests we're dealing with a different "bow", a different sense, such as when someone comes on after a performance and bows to the audience (to thunderous applause in contrast to "great stillness"). As when a ballerina, say, bows her head over a bouquet she's just been handed, her partner, perhaps, whispering to her to do it again but for him this time (or that's what she thinks he says).

There are, of course, no ballerinas in Verdun. But there were graves and flowers were placed on them. And a disquieted corpse might "say" to a self-conscious mourner to repeat her gesture of mourning but for him this time — as we readers should hear the poem itself calling for our closer consideration.

Jonathan — the Last Name

“Jonathan’s family name was in the Domesday Book. The name meant Dweller by Low Water. They had been a marsh peopole, farming for their master and hunting birds in the reeds in what was now the county of Hampshire in England.” (p. 276)

I continued the search that we began last night, futilely, with smart phones and library WiFi. I have fared no better today with my high-powered iMac and fiber-optic connection. How coy of Ryman, to never mention our hero’s last name but to hint at it in the one passage above! The paragraph in which it appears begins “There was a great weight of things that had been lost.”

Anyway, my futile little search—not just for the name but why it should not be named!—prompts me to notice what none of us had a chance to observe the other night: how well the search/research in old libraries and registries is depicted in the last part “Oz Circle”. Even if the final “Reality Check” and “Acknowledgments” hadn’t called it to our attention, the life of research was vividly brought before us.

And that leads me to speculate that it’s no accident we never learn Jonathan’s last name or that “Mrs. Langrishe” makes her one and only appearance on page 357. The historical record—the original sources—is always fragmentary, no matter how gratifyingly complete it may sometimes seem. Things drift off, are named or unnamed, are not spelled out or detailed to no apparent purpose. And our book, even if fantasy, is similarly “incomplete.” “A heritage is something that was nevers yours, and which has been destroyed.” (p. 356)

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Was: The Musical

From Paul Simpson’s A Brief Guide to OZ :

Was has been brought to the stage in two different versions. Paul Edwards penned a version for Northwestern university in 1994, which he intitially intended as a staged reading of various chapters. As he worked on it, he realize the potential for a small chamber-theatre piece, which was subsequently put on, directed by Edwards himself, in Chicago. Given that many authors complain about the liberties that are taken with their text in adaptations for other media, Ryman found that this version was too faithful to his story. In a 2001 interview, with the British Science Fiction Association, he explained that it ‘was very educational because it was terrible’ — not because of the acting, but because they tried to jam four hundred pages of text into two hours on stage. He wouldn’t allow further productions, despite the Chicago Reader calling Edwards’ interprestation ‘a jewel on the stage as on the page, a beautifully blanaced work of brain, courage, and heart’.

A musical version, with a book by Barry Kleinbort and score by Joseph Thalken, was workshopped at the Lincoln Center Theater in New York, and subsequently mounted at the Human Race Theatre Company in Dayton, Ohio; and then by Northwestern University’s American Music Theatre Project in 2005. This eliminated the Judy Garland plotline from the book entirely. Kleinbort and Thalken had both been taken with the book, and wrote twenty minutes of material that they performed for Ryman in 1998. He gave them permission to proceed, and the show received various awards for excellence in music theatre.

There must be snippets on YouTube or somewhere (over the rainbow?) but I can't find them. Help!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

A View of Forster's Homosexuality

I’ve just finished reading Artic Summer Damon Galgut’s thoroughly researched book on E.M. Forster and his pursuit of love in England, Egypt, and India. He is particularly vivid in portraying Forster’s several visits to India, including his time as the Private Secretary of the Maharajah of Dewas where he engaged in an affair with a young barber. (Needless to say, no mention is made of this in Hill of Devi, the novel he wrote about his time with the maharajah.)  His three year period in Egypt with the Red Cross (1915-18) is less successful, despite his well-known friendships with Cavafy and Muhammad al-Adl whose portrayals – to me, at least – seem stiff and unrealistic. However, I have not seen Forster’s correspondence with either. The book is available in paperback from Europa editions. It received numerous and highly (too?) favorable reviews in the Guardian, the NY Times, and the
Washington Post when it was first published in 2014.