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Les Semaines

00.07.23

what I'm thinking and doing § what I'm listening to § what I'm reading
what I'm writing § retrospective: The Phonosnout

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Blood Memory

Blood Memory arrived on Tuesday, at least my one advance copy of it. And instead of rejoicing I slid into an immediate funk, worrying about how the book wasn't as perfectly beautiful in form or in conception as I'd wanted it to be. What a horrible reaction. Especially as the more I look at it, the more I realize that the physical beauty of the book is what I'd hoped for, and my own work as closely approaches what I'd envisioned for it as it is possible. I pushed the poems, their interactions, the book's structure, got the cover art I love and was desperate to get. The exterior and interior are gorgeously designed. So now I'm slowly falling in love with it. Even with my third book it's hard to believe that it really exists and is something I can hold in my hand. All the work, all the dreams, turned into an object with weight and presence.

The next work is to start thinking about how to promote it. Not that I haven't been thinking about this, but I haven't been doing anything more than thinking yet, and it's time to get active about it. Yet one more thing to do.

So what is Blood Memory about? Well, here's what the back blurb says:

Blood Memory, Neile Graham's third book of poetry, is a cycle of dramatic monologues and lyrics that celebrates women's stories. Many of these poems imagine women from the past: a tinker, a crofter, a Viking wife. Other poems recount contemporary tales: a woman on her deathbed assessing her life, a middle-aged woman hungry for youth, a young woman just testing the world. These voices create a composite portrait of how the stories we tell about the natural and human world affect our lives and our perceptions of ourselves; they show us what we have in common and what divides us from ourselves, those we love, those we hate. Blood Memory reveals an ancient, ageless psyche discovering herself, exploring the world, and learning to meet that world part way, envisioning how landscape, folklore, circumstance, and memory shape what it means to be human.

There are two layers of structure in the book: a progressive, mosaic that forms a kind of biography. The titles of these sections are Where She Begins, Where She Wanders, Where She Lands, Where She Starts Again, Where She Ends. There are also "Elemental" sections: a prologue, intermediate Elemental sections: Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and an epilogue. There are threads that run throughout the book. Each of the biography sections begins with a poem about archeological artifacts. The prologue describes what I'm attempting to do, while each of the other elemental sections has two poems about a made-up woman's, Mairie's, life: starting at 5, 15, 25, 35, 45, 55, 65, 75, 85, and "at midnight", which ends the book. Her biography is the spine of the book. There are other threads of repeated imagery and structure, a string of "story" poems, poems of commentary and folklore, voices and loves and battles, small and large. Life. I couldn't do any more.

I like to think that the books is complex enough to reward anyone who wants to look at it deeply--but also, and perhaps more importantly, that each poem works on the surface level so readers can have an immediate understanding and response. Much of that I've honed over many years of reading these poems aloud.

I can only hope the book speaks as I would wish it to. I am filled up with wishes for this book. And yes, I can celebrate it.

last week's thinking and doing § next week's thinking and doing

Listening

Still working my way through our disc collection. Still rediscovering some neglected discs, like Mia Sheard's disc, one that I wasn't sure of when I got it, and really liked when I listened to it this time. So far we have set aside almost 200 discs to sell--pretty damned amazing. I've decided, though, that I'm not going to announce them anywhere (like on ecto or elsewhere) until September, because I just don't want the distraction of the email and negotiations and trips to the post office involved. That will give me plenty of time to make sure I've marked all the promo discs as such, that all of them are listed, and our disc inventory is up to date. And of course to continue to add to the pile, which is taking up a significant section of my study closet floor.

last week's listening § next week's listening

Reading

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, as nearly everyone knows, is the tale of Harry's fourth year at Hogworts, the school for young wizards. This year Harry finds himself suddenly chosen as one of the school's champions in a magic tournament. Harry's task is to survive the tournament, as in the past some young wizards have not managed to do so, even those without the kinds of enemies that Harry has. Like the first three in this series, this one was entertaining and a fun read, and a great part of the fun for me is J.R. Rowling's attention to the small, inventive details of her magical world. I found this book started a little slowly with the Quiddich match, and thought there were some things I kept wondering about that were left unsaid which might have been nice to know (such as were the visiting students taking lessons? Who from? Why was the tournament so spread out in time in the first place?) But it was a quick, enjoyable read for all its length. There is a bit of critical backlash due to these book's popularity, and I don't think it's fair. These books have never pretended to be anything more than great fun, and that they definitely are.

A writing acquaintance recommended Thomas H. Cook's The Chatham School Affair, which was about an old man recalling a pivotal event in his own and his family's life, having to do with deaths and a young woman teacher at the school he attends and his father runs. The narrator tells his story a little awkwardly--foreshadowing so strongly that the ending revelation was telegraphed to me. Was that a good or a bad thing? Well, for me it felt clumsy and disappointing. The voice, especially, though, is really lovely. And the sense of the repercussions of the events is well handled. This was a bestseller, and I can see why--nicely written and strongly emotional yet also a mystery, so it could hook in all kinds of readers. I can see why my acquaintance admired it.

I inhaled Nameless Magery by Delia Marshall Turner. The story about a young girl brought up to be a princess--almost a goddess--in her own world, she escapes a predatory starfaring race that steals magic from herself and her world. She finds herself on another planet that has magic but the society has come to think of it quite differently from her own. The only woman in a rather brutal male school for mages, she has to learn to make her way there and in the society. What I liked about this was the main character especially, who felt quite believable to me, and her interesting situation, which could easily have fallen into cliché but never does--I think because of the clarity of the description of characters and events. And yet the main character's lack of familiarity with the world keeps it shrouded in mystery. All in all I found this an enchanting first novel.

And there were two quick children's novels I read: A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning, Book the First by Lemony Snicket, about the misadventures of three wealthy orphaned children and the evil relative who takes them in. The author has a letter to the reader on the back cover, warning the the book is unhappy and unpleasant, and the first sentence likewise gives a warning. The author is quite chatty throughout the tale, reminding the reader about te unpleasant nature of the story and describing what words mean in the particular context of the tale. It walked a thin line between being amusing and being too much, but I mostly enjoyed the tale of orphans' sufferings and adventures. The other novel was John Bellairs' The House With A Clock In Its Walls about another orphan, this one of little fortune, who is taken in by his kindly, wizardly uncle. But the house they live in was once owned by a wicked sorcerer who planned the end of the world, and the house ticks.... Like the previous book, this was an enjoyable story, not particularly deep but not all froth, either.

last week's reading § next week's reading

Writing

The novel moves forward in starts and stops, blurts and hesitations. I am still fighting with focusing and simply allowing myself the time and space to write rather than be distracted with e-mail, readying the discs for sale, writing this journal, etc. But it is moving forward, and the characters' future is taking shape.

But I still must be pleased with myself this week, because as I noted above I have a copy of Blood Memory to hold in my hands. Whoa!

last week's writing § next week's writing

Retrospective: The Phonosnout

About the Phonosnout

March 1977

772. A Phono hello

Phono,
hello.
I'm not here.
Not new.
Anything
ever
new?
I have a headache,
Phono,
goodbye.

773. Jam out.

I have nothing to say. I don't believe in demonstrations [1]. Crowds like that are ugly obscene monsters. Wow, i don't like today. Time to kill and waste. Forget Psalm 118--if that's the one i'm thinking about. Dead day. But the sun shines.

774. Care

I sure am getting a lot of work done. Sho' 'nuff. BLAH!! I don't care. And just a little more time and it will be too late to care. Who cares? Carefree. Good grief. I couldn't care less. Careless. If hell is any hotter....

775. Aha...!

Rob found my pen last night had gave it to me this morning (great!) It was in his car the whole time. My cold's getting along fine. I'm not. I'm all sniff & sneeze. My face is hot and my nose is sore, and i don't like the taste of Dermabase [2]. (Stop eating it then, silly.) Philosophy prof was back. It was so nice missing Philosophy twice this week. Ah well, back to work. F'shure.

776. Breathing space

There's nothing due for six days so i have a bit of a breathing/catching up space. Nice. Short ease up on the pressure. Now to read the things i should have read for last week. Will be nice. The library here is interesting--all sorts of paper shuffling noises & whispering. Rob's shuffling pages & scribbling on the other side of the carrell wall. Hi, Rob. 3:40 & all's well.

777. Everybody say something

Philosophy is dead today. I am dead today. I hate cards. Had to play cards for a Psych. experiment.

[Harold:] Philosophy is death today. I have died today. I hate lines turned on their ends. I've had to look through the ends of lines all my life and never known it.

[Rob:] rob died last thursday. John Banks didn't tho'
Office Hours--Wed: 1:30-2:30 / Thurs: 8:30 - 8:35 / Friday: 1:30 am-
Sat: Mother in law
Sun: Ditto
Mon: recovering from Ditto
Tues: contemplating whether Julius Caesar exists

[Bill:] Where would I have been if I hadn't spent $100 and about 100 hours learning that Mt. Everest doesn't have a sense of humour, that Julius Caesar no longer exists, that hot water is cold if one's hand is hotter, that lines cannot be perceived, and that Plato was a homosexual?

[Jerry:] Was Socrates bisexual? I know he was married, because his wife supported him while he drank wine and chased the Forms. Rankin's hankie is yellow. He looks jaundiced himself today. Do you think he is overwhelmed by our enthusiasm? I need a translation. 26 oz of Haig and Haig "pinch" on ice, please. Nancy, please quit walking past me and talking when I can't hear you. I'm deaf, you know. What DO you expect of copies?

[Bill:] Obviously the work of a philosophized mind

778. Continued

What on earth are we doing talking about plates? Is that what they use Caesar's portrait for now? I think i missed something. (A side effect of death?)

779. Harold wandering

Meanwhile, I wander between invisible Caesars. I bump into walls which are not there and I'm getting bushed by it all.
     I think I shall head north. O God I shall head north foot by foot, desk by desk, stumbling over skulls after skulls of assassinated philosophers; yea, Lord tho' I have no arms, legs, or even a body, I shall head north. Meanwhile, I dream of bear traps, avalanches, and wolverines.
     Meanwhile the yellow-coated fop drones on.
     Meanwhile Caesar whispers over my shoulder and says:
     "Plate? What's all this about plates? Who is this fellow? The left side of my face is as good as the right, damn you. What is this? What in the Hell do you think you invented bear traps for? Thumbscrews? Sulfuric acid? Napalm? My god, boy, my reputation is at stake. I am no plate. I resent being called a plate."
     Meanwhile I head north and look for a wolverine.

780. Rob on Caesar

Caesar is a portrait, a cocktail, a salad. Plate is a part of dinner you don't eat, or a part of dental work you eat with. Distinction clear? Being a philosopher is easy. You have to be kinky tho'. Does Rankin wear his wife's purple nylons?

781. Bill's suggestion

One suggestion for us all; review all these comments scribbled since Christmas. Pay homage to them, they are responsible for maintaining the little sanity which we still possess. Amen.


NOTES

1. "Jam out" = chicken out. I'm not sure what the demonstration might have been about and whether I actually sympathized with the sentiments being expressed or not.

2. A very pure cream that I would have been using to moisturize my suffering nose.

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