Aug 122014


“A glooming peace this morning with it brings.
The sun, for sorrow, will not show his head.
Go hence, to have more talk of these sad things.
Some shall be pardoned, and some punishèd.”

—from Romeo and Juliet

    Some Stuff I Know About Virginia Woolf without using the Internet

Well, she killed herself. That’s not the most important thing about her.
But it does come to mind.

She grew up in a very close-knit British family—a Victorian era Brady Bunch. Va. came into the union with her father. [WRONG: her older half-sister Laura came into the union with the father, Leslie Stephen. Another half-sister named Stella Duckworth came into the union with the mother, Julia, who was a weirdo. Then Virginia was born into the new marriage, between Leslie and Julia Stephen. The older half-sister Laura was locked up eventually, a victim of the “madwoman in the attic” syndrome.]*

Va. had a full sister named Vanessa, who was also an artist; a painter. A lesser talent, as it turns out.

Virginia and her family were living in London during the Jack the Ripper murders. Some people suspected their crazy first cousin of being the murderer. He ended up in an asylum. The cousin. Not sure about Jack the Ripper. I really don’t know anything about Jack the Ripper without using the internet. Except that he targeted prostitutes.

The crazy first cousin was a poet, popular in his day. (Lesser talent #2)

Va. was married to a Mr. Leonard Woolf, also a writer. (Lesser talent #3)
She had what you might call “it all.” She knew fashionable people in London. Swanky address. Smartsy friends who adored her. Status. Class. Clothes. A lesbian lover named Vita Sackville-West, at least for a little while. (Lesser talent #3)

Bloomsbury, where Va. lived wrote partied and published books with her husband, and all their forward-thinking crowd, was bombed to bits by the Germans during World War II. In fact, a bomb split her townhouse in two. This didn’t help her spirits, but she was mentally ill from a young age. She was always just holding it together. So she wrote her fiction from a psychological perspective. She was not doing it for laughs.

Va. Woolf was graced with a long, thin face and mourning eyes. Nicole Kidman had a ball playing her in a movie, The Hours, which was about fashionable women committing suicide and throwing parties. Ms. Kidman wore a clown nose to uglify herself for the role. In my view, the act of tidying up and getting ready to throw a dinner party doesn’t create compelling drama. But I don’t throw a lot of parties. I’m just not that person. So I might be missing something.

Va. was friendly with T.S. Eliot, and might have even published some of his poems. He was a talent. Not lesser, not at all. I won’t say greater. She was nasty about his wife, who had imbalances of her own.

How Va. did it, and I got this from the movie, so I might be wrong, was that she put rocks in the pockets of her overcoat and threw herself in a river. Maybe the Thames.

Pronounce that. (thames)


* i’ve since been reading a book

Oct 102012


“Savannas are the tropical grasslands where the hippo roams, the miasmal mist is the mist from the rivers and marshes the hippo inhabits. Why does Eliot say that the hippo will ascend to Heaven while the Church takes his place in the animal mists?”

–study question from How Does A Poem Mean by John Ciardi, c. 1959 Ciardi is helping his reader to understand The Hippopotamus by T.S. Eliot.

film clip is from Trainspotting directed by Danny Boyle, 1996. Lionsgate Films.


She wanted a tennis court, he built her a backboard.
She wanted to ski out West in a kelly green snowsuit. He left her on a slope in West Virginia, sprawled across a patch of ice. Then he rode the lift up and waited at the top with the kids. She slid down on her ass. When she finally caught up to them, she was sobbing, and the kids were scared.

What am I going to do about that lump of something or other in my gut?
It’s like a small animal, a fuzzy puppeteer.
A hairball, but I can’t cough it up. Too far down.

Sometimes it gets out, though. A nasty growling thing. Crouches in the corner before I walk into the room. I don’t have to think it’s cute. I don’t have to love it. I just have to talk to it. And listen when it talks to me. Or else.

Shrek makes candles out of his ear wax. He does it without thinking.