Commentaries - May 2010

"altogether now" altogether

Just a few hours ago today at the Writers House, with me from left to right: Alice Eliot Dark, Moira Moody, Beth Kephart. Alice and Beth read beautifully from their work. I was ready to explain the interlocking connections of these four, and planned to link from here to Beth's blog, which I read regularly. So naturally I went to Beth's blog to pick up the URL for the link and, lo and behold, Beth had driven home and had already written out the convergence. So I need only refer to you her blog, which I do so happily. Let me just add that I've been a pleased and moved reader of Alice's "In the Gloaming" for years and was gratified that she chose to read from that very story this afternoon at KWH. Pretty soon we'll have a recording available and you can listen too.

holiday trilogy

I'm proud to have helped fund this play: "The third in [Cecilia] Corrigan’s holiday trilogy, Memorial Day combines live performance with video 'news reports' and carefully culled quotations on the subject of patriotism and nationhood. Corrigan describes this as a 'collage of influences,' noting that the play features words from Ann Coulter alongside those of Ralph Waldo Emerson." For more, go here.

Philly the day I arrived 25 years ago

Twenty-five years ago to the day I arrived in Philadelphia, having been hired as an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania. As I flew in a Piedmont Airlines jet over the city, I looked below me and saw huge plumes of black smoke rising up from a neighborhood west of the west bank of the Schuylkill River. What the hell is going on? What is this city I've come to? The mayor and police had firebombed the MOVE house on Osage Avenue. Welcome to Philly, Al. Now, a quarter century later, I live on Osage Avenue.

Stevens, China, wine

Edward Ragg is a poet, an expert on the poetry of Wallace Stevens, a resident of China, and a writer about wine. With Fongyee Walker, Edward blogs about wine at "Dragon Phoenix." His new book, "Wallace Stevens and the Aesthetics of Abstraction," is due out from Cambridge this summer. Stevens' love of wine is naturally part of the book:

"Stevens was something of a wine lover, especially of the wines of Burgundy and one of the book’s chapters is entitled ‘Food, Wine and the Idealist ‘I” (the ‘I’ is a special case of the first person speaker in several of Stevens’ 1940s poems). The book proffers a long reading of perhaps Stevens’ most baffling gastronomic poem ‘Montrachet-Le-Jardin’, a text whose relationship with Burgundy and with Occupied France of 1942 is both ingenious and has previously remained tough for Stevens scholarship to decipher. Part of the book’s argument is that Stevens’ embrace of an abstract aesthetic was not confined merely to poetic or artistic concerns, but involved his everyday imagination, interests and needs, including a love of the finer things in life, with wine being no exception...."