All posts by penwithlit

About penwithlit

Freelance writer and radio presenter

John Berryman as seen by Eileen Simpson

Well with social distancing in vogue, John Berryman may not be an entirely inappropriate choice for this, my 1000th post! Lots of my friends are writing Haikus which is very good practice, I think for trying to count syllables. So reading Eileen Simpson’s Poets in their Youth, here is my effort about Berryman at Harvard during the war, an early period in their marriage after a cold winter:-

The late spring drove ice

and snow away.Trees were in

leaf, John returned books.

There is a very useful and interesting review of this book by the London Review of Books by Christopher Reid https://www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v04/n22/christopher-reid/john-and-henry

Personally, I find Simpson’s book well written, with engaging descriptions of a wide variety of poets; Delmore Schwartz, R.P.Blackmur and Robert Lowell among others. It shows the struggle of Berryman to deal with his difficult upbringing and offers a vignette of academic life at Boston and Harvard as well as the pressure of life on the dole in New York. Eileen Simpson became a psychotherapist and she shows both considerable insight and sympathy for the young poets she met.

Philip Levine on Lowell and Berryman

 

Here is a sonnet by Berryman and I would be interested in what you make of it;-

Great citadels whereon the gold sun falls
Miss you O Chris sequestered to the West
Which wears you Mayday lily at its breast,
Part and not part, proper to balls and brawls,
Plains, cities, or the yellow shore, not false
Anywhere, free, native and Danishest
Profane and elegant flower,—whom suggest
Frail and not frail, blond rocks and madrigals.

Once in the car (cave of our radical love)
Your darker hair I saw than golden hair,
And where the dashboard lit faintly your least
Enlarged scene, O the midnight bloomed… the East
Less gorgeous, wearing you like a long white glove!

 

Suggestions for reading material when confined to barracks

Ex-Premier Harold MacMillan’s reputation has had it’s vacillations. However, many recall his stoically reading in a trench Aeschylus’ Prometheus in Greek. So whatever isolation we are advised or requested to endure in our very much more comfortable domestic surroundings, suitable reading matter might become Chicken Soup for the Soul. Glancing around the town’s charity shops and my own bookshelves has given me the opportunity to select some books suitable for longer reading. Here are my suggestions:-

A Pacifist’s War by Frances Partridge

Diaries by Frances Partridge, dating from 1945-60, which provide an account of her association with the Bloomsbury group and focus on her life at Ham Spray in the Wiltshire downs with her partner Ralph, where they exchanged visits with a variety of notable friends. It is an engaging read set against the backdrop of uncertain news. The pace of life in the country in wartime is described with underlying courage and compassion.

Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Tell You Everything You Need to Know About Global Politics

This volume is listed as a New York Times Best Seller as well as a Sunday Times Bestseller by a prominent journalist and broadcaster, Tim Marshall. When you are felling imprisoned and suffering from severe cabin fever then the spatial constraints of geography assist a useful understanding of the consequent political history. This is what one Amazon reviewer  writes, “I found this book to be an excellent concise summary of how the political world has developed to where it is today. I found the section on Russia particularly interesting and it opened my eyes to some factors driving the current position.The author has an incredible grasp of world affairs and our history. It made me wish I had spent more time in this area and has given me a thirst to spend more time in future.
It has turned me into even more of a dinner bore as I am now able to explain the background behind many of the current world conflicts with such confidence that I go unchallenged! “(Tri Jules)#

Fabled Shore – From the Pyrenees to Portugal by Rose Macaulay 

The author wrote, when this book was published in 1949, “A Greek mariner from Marseilles compiled in the sixth century B.C. a topographical sailing book of his voyage from the Lands of Tin in the northern seas, down the western coast of Portugal and round the Sacred Cape, and so along the southern coast of the Iberian peninsula, through the Pillars, and along the Mediterranean coast to Marseilles, his home. The later part of this sailing book, from the Tartessos region (near Cadiz) to Marseilles, had great detail, describing each bay, each cape, each port, for the benefit of those Greek merchant mariners who adventured and trafficked down that far and fabulous coast to the Pillars of Hercules, and beyond these into the dark and questionable Atlantic where the silver mountains stood back from the Tartessian shore.”#

Fluent in Greek and Latin this book is fluently written and also an introduction to Rose Macaulay’s novels and other writings. There is an interesting biography of Macaulay –

Rose Macaulay: A Biography by Sarah LeFanu

1606: Shakespeare and the Year of Lear by James Shapiro

Well, it was the year of terrorist activity and also the return of the plague but this is book, now available in paperback, traces Shakespeare’s life and times from the autumn of 1605, when he took an old and anonymous Elizabethan play, The Chronicle History of King Leir, and transformed it into his most searing tragedy, King Lear. Well researched and written this is a,fine sequel to the author’s earlier book, 1599.

If, however, you prefer to take it on the chin you could always read Thomas MannDer Tod in Venedig in German or even Albert Camus’s La Peste in French. You might be better off reading Proust in the original if your language skills are up to it- I have an easier version;

Image result for les temps perdus en BD 

 

 

 

Realist Paintings of Piet Mondrian 2

The Eclectic Light Company

Around 1908, the Dutch artist Piet Mondrian (1872–1944) started to paint his first works which radically departed from the realist landscapes which he had been painting over the previous decade or more. He had also become increasingly attracted to spiritual movements, including the writing of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, who founded the theosophical movement, and Rudolf Steiner’s Anthroposophy. These emphasise the attainment of deeper knowledge of nature by spiritual means, which was significant to his exploratory painting.

mondrianwinkelmill1908 Piet Mondrian (1872–1944), The Winkel Mill (Pointillist Version) (1908), oil on canvas, 44.4 x 34.2 cm, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, TX. Wikimedia Commons.

In this ‘Pointillist’ version of The Winkel Mill which he painted in 1908, his brushstrokes have become shorter and more prominent, resembling the small tiles used by some of the Divisionists, and his chroma has become almost shockingly intense.

Devotion, by Piet Mondriaan Piet Mondrian (1872–1944), Devotion (1908), oil on canvas, 94 x 61…

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Siddhartha, Herman Hesse

It's only chemo

If we could divide books into two genres, Odyssey books and Iliad books, Siddhartha would be an exemplary Odyssey book. However, Siddhartha departs from Odysseus. He goes on a circular journey, encounters isolation, a courtesan and a wealthy merchant. He is detained by water and eventually realises that the world is an illusion to be detached from. Odysseus wants no such detachment. Hesse’s biggest argument here is against modern individualism, of which the Odyssey is the founding myth.

Siddhartha is like a well researched, post-Enlightenment version of Rasselas. I think of it as, in some ways, the opposite of Ulysses. It is no surprise that Hesse spent time in an asylum when he was young and spent periods of his life in isolation. Like many other Western wisdom-literature books (think Thoreau) this is a late-Romantic work that probably smuggles its beliefs past casual readers.

Hesse’s real challenge to readers…

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Drawings of the Franco-German war of 1870-71: a new acquisition at Cambridge University Library

A fascinating collection!!

Last year Cambridge University Special Collections acquired, with the help of the Friends of the Library, a notebook of 47 drawings, probably produced by an unidentified soldier towards the end of the 19th century (ms Additional 10300). This acquisition adds to the library’s holdings of primary material relating to the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871, which ranges from bound volumes of contemporary caricatures (KF.3.9-14, see the earlier blogpost) to directories of caricaturists and their work (such as Berleux’s La caricature politique en France pendant la guerre, le siège de Paris et la Commune, 1870-1871, Lib.5.89.27 and Gallica) and facsimiles of posters produced during the Paris Commune (See Les murailles politiques francaises and Les affiches de la Commune). The interest of the notebook does not lie in the artistic talent of its creator, but rather in the examination of his visual culture, through the identification of…

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#Play A Doll’s House

NancyElin

Conclusion:

  1. This was a very easy play to read.
  2. The dialogue is …
  3. clean, simple, evocative, alive and easily spoken.
  4. In Act III when Nora finally finds her voice she
  5. pummels her husband….who can’t handle the truth!
  6. #MustRead  classic play!
  7. This play is an audience favorite:
  8. Film adaptations with Julie Harris, Claire Bloom, Jane Fonda and Juliet Stevenson
  9. Stage production is planned June 2020 London with Jessica Chastain.

  1. At the moment a spin-off is on stage in London.
  2. Nora: A Doll’s House –> Young Vic Theatre in London.
  3. Stef Smith’s adaptation of the Ibsen play sends the title character on a time-traveling mission,
  4. exploring how far women’s rights have progressed in the last 100 years.
  5. The play re-frames the drama in three different time periods:

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Painting the nightmare of Auschwitz : the February 2020 Slavonic item of the month

This year will see many 75th anniversaries relating to the Second World War, and one of the most poignant – the liberation of Auschwitz by the Soviets – has already occurred, in late January.  We recently received an important addition to Cambridge’s significant holdings about the Holocaust and Auschwitz in particular, in the form of a catalogue of works by David Olere, Ten, który ocalał z Krematorium III (The one who survived Crematorium III), based on an exhibition held at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in 2018-2019.

Olere, a French Jew sent to Auschwitz in 1943, was one of the very few Sonderkommandos to survive the war.  His artistic abilities, employed by Nazi personnel to illustrate letters home and produce other artwork, saved him from the regular killing of Sonderkommando generations.  Olere was in the death march from Auschwitz in January 1945 and was liberated only in May, in Ebensee.  He…

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Hate is Our Enemy

K Heidi Fishman

Tuesday evening I went to the HeartStorm Farmstead where gracious owners Kim and Mike, Rabbi Raskin from Chabad of Southern VT, and Baltic Truth Holocaust Documentary, were hosting Holocaust survivor Elly Gotz, who was there to tell his miraculous story of survival. Gotz was 13 years old and living in Kovno (Kaunas) Lithuania when war broke out in 1941. His story is terrifying and he tells it with passion and heart and, dare I say, humor. Of the 160,000 Jews living in Lithuania before WWII less than 10% survived.

Elly Gotz at HeartStorm Farmstead

Mr. Gotz’s message is extremely important in today’s divided world. He talked about hate. He told us that after the war he hated Germans and wanted to kill them. He had to find a way to put aside that hate in order to live. He quoted Buddha at the end of his talk…

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#Classic Animal Farm

Basically Orwell’s response to the Spanish Civil War.

NancyElin

Finished: 26.02.2020
Genre: allegory (140 pg)
Rating: A+++
#Classic


Conclusion:

  1. Timeless classic
  2. …..every one should read it
  3. …soon to be a Netflix film.
  4. After 50.308 reviews on Goodreads about this book…
  5. …there isn’t much more to tell!
  6. The story, published in 1945, is an allegory for
  7. Stalinist Russia in which animals rebel against the
  8. humans who own their farm and adopt
  9. the rule of equality for all.
  10. By the end of the story, a group
  11. of pigs has begun ruling the animals.
  12. Animal Farm is considered a work of social satire
  13. because Orwell employs irony to criticize
  14. the individuals/groups depicted in the novel.
  15. This story demands that readers think.
  16. Presenting the novel as a beast fable
  17. …contributes greatly to its brilliance.
  18. Lessons learned:
    1. Power corrupts
    2…

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