Monday, March 31, 2014

Opening Day

Saturday was a beautiful, bright, melting day. Sunday was a sleety, slushy, flooding day. As a result, central Maine is a big mess. At the moment our driveway is impassable except for four-wheel drive vehicles. That means my car isn't going anywhere for the foreseeable future. The frozen gravel roads are collapsing into quagmires. My friend Linda, who remembers when her road returned to swamp in the early 1960s, described its present state as "so interesting." Her husband Ralph, who is automotively fearless, shook his head and said, "Don't know how we'll get that car out but we'll try," which is as pessimistic a driving statement as I've ever heard from him.

Hard as it is to imagine that anyone could be playing baseball in such weather, today is opening day for the Red Sox, and it's a good thing they're playing in Baltimore rather than New England. So this afternoon, while gunning Tom's pickup through the icy scummy muddy slushy moat formerly known as our driveway, I'll also have the radio tuned to the slow and dreamy commentary of summer.

Here's a poem from my western Pennsylvania project, a small vision of baseball and tragedy, dedicated to the first day of my favorite season.



Dawn Potter

As a kid he lived on cabbage I bet
they is still talking about that funny stance
the sparks from the zinc plant that lit up
like fireworks on the Fourth of July nothing
grew in Weed Field it was those plumes of smoke
from American Steel you breathed that air
all the time it was dirty after his hard slides the fans
threw fruit at his head I didn’t like being dead that much

When I tagged that humpty-dumpty bum-armed pitcher
for a home run we was two happy proud Polacks that night
but why was he delivering kielbasa and cheese
if he’d signed with the Cardinals oh they played
the World Series in the daylight back then
and we listened on the radio when he shagged
that can of corn for the second out just one more out
and then car horns was honking men tossing hats
Teddy Ballgame laid his face in his two hands
and cried but in the morning it was all over we was
back to business as usual and in the papers we learnt
how Göring died poisoned himself thought he was
too good to swing with the rest.

[from Chestnut Ridge, a verse-history-in-progress of southwestern Pennsylvania]

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Yesterday my friend Carlene sent me a note about an article she'd been reading, which mentioned an 1879 remark by 19th-century social psychologist Gustave LeBon regarding the intellectual capacity of women.
In the most intelligent races, there are a large number of women whose brains are closer in size to those of gorillas than to the most developed male brains. This inferiority is so obvious that no one can contest it for a moment; only its degree is worth discussion. All psychologists who have studied the intelligence of women, as well as poets and novelists, recognize today that they represent the most inferior forms of human evolution and that they are closer to children and savages than to an adult, civilized man. They excel in fickleness, inconstancy, absence of thought and logic, and incapacity to reason. Without doubt, there exist some distinguished women, very superior to the average man, but they are as exceptional as the birth of any monstrosity, as for example of a gorilla with two heads; consequently, we may neglect them entirely.
A desire to give them the same education, and to propose the same goals for them, is a dangerous chimera. The day when, misunderstanding the inferior occupations which nature has given her, women leave the home and take part in our battles; on this day a social revolution will begin, and everything that maintains the sacred ties of the family will disappear.
Carlene told me, "I guffawed!" and, yes, I laughed too because this is a very funny/terrible comment--not least because of the grammatically ambiguous placement of "as well as poets and novelists." But my laughter was fraught, and I imagine that Carlene's was as well. It is exhausting to keep stumbling into this crap. It is exhausting to feel that simply existing in this world as a woman requires constant negotiation with such idiocies. It is exhausting to sense in myself a kernel of doubt about whether or not such crap is truth.

So here's a photo from last night's show. Let's hear it for miracle of those three men in the band, as well as for the miracle of the rest of you men: those of you who read this blog, those of you who don't, those of you who share your lives equitably with women, those of you who have never once believed that the females in your lives, whether family or colleagues or even antagonists, "represent the most inferior forms of human evolution." Thank you.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Saturday morning, 32 degrees above zero, damp and dripping and overcast. Little grey birds--chickadees, nuthatches--cluster at the  feeder by the kitchen window. Kindling snaps in the woodstove. From a distance--through insulated walls and barricades of trees and the slow press of heavy, softening air--I hear a jay's metallic screech. Outside the mist-coated windows the landscape is the color of a blurry black and white photograph left for 20 years in a damp trunk, a picture that a stranger finds by accident, a picture that's become yellowed and foxed, its gloss aging patchily to matte, its original intent forgotten.

I spent last night sitting on the couch, vaguely watching the Michigan-Tennessee game, browsing now and then through a book of John Singer Sargent reproductions, thinking occasionally about What Maisie Knew, the novel I'm rereading. It occurred to me to write about the novel in today's post, but I don't feel ready. Partly that's because so many people either despise the novels of Henry James or react with professorial push-button fervor about their importance. My feelings are far more ambivalent and, as reading approaches go, far more naive. I can't help but identify with the principal characters; and because the principal characters are almost always mystified and manipulated, I am always cloudy and perplexed when I'm reading a James novel. Still, there are two I go back to again and again: Portrait of a Lady and What Maisie Knew. In these two books, as in Elizabeth Bowen's The Heat of the Day (which I have managed to write about and which is reprinted in some past blog entry), I drift among sentences that are painful, mysterious, eloquent evocations of the characters' assumptions, desires, and distress.

But, as I said, I'm not prepared to write any more about Maisie yet. What I need to do is to return to the land of the prosaic: vacuum the living room, scrub the bathroom, make sure my violin strings are in good order, agonize over what to wear to tonight's show, remind myself not to forget to bring along the chocolate layer cake I baked yesterday afternoon. Here's a link to Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings's version of "Elvis Presley Blues," one of the songs I'll be singing tonight. I won't do it like Gill does, but I will do it as best I can.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Ice-Cutters, Thoreau, and Maine's Watery Heart

Ice storm, Kennebec County, December 2013

We have a first sign of spring: the Coast Guard has sent an ice-cutter up the Kennebec River, an annual project intended to fend off the worst effects of seasonal flooding. An article in the Morning Sentinel offers a visceral explanation of exactly what happens when the cutter forces its way through the river ice:
[The ice-cutter] uses a “bubbling” system on the ship’s side, which pumps air between the hull and the water to cut down on resistance against the ship to cut through ice at good speeds — usually between 10 and 15 knots, or up to 17 mph. 
The ship creates large wakes. When the hull itself fractures the ice, the waves ripple through ice off to the sides of the boat. 
On the bridge, it sounds somewhat like a car going through slush. On the deck, it’s a crashing and crunching sound. Fractures create more fractures, often going most of the way to shore. 
But cutting isn’t a brute-force operation. It’s more of a carefully crafted ballet, with navigating, turning and docking the ship taking the attention of many of the crew members. 
They need to pay close attention to the tides, their speed and their course. Certain narrow spots are the most treacherous, including The Chops, where the steady ice [begins] and converging water flows mark Merrymeeting Bay’s connection to the lower Kennebec.
Harmony is twenty miles away from the Kennebec, so our flooding concerns are tributarial. It's hard to track the links on a map, but we are sandwiched between the Kennebec to the west, the Piscataquis to the north, the Penobscot to the east. Every small inland town has a watery heart: sometimes a natural pond, sometimes a stream with an aged, crumbling dam, sometimes a vast, spring-fed bog. As Thoreau wrote in The Maine Woods, "the country is an archipelago of lakes." In this way Maine is very different from, say, Vermont, where ponds are scarce.

My sons, who have both spent long stretches canoeing through this watery wilderness, describe a landscape that strikingly resembles what Thoreau saw in the mid-nineteenth century:
The shores seemed at an indefinite distance in the moonlight. Occasionally we paused in our singing and rested on our oars, while we listened to hear if the wolves howled, for this is a common serenade, and my companions affirmed that it was the most dismal and unearthly of sounds; but we heard none this time. If we did not hear, however, we did listen, not without a reasonable expectation; that at least I have to tell,--only some utterly uncivilized, big-throated owl hooted loud and dismally in the drear and boughy wilderness, plainly not nervous about his solitary life, nor afraid to hear the echoes of his voice there. We remembered also that possibly moose were silently watching us from the distant coves, or some surly bear or timid caribou had been startled by our singing.
Today, a century and a half later, the drear and boughy wilderness lies dormant under several feet of snow. I can find no mention of snow in The Maine Woods: Thoreau, that doughty tourist, apparently knew better than to attempt a winter trek. Yet the mating cry of an utterly uncivilized, big-throated owl has been echoing lately, through the semi-darkness. His solitary life will become, briefly, less solitary. And I know that moose are silently watching me as I plod up and down the beaten snow paths; I know the surly bears are turning over in their sleep.

I also know that I will never startle a timid caribou with my singing, for there are no caribou left in Maine.

View from Borestone Mountain, Piscataquis County, October 2013

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The other day, as I was driving somewhere or other up and down our ugly, frozen, pot-holed roads, I started thinking again about why, after a lifetime of reading novels, I still cannot write prose fiction. Yet I can write about fiction and I can write fictional poems. What is it about the combination of prose and fiction that continues to elude me?

I didn't come up with any specific answer, probably because there isn't one. But a word did spring into my thoughts: I'm daunted by novels and short stories. And I realized that, yes, daunted is an important clarifier here. While I'm certainly challenged by poetry--while my grasp of the art is faulty and error-ridden and mediocre and a stiletto in my heart, and always will be--I'm not daunted by it. I fall off my horse and break another bone and put another dent in my armor, and then I get up and scramble back into the saddle. My clumsy, repetitive stubbornness does bear a certain resemblance to the behavior of characters in a Monty Python skit. But a novel . . . I close my eyes to writing a novel like I close my eyes to sky diving. No. I won't do it. I can't do it. No.

In his introduction to Aspects of the Novel, E. M. Forster wrote, "The novel is a formidable mass, and it is so amorphous. . . . I do not wonder that the poets despise it, though they sometimes find themselves in it by accident." Forster is unfair here: of course all poets do not despise the novel. But I can pardon his defensiveness. In the old days, poets were the kings of literature, and novelists were the prosaic upstarts. Today the tables are turned, and the poets are prickly and defensive about their underread art.

I love novels, and I love poems. I have just started rereading Henry James's What Maisie Knew, and at the same time I have been thinking about the work of a high school student whom I have been mentoring: a ballad-in-progress that is requiring him to juggle the strictures of meter and rhyme, repetition, and dramatic narrative. Guiding him into addressing these elements bit by bit, turn by turn; to make a change and then recognize that, yes, now he needs to adjust that rhyme again or clarify that plot shift, and so on and so on--the complexities are so interesting to me, even as a mere facilitator of the work. I know that manipulating a novel's marionette strings must be just as fascinating--possibly even more so. But I stand on the outside looking in. Even though I love watching the springs and gears at work, even though I could talk about them all day long, I'm dismayed by the thought of assembling them into my own invention. This isn't fear of failure. It's something else, and I don't yet have an explanation better than daunted.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

1. CavanKerry tells me that the printer will be shipping Same Old Story this week, which means, I hope, that anyone who has ordered a copy will receive it soon.

2. Thanks to Maureen, who reads these notes regularly (and keeps a fine blog of her own), I learned that the collection was featured in the Academy of American Poets' April newsletter, advertised among books by Gertrude Stein, W. S. Merwin, William Logan, Edward Hirsch, and even Shel Silverstein. If that advertisement were a cocktail party, I would be lurking in a corner nursing my glass of box wine, wishing/fearing that someone would talk to me, and gloomily checking the clock. There's much to be said for mere virtual contiguity.

3. On Saturday my band, String Field Theory, is playing at the second annual fundraiser for the Aliza Jean Family Cancer Foundation. You probably remember that Aliza, the daughter of one of our band members, died of brain cancer last winter at age 13. The benefit raises money for other Maine children in similar dire straits; so if you live locally and you've been meaning to come watch us play, Saturday would be a good time to do so. I'll be singing a lot in this one. That may or may not be an inducement.

4. Don't forget to submit your applications for the Frost Place Conference on Poetry & Teaching. Scholarships are first-come, first-served, so make sure you apply as soon as possible. This summer's faculty includes Teresa Carson, Meg Kearney, Iain Haley Pollock, and Baron Wormser. And the air will be warm, and there will be green on the mountaintops, and Bode Miller's Olympic medals might be on exhibit at the Franconia town office, and the cranky spirit of Robert Frost will preside, and you may even see a bear.

5. The saddest story in this week's Bangor Daily News involved a dead baby, a burnt-out mobile home, and a meth lab. If I were the poet of that town, I think I would fall into the same black cellar hole that I really did fall into when Steven Lake murdered Amy Bagley Lake and their children Coty and Monica. As it is, I am tumbling down some slate-gray stairs over the tale. And the worst part is that this story isn't even surprising. It's merely terrible.

Ugly Town

Dawn Potter

The sun is under no obligation to shed its optimistic beams
on the ugliest town in Maine—not now, not in March
when I’ve steeled myself for gravel-picked mud and despair,
for broken branches and a plow-scarred dooryard
rimmed with a winter’s worth of dog turds, pale and crumbled
among the pale remaindered weeds.

But it does shine, that fool’s orb, for reasons best known to itself;
            and I slouch here in my yellow chair, both cold feet
parked under the woodstove, squinting into this cheerful, bossy glare,
            attempting to convince myself that unbridled nature
has, for once, chosen to be a genial master instead of the flogging brute
we expect here in the ugly town, where we don’t think

ski but shovel, don’t think flowers but floods.
Maybe I’ve been reading too many books—
too much Roth and Munro, too much Blake and Carruth,
all of them driven to detail bleak empty roads
and unmown lawns; evil alleys and poisonous rivers;
the fathers, dyspeptic, misunderstood; the mothers,

wiping schmaltz and ketchup from the shabby oilcloth; and meanwhile
            those thirteen angels on their magic seats, frowning and perturbed.
Of course there’s happiness too. No one denies the happiness,
but don’t count on it to carry you through. Keep your eye
steady, your irony sharp. Stay wary; it’s best to stay wary—
though not one of these writers, I can tell you right now,

has ever stayed wary enough, and they’ve paid for it in spades—
            a phrase that might, for dwellers of another clime,
connote cognac and midnight whist parties
but that here, in the ugly town, where most everyone
gambles by scratch ticket and goes to bed early,
means plain old digging:

in snow, in thankless stony soil, with a bent shovel,
with a belching backhoe; tearing up asphalt,
forking out a winter’s worth of choking black shit.
You can kill yourself when you pay in spades
for a neat square cellar hole—say, when you’re fifty years married
to a woman who’s dreamed for all those heavy decades

of trading her wind-licked trailer for a house with a furnace.
No, you haven’t had time, you haven’t had money,
all you’ve had is a middle-aged kid who won’t get out of the recliner
except to grab a beer from the icebox, all you’ve had
are those cars, one after the other, falling into seizures and dismay;
and if you can’t stop eating what you shouldn’t be eating,

at least there’s salt, there’s sugar, those reliable offerings
that remind you you’re still alive, that you haven’t yet
paid out every single spade. Yet it’s a lie, and you know it,
and I know it too because I tell my own brand of lies,
such as it’s okay to be easy on myself,
such as I mean well, such as it’s good enough

to chronicle the sweetness of this sunlight,
not to force myself to keep struggling to speak
when I don’t know how to think, when I don’t know how
to find the word, the only word, trembling, naked as a rat,
when I don’t know how to lay it down, wet and mewling,
among the schmaltz and the ketchup stains.

Someone might argue that here’s where a little wariness
would do me good, and not just me but all these writers
whose books I’ve been reading too often,
and even they might agree with you, on a bad morning.
But today, according to this obstinate sun, is not a bad morning.
Brilliance leaks and flows through window smears,

patches the dour carpet. The light refuses to let up.
It insists on itself, like a mean cat does,
gliding from nowhere to bite me on the ankle.
            The world is too much with us; late and soon
is what Wordsworth wrote, but it’s not what he meant.
            He was trying to say we were too distracted by our lives

to notice this sunshine, and here I am borrowing his words
            to explain that I am too distracted by this sunshine
to notice my life.  The world overtakes me,
            I’m not wary enough, and something bad will happen
if I don’t watch out. That’s the point to remember about writing.
           It doesn’t solve anything.

[from Same Old Story (CavanKerry Press, 2014)]

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

April begins a week from today, but this morning the temperature in Harmony is, once again, ten below zero. My garden is blanketed in four feet of snow. The plow piles along the driveway are like Olympic slopes. All of northern New England is shell-shocked by winter. Every once in a while, during band practice last night, one or the other of us would get up and wander over to stare at the onion and lettuce seedlings sprouting in Sid's attached greenhouse. As Brian said, "It's like my eyes forgot what green looks like."

I also feel as if my intelligence is withering away. Yesterday I got an email from a friend that I completely misread, and when I say misread, I mean I read it as an aggressive, grouchy letter when it was a soothing, companionable letter. How does a supposedly sane, literate person even do that? Maybe I should blame the cold; but the more I think about it, the more I'm inclined to chalk up my reaction to the bibliography I've been copyediting.

I spent hours on that bib yesterday. It's a long one, filled with arcane citations to archives, films, interviews, and opera scores. In addition, it's riddled with errors: too much info, too little info, and hundreds of punctuation mistakes. Now, editing a bibliography is not like editing text. In text, the meaning comes first. While the copyeditor does impose punctuation and capitalization consistency, the first emphasis is clarity of intent. A bibliography is different. Here accuracy depends on an organization that is not syntactical but the exterior imposition of a particular style: Associated Press style, for instance, or Modern Language Association style or  American Psychological Association style or Harvard's legal style or the University of Chicago's academic style and so on and so on. A copyeditor has to be prepared to switch from one preference to the other, and the only way to do this is to study up on the particular organizing/abbreviating/punctuating pattern du jour and then attempt to impose it on the irregularities of the manuscript. There is a great deal of variation even within a chosen style. Page numbers for a professional journal are treated differently from the page numbers of books or the page numbers of newspapers. Edited volumes are treated differently from single-author volumes. Unpublished works from archived collections are treated differently from FBI memos, which are treated differently from YouTube videos, etcetera, etcetera.

Given that I spent last night dreaming in Chicago Manual of Style format, I suppose it's no wonder that I couldn't comprehend the basic English of my friend's email. But at least there's an end in sight; I'm up to the letter S in the bib, and then I can move on to editing poetry proofs. Let's hope my brain reconfigures itself and I don't end up Chicago-izing this unfortunate woman's poems.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The view from Robert Frost's front yard, Franconia, New Hampshire, June 2013

One of the first provisions of a progressive school is that in it academic questions should be barred. An [illegible] {academic} question is one that the asker of already knows the answer. The best student shouldn't hesitate to rebuke it by saying ask me something you don't know. The second provision is the teacher should only tell the students what he they haven't heard before. The only way of making sure they havent heard it before is to make sure he himself hasn't thought of it before.

                           --Robert Frost, from notebook 31 (1937-1955)

Sunday, March 23, 2014

I'm off to play music this morning at Stutzman's Cafe, and I do hope the driving is better than it was yesterday, when my tire caught a chunk of ice and I went careening into a snowbank. Granted, it was just about the safest road accident possible. The conditions were messy; but I was driving well below the speed limit, I hadn't hit the brakes, I wasn't going up or down a hill or around a curve, and no one was coming in the other direction. The car simply nicked the ice patch, swooped back and forth and forth across the slushy lanes, and glided serenely into the lefthand bank. Three bossy guys stopped their cars and enjoyed coaching me as I backed the car off its perch, and then I was on my way again. I won't say I wasn't shaken up a little, and certainly my son in the passenger seat was distressed. But we are undamaged, and so is the car.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

I just got a note from the editor at the Sewanee Review letting me know that he'll be publishing my essay "The Language of Love."It's a piece that focuses on the way in which three disparate poets--Marie de France from twelfth-century France, Jan Kochanowski from sixteenth-century Poland, and Phillis Wheatley from seventeenth-century colonial America--turned to poetry as medium for expressing, compressing, and expatiating on love--not just romantic and sexual love but also love for family and vocation. I excerpted work by all three of these poets in A Poet's Sourcebook, and I couldn't stop thinking about any of them after I'd finished the anthology. The work is so intense and poignant, the lapse of centuries so large. I think this is partly why I'm so drawn to poets of the past: that vibrating connection over such distances seems far more miraculous to me than the shared consciousness of the present-tense world. It's not that I don't love and admire poets whose lives have overlapped mine. But when I hear these faraway voices speaking so exactly, so intimately, I am overwhelmed again and again.
In Chaitivel, . . . [Marie] tells the tale of a lady who is courted by four knights. After three are killed in a tournament and the fourth is gravely wounded, the lady “mourned for each by name.” 
“Alas,” she said, “what shall I do?
I’ll never be happy again.
I loved these four knights
and desired each one for himself;
there was great good in all of them;
they loved me more than anything.
For their beauty, their bravery,
their merit, their generosity,
I made them fix their love on me;
I didn’t want to lose them all by taking one.
I don’t know which I should grieve for most;
but I cannot conceal or disguise my grief.” 
When I read a passage such as this one, I almost feel as if Marie has reconfigured the notion of chivalry. Rather than the ideal of a singular devotion—one knight devoted to one lady—the notion takes on a new coloring: that of an individual’s responsibility to the bearers of the chivalric ideal. The lady in Chaitivel shoulders the weight of loving all of those men who have graciously loved her. Is the poet hinting that a woman’s sexual freedom can be not only an honorable choice but also a deeply moral one? If so, this is a breathtaking moment in the history of human conversation.
[from "The Language of Love," forthcoming in the Sewanee Review (2015).]

Friday, March 21, 2014

I celebrated the first day of spring by baking a devil's food layer cake with orange buttercream frosting, laughing at the teenager's snow-day-fueled NCAA tournament debauch, cutting paper flowers out of Tom's discarded photo prints, and handing a 50-dollar bill to the plow truck driver. That was the exact bill I'd earned playing music in a bar on Saturday night, and I had hoped to spend it on something more enjoyable, such as groceries. The Fates, those nasty old bags, decreed otherwise.

To distract myself from this so-called spring, I've been rereading Lampedusa's The Leopard. My thought was that a book set in 1860s Sicily in high summer and featuring scenes of heavily crinolined women riding for 10-hour stretches in closed carriages over dusty, rutted tracks would be sure to take the edge off below-zero temperatures and mountains of snow. Also I was in the mood for animal descriptions, and the book features one of my favorite dogs in literature: Bendico, a big, dumb, bouncy, affectionate Great Dane who rushes around the palaces and courtyards digging up flowers, scratching at priceless doors, and leaving snuffly spots on Prince Fabrizio's silken waistcoats.

I know I've written about the book here before, but I do love it so. The prince is an intense and elegiac character, a man out of his time intellectually and politically yet so eminently part of his landscape.
The term "countryside" implies soil transformed by labour; but the scrub clinging to the slopes was still in the very same state of scented tangle in which it had been found by Phoenicians, Dorians and Ionians when they disembarked in Sicily, that America of antiquity. Don Fabrizio and Tumeo climbed up and down, slipped and were scratched by thorns, just as an Archedamos or Philostrates must have got tired and scratched twenty-five centuries before. They saw the same objects, their clothes were soaked with just as sticky a sweat, the same indifferent breeze blew steadily from the sea, moving myrtles and broom, spreading a smell of thyme. The dogs' sudden pauses for thought, their tension waiting for prey, were the very same as when Artemis was invoked for the chase. Reduced to these basic elements, its face washed clean of worries, life took on a tolerable aspect.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Though the forecast said 1 to 3 inches followed by rain, we woke up to 10 inches of fresh snow, on top of last week's 2 feet. Once again, school was canceled; and despite the threat to his summer, Paul was jubilant. Now he can thinks he can spend all day sitting on the couch in his bathrobe watching college basketball and shrieking/groaning about his bracket. He seems to forgotten about shoveling snow. I will be sure to remind him.

Above is my ex-chicken house. Note its extravagant hat. Below is the poodle, considering the situation.

And here is the woodshed, crouching behind last week's front-end-loader piles. Not pictured: me lurching and slogging through those piles while my arms are loaded with firewood.

Dear friends who live in warmer climes: I realize you have your Lyme disease ticks and your poisonous snakes and your smog and your giant roaches and your rampant poison ivy and your alligators and such. But at least you have spring.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Update on ordering issues for my book: I have just learned why Same Old Story was announced for release but is still unavailable on purchasing sites.  Apparently, at the last moment, the designer found a reproduction error on the cover photo, so the book was delayed at the printer. While I am pleased that he caught the mistake, I still want to apologize to you all for the delay. Here's hoping that the collection arrives soon, before you forget you even ordered it.

More on synesthesia and patterns: I enjoyed yesterday's synesthesia conversation. Though the details vary, a number of respondents do seem to link physical sensation to the impetus of creation. I wonder how many have pattern responses of the sort that my original correspondent mentioned when she talked about picturing numbers and time periods in specific 3D places in her mind. While I don't have that experience with numbers, I do have a consistent pattern in how I picture the months. They always appear in my mind as a circle, with January beginning in about the 11 o' clock position and the rest sitting in a counterclockwise progression around the circle so that August, for instance, appears at about the 2 o' clock position. Interestingly, I do not have a similar visual pattern for the days of the week.

I also wonder how this patterning ability relates to what in certain cases is called photographic memory. In my experience, photographic memory is exceedingly selective. For instance, I have always had a very good visual memory for the spelling of words but a very poor one for the basic equation patterns used in, say, algebra or physics. This is not an analytic issue. My spelling was accurate well before I knew anything about etymology, phonics, or suffixes: I would picture how I'd seen a word on the page, and nine times out of ten I'd get it right on the quiz. If this wasn't a case of logic, just visualization, why couldn't I do that for Newton's laws? The discrepancy puzzles me.

In addition, I have the bad crazy-lady habit of tunelessly humming at moments of stress, distraction, or heavy physical labor. But why tunelessly? I have a decent singing voice and my instrumental training is primarily melodic, so you'd think I would turn to melody at these moments. Why do I fall back on what is essentially rhythmic vocalization? I've talked to several musicians who, as children, sang along with the vacuum cleaner and other household appliances. I did that myself, and I remember that the pleasure of the activity was harmonizing with the pitch of the machine. So this tuneless humming is different. Given its strong rhythmic propulsion and its close link to particular emotional and physical states, I feel that it is somehow related to my other brain quirks, but I don't exactly know how.

Donald Justice, who was also a skilled pianist, wrote often about music. If I can't find any explanation of my own case in his poetry, perhaps the answer is that there aren't any answers. Simply we interact on our own private terms with the sensory and the imaginary, the emotional and the physical.

Carefully, with fists and elbows, he prepares
One dark, tremendous chord
Never heard before--his own thunder!
And strikes.
                     And the strings will quiver with it
A long time before the held pedal
Gives up the sound completely--this throbbing
Of the piano's great exposed heart.
Then, soberly, he begins his scales. 
          --from "After-school Practice: A Short Story"

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Poetry and Synesthesia: Any Thoughts?

A poet acquaintance, responding to Nin's interview with me, sent me the following note:
Your interview interested me on a number of levels (your basic process, of course, but also, I've been thinking a lot about theme, and I was engaged by the way you said this book came together.) 
But the reason I'm writing is because of this comment you made: "Nonetheless, I do believe that the music and the writing are linked. I write by ear: that is, I hear a cadence in a line or a sentence and find a word to fit the cadence. This is true no matter what I am writing: a sonnet, a free-verse poem, an essay, a Facebook status, a letter to my kid’s teacher. Always, the sound comes first." 
I've been recently researching (okay, reading Wikipedia) about synesthesia, and I wonder if you've been diagnosed or have ever considered that your behavior of putting words to the cadence is beyond what a typical individual could do (in other words, that it is unique to your brain). In reading about synesthesia, I realized that I fit (at least slightly) into one of the many categories, which is that I picture numbers and time periods as following a path (always the same path), meaning the number four is at a specific position in a 3D place in my mind, as is, for instance, January. Anyway! I'm curious whether we all have some variation of this behavior (my husband associates numbers with colors). Any thoughts on this?
This was what I said in return:
No, I've never been diagnosed [with synesthesia], though whenever I've read about it, I've identified myself with the symptoms. As a child, I used to sense a strong relationship between individual words and colors. That's faded away to a certain degree now, mostly because I have a lifetime of experience and memories associated with particular physical things. But as soon as I try to reimmerse myself in the sensation of words-as-colors, I feel a clarity of impulse.
I've talked to numbers of other poets who also feel a cadence propulsion when they write. For many I think this is linked as much to the syntactical propulsions of the English sentence as anything else. We're so attuned to the expectations of grammar that we hear what "ought to" come next in a sentence even before we know what that something is. While I also feel this impulse in myself, I have an additional premonition of syllable stress, whether or not I am writing a formal poem. Although this premonition is still present when I am writing in prose, it is not nearly so insistent as it is when I feel a poem "coming on," so to say. A sense of rhythmic aura is partly how I know that I need to write, even when I don't have any idea what I need to write about.
And then this was what she said:
Thanks, Dawn, for this intriguing response. Rhythmic aura. This particular, careful description of your experience leads me into another area of thinking: the ways in which we choose to describe the activity of our minds. This, in itself, is perhaps a definition for poetry. The synesthesia (or whatever it may be) operates on a more unconscious (can something be "more" or "less" unconscious?) level, much like the muse.
Have any of you had parallel experiences or reactions? And what do you think about her speculation that "the way in which we choose to describe the activity of our minds, . . . in itself, is perhaps a definition for poetry"? She's working herself up to writing poems about this fascination; and, as much as anything, I am excited to watch another poetic mind beetle into an obsession.

Monday, March 17, 2014

One tinkers on the internet; one reads.
In piss-smelling tunnels, wire-fenced alleyways,
On paving stones that sprout stubborn weeds
The streetlamps' slick repeated orange blaze
Points the way home. I know where it leads.

          --Alan Jenkins, from "Day Return (Four Students)"

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Mama Cooks Dinner and Remembers Lebanon (1977)

Dawn Potter

Your cousin Bruhim, he was a shepherd,
you remember he always had a ney in his pocket?
Okay, but I want to tell you something else about the ney—
on spring nights, on summer nights,
we could hear music float down from the hills.
They say the sound of the ney is very relaxing to the sheep.

For the happiness dance, sometimes there was the big drum,
the one shaped like a kettle and played with sticks.
You know something, it’s at the tip of my tongue,
and I actually forget what we used to call that drum.
Isn’t that strange?
I never forgot anything in my language before.

Well, in my time when the men gathered for a funeral,
together they would sing sad songs.
To lose a young man . . . that was the saddest funeral.
If anyone spoke the dead one’s name,
the men would shoot guns into the air.
Of course they did this outside the house.

There was always a bowl of olives, a bowl of za’atar and oil,
bitter greens, bitter coffee, things like that.
The women wore black, all black.
For forty days they wore those black dresses.
Sometimes they wore them forever.
Oh, I can’t even talk about it now.

[from Chestnut Ridge, a verse-history-in-progress of western Pennsylvania]

Saturday, March 15, 2014

It's snowing again, but lightly, lightly. The slow flakes are huge, like scraps of torn letters or the short white feathers on a hen's breast.

Tonight I will be playing Irish songs at Pat's in Dover-Foxcroft. I wish you were coming. Then, between sets, we could sit on stools and sip our beers and glance up at the TV hockey game and remark that Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask has a delightfully spelled name and shake our heads sadly over this so-called spring. So I will imagine you are there anyway, even if you aren't. It will give me something to do, if, once again, I find myself dog-paddling in a crowd of strangers. I think this is why people take up cigarettes. When in doubt, go smoke outside in the cold.

Changing the subject: I know I've already shared the link to my interview with Nin Andrews, but I think this is the first interview I've ever done that didn't make me queasy with embarrassment afterward. Nin must be very, very good at her job to manage that. So far I've gotten a number of emails from people responding to specific things I've said, particularly about the music-writing link. One person even asked if I'd ever been diagnosed with synesthesia. Poetry writing as diagnosable disorder. Sure. Why not?

Nin Andrews interviews Dawn Potter

Friday, March 14, 2014

What I called a chimney fire in last night's update was really more like a chimney smoker. So now the inside of our house smells like a campground on July 4 weekend while the exterior of our house looks like Santa's Village (the real one, not that dumb New Hampshire amusement park next to Six-Gun City).

I took the picture of Tom's truck to give you an idea of the scale of the snowpiles. Then Paul made me take a picture of my car because he admired its rhino horn.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Two feet of new snow. Plow Guy stuck in the driveway. Husband on phone, calling Gas-Station Guy, in search of Front-End-Loader Guy.

Stay tuned for the next thrilling installment of Guys in Hats Battle Nature with Busted-Up Machines.


And here is that promised next thrilling installment:

Front-End Loader Guy telephones. Says he can't come till 3. Sounds tired, as if every driveway in town is dealing with a stuck Plow Guy.

In other news: We have now discovered that Big Town Plow-Truck Guy decapitated our mailbox in the night.

Meanwhile, Poodle is angsty because she can't figure out how to pee in snow that's two feet deep. Also, Plow Guy = Evil and therefore must be fretted over for hours. Cat is insulted by weather and machines in driveway. Decides to release his ire by clawing up a chair and a yoga mat.


As a break from the regularly scheduled snow programming:

You might care to read Nin Andrews's interview with me.


And what is Teenage Guy doing today, you ask?

Still wearing bathrobe. Cranking show tunes/Daftpunk/Lorde/Band covers of Springsteen on his iPad. Eating cheesy omelet. Baking molasses cookies. Getting scratched by Cat, who remains insulted by weather, despite spending several hours on comfortable chair pulled up to woodstove.

His mother warns him that shoveling snow lies in his near future, but he still refuses to get dressed.


5 p.m. Front-End-Loader Guy update:

Neither hide nor hair. Which is to say, do not attempt to visit me and/or leave me any mail. You will be sorry. Don't make Burglar Guy's mistake either.


7 p.m. two-for-the-price-of-one update:

Not only Front-End-Loader Guy but a chimney fire! So much excitement. [P.S. The chimney fire was small. Do not worry.]

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

We all write poems; it is simply that poets are the ones who write in words.
    --John Fowles, from The French Lieutenant's Woman


Yesterday, before I began writing my letter to you, I had nothing to say, nothing to tell you. I nearly turned off the light and walked downstairs and forgot you for a day. But I forced myself to begin: I forced myself to choose a word, and then a word, and then a word: to say nothing, something, anything. My hands wrote what they wrote, and only then did I read what I had not known was overflowing wordlessly in my heart.


To my dear friend Haydn,

You answer that my questions
intrigue you, that they have returned you
to certain movements that as you put it
always "sounded with silence."
Yes, exactly, there are passages of yours resolute
with silence, not the obvious
sudden absence of wind through the pines
but silence's active body,
arms, legs, contours of the chest,
the caverns of a singer's body
shaping out her sound.

    --Howard Levy, from "Mozart"


In my poem "Mr. Kowalski" I wrote about the way in which a musician's muscle memory assumes its own expressive, even terrible, life. I refuse to play the Proust card here. But you know what I mean: you, too, have fled, and danced, and eaten, and embraced, and shouted.


I bruised my beloved's heart
by inattention and saw the smolder
in her eyes, too late, of course, for
hadn't I taught myself not to watch
myself not pay attention to her?

    --William Matthews, from "I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart"


It's the same old story: Too much is never enough.


I am back in the thick of my novel, and things are crowding into my head: millions of things I might put in--all sorts of incongruities, which I make up walking the streets, gazing into the gas fire. Then I struggle with them from 10 to 1: then lie on the sofa, and watch the sun behind the chimneys: and think of more things: then set up a page of poetry in the basement, and so to tea and Morgan Forster. I've shirked 2 parties, and another Frenchman, and going to tea with Hilda Trevelyan: for I really can't combine all this with keeping my imaginary people going. Not that they are people: what one imagines, in a novel, is a world. Then when one has imagined this world, suddenly people come in--but I don't know why one does it, or why it should alleviate the misery of life, and yet not make one exactly happy; for the strain is too great. Oh, to have done it, and be free.

    --Virginia Woolf, from a letter to Vita Sackville-West, February 3, 1926


In the February 1926 issue of the magazine Adelphi, critic John Middleton Murry, erstwhile lover of Katherine Mansfield (gauche colonial upstart, composer of incandescent stories, arrogant, competitive, anxious, distressed, and since 1923 dead of tuberculosis), declared that Virginia Woolf's Jacob's Room and T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land were "failures." He predicted that, by the 1970s, no one would be reading them.


Who is the third who walks always beside you?
When I count, there are only you and I together
But when I look ahead up the white road
There is always another one walking beside you

    --T. S. Eliot, from The Waste Land


Last to go to bed was the grandmother.

"What. Not asleep yet?"

"No, I'm waiting for you," said Kezia. The old woman sighed and lay down beside her. Kezia thrust her head under the grandmother's arm and gave a little squeak. But the old woman only pressed her faintly, and sighed again, took out her teeth, and put them in a glass of water beside her on the floor.

In the garden some tiny owls, perched on the branches of a lacebark tree, called: "More pork; more pork." And far away in the bush there sounded a harsh rapid chatter: "Ha-ha-ha . . . Ha-ha-ha."

    --Katherine Mansfield, from "Prelude"


The owls in Maine cry, "Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you?"

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


The sky is low and glowering, a weak mist of rainy snow. Inside, the lamps cast an evening glow, though it is seven-thirty in the morning. A clock ticks. My fingers tap at keys. Otherwise, everything is silent. "We shall descend the stairs / The back way, making no noise," writes Donald Justice. "We shall perform the chores / To which we have grown accustomed." But there is no back way down my stairs.

I have been working steadily on a difficult editorial project. The manuscript overflows with theoretical locutions, while my writing hand longs for simple subjects and predicates. I walked. I sang. I slept. A plain, uncluttered fiction. The life that no one leads.

Meanwhile, a small wind knocks at the back door. "What solitude of attics waits, / Bleak, at the top of the still hidden stair?" But the stair is not hidden in my house. It is merely steep, and narrow.

Emily Dickinson's white dress is tiny, tiny. In the days when I used to sleep in the room next to hers, when my husband's family lived in her manse, I used to wake in the dim mornings and wander into her bedroom and say to myself, "I will never be a poet. I am too large for Emily's tiny dress." It was a kind of mourning, a familiar mourning. Delete a poet from that sentence. Insert beautiful or loved. Now we can all mourn.

Every day, in the yard that once was Dickinson's, grey squirrels, conniving as cats, scuttled across the roof, sprang through the oak trees, hung upside down from the fascia and pressed their sharp skulls against the porch screens.

But in my yard we have no grey squirrels, only their tiny red cousins. They speed to the heights of the fir trees and toss empty cones at the dog in the drifts below. Every day, the dog is puzzled. For her, every day is new. She will never be __________. She is too ___________ for Emily's tiny dress.

Now my house has lost its silence. A refrigerator hums. Car tires splash on the salted road. My writing hand longs for simple subjects and predicates.

I walked. I sang. I slept. A plain, uncluttered fiction. The life that no one leads.
Nevertheless you are there, hidden,
And again you wake me,
Scentless, noiseless,
Someone or something,
Something or someone faithless,
And that will not return. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

We're forecast for a big snowstorm on Wednesday. There are many Marches when I'd be gnashing my teeth about this news, but all I care about now is No More 10-Below-Zero.

I'm back to steady desk work this week after spell on the road, which means I'll be doing a lot of editing and perhaps making a few choked-up attempts to publicize my book. Last night I dreamed I had gone back to visit a school that had decided not to hire me as a teacher, only to discover that the teacher it had hired was a mysterious troll. Everyone in the dream, including the troll and all the staff members whom I'd thought had liked me before they decided not to hire me, were friendly and welcoming. We spent much of my dream blandly examining large rolls of paper together and wandering the halls looking for the dining room. The troll got along well with the schoolgirls and seems to have been the perfect hire.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

From Victorian England: Portrait of an Age by G. M. Young

Of all decades in our history, a wise man would choose the eighteen-fifties to be young in.

From Aurora Leigh by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Their radiant faces upward, burn away
This dark of the body, issuing on a world
Beyond our mortal?—can I speak my verse
So plainly in tune to these things and the rest,
That men shall feel it catch them on the quick,
As having the same warrant over them
To hold and move them, if they will or no

Saturday, March 8, 2014

This morning, the temperature was 10 degrees above zero, and yesterday when I was driving around I did glimpse a few sap buckets hanging from the sugar maples. So it's possible, just barely possible, that the weather may be shifting toward spring.

Last night a dear friend came to dinner and we drank red wine and ate braised pork chops and mashed potatoes and ice cream with raspberries and chattered and laughed. And this morning I did not have to get up at 5:30 a.m. to fork the schoolboy out of bed because the schoolboy is in a motel room in Millinocket with a horde of giggling thespians, anticipating his one-act-festival debut as a dapper but villainous Victorian doctor. And Ruckus slept in. And Anna the elderly poodle did not have a mistake on the floor. And the fire in the woodstove was still burning.

So what shall I do with myself today? I'll try not to look at the hideous icy gray crust that is my driveway. I'll breathe the "mild" air. Imagine grass. Listen to the mutter of snowmobiles on the other side of the stream.

Just now, from my seat here at the kitchen table, I heard a pileated woodpecker screeching romantically among the pines. Apparently, he is willing to assume that spring is coming. I suppose I will attempt to suspend my disbelief.

Friday, March 7, 2014

CavanKerry Press has announced the release of my third poetry collection, Same Old Story. I have to take this on faith because I have not myself received any copies. Nonetheless, they apparently exist, so if you feel like ordering a book, I would be so grateful. And if you're inclined to tell anyone about it, even by way of a tiny Amazon or Goodreads review, that, too, would make me very happy.

Naturally, however, I presume that the book will quietly drop into the sea of publicity, become waterlogged, and then sink to the bottom with the rest of the forgotten wrecks. Not because of you--oh, no: you are my guardian angels. But there's no big picture for me, or for most of us.

My friend Richard, writing to me about Miguel Unamuno, explained the philosopher's concept of intrahistoria--"he thought that history could best be understood by looking at the small histories of anonymous people.”

Greetings, anonymous people. I love you so.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

It was one of those nights. I barely slept because all I could do was worry and worry about the misery of a friend whose misery is both beyond comprehension yet entirely clear to me, a friend whose child has died, and who, in order to pay her medical bills, has had to take a second job--one that requires him, in his words, to be a whore in the very art that has sustained him throughout the horror of losing a child.

Donald Justice wrote:
How shall I speak of doom, and ours in special,
But as of something altogether common?
There is no answer to these tears.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Huck Finn, Again

Dawn Potter
As I child, I read Twain avidly. I loved Huck and his river; I laughed at the Duke of Bilgewater; I feared for Jim. I read and reread Huck Finn, as I reread the novels of Dickens: because I was absorbed by the characters and the language of their world. I couldn’t get enough of those words. In real life I may have been a timid, landlocked girl, but in my head I was Huck, “light[ing] out for the Territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she’s going to adopt me and civilize me and I can’t stand it.”
And then I grew up. Suddenly I found that I was the parent of a nine-year-old boy who was eager for complex stories about heroes but was not yet facile enough at reading to manage the books themselves. Perhaps an audiobook would do. Perhaps Huck Finn.
Huck Finn indeed. For months our house echoed with the tale. At every spare moment, while sorting baseball cards or building Lego castles, while lying in bed or tying his sneakers, my son listened to Huck Finn. Over and over he played that recording; over and over he followed Huck and Jim down the roiling Mississippi, into the dark theater, out into the tangled underbrush.
And then one day, he trailed after to me into the kitchen and said, “Mom, I don’t understand. Why does Jim have to do what Huck says? Isn’t Jim the grown-up?”
I nearly dropped a plate.

There’s something about Huck Finn that resists easy morality, easy explanations; something that continues to jolt me, to make me recognize that even the simplest query may never have an answer. My family lives in rural Maine, the whitest state in the union. Thus, for my small son, the race issue was nearly invisible. To me, it was far more fraught; yet Twain managed to catch us both off guard, to make both of us wince and worry, to make both of us see the world and one another with new eyes.
“Why does Jim have to do what Huck says?” asked my son. I put down my plate, and pulled out a chair. And we sat there at the kitchen table, my boy and I, and we found ourselves talking about Huck and Jim—not as if they were items on an English test or characters on a page but as if they were people we knew as well as ourselves, as if they were ourselves. We talked about Huck and Jim as if they were secret facets of our own fears and affections.
For me, nothing has ever clarified the power, and the bravery, of Twain’s work more than this child’s question and my reaction to it. A century after its publication, Huck Finn is still teaching its complicated lesson, still pressing us to examine our own humanity, still “light[ing] out for the Territory ahead of the rest.” It’s still talking to us—and making us talk to each other.
What more can we ask of a book? 

[first published in The Village Pariah 1, no. 1 (2010)]

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Close to 20-below this morning. The windows are laced with frost. It ought to be maple-syrup season up here, but no sap is running in the trees. The Ice Queen is sovereign of all she surveys.

Yesterday I taught in a classroom in which a clutch of girls giggled at Whitman's "Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking." I found myself looking at them serenely and remarking, "Yes, poetry is embarrassing, isn't it? It's all raw nerves and feeling. It requires a reader to risk caring about those nerves and feelings. I completely understand why you're laughing. Can't you imagine someone reading words that displayed your nerves and feelings, and then laughing? Kind of an unpleasant thing to picture, isn't it? Artists lay a lot on the line when they ask someone to take their art seriously. I'm glad you're figuring that out."

The girls looked at me and were quiet. Another teaching tool for the toolbox, it seems.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Backcountry (1635)

Dawn Potter

You rose from the coastal plain,              The Monongahela Culture.
snaked through ridges and valleys,
and rolled down to the western rivers.      The Iroquois Nation.

You were a grand deciduous forest.         The Mingo Tribes.
Oak, hickory, and chestnut,
mingled, on your mountaintops,               The Delaware Nation.
with birch, evergreens, and maple.
                                                             The Shawnee Nation.
Mist shimmered in your hollows.                                               
Sunlight dappled the undergrowth—          A trapper.
dogwood, mountain laurel,
rhododendron, trailing arbutus.                  A missionary.
Your falling waters and mountain springs
never ran dry.                                          A soldier.

[from Chestnut Ridge, a verse-history-in-progress of southwestern Pennsylvania.]

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Warmer today--nearly 20 degrees above zero--and the little grey birds flutter and dip at the empty feeder. On the counter a bouquet of parsley glows in a glass; tomatoes are heaped in a white bowl. They are facsimiles of summer, pale and purchased, but my eye is glad to rest on them.

This week I teach for two days, edit in the interstices, and drive and drive. And today: in the morning, bread baking and bathroom cleaning; in the afternoon, band practice. But what I am presently doing is sitting here in this house of books and fretting because I have nothing to read.

So I open the New York Review of Books to see if the Fates will send me a potent retort, and what I get is this:
MWM, MID-50s, SUCCESSFUL PROFESSIONAL, NYC area seeks MF, MWM . . . I've been married a long time--and, unfortunately, there's not much fun and excitement left in it. I'd love to compare notes with a woman in a similar situation . . . and, in particular, with an intelligent and sensitive woman who loves to craft thoughtful e-mails on a regular basis. Perhaps if we first became good pen pals, we could decide to meet. But first . . . let's just write. About me: I'm a lawyer, Ivy educated, reasonable looks. [The ellipses are his. God only knows what they're supposed to indicate.]
Yes, I believe this does require me to craft a thoughtful response.
Dear Fates: 
Thank you for your quick response to my query. While I appreciate your skillful attempt to lure me by way of flattery ("intelligent and sensitive woman") and my writing habit, I just want to make it clear that I'd rather choke on a chicken bone than become the pen pal of a self-satisfied boor who has spent close to 6 dollars a word to publicly demean his wife in hopes of engaging in epistolary footsie with a complete stranger. Please, please, find someone else to correspond with, dear lonely, conflicted, hopeful MFs and MWMs. 
Ugh. Try again, Fates. 
So the Fates tried again, and this is what they have given me--the last stanza of Vikram Seth's poem "Through Love's Great Power":
To undo justice, and to seek
To quash the rights that guard the weak--
To sneer at love, and wrench apart
The bonds of body, mind and heart
With specious reason and no rhyme:
This is the true unnatural crime.

Much better, Fates. Thank you.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Happy March. The temperature in Harmony, Maine, is 10-below, again. But as compensation, the stars in last night's sky shone like pebbles in clean brook water.

And Ruckus hasn't spilled the coffee yet, and the morning sun is casting amber shadows on the snow crust, and the woodstove stayed lit all night long. And my bathrobe is covered with bright pink flowers. And I have plenty more coffee and all the ingredients to make lasagna. And I'm rereading Doctorow's Ragtime, which is even better than I remembered.

As a plus, the book reminded me that Evelyn Nesbit was born in western Pennsylvania. Therefore, today's quotation is by Evelyn Nesbit's mother, who was also named Evelyn Nesbit. Speaking to reporters, she declared:
"I never allowed Evelyn to pose in the altogether."
My grandparents used to say "in the altogether" instead of "naked." But I can't remember why they were talking about nudity in the first place.