Linda Gregg, who knew how to live

Linda Gregg, the poet, died a few days ago. I met her once at an arts colony where I was working. Instead of having her sit inside and read pages, I took her on a walk. We went up the hill and into the woods where we got lost. We sat in a ravine, with broken black trees and white water flowing, and we each had a cigarette. Or maybe we shared one. People still sneaked cigarettes back then. She told me how she loved a man — not Jack Gilbert anymore. Jack Gilbert was in her youth, when they lived, famously, on a Greek island. This other man was also a poet, but married to another. I too had had a great love, who had been married to another. We compared notes. She told me that no one had ever loved her the way this man had loved her, that she had been astonished at how he much he loved her, and the words he had said to her. Words she couldn’t get over. Or chose not to get over, there in the ravine in Vermont with her long famous ginger-red hair and her beauty and her seriousness. Linda was a woman, I thought, who knew how to live. She had given herself to words and to beauty. She was a also a horse rider, I believe, in California where she grew up. She is the kind of person you picture as always on that horse. She led a life few dare to these days. A life of devotion. R.I.P Linda Gregg (September 9, 1942 – March 19, 2019

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Athens in April

“The Shipping Tycoon,” a story from 52 Men about my excursions with the late yachting magnate risen from donut shops in Greece, will appear in an exhibit by Creative Process at the Byzantine Museum in Athens, beginning in April 2019.

Here is Andreas below, on his yacht The Rosenkavelier.

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Good to Be Liked

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Matthew

MatthewPoem-4

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Childhood Living — it’s easy to do

All of us find some beauty, some pleasure or allegiance in childhood to help us endure. For me, I found it in the natural world — in a childhood in New Zealand and the South Pacific, seeing Mt Fuji and Tahiti, swimming in the rivers and ocean of coastal Australia.

It was also in books: most particularly in Enid Blyton’s The Enchanted Wood: a world in which the roller coaster of childhood experience — the power and the powerlessness –becomes Adventure and Change; various “lands” arrive via clouds at the top of the Faraway Tree.  There is the Land of Presents, the Land of Spells, the Land of Know-It-Alls.

One adventure replaces another.  One survives, glories, trembles, eats candy that is one minute cool and next burning hot. One day it is The Land of  Birthdays, the next The Land of Tempers or, The Land of Do-As-You-Please.

What better reason for enduring: knowing that there is no one world, that the next, or the one after that, could be the Land of Topsy-Turvy or, one of all children’s favorite: The Land of Take-What-You-Want.

What would you take, reader, if you had to take something?  I  might just take these memories. I might just take this little book — one copy of which made it to Northeast America when my family immigrated there at my childhood’s end: age 12 I was.

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An Interview with the Creative Process

Long before the Me Too movement, you’ve been writing books and coming of age stories [Since You Ask, Miss Me a Lot of] about survivors of assault, abuses of power.

The Creative Process Exhibition was launched at the Sorbonne and is traveling to forty leading universities around the world. The exhibition consists of interviews with over 100 esteemed writers. For info and photos of the project, go here.

Click to my interview, which includes The Boxer and The Shipping Tycoon, 

… as well as some questions such as Why did you become a writer? Who were your formative influences and  what advice did they give you?

I took to heart the advice of my father and of poet Kenneth Koch who I studied with for at Columbia College in New York: don’t try to write like someone else; write as yourself. It sounds easy, yet it is what all writers strive for.

And what are your views on social media?

Beware as one would beware a proliferation of Sirens on the beach.

Artist Mia Funk is the master behind it, adding her sumptuous often blue painting and designs to the work. Mia told a fantastic story on 52 Men the Podcast, told from the point of view of a woman in a 500 year old painting. To listen, please go here. 

 

 

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Charles McGill

Charles arms outstretchedThe wilderness, we all pass through it. I saw it in Charles’ eyes just last week. May we realize that the extremes we go through are the test of our lives, and that in the most painful we discover who we are.

For me, I walked out of the Australian desert outback, alone in 2012, after eight years out of the U.S.A. I got on a plane and at the other end met up again, in a town I was moving to sight unseen, my beloved old friend Charles, who had moved there himself one week earlier: Peekskill, New York, an hour north of New York City.

From dark to light to dark to light.

In the piece on the outback in Tin House, that I posted last week, I describe the Coalsack Nebulae — a black space in the sky that is a recycler of stars. Also, again, what I discovered and love the most — that while white people pick their constellations from stars, aborigines see them in the patterns in the darkness. Charles I hope for sure that you are being recycled right now, dust into life as dead star into new star in the star recycler you reach. 

Charles was a man who never complained, in the 25 years I knew him, about his luck or his odds, or of being held back by any part of who he was. I so admire that. He would laugh at me, but I told his Dad that on his death bed our beloved Charles looked like black Jesus.

Everyone is going to miss him for the rest of our lives, as Jay D (I guess I should say Daugherty) said at his service on July 22. A terrible loss. A brilliant artist, a gentle strong man, and a soul mate. Tears are flowing and they ain’t going to stop soon.  Beautiful char;es

Charles Militant Golf (2)Charles arms outstretched

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My Tin House piece on E.L. Grant Watson, living in the outback.

Lost & Found: Louise Wareham Leonard on E. L. Grant Watson

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Pictures of Lolita, Gaitskill and me

What do you think of when you think of Lolita? The answer is not always your fault. Publishers want to sell copies and sex sells, or can.  But Lolita, Lolita. I have been reading Mary Gaitskill’s essays, and in her essay “Pictures of Lo,” she puts it perfectly:

Lolita may be fairly described as a ‘threnody’ for the destruction of a child’s life….

lolita-cover-2-e1362033220249yet a high percentage of the covers go for cute. 

In my adolescence, it was Lolita  in heart shape sunglasses, sucking a lollipop. And there have been some 150 other versions.

Lolita is the story of a young girl at the mercy of a step-father who responds to her nascent sexuality by targeting her, kidnapping her and sleeping with her as his captive step-daughter in one place after another until outsiders suspect. Her sobbing, which he sometimes hears at night, he duly, perhaps guiltily, hears but ignores.

When she finally escapes, she becomes — as many abused children do —  a denuded lessened figure, a shadow of what she might have been.

Mary Gaitskill’s collection of essay and reviews, Somebody with a Little Hammer,  is so forthright and perceptive and strong; Gaitskill sees through all of the nonsense and depravity of the convenient and willful transformation of victim to seductress. And I believe I know a thing about this, having had my last little work, 52 Men, treated as if my character were a happy go lucky nymphomaniac  (sorry, but no.)  I quote Gaitskill here, writing of Linda Lovelace, in Gaitskill’s essay “Icon:”

You don’t need special shrewdness or even much experience to recognize a predator; all you need is a working animal instinct.

But some people’s instincts have been ruined. Some people’s instinct have been so ruined by such disrespectful treatment that, for them, disrespect is not merely a norm; it has a kind of hyper-reality that is absolutely compelling. Such people don’t necessarily identify as masochistic in a conscious way… It’s hard to know them — that is, to know how hurt they are, and how intractable the damage is.Hammer

I do not know what happened to Gaitskill that she understands this. It is, perhaps, a good thing that I don’t, so it be not too reductive. But the point is, that somehow she does, and I totally relate to her.

In another essay in the collection a young person asks her in real time her why she loves him. She says:

This is why —

You’re not somebody who just wants to hear nice bullshit.

You care. You want to know what’s real.

I love you for that.

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Adolescence is enough suffering for anyone: a story

Amy Hassinger tells the story of an aching painful adolescent love, when a boy’s desperate need and intensity compel, confuse and repel a young girl all at the same time.

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