Saturday, June 17, 2023

** HIATUS **

 Time to recharge, renew, reinvent life. I'll be officially taking a break from the blog, and most other literary endeavors, until the Fall. Please read my previous entries (there are a lot of them), comment so I know I'm not just puking into the void, and look for something in September.  -CAR

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Hughes Vs. Hitler: The Absurdity of Keyboard Researchers


Early this morning, during my usual Facebook perusal, I noticed a particular comment on a friend’s post. Don Levy is a fine poet, and an active reader who shares his interests with others on the web. He’s been posting about a different poet every week, and last week his poet of choice was Ted Hughes, former Poet Laureate of the UK and widower of Sylvia Plath.

Hughes’ role in Plath’s suicide has been debated for decades now. An ardent band of Plath devotees has gone so far as to regularly chip his surname off her headstone, blaming him entirely for her sad ending. Whether these folks take into account her long history of mental illness prior to meeting Hughes is unknown.

Even here in 2023, Don got so much flack for his choice that he felt the need to apologize. Many people supported him, and made the argument for the work and the poet as being separate entities to be considered apart from each other. One gentleman however, with research on Wikipedia to support his opinion, declared Hughes a “psychopath,” and likened his so-called killing spree to that of Hitler.

Anyone’s suicide is a long reaching tragedy that affects many more than can be anticipated. To make Hughes’ case more complicated, his lover, Assia Wevill, lived with for several years afterwards, and ended her own life and that of their small daughter in a similar fashion to Plath. Hughes’ son with Plath, Nicholas Hughes, committed suicide as well, in 2009 and well after the deaths of both his parents.

Considering her long history of mental health struggles in particular, it is difficult to blame Hughes directly for Plath’s suicide. Theirs was a marriage fraught with struggles, the plight of artists as well as husbands and wives. Only those two know the full stories, and we are left to piece together the truth, or some sensible version of it, from diaries, letters, and most unreliably, their poems.

Certainly comparing Hughes to Hitler is an absurdity not even worth discussing with Professor Wiki. Hopefully his next source of “facts” won’t be the wretched Gwyneth Paltrow film of several years ago that exploited the agony. Surviving daughter Frieda Hughes wouldn’t even give permission for their poems to be used, and the producers were reduced to fictional Sylvia and Ted quoting from Shakespeare like starry-eyed freshmen.

Full disclosure- for almost a decade I was the host of an annual event I called, “The Sylvia Plath Bake-Off.” Looking to draw attention to a monthly open mic here in the Hudson Valley, I came up with several themes, and this one took off with a life of its own. I don’t regret the events now, although as I age I do become more acutely sensitive the pain that drove Plath to the oven. No one came in laughing about her method of suicide, although the usual levity was present, the same that one often experiences at funerals. Poems were sympathetic odes, not satirical rants. I have no plans to revive the series, although many remember it with great fondness. I am too old to find much more to ask of Plath and Hughes, having given all I could expect to my selfish cause.

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

2023: An Overview of Sorts


The end of the calendar year is supposed to bring a review of the previous 12 months, or at least an assessment of accomplishments. In this near-post-Pandemic environment, there was a facade of normalcy, but deep differences that will take years to return to former experiences.

There were live readings, with many in attendance still masked (not a bad thing). I usually do not mask at this point, but others are of course free to do so. Am I in denial of the consequences of COVID? Probably, but here we are. I’ve been vaccinated and boosted multiple times, and even spent a week with my Beloved ill, and still have not contracted the virus. With all my allergies, I can’t believe it’s anything more than luck that’s kept me well. I’m also working from home for half the year, limiting my exposure to others for great lengths of time in enclosed spaces. I’ll take it.

I’m sorting through files again, this time with more purpose, determined to put things in a usable order. The first time I worked from home, I was too frightened about the state of the world to do much cleaning or organizing of consequence. I’ve abandoned that fear, for the most part, and am now primarily concerned with making the most of the rest of my life, artistically speaking.

There have been a few readings sprinkled in, a short feature courtesy of the Ulster County Women’s Network, a couple more live streams with CAPS, and a Hudson Valley Writers Guild reading in Albany with some Midwest poets I hadn’t yet met in person. I published another Flying Monkey Press chapbook, and helped out at Bruce & Joanne Weber’s Samsara poetry marathon this past New Year’s Day.

I’ve been writing a monthly column for the HVWG newsletter, but somehow this blog has fallen off my task list, despite appearing again and again in my planner. A lot of what I would normally say here has ended up there. Whether or not anyone reads either is anyone’s guess. Both systems make commenting difficult, and I know that there’s a lot of competition these days for eyeballs on the internet. I hope some find it at least diverting for a few minutes. Don’t we all need diversion from this reality we could never have imagined?

2023 is a big unknown for me so far. Resolutions are a daily thing, so making more at the end of the calendar year is no longer a thing for me. With recent health revisions, I am more acutely aware of changes, good and bad. I push through. My mortgage is paid off. I’d like to stop working altogether in a few years. I promise not to be bored when my schedule is my own. That’s all for now.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Poetry Might Feed The Soul, But…



In February I finally reached 60. As with most milestones when reached, it feels surreal. I totally understand the notion of the mind of an 18-year old trapped in the body of a grandparent. Perhaps the mind of an 18-year old who’s had the benefit of 40+ years of life lessons is a kind of ideal state. I’ve never been entirely grounded, and so far have been sustained by decent genes and a lifestyle devoid of most excesses, save Stewarts ice cream. Time has begun to catch up with me around the edges. Every year brings one or two more pills to add to my morning and evening rituals, meds as well as supplements. I am beginning to accumulate the kind of equipment at home that previously I only encountered at my annual physical. And the Poet’s Life does nothing to improve my situation.

I once took a memoir writing workshop with a very well known author whom I will not name, having been confronted in the past by another writer who apparently spent a great deal of time googling himself and took sharp exception to my portrayal of his negative attitude in a poem. It seems that success does little to improve some moods. This workshop leader spent most of the class reading from her own how-to guide to memoir (which I’d read myself to prepare), but when pressed to respond to work at hand offered laser-sharp feedback. When the discussion of finding time to write came up, she remarked rather matter-of-factly that writers weren’t noted for their good health, suggesting that writing time should be prioritized over gym time.

Never a big fan of gyms, considering them a necessary evil during our time on Spaceship Earth, I certainly didn’t need any encouragement to avoid them altogether. In fact recently I’ve consciously committed more time to a morning walk, letting the fantasy of regular writing time before I go to work go. The work I do these days is very sedentary, unavoidably so. I grasp at time I spend walking from my car to the building, the building to the dining hall, to try to convince myself I’ve moved out of my chair a little. The morning walk helps a great deal with so much, and I look forward to longer walks in the winter, when I move to working from home again.

If I’ve got something to write, I will always fine the time to write it. A few weeks ago a dedicated several hours a day to deep rewrites of poems, until car troubles distracted me from that mission. My Beloved has several meetings a month pertaining to various organizations, and this gets me off the couch and upstairs to at least edit and send poems out. I have evenings and weekends as I like. However, spending time with others, especially my Beloved, is most often a priority above all. My words may or may not outlive me, impact another generation, become part of the history of this place and time we’re all passing thru. However, love is what will survive, nameless or clearly identified. My body is the current vehicle, and love is what drives the engine of our lives.