Tag Archives: memory

Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Music, when Soft Voices die”

10 Apr

ShelleyPortrait of Shelley by Alfred Clint (1819)

When you think Beat Generation do you also think Romanticism? No?? Don’t get tripped up by the overuse of the word “neon” and other supposed markers of so-called Beat poetry. Think more about their shared notions of colloquial language, intuition over reason, and spontaneity. Beat poetry is a natural evolution of Romantic poetry. (Caveat: “Beat Generation” and “Romanticism” are convenient labels, but the people associated with them wouldn’t identify themselves as being “members” of any sort of “movement.”)

I’ve written before about Beat poet Gregory Corso’s connection to one of my personal favorite poets, John Keats. Even more than Keats, though, Corso professed an admiration for Percy Bysshe Shelley. Corso is actually buried across from Shelley. While Allen Ginsberg (read last week’s post on Ginsberg’s Blake vision here)  is known for littering his poetry with the names of Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady, Corso wrote of Shelley in “I Am 25” and “I Held a Shelley Manuscript.” I love, love, love the language he uses in those poems and can relate to the theme of idolizing other poets who have gone before one’s time.

When thinking about possible poems to share with you for National Poetry Month, I decided on Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Music, when Soft Voices die” not just because of Gregory Corso’s love for Shelley but because it reminded me of the themes I’d found myself wonderfully entrenched in while recently reading Marcel Proust’s Swann’s Way, a book the Beats also read—themes of memory and love and music and flowers. (Swoon, swoon, swoon.) Like Corso’s “I Held a Shelley Manuscript,” Shelley’s “Music, when Soft Voices die” sensually touches on what remains after death.

Without further ado, Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Music, when Soft Voices die”:

Music, when soft voices die,
Vibrates in the memory;
Odours, when sweet violets sicken,
Live within the sense they quicken.

Rose leaves, when the rose is dead,
Are heap’d for the belovèd’s bed;
And so thy thoughts, when thou art gone,
Love itself shall slumber on.

What’s your favorite poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley?

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Harold Pinter’s Proust Screenplay Shows at the 92nd Street Y

14 Jan

G_011614_Pinter_Proustimage via 92nd Street Y

If you recall that Jack Kerouac, a native French speaker, read Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past, you may be interested in Harold Pinter’s screenplay of it at the 92nd Street Y:

In 1972, Harold Pinter wrote a screenplay from Proust’s seven-volume masterpiece Remembrance of Things Past.

Decades later, Pinter and directing partner Di Trevis adapted the never-filmed script for the National Theatre in London. It has never been produced in the US. In celebration of Pinter’s long friendship with the Poetry Center and the centenary of Swann’s Way, we present a staged reading of the play, affording us “the pleasure of providing yet another angle of perception upon a work so elaborate and many-faceted it never fails to give back new light,” wrote John Updike.

Here is the key facts:

Date: Thu, Jan 16, 2014, 8 pm

Location: Lexington Avenue at 92nd St

Venue: Kaufmann Concert Hall

Price: from $27.00

Pinter wrote “memory plays,” works like No Man’s Land (1975) and Betrayal (1978 — and yes, it was once alluded to on an episode of Seinfeld), which deal with the chronology of time and the way memory warps. He also acted and his last performance was as none other than the title character in Samuel Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape — fitting, you see, since the play is about an older man reviewing his earlier years.

Kerouac too was writing about memory as he mythologized himself in his series of semi-autobiographic novels, which he called The Legend of Duluoz.

 

Writing Wednesday: 10 Reasons Memoirists Should Make Time to Keep a Diary

28 Aug

I wrote recently about how Jack Kerouac kept a dream journal and have been blogging a lot about social media. In a recent Salon article, Michele Filgate wonders “Will social media kill writers’ diaries?: Now Facebook and Twitter are business necessities, they may be losing writers’ journals. Is something lost?”

Filgate writes that authors’ personal diaries offer a key into their literary development and intentions. She says authors’ social media posts can do the same thing, but that it’s not as authentic:

Even if there is a level of acting involved in authors who use social media, it isn’t anything new. Brian Morton (author of “Starting Out in the Evening” points out: “I’ve read that Tolstoy used to keep two diaries, one that he left lying around for other people to read, the other a more intimate record for himself alone. I think self-exposure on social media is probably like the diary we leave out for others. There’s probably always an element of performance in it, even when it seems most naked.”

The pressure to build a platform and use social media is real for authors. Finding time to write isn’t always easy to begin with, but not it’s a constant juggle between writing (and researching, editing, and pitching) and social media (blogging, tweeting, facebook-ing, and pinterest-ing). In addition to big writing projects, many writers are also taking on small projects, like writing articles for various lit mags.

Diary keeping is last on my literary to-do list, and I miss it! Not only do I miss it for personal reasons, but I miss having a record of what I was going through and what I was feeling at various points in my life. Especially as a memoirist, I think it’s essential to keep a diary.

Here are

  1. It is a log for when and where we were on exact days
  2. It reminds us of precise events in our life
  3. It reminds us of little details that we forget over time
  4. It is a more accurate record of our emotions than our social media entries
  5. It is a raw space to create
  6. It’s a reminder of our growth in life
  7. It’s a reminder of our literary accomplishments
  8. It’s a place to dream and make goals
  9. It’s a good way to warm up our writing muscles
  10. Technology changes over time, so having a tangible diary preserves our day-to-day thoughts

How do you juggle journal-keeping with your other writing and social media? How has keeping a diary helped your writing?

 

Military Tanks

22 Dec

It’s late in the morning, and I’m drinking a cup of black coffee that has turned cold because of how slowly I’ve been drinking it.  I’m sitting Indian style on my chair and editing a book on military tanks.

Normally, a weaponry book would get on my nerves.  I’d wonder what choices I’d made in my career that got me to the point that I’m editing books so far from my own gushy interests of literature and birds and art.

Today, though, I’m reminded of another morning.  I remember riding the bus into Manhattan with my dad, passing the Teaneck Armory, and my dad telling me about his days serving in the Greek army.  My dad’s rather private, a trait that runs deep in the family, and I had never really heard him talk about being in the army.  Even though it’s required of all Greek males to serve in the Greek army, the detail that my father served in the army never really cliqued in my mind.  It made me realize how some details in our lives slip away, forgotten until triggered by a source outside us.

Some stories we share over and over again, til the point our friends roll their eyes from having to hear it again.  Other stories we burrow away.  Maybe because they’re painful to remember.  Or maybe because they just seem insignificant.