Wednesday, March 30, 2011


I am writing this to urge you to contact your Senators and ask them not to vote in favor of prohibiting Federal funding of National Public Radio and the use of Federal funds to acquire radio content.   I also hope that if you are representative in Congress is one of the ones listed below that you will write to them about your displeasure at their vote in favor of HR 1076.  Here are the Members of the House of Representatives (mostly Republicans) who voted in favor of this bill:

Barton (TX)
Bass (NH)
Bishop (UT)
Bono Mack
Brady (TX)
Broun (GA)
Burton (IN)
Coffman (CO)
Davis (KY)
Duncan (SC)
Duncan (TN)
Franks (AZ)
Gingrey (GA)
Graves (GA)
Graves (MO)
Griffin (AR)
Griffith (VA)
Hastings (WA)
Herrera Beutler
Huizenga (MI)
Johnson (IL)
Johnson (OH)
Johnson, Sam
King (IA)
King (NY)
Kinzinger (IL)
Lewis (CA)
Lungren, Daniel E.
McCarthy (CA)
McMorris Rodgers
Miller (FL)
Miller (MI)
Miller, Gary
Murphy (PA)
Poe (TX)
Price (GA)
Roe (TN)
Rogers (AL)
Rogers (KY)
Rogers (MI)
Ross (FL)
Ryan (WI)
Scott (SC)
Scott, Austin
Smith (NE)
Smith (NJ)
Smith (TX)
Thompson (PA)
Walsh (IL)
Wilson (SC)
Young (FL)
Young (IN)

NPR is a wonderful source of news and in several instances has been a life-saving source of information. I have lived though three hurricanes while living in the proximity of the Gulf of Mexico. During each of these natural disasters, it was NPR radio stations that kept citizens informed about issues involving the storms. The NPR stations were most often the only radio station operating during the storms and in the aftermath. It was the NPR stations that we depended on for the vital information necessary to survive these disasters. Without electricity, we were forced to rely on battery-powered radios. Public Radio stations were the only source of information during these tragedies. Without federal funding, these radio stations would be hard pressed to provide that vital information.

Furthermore, as an educator, I spend the majority of my time working to enrich the lives of my students. I teach both high school and college, and due to my busy schedule, my main news source is often the local public radio stations. Public Radio keeps me informed of the vital issues of the day. I listen to it each morning and afternoon on my way to and from school. Without that morning and afternoon commute listening to my public radio station, the time and effort I put into educating my students would be diminished. Therefore, I feel that public radio serves as a vital part of my job. As a teacher, I know the importance of keeping informed about the national and international news. Public radio allows me to keep informed for my students.

I feel that the federal funding received by public radio stations is far too vital to be cut or eliminated. Public radio serves an important part of the news and information available in America, especially rural America, and it would be a travesty if their budget were cut.

Thank you for reading.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Spring

by Thomas Carew (1640)
Now that the winter’s gone, the earth hath lost
Her snow-white robes; and now no more the frost
tumblr_lislksLSiq1qfhvvko1_1280Candies the grass, or casts an icy cream
Upon the silver lake or crystal stream:
But the warm sun thaws the benumbed earth,
And makes it tender; gives a sacred birth
To the dead swallow; wakes in hollow tree
The drowsy cuckoo and the humble-bee.
Now do a choir of chirping minstrels bring,
In triumph to the world, the youthful spring:
The valleys, hills, and woods in rich array
Welcome the coming of the long’d-for May.
Now all things smile: only my love doth lower,
Nor hath the scalding noon-day sun the powertumblr_lhz6hgwRAS1qgkmajo1_500
To melt that marble ice, which still doth hold
Her heart congeal’d, and makes her pity cold.
The ox, which lately did for shelter fly
Into the stall, doth now securely lie
In open fields; and love no more is made
By the fire-side, but in the cooler shade
Amyntas now doth with his Chloris sleep
Under a sycamore, and all things keep
Time with the season: only she doth carry
June in her eyes, in her heart January.

Thomas Carew  (1594?-1640)
        Thomas Carew (pronounced Carey) was born, possibly at West Wickham, Kent, in either 1594 or 1595. His father, lawyer Matthew Carew, moved the family to London about 1598. Nothing is known of Carew's education before he matriculated at Merton College, Oxford, in 1608. Graduating B. A. in 1610/11, he was incorporated B. A. of Cambridge in 1612, after which he was admitted to the Middle Temple. From 1613 to 1616 Carew served as secretary to Sir Dudley Carleton on embassies to Italy and the Netherlands. After being fired for making insulting remarks about Carleton and his wife, Carew returned to England for a futile search for employment. In 1619, his father having died the previous year, Carew joined an embassy to Paris headed by Sir Edward Herbert (later Lord Herbert of Chirbury). Possibly, he met there the Italian poet Giambattista Marino.
        In 1622, Carew's first poem was published: verses prefixed to Thomas May's comedy The Heir. In the early 1620s Carew associated with Ben Jonson and his circle, and also frequented the court. In 1630 Carew was made a gentleman of Charles I's Privy Chamber Extraordinary. He was named Sewer in Ordinary to the King (that is, an official in charge of the royal dining arrangements). It is said he was "high in favour with that king, who had a high opinion of his wit and abilities."1
        Carew had a reputation for mischief that stayed with him all of his adult life. This reputation did nothing to damage his career as a poet, soldier, and courtier. His society verses, such as "A Divine Mistress" and "Disdain Returned," were prized for their wit. In truth, he was a conscientious poetic craftsman. Though he did not produce a large body of work, he took extraordinary care in shaping each piece. Carew's masque Coelum Britannicum, performed before the king in 1634, though full of jokes and allusions, draws upon an important work by the sixteenth century Italian philosopher Giordano Bruno.2
        Much of Carew's poetry was sexually explicit far beyond the norms of his age, and he was a reputed libertine. Yet he translated nine of the Psalms and wrote one of the finest elegies of the period: "An Elegy on the Death of the Dean of St. Paul's Dr. John Donne." It is a solemn tribute to Donne's contribution to English poetry and the English Language. Perhaps the most interesting of Carew's achievements is his verse criticism of his contemporaries. Formal criticism was in its infancy during the early seventeenth century. Carew's commendatory, complimentary, and elegiac poems provide some of the best evidence concerning the literary values of the age.2
        "At the end of his life, Carew attempted to make amends to the Church, summoning a prominent vicar to his deathbed. Owing to his profligate life, however, he was repulsed."3 Carew died on March 23, 1640 and was buried in Saint Dunstan's-in-the-West, Westminster. His Poems were published the same year, to be followed by the second edition "revised and enlarged" in 1642.
  1. The Dictionary of National Biography.
    London: Oxford University Press, 1917 ff. Volume III. 972.
  2. The Norton Anthology of English Literature, 6th Ed. Vol. 1.
    New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1993. 1696.
  3. Crofts, Thomas, ed. The Cavalier Poets: An Anthology.
    New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1995. 32.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Rocking the Boat

Guys and Dolls was on TCM the other night.  I admit it, I love most musicals.  Guys and Dolls is no exception.  I particularly love this song.
Truth be told, sometimes we should sit down and stop “rocking the boat.”  Life can’t always be fair, but we have to make do with what we have sometimes.  However, there are certain things worth fighting for which calls for “rocking the boat.”  If we all are to treat others fairly and truthfully, we may rock the boat a little, but the world will be a better place.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Geraldine Ferraro: 1935-2011


Geraldine Ferraro Dead: First Female Vice Presidential Candidate Dies At 75

Geraldine Ferraro, a Democrat and the first major female vice presidential candidate, passed away on Saturday.

Jeff Zeleny at the New York Times reports that at the age of 75, Ferraro died of complications from blood cancer at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Ferraro was the first woman and first Italian-American to run on a major party national ticket. According to a statement released by her family, she died surrounded by her loved ones after battling multiple myeloma for twelve years. Her family said of the loss:

"Geraldine Anne Ferraro Zaccaro was widely known as a leader, a fighter for justice, and a tireless advocate for those without a voice. To us, she was a wife, mother, grandmother and aunt, a woman devoted to and deeply loved by her family. Her courage and generosity of spirit throughout her life waging battles big and small, public and personal, will never be forgotten and will be sorely missed."

After first being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1978, she went on to serve New York's ninth congressional district for three terms. Ferraro ran as Walter Mondale's running mate in the 1984 presidential election.

Delegates in San Francisco erupted in cheers at the first line of her speech accepting the vice-presidential nomination.

"My name is Geraldine Ferraro," she declared. "I stand before you to proclaim tonight: America is the land where dreams can come true for all of us."

Her acceptance speech launched eight minutes of cheers, foot-stamping and tears.

Moment of Zen: Just Before


Tennessee Williams: Born March 26, 1911

463px-tennessee-williams-with-cake-nywtsOne hundred years ago today, Edwina and Cornelius Williams gave birth to Thomas Lanier Williams III in Columbus, Mississippi.  Tom Williams grew up to become the greatest American playwright of the 20th century and is known to us today as Tennessee Williams.  Williams is my personal favorite playwright.  His plays, A Streetcar Named Desire, Suddenly, Last Summer, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Night of the Iguana, The Glass Menagerie, and his novel, The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone have inspired countless productions, numerous movies, and a host of enjoyment for millions.  The richness of his stories, though set in a time before my birth, are timeless and never lose their appeal.

Tennessee was close to his sister Rose, who was a slim and beautiful woman with a host of mental illnesses from a young age, including schizophrenia, for which she was later institutionalized and spent most of her adult life in mental hospitals. After various unsuccessful attempts at therapy, her parents eventually allowed a prefrontal lobotomy in an effort to treat her. The operation, performed in 1943, in Washington, D.C., went badly, and Rose remained incapacitated for the rest of her life. Rose's failed lobotomy was a hard blow to Tennessee, who never forgave his parents for allowing the operation. It may have been one of the factors that drove him to alcoholism.

20081023_080741_ae24menagerie_300Characters in his plays are often seen to be direct representations of his family members. Laura Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie is understood to be modeled on Rose. Some biographers say that the character of Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire is based on her as well. The motif of lobotomy also arises in Suddenly Last Summer. Amanda Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie can easily be seen to represent his mother. Many of his characters are autobiographical, including Tom Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie and Sebastian in Suddenly Last Summer.

In his memoirs, the playwright claims he became sexually active as a teenager; his biographer Lyle Leverich maintained this actually occurred later, in his late 20s. His first sexual affair with a man was at Provincetown, Massachusetts with a dancer named Kip Kiernan. He carried a photo of Kip in his wallet for many years. Having struggled with his sexuality throughout his youth, he came out as a gay man in private. When Kip left him for a woman and marriage, Williams was devastated. Williams was outed as gay by Louis Kronenberger in Time magazine in the 1950s. the success of The Glass Menagerie, Thomas Lanier Williams, later known as Tennessee, spent time in Mexico in late 1945. "I feel I was born in Mexico in another life," he wrote in a letter from Mexico City. Over the years, other writers—from Katherine Anne Porter to Williams' mentor, Hart Crane— had expressed the same sentiment. But luck was with Williams as he crossed la frontera at Piedras Negras/Eagle Pass: He met Pancho Rodriguez, a young Mexican American. The tale of that meeting would later be embellished—with Williams' car breaking down and a border guard's son helping to rescue a manuscript that border guards had confiscated.  The rising 34-year-old playwright was immediately smitten with the 24-year-old Pancho—the border guard's son—and invited him to New Orleans as his live-in muse. The rest, as they say, is history. But the chronicle of their relationship was forgotten and, to a large extent, whitewashed from Williams' life story.

frank_merloHis physical and emotional relationship with his secretary, Frank Merlo, lasted from 1947 until Merlo's death from cancer in 1961, and provided the stability during which Williams produced his most enduring works. Merlo was a balance to many of Williams's depressions, especially the fear that like his sister, Rose, he would become insane. The death of his lover drove Williams into a deep decade-long depression.

Conflicted over his own sexuality, Tennessee Williams wrote directly about homosexuality only in his short stories, his poetry, and his late plays. Williams's gayness was an open secret he neither publicly confirmed nor denied until the post-Stonewall era when gay critics took him to task for not coming out, which he did in a series of public utterances, his Memoirs (1975), self-portraits in some of the later plays, and the novel, Moise and the World of Reason (1975), all of which document, often pathetically, Williams's sense of himself as a gay man.

tennessee_williams-by-lessignetsdotcomThere are several volumes of witty, confessional letters to friends Donald Windham and Maria St. Just and a raft of cynical, exploitative kiss-and-tell books by men who claimed to know Williams well in his later, declining years. However, anyone who had read his stories and poems, in which Williams could be more candid than he could be in works written for a Broadway audience, had ample evidence of his homosexuality.

Tennessee Williams's work poses fascinating problems for the gay reader. At his best, Williams wrote some of the greatest American plays, but though homosexuals are sometimes mentioned, they are dead, closeted safely in the exposition but never appearing on stage.  In his post-Stonewall plays, in which openly homosexual characters appear, they serve only to dramatize Williams's negative feelings about his own homosexuality. In the 1940s and 1950s, Williams presented in his finest stories poetic renderings of homosexual desire, but homoeroticism was always linked to death. Only in his lyric poetry does one find positive expression of homoerotic desire.

bhon5lThese contradictions are not presented to damn Williams for not having a contemporary gay sensibility but to say that his attitude toward his own homosexuality reflected the era in which he lived. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, the McCarthy era, during which Williams wrote his best work, homosexuality branded one a traitor as well as a "degenerate."

Williams's best work was an expression of his homosexuality combined with the intense neuroses that fueled his imagination and crippled his life. Gay critics have debated in recent years whether Williams's work is marked by "internalized homophobia" (Clum) or whether he is a subversive artist whose work can be best interpreted through the lens of leftist French theorists like Roland Barthes and Michel Foucault (Savran).
David Bergman sees Williams's characteristic linking of homosexuality and cannibalism as both religious (the homosexual as martyr) and Freudian (homosexuality as accommodation to and rebellion against the father figure), as well as part of a central American gay literary tradition that has its roots in the work of Herman Melville.

The diverse but complementary work of these critics can be read as necessary counters to the heteTennessee Williamsrosexist critics of the past who either ignored Williams's homosexuality altogether or saw it as the root of his personal and artistic failings.
Williams died on February 25, 1983 at the age of 71. Reports at the time indicated he choked on an eyedrop bottle cap in his room at the Hotel Elysee in New York. The reports said he would routinely place the cap in his mouth, lean back, and place his eyedrops in each eye. The police report, however, suggested his use of drugs and alcohol contributed to his death. Prescription drugs, including barbiturates, were found in the room, and Williams' gag response may have been diminished by the effects of drugs and alcohol.

Suggested Further Readings:
For a more intimate look at Williams, click “More” below.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

F. Holland Day: 1864-1933

day-youthstoneThe extremely controversial F. Holland Day is all but forgotten today as his fin de siécle images of young nude men—like the one pictured here— were eclipsed by rivals such as Alfred Steigltiz and other moderns. An American, he was the first in the U.S.A. to advocate that photography should be considered a fine art.
Day spent much time among poor immigrant children in Boston, tutoring them in reading and mentoring them. One in particular, the 13-year-old Lebanese immigrant Kahlil Gibran, went on to fame as the author of The Prophet.
day (1)Fred Holland Day was a wealthy eccentric and philanthropist from Massachusetts. As partner in the publishing firm Copeland and Day, which he founded in 1884, Day indulged his passion for English literature, publishing exquisite small-edition, hand-bound volumes by the likes of Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Day's friend Oscar Wilde. Although Copeland and Day published ninety-eight books and periodicals, the firm was never financially successful.
Day began to photograph in 1886; and he wrote extensively about photography's position as a fine art and organized international photography exhibitions to further his claim. He asked: "And if it chance that [a] picture is beautiful, by what name shall we call it? Shall we say that it is not a work of art, because our vocabulary calls it a photograph?"
fhdnudeFrederick Holland Day's photographs of the male body concentrated on mythological and religious subject matter. In these photographs he tried to reveal a transcendence of spirit through an aesthetic vision of androgynous physical perfection. He reveled in the sensuous hedonistic beauty of what he saw as the perfection of the youthful male body. In the photograph "St. Sebastian," for example, the young male body is presented for our gaze in the combined ecstasy and agony of suffering. In his mythological photographs Holland Day used the idealism of Ancient Greece as the basis for his directed and staged images. These are not the bodies of muscular men but of youthful boys (ephebes) in their adolescence; they seem to have an ambiguous sexuality. F.-Holland-Day5The models genitalia are rarely shown and when they are, the penis is usually hidden in dark shadow, imbuing the photographs with a sexual mystery. The images are suffused with an erotic beauty of the male body never seen before, a photographic reflection of a seductive utopian beauty seen through the desiring eye of a homosexual photographer.
His style was Pictorialist, and he favored platinum prints, which are distinguished by their fine detail and ability to render a full range of soft tones. He lost interest in photography when a shortage of platinum during World War I made printing prohibitively expensive and eventually impossible. He died twenty years later, in relative obscurity.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Goodbye, Elizabeth Taylor

alizElizabeth Taylor, the legendary actress famed for her beauty, her jet-set lifestyle, her charitable endeavors and her many marriages, died this morning. She was 79.

Taylor died "peacefully today in Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles," said a statement from her publicist. She was hospitalized six weeks ago with congestive heart failure, "a condition with which she had struggled for many years. Though she had recently suffered a number of complications, her condition had stabilized and it was hoped that she would be able to return home. Sadly, this was not to be."

Taylor starred in Tennessee Williams' classic, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof as Maggie the Cat in late February 1958. cat_on_a_hot_tin_roofNot only is Tennessee Williams one of my favorite playwrights, this is one of my favorite plays. When Taylor made the movie, she was straight from a trip around the world, she was happily married to Mike Todd and was the mother of three very small children under the age of 5. It looked as though she was going to retire from her contractual obligations at MGM Studio's and work exclusively for Mike Todd. Life seemed perfect. Too perfect. Three weeks after production began, Mike Todd was tragically killed in a plane crash and Elizabeth Taylor's world fell apart. His death caused such a tear in her life that it would take four years to mend. Elizabeth Taylor's performance in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is one of her finest. She garnered her second Academy Award nomination. She literally threw herself into her work as detraction from her tragedy. Her role boiled with subdued and expressed emotion.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof was not the only Tennessee Williams play that Taylor made into a movie.  She also acted in Suddenly Last Summer.  Both plays deal with gay men and the trials and tribulations they dealt with during William’s lifetime.  l_53318_fde66d34Williams himself was gay and often, homosexuality was a subtest of his plays.  Paul Newman’s character in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof never recovered from the love he had for a boyhood friend, which frustrates Taylor’s character Maggie.  In Suddenly, Last Summer, Taylor played Catharine Holly, a young woman who seems to go insane after her cousin Sebastian dies on a trip to Europe under mysterious circumstances. Sebastian's mother, Violet Venable, trying to cloud the truth about her son's homosexuality and death, threatens to lobotomize Catharine for her incoherent utterances relating to Sebastian's demise. Finally, under the influence of a truth serum, Catharine tells the gruesome story of Sebastian's death by cannibalism at the hand of local boys whose sexual favors he sought, using Catharine as a device to attract the young men (as he had earlier used his mother). The clip below features Taylor and Montgomery Clift, who happened to be Taylor’s best gay friend and a marvelous actor.

After her acting career faded, she devoted herself to charity. In 1985, she organized a benefit dinner to raise money for her friend Rock Hudson, who was dying of AIDS. The project eventually led to the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amFAR); in 1991, she began the Elizabeth Taylor HIV/AIDS Foundation. "The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation" funds programs and organization that give direct care to the population of millions affected with HIV/AIDS,whether it is direct care or related/ associated services. So many people are now living longer with AIDS/HIV due to advances in viral medication technology, but the impact of living a life with AIDS is far reaching. AIDS affects all of us, in one way or another. Generations of young people are not conscious of the 1980's. The face of AIDS has changed since the time when those who were ill were visibly stigmatized, akin to being lepers. Now, those with HIV/AIDS live life among the general population attempting to cope with the disease. Sometimes, silently. Emotionally, the impact is just the same as those first diagnosed. Fear. The only solution is to rid the world of this disease, therefore opening a technological highway aimed to ignite the remedy to so many other diseases as well.


logo_headerThe Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation
c/o Derrick Lee 
 Reback Lee & Company, Inc. 
 12400 Wilshire Blvd #1275 
 Los Angeles,  CA. 90025

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Prayer in Spring

tumblr_l7ms3rYaDu1qcs1p0o1_500Robert Frost (1915)
Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers to-day;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.

Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.

And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid air stands still.
For this is love and nothing else is love,
The which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends He will,
But which it only needs that we fulfill.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Moment of Zen: Body, Remember....

Body, Remember....
C.P. Cavafy
Body, remember not only how much you were loved,
not only the beds you lay on,
but also those desires that glowed openly
in eyes that looked at you,
trembled for you in the voices—
only some chance obstacle frustrated them.
Now that it’s all finally in the past,
it seems almost as if you gave yourself
to those desires too—how they glowed,
remember, in eyes that looked at you,
remember, body, how they trembled for you in those voices.
(C.P. Cavafy, Collected Poems. Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard. Edited by George Savidis. Revised Edition. Princeton University Press, 1992)

Friday, March 18, 2011

David Hockney's "Illustrations for Fourteen Poems from C P Cavafy"

Two Young Men, 23 to 24 Years Old
Bild 047He’d been sitting in the café since ten-thirty
expecting him to turn up any minute.
Midnight went by, and he was still waiting for him.
It was now after one-thirty, and the café was almost deserted.
He’d grown tired of reading newspapers
mechanically. Of his three lonely shillings
only one was left: waiting that long,
he’d spent the others on coffees and brandy.
He’d smoked all his cigarettes.
So much waiting had worn him out. Because
alone like that for so many hours,
he’d also begun to have disturbing thoughts
about the immoral life he was living.

But when he saw his friend come in—
weariness, boredom, thoughts vanished at once.

His friend brought unexpected news.
He’d won sixty pounds playing cards.

Their good looks, their exquisite youthfulness,
the sensitive love they shared
were refreshed, livened, invigorated
by the sixty pounds from the card table.
Now all joy and vitality, feeling and charm,
they went—not to the homes of their respectable families
(where they were no longer wanted anyway)—
they went to a familiar and very special
house of debauchery, and they asked for a bedroom
and expensive drinks, and they drank again.

And when the expensive drinks were finished
and it was close to four in the morning,
happy, they gave themselves to love.

Following the Recipe of Ancient Greco-Syrian Magicians
Bild 051Said an aesthete: “What distillation from magic herbs
can I find—what distillation, following the recipe
of ancient Greco-Syrian magicians—
that will bring back to me for one day (if its power
doesn’t last longer) or even for a few hours,
my twenty-third year,
bring back to me my friend of twenty-two,
his beauty, his love.
What distillation, following the recipe
of ancient Greco-Syrian magicians, can be found
to bring back also—as part of this return of things past—
even the little room we shared.”

In an Old Book
Bild 052Forgotten between the leaves of an old book—
almost a hundred years old—
I found an unsigned watercolor.
It must have been the work of a powerful artist.
Its title: “Representation of Love.”
“ of extreme sensualists” would have been more to the point.
Because it became clear as you looked at the work
(it was easy to see what the artist had in mind)
that the young man in the painting
was not designated for those
who love in ways that are more or less healthy,
inside the bounds of what is clearly permissible—
with his deep chestnut eyes,
the rare beauty of his face,
the beauty of anomalous charm,
with those ideal lips that bring
sensual delight to the body loved,
those ideal limbs shaped for beds
that common morality calls shameless.

In the Boring Village
DavidHockney_InTheDullVillage_LGIn the boring village where he works—
clerk in a textile shop, very young—
and where he’s waiting out the two or three months ahead,
another two or three months until business falls off
so he can leave for the city and plunge headlong
into its action, its entertainment;
in the boring village where he’s waiting out the time—
he goes to bed tonight full of sexual longing,
all his youth on fire with the body’s passion,
his lovely youth given over to a fine intensity.
And in his sleep pleasure comes to him;
in his sleep he sees and has the figure, the flesh he longed for...

Their Beginning
hockn_beginningTheir illicit pleasure has been fulfilled.
They get up and dress quickly, without a word.
They come out of the house separately, furtively;
and as they move along the street a bit unsettled,
it seems they sense that something about them betrays
what kind of bed they’ve just been lying on.
But what profit for the life of the artist:
tomorrow, the day after, or years later, he’ll give voice
to the strong lines that had their beginning here.

One Night
P1188The room was cheap and sordid,
hidden above the suspect taverna.
From the window you could see the alley,
dirty and narrow. From below
came the voices of workmen
playing cards, enjoying themselves.
And there on that common, humble bed
I had love’s body, had those intoxicating lips,
red and sensual,
red lips of such intoxication
that now as I write, after so many years,
in my lonely house, I’m drunk with passion again.

In Despair
P1189He lost him completely. And he now tries to find
his lips in the lips of each new lover,
he tries in the union with each new lover
to convince himself that it’s the same young man,
that it’s to him he gives himself.
He lost him completely, as though he never existed.
He wanted, his lover said, to save himself
from the tainted, unhealthy form of sexual pleasure,
the tainted, shameful form of sexual pleasure.
There was still time, he said, to save himself.
He lost him completely, as though he never existed.
Through fantasy, through hallucination,
he tries to find his lips in the lips of other young men,
he longs to feel his kind of love once more.

David Hockney has enjoyed international fame ever since the early 1960s. He began his artistic training in 1953 to 1957 at the Bradford College of Art and continued studying at the Royal College of Art in London from 1959 to 1962. He exhibited his first works in 1960 and participated in the exhibition of the 'London Group 1960' in 1960 and was also presented for the first time with the 'Young Contemporaries' at the R.B.A. Galleries in London. He was awarded the Royal College Drawing Prize in the year he graduated. Hockney began working on his first engraved cycle 'A Rake's Progress' as early as in 1961 - it was published in 1963. Hockney traveled to New York, Berlin and Egypt after having finished his studies, in order to find ideas for his illustrations. His friend, Henry Geldzahler, the curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, encouraged him to move to Los Angeles in 1964. Hockney was offered a teaching post at the University of Iowa in the summer of the same year. His first one-man exhibition in the USA was successfully opened in the same year at the Alan Gallery in New York. He had other teaching posts until 1967 at the University of Colorado in Boulder, in Los Angeles and in Berkeley.
Hockney came across the Greek poet Konstantinos Kavafis, also called Cafavy, as early as in his studies. He was fascinated by Cafavy's clear and unpretentious way of writing about homosexuality. Thus the idea for a cycle of etchings was born, which was, however, not solely due to his fascination for the Greek poet, but also because of his basic desire to create literature etchings. The project was not put into practice before 1966, as the translation of the poems which was in existence then could not be used for legal reasons. This is why Hockney decided to entrust his friend Stephen Spender, an English poet, and his colleague Nikos Stangos with a new translation of the poems. The project was completed in just 6 months. In general, the works of the cycle were not intended to be exact illustrations of the poem, but rather visual interpretations of Cafy's poetry.
Hockney accepted a post as a guest professor at the Kunsthochschule in Hamburg in 1969. His international fame increased with his invitations to exhibit at the documenta 4 and 6 in Kassel in 1968 and 1977. He made numerous stage stets for ballets and operas by Mozart, Strawinsky, Wagner and Strauss from the mid 1970s to the 1990s. In 1982 Hockney began making Polaroid collages in a Cubist manner. He also began making color-copy prints, abstract computer graphics and fax drawings at the end of the 1980s. Hockney is often associated with Pop-Art, but he refuses to accept this labeling of his art.
I only used seven of the fourteen poems featured in Hockney’s work, but these were the seven I found most intriguing. Each of the above poems were translated by Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard.  In Hockey’s book, they were translated by Stephen Spender and Nikos Stangos.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy 150th Birthday Italy!!!


On March 17, 1861, King Victor Emmanuel proclaimed the foundation of the kingdom of Italy. 


Reforms introduced by France into its Italian states in the Napoleonic period remained after the states were restored to their former rulers in 1815 and provided an impetus for the movement. Secret groups such as Young Italy advocated Italian unity, and leaders such as Camillo Cavour, who founded the journal Il Risorgimento (1847), Giuseppe Garibaldi, and Giuseppe Mazzini called for liberal reforms and a united Italy. After the failure of the Revolutions of 1848, leadership passed to Cavour and Piedmont, which formed an alliance with France against Austria (1859). The unification of most of Italy in 1861, followed by the annexation of Venetia (1866) and papal Rome (1870), marked the end of the Risorgimento.

Rome Oct. Week 1, 2006 042The Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II (National Monument of Victor Emmanuel II) or Altare della Patria (Altar of the Fatherland) or "Il Vittoriano" is a monument to honor Victor Emmanuel, the first king of a unified Italy, located in Rome, Italy. It occupies a site between the Piazza Venezia and the Capitoline Hill. The monument was designed by Giuseppe Sacconi in 1885; sculpture for it was parceled out to established sculptors all over Italy, such as Angelo Zanelli. It was inaugurated in 1911 and completed in 1935.

Oscar Wilde and Jefferson Davis

In continuing my look at Oscar Wilde for St. Patrick’s Day, I came across this very interesting.  As a southerner, It amazes me that Wilde and Davis met 1882. (My look at Cavefy will continue tomorrow).

Oscar Wilde
Playwright, wit, and gay icon


Jefferson Davis
Politician, traitor, and Confederate icon


While on his tour of the United States in 1882, there was one man Wilde wanted to meet above all others. No, not Walt Whitman (although the two did meet—and share a kiss—at Whitman’s New Jersey home that January). It was Jefferson Davis, former president of the Confederacy. Wilde finally got his chance on June 27, 1882, when he blew through Beauvoir, Mississippi on his way to Montgomery, Alabama to deliver a lecture on “Decorative Art” at the local opera house. The seemingly mismatched pair actually found they had a lot in common. Wilde remarked on the similarities between the American South and his native Ireland: both had fought to attain self-rule and both had lost. He went on to declare that “The principles for which Jefferson Davis and the South went to war cannot suffer defeat.”

As for the ensuing lecture, that proved to be something of a letdown. “An immense assemblage of the morbidly curious will greet him,” declared the Selma Times in an article previewing the event. The Montgomery Advertiser was also eager to hear what the famous wit had to offer.  “No lady has heard of Mr. Wilde that is not anxious to see and hear him; and, ‘tis said, he ‘adores the fair sex.’” But the Irishman’s observations on aesthetics, delivered in such a strange and exotic accent, were wasted on the Southern audience. “The lecture was one of the peculiar nature that should be heard to be appreciated,” the Advertiser summed up afterwards, “and a synopsis or even a brief sketch will not be attempted.

Oscar Wilde's Influence on Gay Identity

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I thought it would be appropriate to post this piece on the most famous Irish homosexual (it was Oscar Wilde or Graham Norton, I chose to be a bit more serious, LOL).  Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!!

After his 1895 trial for gross indecency, Oscar Wilde's name became a byword for immorality. But in the 20th century, gay men embraced Wilde as an icon of gay history.

555314_com_ow1Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) was an Irish poet, playwright, critic, essayist, novelist, and the preeminent aesthete of the Victorian era, whose unparalleled genius for witty conversation and a well-turned aphorism elevated him to the height of English society in the 1880s and 1890s. But his 1895 trial for “gross indecencies” (homosexual acts), and his defense of love between men, made Wilde an inadvertent hero of the 20th century’s gay rights movement.

Wilde’s Impact on Victorian Social Propriety

Wilde studied with the critic Walter Pater at Oxford’s Magdalen College and adopted Pater’s appreciation of “Art for Art’s sake”—that is, to worship Beauty simply because it is beautiful. Some of Pater’s critics insinuated that Aestheticism was merely a euphemism for homosexuality.

oscar wilde sentenceWilde himself was the opposite of the stereotypically strapping, hale Victorian male: he wore his hair in long waves; the London World reported he favored a costume of “open-work embroidered shirt showing black silk lining, a large yellow silk handkerchief thrust in the breast of the coat, and a high stock [stocking] of the past ages,” and always wore an ostentatious flower (a lily, a green carnation) in his buttonhole.

Wilde’s only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891), told the fable of a young aesthete who embraces Youth and Beauty while his soul, embodied in a portrait of himself, reveals the depths of his moral decay. Nevertheless, young men in 1890s London knowingly imitated Wilde’s unique style of dress and comportment, perhaps recognizing Wilde’s coded homosexuality under a socially-acceptable veneer of aesthetic admiration.

Wilde’s Trials and Defense of Love Between Men

wildeIn 1891, Wilde had met and fallen in love with handsome Oxford student Lord Alfred Douglas (Bosie to his friends) to the unending chagrin of Bosie’s pugnacious father, the Marquess of Queensberry. In 1895 the Marquess accused Wilde of being a sodomite; Wilde sued him for libel and lost. Soon afterwards, the government charged Wilde with “gross indecencies.” Wilde was asked to define “the love that dare not speak its name,” a phrase from one of Bosie’s own poems:

"It is beautiful; it is fine; it is the noblest form of affection. It is intellectual and has existed repeatedly between an elder and a younger man when the elder has the intellect and the younger has all the joy and hope and glamour of life. That it should be so the world does not understand. The world mocks at it and sometimes puts one in the pillory for it.”

Victorian society, unfortunately, made a moral example of Wilde. He was convicted in May 1895 and sentenced to the maximum penalty of two years’ hard labor. Upon his conviction, producers erased his authorship from playbills, and his name connoted immorality, in particular the disgrace of homosexuality, for years after his death in 1900.

Gay men in the first few decades of the twentieth century, identifying with the symbol of homosexuality’s consequences, internalized the shame and self-loathing imposed on Wilde. In E.M. Forster’s novel Maurice, set in the Edwardian period, the title character seeks a cure for his homosexual feelings, admitting that he is “an unspeakable of the Oscar Wilde sort.”

Wilde’s Revival in Mid-to-Late Twentieth Century

As the infamy of his trial faded from memory, and as sexual mores relaxed after World War I, a more sympathetic light was cast on Wilde.

770093_com_owbWhen the gay rights movement erupted in the United States and Europe, LGBT people sought historical icons with which to identify. Wilde’s life seemed to encompass the extremes of being homosexual: possessing brilliance, wit, and beauty, but suffering shame, opprobrium, and fear in the name of love. Gays embraced this iconography in the 1960s and 1970s. As one example of Wilde’s reclamation, the Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop opened in New York’s Greenwich Village in 1967, one block from where the Stonewall rebellion would take place two years later. The bookstore closed on March 29, 2009.

Read more at Suite101: Oscar Wilde's Influence on Gay Identity: Wilde’s Impact on 19th and 20th Century Gay Culture

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Constantine Cavafy

Duane Michals-The Adventures of Constantine CavafyDuane Michals. "The Adventures of Constantine Cavafy"

Born 29 April 1863 – 29 April 1933

Background: Constantine P. Cavafy was born Konstantinos Petrou Kavafis (or Kabaphs) in Alexandria, Egypt, into a wealthy merchant family. Originally the family came from Constantinople, Turkey, where Cavafy lived from 1880 to 1885. After his father's death in 1872 he was taken to Liverpool, England, for five years. Apart from the years in Istanbul (1882-85), he spent the rest of his life in Alexandria. "Whatever war-damage it's suffered, / however much smaller it's become, / it's still a wonderful city," Cavafy once wrote of his cosmopolitan home town - perhaps not without ironic attitude.

cavafy50Work: When the family's prosperity declined, Cavafy worked 34 years intermittently as journalist, broker, and in the Irrigation Service, from which he retired in 1922.

Enjoying his family's respectable position in the cosmopolitan society of Alexandria, Cavafy led an uneventful life of routine, which was interrupted only by short trips to Athens, France, England, and Italy. His first book was published when he was 41, and reissued five years later with additional seven poems. He published no further works during his lifetime.

As a writer Cavafy was perfectionist - he printed his poems by himself and delivered them only to close friends. The poems had sometimes handwritten corrections. Main themes in his works were homosexual love, art, and politics. He started writing poetry under the influence of late-Victorian and Decadent European models, but then abandoned his attempts to compose in foreign tongues.

Fourteen of Cavafy's poems appeared in a pamphlet in 1904. The edition was enlarged in 1910. Several dozens appeared subsequent years in a number of privately printed booklets and broadsheets. These editions contained mostly the same poems, first arranged thematically, and then chronologically. Close to one third of his poems were never printed in any form while he lived. 'One Night,' written 1907, was one of the erotic poems Cavafy wrote during the years in Alexandria, and referred to a passing sexual encounter. It showed the poet's devotion to a sensual pleasure, free and joyous.

And there on that common, humble bed,
I had love's body, hand those intoxicating lips,
red and sensual, red lips of such intoxication
that now as I write, after so many years,
in my lonely house, I'm drunk with passion again.

In book form Cavafy's poems were first published without dates before World War II and reprinted in 1949. PIIMATA (The Poems of Constantine P. Cavafy) appeared posthumously in 1935 in Alexandria. Cavafy died on April 29, 1933 in Alexandria. Nowadays the cafés that the poet frequented on the Rue Misalla (now Safiya Zaghlul) have been largely replaced by shops.

prt09973_david_hockney_signed_print_portrait_of_cavafy_in_alexandria_iCavafy composed rhymed as well as free verse, but never loose, unstructured, or irregular poems. He used iambic, eleven-syllable measures, including the popular fifteen-syllable verse of the demotic tradition. After giving up experiments with different literary models, Cavafy mixed the demotic and pure Greek called katharevousa, and used his wide knowledge of the history of East Roman and Byzantine empires as the basis of his themes.

Like in Oscar Wilde, aestheticism and skepticism marked Cavafy's work. One of his central motifs was regret for old age: Past and present, East and West, Greek and 'barbarian' were fused into sophisticated commentaries on paganism, Christianity, and decadent modern world. Cavafy sketched a rich gallery of historical, semi-obscure, or fictitious characters, whom he used as personae acting, or being discussed, in the episodes of his poems. Often his style was dramatic, as in the famous 'Waiting for the Barbarians.' Among his confessional poems with homosexual theme is 'The Bandaged Shoulder,' much admired by Lawrence Durrell.

Friends & Relationships: His first love affair was with his cousin, George Psilliary, in 1882. he would often visit male brothels or the Café Al Salam where there were plenty of available young men – in particular a handsome young car mechanic called Toto. His only long-term lover was Alexander Singopoulos whom he made his heir and literary executor. Although he was upset when Alexander got married he later became fond of his wife Rika.
Cavafy held afternoons from 5 until 7 at his flat with metses and ouzo or whisky and he would observe quietly his friends and his handsome youths.
Cavafy lived in West London for three years from 1873 – 1876. He died on his seventieth birthday after a long fight against throat cancer. His last act was to place a dot into the center of a circle he had drawn. In Hidden Things he predicted:

Later, in a more perfect society, Someone else made just like me
Is certain to appear and act freely.