Saturday, May 14, 2011

Kisses hello, my dearest, up in the aerie as dusk overtakes the chill gray day. Back from a reading at the local international arts colony. Those readings and various events are such a cultural lifeline for me. I'm such a regular that I'm recognized and greeted very warmly, this afternoon by the director of the literary program, as well as by their catering director (if that's her title, she may have a more expanded role than that, she's very warm). Anyway - that's very nice, I really appreciate that. It's funny, by contrast, I've gone to various events over the years in town here, and there's more or less the same cast of characters, cliquish as in middle school, not very friendly. I have said "pleased to meet you" to some of these individuals a half-dozen times over, a mutual charade of meeting them for the first time. Not that they seem all that appealing to me honestly - and, am I a "joiner", in that way? No, of course not. But it is nice - as I feel when I attend an event at the arts colony - to not feel so invisible - "hey nice to see you again, so glad you could come" - said with a smile - that's just a simple gracious thing.

I enjoyed the reading. I sat at the end of a row of chairs, by a plate glass window that overlooked vast fields, gently rounded and graded. The place is a sculpture park too, and it seems that perhaps even the land has been subtly molded, the vast lawn suggesting the curvature of the earth, a distant ring of mature deciduous trees black and green and fractal against the gray opalescent sky. Much nearer to me, on the other side of the glass, was a flagstone patio, on which droplets of rain fell and pooled - I loved the appearance of the wet flagstones, a material I love very much anyway. I love the organic and elemental materials of the place. Then I looked out across the fields again and it was coming down hard enough that I could see the rain falling to earth, and on occasion a pair of birds in the sky. All while listening to one of eight or ten writers read from their works, mostly in English, but sometimes in their native tongues, which even if I didn't understand, I was intrigued and drawn in to hear. There was a poet, a very expressive reader, from the Netherlands, and so I heard Dutch, which I don't know that I've ever heard before, and I was surprised at how very guttural and Germanic and full of throat-clearing "hhhh" sounds it was. Contrasted with a translator, who read aloud what she's been working on - translating a Philip Roth novel into Hungarian. She read an excerpt of the Roth - clearly, vividly, cinematically written, characters coming alive - and then read the same excerpt (which she had read very effectively and animatedly so it came alive in English) - in Hungarian. I couldn't understand the Hungarian of course, but was very intrigued to hear the sound of the language, which struck me as quite mellifluous, and full of "sh" sounds and also hard consonants, "b"s and "k"s, so that it was all quite musical and crisp, hard & soft at the same time - pianistic, perhaps. The language was foreign to me - but as she read aloud she employed the very same inflections she had used in using her own voice (her larynx) to delineate between the characters, to whom most if not all of us in the audience, we were just being introduced to for the first time. And so even in the foreign language, we could hear when it was the gentle, Solomonic Mr. Cantor speaking, or the hapless Horace, or one of the paranoid, accusatory hordes in a Newark playground in the 1940s.

A couple of the readings were especially powerful, I thought, one by a poet from the Republic of Georgia, whose piece told from the point of view of a patriot losing his life to a soldier's bullets reminded me of what I try to imagine relatives of my mother's (great-uncles, her father's cousins, if I'm not mistaken) might have experienced at Katyn Wood. (Have you seen the Wajda film about it? I really wanted to see it at the cinema, but it had a very limited run, and only in Manhattan so I couldn't get to it, and then a while afterward I netflixed it, but just couldn't bring myself to watch it, by myself, on the small screen in the kitchen. I feel that I would like to see it in a theatre, holding hands with someone who would really get it - you, as I now imagine.)

Along a similar theme a young man of Haitian heritage read from his novel, and it was a very powerful, resonant piece about how in 1941 his grandparents had very romantically fallen in love (she played piano, he loved her music), and how all hell broke loose in 1957, with troops & machine guns & the oppressors prevailing. Now, that could have been Poland, or Czechoslovakia, or Hungary - and here it was Haiti, whose historical particulars admittedly I don't know enough about - but the pattern sounded familiar to me. I was very moved by his reading.

And that's it, sweetheart, the day mostly floated by. I thought of you to extraordinary effect around 3:30, and then when I checked it seemed perhaps you had been thinking of me at that very instant - a concatenation - for me. And I bought myself a pair of sandals today, on sale. And dinner will be a plate of a beautiful buffet spread that was served after the reading. I have a paper plate waiting for me downstairs, with ovenfried chicken, short ribs, potato salad, dressed green salad, cornbread, and an iced peanut butter cupcake for dessert. No, I won't have it all at once - I couldn't possibly work out enough to make up for all those calories - the cornbread may be with breakfast tomorrow.

My darling, I hope you're having a wonderful weekend, and wherever you are that you are cozy & happy & warm & well-fed & enjoying yourself. Thinking of you, abidingly, yours - Belle


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