Much, Much Mucha!

So my last post got me on a Mucha kick…though there are worse choices for addiction.

The most beautiful cigarette ad ever.

The actress Sarah Bernhardt was immortalized in several roles, here as Princess Hyacinth

This one is wholly unlike the Art Nouveau style that Mucha is renowned for, yet is deeply haunting.

And, for the finale, our Mucha-esque poster of Theatre Saint Augustine’s production of O.Henry’s Gift of the Magi
Original art by Paul Ramey
 

Save a Stanza – Adopt a Poet Today

I have been enjoying this excellent and comprehensive site quite a bit lately, gorging myself on Dickinson and Burns and Keats and Shelley and Byron and Tennyson and Poe and Plath and Browning and more Dickinson, etc.

It’s easy to browse, for poetry nerds and novices alike. It has biographies and photos and articles and audio of poems.

This is perhaps the time, dear reader, when I should confess my secret.

I love words…to an absurd degree, really.

I will sift through the available word options in my head until I find the word that has the most nuanced meaning, the best sound and texture and color. I will select this word with the utmost care, garb it in all its gleaming perfection of context, and then gently release it to the world like a baby sparrow into the sky…where it promptly face-plants onto the pavement.

“What?” is usually the response, though I also enjoy the frequent “huh?” or blank stare. Words, the basis for human communication, tend to be useless when seldom used. I will continue the fight though, blindly blithe in my optimism that one day I will speak and be understood.

Anyway, back to the purpose of this post which is to champion poet adoption. Perhaps you love Carl Sandburg or Langston Hughes, or maybe “Howl” stirs you or “Ode to a Grecian Urn”. This site is run by a non-profit, the Academy of American Poets; they have developed an ingenious fund-raising idea.

You can select your favorite poet and for a mere $30/year (roughly $0.08 cents a day), your name and city of origin will be listed on that poet’s biography page. Now how to narrow down?

I can only adopt one this year, but doubtless more will call out to me. The poetry books on my shelf glare at me in mute entreaty – how shall I choose?

The splendor falls on castle walls
And snowy summits old in story;
The long light shakes across the lakes,
And the wild cataract leaps in glory.
Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying,
Blow, bugle; answer, echoes, dying, dying, dying.

O, hark, O, hear! how thin and clear,
And thinner, clearer, farther going!
O, sweet and far from cliff and scar
The horns of Elfland faintly blowing!
Blow, let us hear the purple glens replying,
Blow, bugles; answer, echoes, dying, dying, dying.

O love, they die in yon rich sky,
They faint on hill or field or river;
Our echoes roll from soul to soul,
And grow forever and forever.
Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying,
And answer, echoes, answer, dying, dying, dying.

-The Splendor Falls, Lord Alfred Tennyson

I’ll Be Wearing Ribbons Down My Back This Summer…

It occurred to me yesterday that I was all wrong. For years, I have been saying (like many I know, similarly disaffected) that I live my life like I am from another century. That’s not true. I exist in a century that -doesn’t- exist, a made-up amalgam of customs and courtesies and costumes.

I prefer hand-written letters (16-19th), use powder of violets (18th), dress for work in pencil skirts and pumps like a secretary from the 50s (20th), listen to opera from the 19th century and symphonies from the 18th.

I avoid television, write stories longhand, wear ribbons in my hair and fret when people tease me about it. I study etchings and engravings, dream about writing a Paul Helleu catalog raisonne and a book about Austen’s life. At work, there’s a running joke that Anna goes home on Friday night and reads Shakespeare…which is occasionally true.

I am hopelessly sentimental, read poetry aloud, cry unabashedly at movies, wear my heart on my sleeve so any idiot passing by can poke a hole in it. It comes down to a longing for a time that never existed in the first place.

This fairytale of a prettier, gentler time…I blame it on too many Merchant-Ivory films, on too many Austen books, too many Wilde and Coward plays, too many musicals with happy endings…a diet of comedy of manners and soft-spoken romances.

I know very well that if I had been alive at that time (usually the 18th or the 19th century) and privileged, I would be a very different person. Yes, I could sit alone in the elegant splendour of my drawing room. I could spend my days writing letters and playing the piano, sewing (well, maybe not) and spending hours on my toilette to make myself as decorative as possible (in contrast with the days that I wad my hair in a bun).

I could also not vote, not own property, not even necessarily own myself in the sense that I could marry as I please. The corset of my life would tighten around me until I could not even breathe, as the choices dwindled to nothing. The constraint of manners and societal expectations can be a smothering one.

Not that the exact opposite is necessarily desirable. I occasionally refer to ‘basic human courtesy’, which may be a contradiction in itself. Humanity always has its dull, cruel, ugly and disenchanting aspects. Manners are the armor in which each century cloaks itself and our century has shown up like the Emperor without clothes.

The noise, the brutal noise, of everyday life has been hammering at me lately. The jackhammer working on the bridge, the piercing voice of the passing trolley guide, the obnoxious roarings of a cavalcade of motorcycles, the sawing and the shouting. After the leaf blowers and the stentorian church bells and the car alarms, I just want to go in my room and plug my ears with my fingers.

Since I cannot hide, I just have to accept. For now.

I may at some point have to go off where real life cannot find me. You may stumble upon me some day there, tucked in a little cottage in some wild countryside, living out my life in the century that -I- want to be in…with ribbons in my hair.

[Repost – ed.]