“A man does not die of love or his liver or even of old age; he dies of being a man.”
“A man does not die of love or his liver or even of old age; he dies of being a man.”
Some achieve lasting fame through epics that define a nation’s culture, its heritage, and cannot help but grind their way through bits and pieces into the hearts and minds of its people, as was the case with last week’s spotlight, but others do in few words what others struggle birth reams and reams of them. Such is the case with this week’s spotlight: short fiction writer and poet Kathleen Beauchamp, better known by her pen name: Katherine Mansfield.
This New Zealand writer was a woman blessed to write at the dawn of one century and the end of another. Born at the tail-end of the 1800s, Katherine was born to a socially prominent family, but did not suffer from the head-in-the-sand effect so many in her situation often did. Even as a young girl, she looked out at her home and saw beyond love and friends and nature–she saw alienation, saw repression of the natives around her, and wrote sympathetically for them in her literature. She was a modernist, drew inspiration from writers like Oscar Wilde, was a friend of people like Virginia Woolf, and traveled extensively where she could, becoming one of the era’s many bohemians.
She was also, from what historians now see, a rather unique individual of her time in that she pursued love not just to the accepted boundaries of the time–she was a bisexual, and wrote about it rather openly in her journals. However, one of the great trials of her young life came in the form of tuberculosis, which prevented her from returning to her homeland. It would also lead to her death at 34, though not before publishing volumes of short stories, many of which are still considered some of the best fiction of her time–pieces like The Fly and Prelude continue to be shared today.
Much of her writing reflects her childhood in New Zealand, focusing heavily on the notion of remembrance, but one piece of hers I’ve always found touching was a dedication to her brother, Leslie. Leslie died in 1915, as soldier fighting in WWI on the fields of France. They were close, these two, and his sudden death both traumatized and invigorated Beauchamp’s work, setting her to furious new paces in her scribbles, and sending her spiraling ever deeper into the sanctuary of nostalgia–memories of the land and the home they both had shared.
And thus, without further adieu, I offer unto you a most haunting poetic remembrance this week…
To L.H.B. (1894-1915)
Last night for the first time since you were dead
I walked with you, my brother, in a dream.
We were at home again beside the stream
Fringed with tall berry bushes, white and red.
“Don’t touch them: they are poisonous,” I said.
But your hand hovered, and I saw a beam
Of strange, bright laughter flying round your head
And as you stooped I saw the berries gleam.
“Don’t you remember? We called them Dead Man’s
I woke and heard the wind moan and the roar
Of the dark water tumbling on the shore.
Where–where is the path of my dream for my eager
By the remembered stream my brother stands
Waiting for me with berries in his hands…
“These are my body. Sister, take and eat.”
Two figures lurch across an open field. These brothers come to stand mere feet apart, eyes locked as their hands steady above their belts. There are guns, somewhere, and knives eneath these, but the hands do not betray the moments–they know their duty to the instant, and so they wait. Morose reflections in a quaking mirror. One dark, one light–the clothes and the motions distinguish them, but no other differences pass between.
Pacing, pacing. Eyes close to the crunch of hard grass.
The twin illusions stop, fingers dancing along the surface of their weapons. Both draw, though only one fires before the instant has passed them by. The man in white lumbers and sways, clutching at his throat as thick rivulets of scarlet cascade down his pale flesh to dribble at his feet. Hope smothered in crimson denial–the reflections shimmer and fade as one image drops into the dust.
Darkness stretches as a shaking hand stretches out to him. He stares into the eyes of the fallen, but pays his hand no heed. Eventually, it slackens and falls, desperately scratching at the dirt. The shadows are cold. Though smiling beneath crazed eyes, the survivor’s dry hands fold hot and delicate over one knee. He’s stifling a laugh.
Poor fool. Certain things are set in stone. You cannot change what you aren’t destined to achieve. At any rate, you don’t have the will to do so. Checkmate. Endgame.
A low, thundering note begins to stir as one cold, clammy hand reaches down to tangle in the soft locks of the broken reflection. Fingers coil and toy.
The image vanishes altogether.
Scene shift. Reel missing. Technical difficulties: don’t mind the wait. The beat is stirring, the tempo gathering as the bass begins to build.
A storm stirs.
(Part 1. To be continued.)
This week, the spotlight falls on one Sara Teasdale, a lyrical poet of the early 20th century.
is a fine example of a tribulation many poets, writers, and other creative sorts have faced throughout history: depression. Many that pursue the arts seem to fall into it, as they fall into all emotions–heavily, for it seems often enough, this is the trade-off they must face for being able to tap those emotions and draw their power into their words, their art.
As such, Teasdale was a lonely woman. She found herself gripped by that, and by the darkness of her depression–it ate at her, and shone through in her works as often as the topic of love and the heart. There was such an undercurrent of longing…it should come as no surprise things ended for her the way they did.
Though a master of language, her words apparently were not enough to reach the world, and Teasdale committed suicide in 1933 by overdose on sleeping pills, just two years after the suicide of another famous poet–and friend of hers–that shall form next week’s spotlight. She is immortalized today in St. Louis’s Walk of Fame.
But today’s poem of hers showcases the heart, the love, and yes, that longing…the quality in her works that makes her so very human.
This week’s addition to the poetic bookshelf is one I’m pretty every American knows (or at least they should), in spite of her legendary nature as something of a hermit.
Emily Dickinson was something of an anomaly, in all senses of the term. Though she wrote nearly 1800 – yes, 1800 – poems over the course of her lifetime, fewer than a dozen saw publication before her death, and these significantly altered versions of her work could scarcely be called hers by the time the publishers’ ink dried. But of course, Dickinson liked it that way. The obscurity – probably not the manipulation of her craft. Though there is often great yearning within her words, she was an introvert – the majority of her relationships being carried out by correspondence alone.
And yet, one can scarcely think of American poetry today without drifting to the topic of the recluse wonder. Today, she is considered one of the great American poets, her work – much of it only after her death discovered by her sister! – considered a treasure trove of language, thought, and style.
Though difficult to settle on but one of her pieces for the show tonight, in the end I bring to you “Because I could not stop for Death” – a fine sampling of her skills, and her tendencies, as readers of Dickinson will quickly find the themes of death and time cornerstones of much of her work…
Because I could not stop for Death
Because I could not stop for Death –
He kindly stopped for me –
The Carriage held but just Ourselves –
We slowly drove – He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too,
For His Civility –
We passed the School, where Children strove
At Recess – in the Ring –
We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain –
We passed the Setting Sun –
Or rather – He passed us –
The Dews drew quivering and chill –
For only Gossamer, my Gown –
My Tippet – only Tulle –
We paused before a House that seemed
A Swelling of the Ground –
The Roof was scarcely visible –
The Cornice – in the Ground –
Since then – ’tis Centuries – and yet
Feels shorter than the Day
I first surmised the Horses’ Heads
Were toward Eternity –
By the Tracks
life is the silent terminal ache,
gentle reverberations in the wind
the iron earth
calling to the unknown hope of time.
Somewhere steel belches,
the smoke, flaming flies
between the beauty and decay.
Heart throbs to the notion—
old men questioning burial rites
for the ache, undeserving, still hums life’s wait.
Cataclysm drifts within the rails,
stoking questions of unmaking—
wonders of dissolution.
Mad men call out boarding orders
through shrieks of shuffling feet,
silence in the foot-borne stares
tick-ticking down flesh;
* I must say it feels good to write poetry, between everything else. Writing may be a passion, but poetry…poetry is legitimately a sweet release for me. With all the marketing and whatnot I’m having to do with the impending book release, it is a breath of fresh air…in the midst of a whirlwind. This is my latest humble offering to the dVerse Poets community, though I sadly preface it with the note that next week may be a bit hectic to join in the fun then. We’ll see – but with the book launch on Monday, my head might be in a totally new zone. Hopefully the muse sticks with me over the course of the week, though, and makes that warning for naught.
Gallant cried the horseman
saddled with his cloth and care,
rattling his salivating saber
to a bugle’s tune of God and Country.
There were no spurs so swift
beyond the field where trenches lay.
The drums and alarums still rattled banners
as man and beast gave rise to dusted glory,
untouchable, their raucous shadow lines where
gallant cried the horseman.
Barbed wire bound it,
lurching, whistling, wrangled thing,
torn beside the steaming trench.
dead beside the steaming trench.
Today, I’m trying something a little different here at the Waking Den. Poetry remains the name of the game, but this is a piece inspired, and built upon the basis of another, far older work, you may recall–Stephen Crane’s infamous “Fast rode the knight”. A testament to the transition of ages, and to the horrors of war, his work was an elegy to the medieval. However, war is a timeless thing, and our folly never resigned to one age or another – and in his words, I personally always saw the potential for application to WWI.
Trenches were the walls then. Our gallant knights instead well-dressed officers still possessed of honours and ideals the machine gun, and gas, and all the other horrors of that time would horrifically subdue. And so I worked a touch of modernization…hopefully without offending anyone; but then, that’s why this explanation was here. I hope you enjoyed, and I encourage you to read Crane’s original as well.
For the final One Shot Wednesday at One Stop Poetry, and the grand opening of the dVerse Poets Pub, I would like to bring back a classic – the poem with which I introduced myself at the first One Shot Wednesday, in July last year, when One Stop was still just a glitter and a gleam in the eyes of a few good poets.
It is dark, and due to its age not the style of mine to which you may have become accustomed, but I hope you enjoy it all the same – and if you’d like to see the piece with which I more officially gave my ending salute to that wonderful art community, check out last week’s contribution: One Winter Morning.
- – -
Restless nightmares break,
From wretched slumber do I wake
To a world of endless night—
Thunderous choirs make me crouch in fright.
High above us wraiths now soar,
Men clasp their ears to deafen their roar.
Over hills and shattered streets,
The bands come marching to woeful beats.
A hundred thousand voices cry,
Then all the singers die.
Stone by Stone
Vines inhale the flesh
The world atone
Stone by Stone
Memories of the haunted-hallowed moan
Of all we’ve wrought, kingly mess
Stone by Stone
Humanity stripped, to rise afresh.
* Hello, all. This, obviously, is my submission to One Shoot Sunday over at One Stop Poetry. It’s more than that, though. I hope you all enjoyed my interview with the talented Neil Alexander, but if you get to the end, you may have noted a little send-off from me and Adam Dustus. Today marks our second-to-last One Shoot Sunday venture.
Without getting into the whys too terribly and boring you all with the details, I’ll suffice to say, sometimes the path splits, and the trail leads us somewhere new. Photography, as writing, is one of my passions in life, and it has been a wonder for me to meet so many talented photographers and to share their insights with you all. It has been a magical thin for this reporter. Yet real life is coming at me something fierce right now, and in a couple months, I’ll be moving to Colorado. It will be wonderful, and the place is certainly a beauty – I cannot wait to go. In the meantime, I’m packing. I’m working freelance. I’m bidding farewell to old friends. And with everyone else departing at One Stop, it seemed, for me, the time to tip my hat to the crowd.
You all have been wonderful, I say that honestly. I have so enjoyed your poetry – and will CONTINUE to enjoy your poetry in the months and years to come. This corner of the blogosphere – it is a wonderful thing, filled with so many creative and wonderful people. I hope you will continue to visit me as well, as I’ll not be leaving….merely because I’m stepping down from One Shoot doesn’t mean I’m departing into a moonless night…I’ll be here, still doing what I do, and enjoying every moment of it.
Cheers, everyone. It has been, and still is, a pleasure.
Feathered summer bright
In taloned march sing madness
Death—one season’s end.
A piece for this week’s edition of One Shoot Sunday. There’s no interview by me (had a couple weeks off, you know?), but several lovely prompt choices to select from a generous old friend of One Stop: Fee Easton. You may remember my earlier interview with her back in March. A wonderful woman with some very vivid photography. This was my response to her “option 3″ photo.