Friday, March 17, 2000

AVS notes: Nancy Walsh Estomba

I taught poetry today in Peggy Maddock's 3rd grade class at Alexander Valley School and one of the mothers brought in some treats. Green cookies, and green punch. It was St. Patrick's Day, after all. I introduced Neil to them and Nancy Estomba said her maiden name was Walsh…

I jokingly said, Oh, we're probably related, not thinking it was true. Where from? I asked. Cork, she said but she didn't know what town.

So I asked her her grandfather's name. And she answered, Bill. He came to San Francisco and had a ranch in Nevada. The hairs on my arms stood up. You mean Wild Bill of Home Ranch? I said. She said, Yes.

Oh my God we are really related, we're second cousins! I yelled, hugging her. She did look related. And I told her stories of her grandfather, and of Wild Bill, the ranch, and the name of the Irish town her family was from. All in a day's work.

Which meant, my favorite 3rd grade poet in the class, Samantha Estomba was really my cousin. The news spread through the school like wildfire. Kids looked at me with new eyes. Not a stranger to the valley, but one of their own.


Tuesday, March 7, 2000

The idea of genius, odd notes from Danny Langton’s class

3/7/2000 The word genius did not exist during Shakespeare’s time. It is a modern concept. The idea of genius, that people who are divinely blessed, was an anathema to 30 centuries of art. It is the death of art. It puts artists on a pedestal. We know nothing about Shakespeare, other than a meager handful of facts. In France they paint what they feel; in England they paint what they see; in Russia they paint what they hear. Or is it what they fear? Literature is an accretion of culture, literature collects barnacles. As in Nora Barnacle? We do not speak through language, it speaks through us. The subject is dissolved. The symptoms count, not the theory. The US is the only country to have slaves and expound freedom. At one time horses were necessary, but invisible. What am I doing invisibly that will be insensible 30 years from now? I write music the way a cow pisses said Mozart. When the railroad came, we had to shape time to fit a standard. No one can agree what metaphor is. The poorest way to read Finnigan’s Wake is in decipherment mode. Our imagination participates in poetry. Poetry is a special mode of discourse with a foreseen end. Poet as maker. As truth sayers. As liars. Poets can think literally, and are in touch with a primitive part of the brain. they have pictures in their heads long before they have the words for it. Poets shape moral reality into a moral world, said Picasso. And so we lie and lie and lie until you see the truth.

A poem should surprise and delight the senses. Listening to a craft lecture by Danny Langton was like falling down the rabbit hole into the creation of one of his poems. I was easily sidetracked. I guess these could be considered found poems of sorts.

Poetry and art, odd notes from Danny Langton’s class

3/7/2000 If poetry is a relationship between the subject and the poem, what is criticism? Did you get it right? A preoccupation with something in artistic puts poets on the defensive. Aristotle objected, although poems are imitations, that is, mimicry, it’s more than just history. However, if poetry is imitation, then what is it? A lie?A tiger is easier to grasp than a star. I miss the children I never had, especially the dumb one, said Aristotle. Cicero replied, the poet does not imitate nature. Stendhal interjected, a novel is a mirror riding along the highway. So, where does that put Baudelaire’s mirror of art. If art is the imitation of nature, then the primary way of looking at art is through nature. A syllogism. Is the goal of art truth? Is truth beauty? Art is about power. Literature has become an image rather than a meeting of the influence of art and thought.