Sunday, October 14, 2012

From The Academy of American Poets Poem-A-Day

{peeking out between my webbed fingers in embarrassment} I've never read ANY Edna St. Vincent Millay.  As in NONE.  Her name annoys me, her reputation annoys me.  Too much of my life time has been spent being annoyed. (Sonnets annoy me.)

But I just read her one-act anti-war play, Aria da Capo, available online thanks to the Penn State Electronic Classics Series, and loved it as I haven't loved a one-act, anti-war play in years. Head-over-heels love, I'm talking.  Never mind the anti-war treatment, neatly done in a nicely original way, she had me early on -- when embedded in her 1919 cheek we find her wiggly tongue having Pierrot say such things as:

PIERROT: [...] …. I am become
A painter, suddenly,—and you impress me—
Ah, yes!—six orange bull’s-eyes, four green pin-wheels,
And one magenta jelly-roll,—the title
As follows: Woman Taking in Cheese from Fire-Escape.

And shortly thereafter, not to overplay it:

PIERROT: Hush! All at once I am become
A pianist. I will image you in sound ….
On a new scale …, Without tonality …
Vivace senza tempo senza tutto ….
Title: Uptown Express at Six O’Clock.
Pour me a drink.

And then she won me over, completely, with this exchange with Columbine:

PIERROT: Don’t stand so near me!
I am become a socialist. I love
Humanity; but I hate people. Columbine,
Put on your mittens, child; your hands are cold.

COLUMBINE: My hands are not cold!

PIERROT: Oh, I am sure they are.
And you must have a shawl to wrap about you,
And sit by the fire.

I'd love to have known her.  In spurts, short spurts.  And only with an assured end date.  I bet the artists of 1919 giggled, nervously, and the pacifists wished she wouldn't glom too many things together ("It's confusing!") but maybe crazy, piecemeal, found art and crazy, piecemeal, found war do complement each other.

What clenches my New Deal with Millay?  The house.  The skinniest house in New York City, it is said, owned by The Cherry Lane Theatre:

Yes, so, all of this Millay talk is thanks to that annoying Academy of American Poets with whom I am linked by subscription to their "Poem-A-Day" e-service.  I'm loving it.  And this was today's offering -- and it surely holds true today, here in Marlinspike Hall, deep, deep in the Tête de Hergé, where the world is clearly seasonal.

God's World

O world, I cannot hold thee close enough!
Thy winds, thy wide grey skies!
Thy mists that roll and rise!
Thy woods, this autumn day, that ache and sag
And all but cry with colour! That gaunt crag
To crush! To lift the lean of that black bluff!
World, World, I cannot get thee close enough!
Long have I known a glory in it all,
But never knew I this;
Here such a passion is
As stretcheth me apart. Lord, I do fear
Thou'st made the world too beautiful this year.
My soul is all but out of me, let fall
No burning leaf; prithee, let no bird call.

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