Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Browning Society NYC & WhatWeNeed

What's the only thing the world has not got enough of? What happens when you fall here? What do we need now and always? Yes, oyez, o yesss - l o v e, luuurve, arohanui, l'amour is what we haven't got enough of, can always take or give more of and may generate without harm to anyone or anything. No, (for anyone straying in mind) not lust, l o v e, (even if lust comes into it, love is better allowed in place, everywhere and all consuming, first to lessen the effects of anything scary, odd or dangerous. Love is the antidote to such, it's an active ingredient).

Lose love and things fall apart, but something stays in place.

This project, my blog, you reading it, is all about love, people, trees and travel. I've had that written on a little notice I wrote on a notebook page, pinned up at home by my desk in the office, for months. Steven our fantastic important wallah at NZWG  suggested we write up such an aim and keep it close where we can see it, for our film projects, (I have quite a bit of footage now, to be seen later on thanks be to Nigel putting things onto a disk for me). Steven at NZWG said we'd need to remember why we are making a film, because we will find it extraordinarily hard and often unprofitable as far as money goes, while it may cost us all kinds of things including sanity, family life and so on.  I also believe it is best to stick to one project and finish it with any film project, which I have always done with the little ones I have made. A fine editor told me that, he's brilliant and well respected. 'That's because so many people are involved, [in the film, usually].' He explained this was so as not to let them down, not to keep them dangling there waiting for the finished piece of magic, it's best to just keep on and finish the work on the one film, then do something else.

My finished piece of bewitchery will be when I get all the film I want into this blog.  It could take til next year, (I am aiming for it to be November but)...  I'm happy to keep writing about this journey, it's changed my life so much, after all.

So.  Love. Something anyone can do, (even if psychopaths are arguably unable to learn to love, it's possible they may be subdued by the effects of love all about them in vast quantities, such is the enormous majesty of love, which rules us best). Yes, imagine then, if only travelling from room to room, waking up, into the bathroom then kitchen to bedroom, then out for more milk for your tea, then home again and a night with friends playing canasta, off the next day to work, commuting, a routine.... surely even there we can be a little more loving about things? Maybe we feel stuck in a small town or same old neighbourhood somewhere with so much not as we'd quite like, but there's bound to be a patch of land, or a street somewhere which needs some trees and someone who can help you raise the funds to buy them, plant them, people who can tell you ways to settle trees and plants in so they'll grow in the best way? A community garden can also be funded from city council grants in New Zealand, (in other countries, just ask) get someone along to see what you want to do, the council may have land available without cost for a garden to benefit the community, a piece of a park or somesuch. Or ask online if anyone who rents or owns privately would allow you to plant their back garden, they could share the produce you'll grow. Or start a business setting in trees for shelter belts and where they're needed to stop erosion, in more rural areas.

We need more trees. They soak up carbon. They provide shade. They're beautiful. Trees. T R E E S

Love and trees go together. And when there's no people around, only ourselves, well, we are people so surely we can be more loving to our own self, o yes indeedy deed do. There is also still no poem as lovely as a tree.  Just gaze upon one now, see if I'm correct. No tree in sight? There could be a good place to plant one there - ask someone knowledgeable.

Planting things. Someone suggested to me yesterday that books plant seeds. I disagreed since books offer information, people decide if that information will grow and how it develops, the written word is not as straight-forward as a seed. Then too, according to a fascinating woman Evelyn Witkin who I met yesterday at The Browning Society, in her work with genetics when she was younger, this certainly showed that even the most simple organism has complexities which we can never truly know everything about, while we keep on making breakthroughs of course.

The Browning Society in NYC is a delightful group of people, the oldest poetry society in New York or maybe even in Ameri ca, (can anyone tell me please)?
They have a real camaraderie amongst themselves while also being welcoming to visitors, to the extent that I felt like I'd been attending their luncheon then the meeting itself along the road, for years. I was so pleased to be invited there by James Browning Kepple, who arrived quite a bit later than I did.

The taxi ride I took to Pete's Tavern, on the Lower East Side for lunch, after trying to hail a NYC yellow cab middle of the day in Soho, (one taxi had a passenger so enormously covered in studs and piercings he looked like a spiky monster, although they nodded to me in a friendly enough manner), yes, I stood there waving my stick, my arm, mouthing 'taxi' and finally got it right, arm up waving the bit of paper with the address on it, and a yellow taxi without a passenger, the driver saw me and angled for the side of the road. Bingo. In I clambered, to a high-style cab a little like the London taxies, boxy, lots of room and a pleasure to ride in. The driver, Amjad a talkative man, originally from the Punjab he'd been driving for decades in NYC and told me, 'Every day I learn from these passengers.' I'm going to write a poem about him, his conversation was brilliant. 'Very tough job.' NY taxies he told me are a 100 million dollar business, the cab itself is worth a million, the shield, the number, the license plate, they're so well organised and forward-thinking, they're always making things better in their vehicles. So I wrote tons of notes along the way and that helped the journey go faster, with the city a blur around me focus on my notebook helped me stay centred.

I arrived early-ish or maybe on time at Pete's tavern, (the oldest bar in New York and set in a beautifully kept neighbourhood), to be ushered in by an affable man in a black suit and white shirt with such a friendly manner I was instantly at home there. The tavern has black painted walls, with countless pictures of famous people who have visited the place, most with black frames, (Issac Newton's picture is there for one), the floor's a detailed black and white mosaic of teeny tiles, and the waiting staff wear black and white, so attentive in a quiet pleasant way. A pleasure to eat there, or it was yesterday when I enjoyed roasted chicken with lentils in a sauce which included caramelised onions.

Now, here I am typing all this up on my laptop AppleMac in a tiny New York 'suite' shared hotel-hostelly place, (with my own room however), as if I'm Carrie Bradshaw in that notorious show Sex in the City (set in NYC), but I'm not writing about sex. Or am I?  This is not an overtly sexual blog, nor about the sexual antics of a group of archetypal, 'individual' young women with money and fantastic dress sense but it is a sensual piece of writing, quite often. I like to write about things people can taste, smell and see, things we hear and feel. Then the abstracted world of words becomes concrete, something people may touch through the page. I could admit too that my 'falling in love' or rather admitting I have loved a certain someone for a long time and realised that when we met in real life, the change has certainly got some physical benefits. O dear, now I sound like a gymnastics PR person.

And for the many doubters out there who know me only too well, yes, I can fall in love ten times a day, yes I have had numerous love affairs and yes, I do exaggerate, but this is not like any of those times. Not that it is any of your business, but hey....  I will not have any of you belittling this. I hope you get that. Thank-you.

The Browning Society meets here in NYC

Elizabeth Barrett Browning was a great example to me when I was younger and remains so to this day. She was a genius, a revolutionary, she managed to have a relationship which stayed loving with another writer to the end of her life and he respected her work, did not try to shut her up or she resisted that and he allowed her some freedom. I have to say, when we are in love and loving another romantically, we do give up some personal freedom to an extent but it need not be torturous. Men may not realise women are rather different, and visa versa, it can take time to negotiate a path together which is on-going too and therefore interesting. Their work shows some clues to this. Although he certainly found women bewildering and even frightening, Robert was so much a decent man that he expressed these things in his writing with dignity and love, without tyranny. He in fact rescued Elizabeth from the oppression of her father, although she rescued Robert from what must've been a terrible burden of knowledge and talent. O their conversations, what fun they must've had.  Their arguments, wow, it would've been glorious mayhem, but of course we can only imagine since there are no recordings, no tapping into cellphones in those days either. Their making up again, what tenderness and care; the true apology has to be one of the finest pieces of language any one may muster or tame themselves enough to utter, surely? Sincerely.

They were also humorous to a degree, and of course were well-off enough not to have to worry about day-to-day existence crushing them, (o so lucky) but they did not have to give us all such excellent writing. They could've kept it all or mostly for themselves. They did not behave selfishly because they loved each other, loved writing and loved people, (I'm willing to bet they also planted lots of trees some how or cared for them). It is therefore a great love they had, arohanui as we say in Aotearoa New Zealand, they were apart as individuals really great writers, good people too and together even greater, they stand as a symbol of true love which worked in this world of horrors, sorrows and dread, it is possible to live well.

Hmmm, now, yes, were was I? Ahh, many twist-turns and much acrobatic skill got me here, of course. Anyone who travels and is sensitive, or highly sensitive like me, knows that. But to then stay with the semblance of sanity I call 'normal' under the circumstances, this required far more than mere sport. I'm so lucky I know the fine people I know here and they've agreed to help me see the place or offered to show me around and so on, invited me to such stunning, informative, fascinating (words fail me again)....

Writing brought me here. I was determined not to give up. I sought people who were on my wavelength. I looked out to the world from a tiny place at the ends of the earth, I needed help. Those people I met online, all those 12 years ago (most of them anyway), and one or two others lately who also met me on this trip, we had writing in common, time to study and find out more, to swap information, we wanted to break new ground, to not be the same as what had gone before but to create our own work from all our study, our reading, (o what reading we've all done) and ride our enthusiasm and skill, then find better business acumen and whatnot. We are to this day all remarkably individual in our work and also, growing more and more accomplished with the biz side of things, since our work deserves a readership and we want to learn more, to develop and grow and love, people, travel and trees.  Okay, one of you, tell me it ain't so, go on, you're happy to disagree with me usually if I've stepped out of line in your eyes.

We are what the people in history books used to be like. They've had their life story edited, we haven't yet. That goes for everyone reading this too and more, of course.  So, what do you want people in future to find of your life, then?

I also believe that we are artists no matter what we do, like Robert Filliou said. I'm not sure what the others in Am er i ca think of that, but it has saved me a great deal of grief and I am descended from French people so it's part of my culture, he's French.  Thanks to an old friend from art-school-days Miles McKane for introducing me to this artist, (who was an economist too).

Then there was this afternoon yesterday, well....

Upon listening to the fabulous recording the Browning Society have recently made, (with such professional aplomb and over a great deal of time, with many people involved), of the Browning's work, set to music, I realised something else.  This was an epiphany after refreshing my mind about this famous couple. I always loved Elizabeth's work but Robert's rather fell flat on the 16 or 17 year old I was when the Brownings were offered to us, at high school and trumpeted as one of the greatest shows on earth. Well, I realised there are resonances in this couple's work about each other, to each other or around the fact that they found each other and therefore could then write with so much more breadth and depth, in something like safety if love ever holds such an imagined abstract at all easily, well, yes, their work has resonances with my own and my lover's experiences naturally (even in these 'contemporary' times) , with indeed surely any couple's experiences; with any who have truly loved each other and had a loving sensuality allowed into their lives, permitted by that true state of bliss (yes, some ignorance is vital) and a deliberate carefulness based in theology or philosophy as a framework where trust may develop, healthfully.

Uh o, now I am raving on.

Well, I think Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning did certainly against daunting odds love each other and express it. before they ever had so much as a kiss, (her father was a tyrant) they in fact built a love together which tore down the rule of tyranny in their time, in more ways than one. In part they did this with writing and their own genius, also, hard slog at those papers and in the night and day such lost and alone times surely on occasion, the strange places artists dwell where most others would never be able to stand it, the monsters they must've faced within. They did this together even when apart, since their love kept them strong and aware, and they were both writers so the psychic link writers create in this case was shared in some ways, I would say, as a writer myself. This interests me since they succeeded where so many did not fare so well.  Love is indeed the way forward, always and in any case, and to best that which thinks it may not be bested but which must fall to love or begone, since love conquers and transforms everything. We may all do this and need only plant a tree to prove the changes that love of where we live may bring, or just step a little kinder now. It's like nothing else and like nothing too, isn't it? Love.

I'm writing this standing up at the kitchen bench in this place, I share the bench and bathroom with someone else. We both have a locked room each.  The hotel/hostel is clean and reasonably well maintained. It has some quite good photos on the walls. The maids are pleasant.  Sometimes I sit down on the single barstool-type chair, to rest my legs. I am often in action, which is a great way to write.  Yes, I changed the subject, but love stayed with me anyway.

Just checking. I love to make sure of things. Do you?

The Browning Society have recorded with a gift from a benefactor now deceased a masterful piece of work which is Robert and Elizabeth's work set to music and recorded by stars of stage and music. I gather they're all well known here, from Broadway and so on, certainly the performances were superb and won me over even though I am no fan of the overly-mannered, (to my mind) Broadway style, the poetry itself and the music won me over, then I soon grew accustomed to the delivery and really immersed after only three items. Transformed as if I'd been blessed, born again in some way, the feeling I always, (and not often enough at times) experience with great art.  I believe they will be offering this recording to Am er i can schools and libraries, what a treasure (or a taonga as we say in Aotearoa New Zealand, where I'm from and to whence I shall soon return).

This work gave me enormous hope for a long-distance future for love, impressed me with its extraordinary, heartfelt professionalism and made me cry.

I thank everyone concerned and suggest people who are interested, do go along to these meetings.
Here's the link again -

Comment at will, *smiles*
I have also just completed this work, which you could enjoy.

Postcard to Someone I'd like to Know

my pale sky-blue fingernails
while this train 
they gave us wine and cheese
one rotten grape tucked in the middle of the bunch
my know-it-all full-stopper
someone may wish but not dish

many bicycles outside tied in a metal pasta elaboration
along a station rail

this try-hard is awful
too soon
you've possibly not yet found how night accepts apologies
and boxes of oranges

I want to relieve you of stab wounds 
carry them a distance away to be flags
or a movie poster
but if you look closely they're faded
like favourite jeans

our sick excitement to meet familiar monsters
while these angel faces single out an audience
the way a pan-handler scans

then in our garden
I want to place a child's lost sock
good luck innocence
dithering ornaments
monuments to everyday beauty and lies
while an overgrown lawn and remembering your lizard has me forget

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------poem ends.............

Noisy outside today in the street by the hotel, cars pass, deliveries are made, people talk loudly and sunshine is making glittery noises too, I'm off to MOMA and a bit of Soho (South of Houston) or Noho too maybe, (North of Houston), wish me luck. It's quite a big place and I'm getting smaller every day, *smiles*

x o m

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