Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Woman Not Taken


TC said...

And I chose the one less ravishing...
and that has made all the difference

But too, there was the third...
The one who always walks beside

In the fog, there, in
The ice mist...

Brad said...

The ravishing are like flames -- you bask in their warmth, marvel that it is as beautiful from a distance as it is up close, but, importantly, you never touch. It is one of those words, I think, where all the definitions, verbal & adjectival apply equally and simultaneously.

Nin Andrews said...

Funny to think of those lines like that!

TC said...

I have a few cracker barrel reminiscences of Robot Frost. Old, crusty, more than a bit cranky, snowy-haired, black-hearted... the poet we knew and loved.

The roads were all snowed in, so he could not take any of them.

He told a story about Cal Lowell. Cal was drunk... lying on the floor, pouring drinks on himself, muttering about his stigmata... RF said, Get up right now Cal!

Cal got up... and grabbed RF by the necktie, shoved him against a wall and demanded, "Who's a better poet, me or Dick Wilbur!?"

And one more.

RF to young po-persons:

"So, who do you think is the best poet, then?"

(We were supposed to say: "you, Mr. Frost".)

I said: Ezra Pound.

(He had been regaling us with derisive Ezra Pound-in-the-bathtub-in-London anecdotes.)

Frosty fury, barely contained. And then gleeful: "If that is so, then recite one poem by Ezra Pound!"

Me, dwarf-triumphant: "The apparition of these faces in the crowd..."

The Not Mender of Fences and Not Taker of Roads, cantankerous, displeased, interrupting: "No! That one's only two lines! Too easy!"

Nin Andrews said...

I love that, Brad. Ravishing, like flames.

What a funny story, Tom. And yes, the apparitions, a perfect answer. I love it!

As to Ezra, his picture was stolen from the library by the Jewish student group- when I was at Hamilton--and prominently displayed so that you could see it in a student's room when you were walking by at night. It was such a funny thing. All the excitement about the missing Ezra who was in plain sight.

TC said...

Don't go down the road less traveled, especially not with a glass Xmas tree on your shoulder.

Nin Andrews said...

Funny! I love it.

Lyle Daggett said...

TC, the story about Frost and Lowell brings to mind something I read once, years ago -- I can't recall the source of the story at the moment -- that when James Dickey was told the news that John Berryman had committed suicide, Dickey was reported to have said, "That means I'm the greatest living American poet."

Nin, that's a great story about the Pound picture. At on the Hamilton campus, no less.

TC said...

Lyle, I'm very sorry to report that the Dickey anecdote rings all too true.

It's always been nasty at the top, up there in the aethereal infernal imperial regions of Am-Po.

I spent an evening in his company, once.

His tales of his Korean War firebombing exploits (which had featured prominently in his poetry) were told with pride and relish.

One could not overcome the mental picture of the victims, aflame, dying.

He was at that time a top exec at Coca Cola, out of Atlanta.

We discussed poetry just a bit. I hazarded that I had been reading Donald Allen's New American Poets anthology, just out from Grove Press.

"Not a god-dayyum thing in theyah worth the paper it's printed on," opined Mr Dickey.

He then bethought himself.

"Except maybe one prose poem by that theyah Robert Duncan. And he's a day-yum fairy!"

This was at a party, which I was attending with a female companion of the time. A tough no-nonsense young woman from the Bronx. Once Mr Dickey had poured a number of drinks into himself, he took a fancy to her. And when she then went to the upper storey of the house to use the bathroom, our heroic poet firebomber padded up the stairs after her.

And soon after, down she came, followed by a suddenly rather chastened, sheepish-looking firebomber.

I enquired what had gone on up there.

"Oh, nothing much. He followed me up, shoved me down on the coats in the bedroom..." (this was midwinter, there must have been quite a pleasant pile of coats, perhaps much as the pillow-pile in a Turkish harem).


"And I kneed him in the groin."

TC said...

(I guess you might say: that was a Woman Not Taken.)

Nin Andrews said...

Yes, I have a comparable Dickey story to tell, one my parents laughed about. I have it in a mini essay form, too much for this blog.
As Eleanor put it, so many of our so-called friends were intolerable.

TC said...

Well, I'd never have dared call that great American hero a friend, exactly...

By the by, forgot to mention the deflated sad-sack firebomber's unintentional comic punch line to the above story.

Keep in mind the woman in question was no more than a quarter his size.

(And what she really said was not "groin" but "balls" -- to give her accuracy due credit.)

Anyway, he schlumpfs all woebegone down those stairs, looks about himself as confusedly as a bear whose honeycomb has been stolen right out of his paws, and laments:

"Theyat lil gal shore doan lahk me!"

Lyle Daggett said...

TC, that's a great (and, sadly, a horrific) story about Dickey.

I read an interview with Dickey once, years ago (I think it was in one of those books of New York Quarterly "craft" interviews of years back), in which Dickey said at one point that often when he wrote a poem, he would start by imagining the worst possible thing that might happen to a person in some circumstance or other, and he would start building a narrative from that.

Something tells me he didn't write about the encounter on the coatpile...