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Kate Durbin presents “Die You Whore”

April 28th Letter No. Eight (Robert Lowell, 1960)

ROBERT LOWELL to Elizabeth Bishop, April 28, 1960

I don’t know why I’ve stuffed all this in, except to plaintively suggest that even here one can see the world in a grain of sand. Dearest, how I miss you. Some day, we will be in the same spot and long, long, long.

All my love,

Cal

P.S. I enclose a translation of Heine, almost an original poem from three of his. How marvelous to have had a life that could be so written about even in terrible pain.

Tucson House Visit No. Nine (Brent Hendricks)

This is a photograph of Ron Hendricks. He’s a high school football player. He plays end. He lives in Sapulpa, Oklahoma. He passed away in 1990. His son, Brent Hendricks, recently wrote a book about him. I read the book last November—in the form of a stack of manuscript pages. I cried three times. The first time was while reading a passage recounting an afternoon in the life of Ron and Brent Hendricks. The third time was at the end of the book. Look at the photograph again:

Now there’s a woman on the right. Where did she come from? She ran down from the stands. She is Ron Hendricks’s girlfriend Kay. Is she wearing white gloves? She was born in Sapulpa. As was her son, Brent. Now Kay lives in a house across the backyard from Brent’s house. This photograph is on the piano in the front room of Brent’s house. As is this photograph: 

Kay’s hand on Ron’s tie. Ron’s smile: Brent’s. Brent lives with his wife, the fiction writer Kate Bernheimer, and their daughter, Xia. They also live with a dog named Missy—though I don’t know where she is today—and until recently, a dog named Candle, who I became friends with. This is not Candle—this is Penelope, Candle’s successor. Xia wrote a story about Penelope:

In the library of Brent’s house there is a monkey wearing a crown. It was a gift from Brent and Kate’s friend Lydia Millet. The monkey is facing west. I don’t know where Brent went. He went to get a cup of coffee down the street. I am alone in the house with this monkey wearing a crown—the monkey; the piano, the books. I might be the crowned monkey’s shadow:

Brent’s book about his father—his father’s life and afterlife, his relation to his father’s life and afterlife—is his first book of nonfiction. Right? His book of poems, THAUMATROPE, was published in 2007 by Action Books. A poem of his recently appeared on THEY WILL SEW THE BLUE SAIL. I wish to speak plainly about the poet Brent Hendricks. With and around him I feel life is truly good. I lived for a month with my girlfriend in the room where Brent writes, surrounded by his books and his things. He has made a great number of things possible, including such fortunes as this—existence and simple—eating cereal out of a coffee cup, sleeping on a bed the width of a leaf, looking at the books he was reading while writing the book about his father. I don’t remember the second time I cried while reading his book. I do remember, however, that in the hallway of Brent’s house there is a white horse. In fact, I just visited the horse to confirm it. It was a gift of Kate’s mother in Massachusetts. Brent has to wake up early tomorrow (Sunday) morning to catch a plane to New York City. There is no light in the hall where the horse is hanging—I don’t think—so the horse is always standing at dawn or at dusk, the minutes before and/or after …

April 28th Letter No. Seven (Vincent Van Gogh, 1876)

VINCENT VAN GOGH to Theo Van Gogh, April 28, 1876

Dear Theo,

Now I am going to tell you about a walk we took yesterday. It was to an inlet of the sea, and the road thither led through fields of young corn and along hedges of hawthorn, etc.

Arriving there, we saw to our left a high steep ridge of sand and stone as tall as a two-storey house. On the top of it were old, gnarled hawthorn bushes, whose black and grey moss-grown stems and branches were all bent to one side by the wind; there were also a few elder bushes.

The ground on which we walked was covered all over with big grey stones, chalk and shells.

To the right lay the sea, as calm as a pond and reflecting the light of the transparent grey sky where the sun was setting.

The tide was out and the water very low.

Your loving brother,

Vincent

Tucson House Visit No. Eight (Laynie Browne)

This is the Bunny Clock. No matter where the hands touch: bunny. It is the creation of Laynie Browne. Laynie has been making collages—her house is filled with dozens, at least—”dozens” is simply wrong, and against the hands of the Clock—she has been orchestrating a world: paint and collage on metal, on canvas, on stones, on pieces of driftwood she’s gathered along the trails on the edges of Tucson. Here is another:

A few paint and collage on metal pieces are hung in the long hallway of Laynie’s house, a few feet from where a series of paintings of living rabbits are hung, painted by Laynie’s sons, Benjamin and Jacob. There are paintings and collages everywhere. Numerous works by Noah Saterstrom and Keith Waldrop, for example; a book Lee Ann Brown and Norma Cole made for Laynie when she was pregnant—and especially an extraordinary number of paintings and drawings and collages by Laynie’s family. The house is filled with art, beyond the evidence of creation: creation, expanding. The sound of a trumpet upon entering, perfect. Here are two:

The latter is a painting of Bunkins. Right now, Bunkins is in her pen in the room at the end of the hall. She’s inside at the moment to protect her from bobcats and hawks. She is eating timothy grass. Rabbits have to eat all the time, Laynie says. If their gut isn’t working, they perish. Bunkins shares the room with a game Laynie’s husband Brad devised to teach their sons Hebrew. Brad is a molecular biologist. He studies the ascidian heart—the heart of the sea squirt. The game is hung on the wall facing Bunkins:

Laynie and Brad met at a disco in Cancun, Mexico. They were both on vacation with their families. Laynie says they’re pretty sure they actually first met while toddlers in the San Fernando Valley of southern California. When I entered Laynie’s house a short while ago, her son Jacob was practicing the trumpet. He was sitting in front of a large picture window facing the mountains, playing. Laynie’s house is a mile or so from the foot of the Catalina Mountains. Laynie and Brad have traveled Israel together. They took this picture of themselves in a bus station in 1993:

Among Laynie’s numerous books is THE SCENTED FOX, published by Wave Books in 2007. I know Laynie partly because of this book; I worked for Wave Books and met Laynie partly through the emails with which I would regularly accost the authors. Laynie has lived mostly in cities. And then we went out to the desert, she says. The whole family is now in the kitchen making sushi. There is the sound of small birds in the yard, the resonance of Jacob’s trumpet expanding against the large picture window, interacting with every brushstroke and line, dragon and fox, Bunkins eating timothy grass at the end of the hall.

April 28th Letter No. Six (Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1796)

PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY to Thomas Jefferson Hogg, April 18, 1811

Why is it, that the moment we two are separated, I can scarcely set bounds to my hatred of intolerance; is it feeling? is it passion? I would willingly persuade myself that it is neither; willingly would I persuade myself that all that is amiable, all that is good, falls by its prevalence, and that I ought unceasingly to attempt its destruction. Yet, you say that millions of bad are necessary for the existence of a few pre-eminent in excellence. Is not this a despotism of virtue, which is inconsistent with its nature? Is it not the Asiatic tyrant who renders his territory wretched to fill his seraglio? the shark, who must glut his maw with millions of fish, in order that he may exist? I have often said that I doubted your divinities, and if this interference follows the established hypothesis of their existence, I do not merely doubt, but hope that my doubts are founded on truth.

Your affectionate friend,

P.B.S.

Tucson House Visit No. Seven (Dot Devota)

Dot Devota has been thinking a lot about Camille Claudel. She loves her but cannot help but be upset by her. She’s upset that Camille destroyed so much of her work, and in reaction to the times in which she lived; she’s upset Camille was not able to see beyond her times. It is a question of faith, though also some part of the insurmountable present we are constantly flooding with and away from. Dot has been thinking also with great love and wonder about Grace Hartigan, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Werner Herzog, and her nephews, Sam and Luke. She visited her nephews recently in Michigan, where they live on a small lake. Siblings do occasionally know a joy such as this:

A couple years ago, Dot lived in a field in central Missouri. The field was fields, woods, wildflowers, wild turkeys and a pond. There is a stream bed with quicksand. The stream runs through a field of corn down to the Missouri River. It is to this land she partially traces her roots and where, in a sense, Dot Devota was born. Dot Devota is a poet. She is writing a book titled MW: A FIELD GUIDE TO THE MIDWEST. It is composed of essays, letters and notes. Through it she has been re-enacting the past. It can be excruciating. She composes by hand. Wild leaves find their way into the script.

During her time in the field in central Missouri, Dot went on long walks, gathered walnuts and wild plants. She found a persimmon tree and shook it. Persimmons rained to the earth. Dot’s ancestors once lived in this field. Still do, don’t they? Dot once walked for twenty miles on a single day throughout the city of Kyoto, Japan. Near the end of the twenty miles she found a closet-sized bookstore where she bought a small book of paintings of women by the poet and painter Yumeji Takehisa. Here are the shoes Dot wore walking twenty miles in Kyoto:

One of Dot’s poems—THE ETERNAL WALL—was published as a chapbook by Katy and Matt Henriksen’s Cannibal Books. The titles of two of Dot’s other books of poems are AND THE GIRLS WORRIED TERRIBLY and BLACK WRITING, a few poems from which were published by Christian Peet for Tarpaulin Sky’s Chronic Content series. She is returning to Japan this summer. Hopefully to Kyoto. She has been thinking about spending time at a temple there. Her nephews make paintings together:

Dot plans also to return to the field in central Missouri, to make some part of her life there more steady, for and from where it has been partially made. It is important to sit and stare. It might not take as long as imagined to reach through to the depth of a thought. There are black walnut trees on the land. Beneath the persimmon tree is an old, broken tractor, grown over with cane and weeds. Someone once rode it. The seat is still warm.

April 28th Letter No. Five (Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 1796)

SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE to John Thelwall, late April 1796

Dear Thelwall,

I beg your acceptance of my Poems—you will find much to blame in them—much effeminacy of sentiment, much faulty glitter of expression. I build all my poetic pretensions on the Religious Musins—which you will read with a POET’S EYE, with the same unprejudicedness, I wish, I could add, the same pleasure, with which the atheistic Poem of Lucretius. A Necessitarian, I cannot possibly disesteem a man for his religious or anti-religious Opinions—and as an Optimist, I feel diminished concern.—I have studied the subject deeply & widely—I cannot say, without prejudice: for when I commenced the Examination, I was an Infidel.

With esteem | I am | Your’s &c

S.T. Coleridge

Tucson House Visit No. Six (Annie Guthrie)

This is Annie Guthrie and her family. Which one is Annie? Her sister is two years younger. Her brother is five years older. Her mother lives also in Tucson. Her father passed away in 1988. What was the occasion for this picture being taken? Annie is in the other room. I don’t feel like asking. Bonnie Prince Billy’s WOLFROY GOES TO TOWN is playing on the record player. Here again is Annie’s father:

In which picture is he older? And what’s that body of water behind him? Annie doesn’t know. I say to Annie, It’s just as good not to know as it is to know, and she says, I just said that to someone. Annie is a poet. She is currently teaching a class on oracular poetry at the Poetry Center, where she also works. That’s where I first met her. I gave a reading at the Poetry Center with Philip Jenks and Akilah Oliver. Annie was in the audience. She is deeply inquisitive with a supreme and patient calm in letting it open, even as it might evade, or turn into a veil of some trouble.

On a small table next to her bed is Susan Howe’s The Nonconformist’s Memorial, Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 and the February 2012 issue of Artforum. Nasturtiums on the side of Annie’s house are edible. Here is one of Annie’s poems in the magazine, THE DESTROYER. Two eggplants have not yet emerged from her garden. In the back corner of her refrigerator is a half-eaten melon in foil.

She lives in Tucson with her husband Tomaso. Tomaso is Italian. He is a brilliant cook. Showing me a map, Annie says, This is where I lived for many years. The map is of Firenze. She points to the street where she studied metal incising techniques with an old man named Franco. See my dirty fingernail? You have to really think of your questions because Franco doesn’t say anything.

I like that maps are called plans, Annie says. The Guthrie family is well known in Harlan County, Kentucky, where many of Annie’s ancestors were miners. It can be difficult to know where one fits into such a scheme, even as it goes, but to sit on top of a mountain in Italy surrounded in silence by eight elderly women, watching themselves and the floating rings of existence in the air before them. I’m going, Annie, I say, but then Annie says, Do you want to see my artichoke?

April 28th Letter No. Four (Walt Whitman, 1882)

WALT WHITMAN to John Burroughs, April 28, 1882

Dear friend

Just returned from a fortnight down in the Jersey woods—not feeling well this month, (a bad cold, neuralgia, other head trouble, bowel trouble &c—yet nothing serious—will blow over in a few days)—went down for a change—had bad weather & nothing propitious—but I have just come back & am already better—shall get along—

So Emerson is dead—the leading man in all Israel—If I feel able I shall go to his funeral—improbable though—

Can you help me? Can you loan me $100?

Walt Whitman