11 October 2009

Words of Warning

To you who would be my friend:
The iron in me runs
beneath your pleases
a boiling garden of rust.
I may sing sweet petals
some but I am
no pink rose at the road stop.
I smell out the storm
under the rain and sit
lazy on my egg of bitter springs.
Can you worship my blackest dreams?
Sleep, scream, or go away!

PROMPT: Magnetic word tiles selected on the basis of what appealed to me that day. (I have LOTS!) However, this poem also classifies as a rant. Have people choose someone to "tell off."

Moments of Being: A Collection of Autobiographic Writing by Virginia Woolf

edited by Jeanne Schulkind
Virginia Woolf is one of those writers whose fiction I struggle to get through, but I am always glad when I make it to the end that I persevered. Her nonfiction--quite oddly, I think--affects me just the opposite. I am in her pocket from the first word, captive until the last, and always left hungry for more. This seems even stranger when you know that I am someone who prefers fiction and thinks most nonfiction too dry.

I so love how Woolf writes about the life of the writer. Reading her nonfiction helps me understand how her fiction emerged and what she was trying to accomplish. This particular collection includes heretofore unpublished writing about her life--some done at a nephew's request ("A Sketch of the Past") and some done for a writers' group she belonged to called "The Memoir Club." Members included the novelist E. M. Forster, the economist John Maynard Keynes, and the art critic Roger Fry, in addition to Virginia and her husband Leonard and Virginia's sister and brother-in-law, Vanessa and Clive Bell. It represented a regrouping of the Old Bloomsbury group, following World War I, and all were sworn to "utter frankness" in the manuscripts they chose to contribute.

So in this book we experience Virginia Woolf writing matter-of-factly about everything from her early memories of flowers in her mother's dress to her half-brother's sexual abuse of both her and her sister. Schulkind points in the introduction to Woolf's interest in conveying "two levels of being--the surface and the spreading depths." Later Woolf herself elucidates, "for when you examine feelings with the intense microscope that sorrow lends, it is amazing how they stretch, like the finest goldbeater's skin, over immense tracts of substance." I then see deeper into her experiments with story.

"I often wonder," she writes in one of the pieces in this collection, "that things we have felt with great intensity have an existence independent of our minds; are in fact still in existence?" And when she concludes, "Strong emotion must leave its trace," I begin to know what Orlando and To the Lighthouse were really aiming at. And so I think I may regather my courage, add The Waves to my reading list, and if that turns out okay, try Mrs. Dalloway, again.