Tag Archives: T.S.Elliot

Life is Poetry

Life, lived on the same plane as poetry and as music, is my distinctive desire and standard. It is the failure to accomplish this which makes me discontented with myself (3).
Lady Ottoline, quoted in Lady Ottoline’s Album.

Lady Ottoline, by Simon Bussy

Lady Ottoline, by Simon Bussy

As I read Selected Letters of André Gide and Dorothy Bussy the name of Lady Ottoline came up with some frequency. By an odd coincidence I happen to have the book, Lady Ottoline’s Album, in my possession (with a postcard of the portrait of Ottoline by Dorothy’s husband, Simon Bussy, laid in). Last year when I worked as a companion to elderly (mostly) women, I had a client who delighted in knowing and discussing what I was reading, which delighted me, naturally. More often than not she had a personal connection: Isak Dinesen? “My husband had lunch with her, she was like a bird! All she ate was fruit and champagne!” I loved that- to quote my youngest son, that’s  “my always dream!” But I digress.

When it was time for me to move on, she told me to take whatever books of hers I wanted to “start my library.” I hadn’t the heart to tell her that I was  in the process of a massive book downsizing to make my move manageable, not to mention the fact that I am actually a full fledged book-accumulating adult, but when one is 104, I guess I would seem a mere girl starting out in life….Anyway, at the very least, on sentimental grounds, I couldn’t resist. And of course, I cherish them now, as they recall her to my mind.

One of the books I choose was Lady Ottoline’s Album, but I had not yet read it. André Gide and Dorothy Bussy had reminded me, but it wasn’t until yesterday, whilst in the midst of a quasi-quarterly cleaning and reorganization spasm that I came upon it.

André Gide

André Gide

It had not, until this moment, occurred to me that Ottoline was a woman who would allow me to make love to her, but gradually, as the evening progressed, the desire to make love to her became more and more insistent. At last it conquered, and I found to my amazement that I loved her deeply, and that she returned my feeling (38) Bertrand Russell, quoted.

Lady Ottoline seems to have been the type of woman who had an exquisite understanding of the excellence of social interactions- conversation, humor, passion, intellect – the poetry of life. Pursuing the myriad photographs in the book one can’t help being fascinated by her face -her countenance is strangely appealing- she should be unattractive, and yet, she is, in fact, quite strikingly beautiful.

The list of guest that she hosted is extraordinary, she had a knack for attracting artists and writers to her home, Gide and Russell, of course, but also Yeats, D. H.  Lawrence, E. M. Forster, T. S. Eliot, Ian Fleming, Hardy, Henry James, Auden, Huxley, Katherine Mansfield, and Virginia Woolf, among others:

“…I remember spending some dark, uneasy, winter days during the first war in the depth of the country with Lytton Strachey. After lunch, as we watched the rain pour down and premature darkness roll up, he said, in his searching, personal way, “Loves apart, whom would you most like to see coming up the drive?’ I hesitated a moment and he supplied the answer: “Virginia of course.” (78) – Clive Bell, quoted.

Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf

The book is comprised of her and her famous guest’s writings or letters and a huge array of photographs that Ottoline, for the most part, took. An intimate peek into the lives of a wonderfully influential group of people. The photos of these towering figures in casual moments, is fascinating, and extremely endearing…I can’t stop picturing Yeats, described perfectly by Stephen Spender as having “something of the appearance of the overgrown art student” (100).

Despite Lawrence’s rather scathing sketch (presumably of Ottoline) in Women in Love, which would seriously breach their friendship, (and yet seems a plausible description)…she is a mesmerizing woman. Her relationships, by all accounts burned bright; there is a ferocity about her that makes me trust Lawrence….but still, her insistence that life be lived as poetry – reduced to pure feeling and experience, is so appealing. I suppose Lawrence wondered if she ever really achieved her desire.

Nevertheless, She and Lawrence, have philosophical congress. Concentrated in our bodies, for good or bad, life is meant to be felt, loved, and savoured. It is a lovely little book- an erstwhile golden age, elegantly composed by a passionate woman who had, truly, a genius of repose.

*Lady Ottoline’s Album: Snapshots & Portraits of Her Famous Contemporaries (and of Herself) Photographed for the Most Part by Lady Ottoline Morrell from the Collection of her Daughter Julian Vinogradoff. Edited by Carolyn G. Heilbrun, with an Introduction by Lord David Cecil.


Map of my Heart




Art: JR 2014, quotes: Octavio Paz, T.S. Elliot, Isak Dinesen, John Donne.


Your Venial Versatile Blogger Nominee

Straight to the after party!
pastel drawing by Victoria Accardi

I was nominated for an award here in the little world of wordpress bloggydom, but typically I failed to comprehend that this meant that I was nominated for an award. I’m a bit slow. I hate to be churlish and so will try to comply gratefully to the requirements of acceptance. Gee, my long awaited imaginary Oscar speech….

Thank you mofman for the nomination. You can see his beautiful and informative blog here: http://themofman.wordpress.com/about/

Just as I pictured, my mind goes blank, the words don’t come, I stand helplessly holding the gold statue looking stupidly at the camera as the time clock runs down. Say something idiot! My mind races, I’m overwhelmed: it’s possible I suddenly love everyone and have a burning desire to thank them all and their little dogs too. Don’t be an ass. I’ll try. Keep it simple. Okay, focus, where was I?  oh shit no more time…Thanks ever so, I’m so..very…very…

And my 15 nominees in no order are-
















Rules of engagement: Thank person who nominated you. Nominate 15 bloggers. Tell person who nominated you 7 things about yourself –

1) “He loved books; books are remote but reliable friends” Les Misérable, Victor Hugo

2) “Doubts of all things earthly, and intuitions of some things heavenly; this combination makes neither believer nor infidel, but makes a man who regards them both with an equal eye.”  Herman Melville (Moby Dick)

3) “Better to have a bitter happiness than a grey dull life.”  Stalker (film)

4) “Between the desire and the spasm, between the essence and the descent.” TS Elliot

5) “Nothing is worth anything except through it” – Camus

6) “Love, according to the inmost laws  of its being, ever desires the illimitable, all finiteness, all moderation, is repugnant, intolerable to it.”  Stefan Zweig

7) “Let your enormous library be justified.” Jorge Luis Borges


My literature class was unexpectedly cancelled so I wandered over to the college library to get a head start on the homework. We are to “briefly” research T.S. Elliot’s life and write about whether or not we believe his personal life is reflected in the poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.”  I somehow remember that I had read a very good essay on Elliot a few months ago in The New Yorker (my poor memory being one of the great disappointments of my life).

“Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky”

It’s a beautiful beginning, even if the next line is ” Like a patient etherised upon a table;” The poem, if you’ve not read it, I think,  relates the apathy, possibility, indecision, and frustration (sexual and otherwise) of Alfred in a potential amorous encounter with “another woman.”

“No! I am not prince hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous-
Almost, at times, the Fool.”

Of course he had a notoriously horrible marriage, that is perhaps why I remembered the article. A particular phrase that the author of the piece, Lewis Menand (Sept. 19th 2011 issue) used to describe the union, “an asphyxiating mutual dependency,” stuck with me. Never the less, as it turns out this poem was written before he met his first wife. They met in the spring and married in June of 1915 the very month the poem was first published. He said that his poem “The Waste Land” was the poem that described his marriage. I thought I would read it as I had some time left until my next class.

“April is the cruellest month”

So it is.
It is a very long poem, and not so easy to read. I decided that I would just swallow it whole. Read it straight through: absorb it more or less.

I came to “II. A Game of Chess” when I glanced at the young man sitting next to me. He had his hood over his head and was slumped over in such a way that the only part of him I could see was his hand on the mouse. I looked up at his computer screen, the image was of a young woman taking a picture of herself in a mirror with one breast exposed. I felt simultaneously, shock and weary.

It was some sort of local site of…I really don’t know; were they just looking for guys, or was it some sort of home spun prostitution site? He would click on a girl and then pick up his phone to, what, text her? There was quite a bit of texting in between the clicking. I hesitate to judge, but, I mean really, we were in a public space – his and my college. Was I wrong to feel that this was perhaps not the most appropriate thing to be looking at while a woman who could have been his mother sat RIGHT next to him. Oh no, not her, definitely the one before was kind of cute… I find myself thinking. Stop looking, mind your own business, I chastise myself. Feeling a little uncomfortable I redirect my attention to the task at hand.

“And still she cried, and still the world pursues,
“Jug, Jug” to dirty ears.
And other withered stumps of time
Were told upon the walls; staring forms
Leaned out, leaning, hushing the room enclosed.”

I hazard another glance at my neighbor and am relieved to see that he has switched over to algebra. I look at his hand for a while, poised above the mouse.
“Shantih   shantih   shantih”