How to Express the Golden Gate Homesick Blues

We’re coming to the end of National Poetry Month and I want to share a poem I wrote a few years ago in a poetry workshop. I was living in England at the time, feeling very homesick for San Francisco, as well as nostalgic for a time when I was more mobile than I am now.

So this was the result – the first poem I’d written since I was a child, in fact. For this collection of emotions, I found the process of writing a poem very cathartic.The location is the waterfront near to the base of the Golden Gate Bridge at Fort Point. For those of you who remember the scene in Vertigo where Kim Novak falls in the water – that’s where I’m talking about!

A.K. Andrew,akandrew.com,a writers notebook ,Golden Gate Bridge, Fort Point

Under the Golden Gate by A.K. Andrew

Fort Point

Ghosts of blue-bellies dash between chill, meagre quarters
Running up concrete steps
Running up the flag of
the Red Brick Fort
Alone facing the Pacific Ocean
Now nestled beneath rumbling red girders of the Bridge.
An Alliance of Gateway and Protector of
The City
Our City.

White foamy tentacles crash, split
Rusting chain links,
Goliath chain
Serving only to taunt, not protect
A leap to the rocks or giant watery mouth inviting in
it’s enormity, its moving depth beckoning.

Agonizing beauty surround once more
Pacific blasts tearing at hair and heart
A white rogue wave rises up
hitting crumbling brick, splashing me
drenching
Her.
Laughing still
we cycle home on the bays blue edge
warmed by love, vigour,
youth.

A.K. Andrew, Fort Point, Golden Gate Bridge, akandrew.com,a writers notebook

A.K. Andrew at Fort Point

Fort Point, Golden Gate Bridge,A.K Andrew,akandrew.com , a writers notebook

Fort Point under the Golden Gate Bridge by A.K Andrew

How do you feel about happy memories? Does it make you sad to think of them and wish that things were still the same, or do you feel fortunate to have had the good times to look back on? Perhaps you don’t like to dwell on the past at all, but prefer to look forward rather than back.

Come join the discussion, and please share this post on your favorite social media. 

Many Thanks!

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#Dorothy Parker On Fiction

 

American writer Dorothy Parker (1893-1967)

American writer Dorothy Parker (1893-1967) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

In researching the 1950’s for my novel ‘Under the Bed’ , Dorothy Parker’s name came up as one of the Hollywood writers black-listed. It is also 45 years ago this week since her death.Dorothy Parker was renowned for her wit, being a keen critic, her poetry, short stories, plays and her left wing politics. When she died of a heart attack in 1967, her estate was left to the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. foundation. Following King’s death, her estate was passed on to the NAACP. In 1988 the NAACP dedicated a memorial garden to her in Baltimore and erected a plaque. She’d suggested her tombstone should read ‘Excuse my dust’. They didn’t argue.

 

But first, let’s have some fun and see if you can complete three of Parker’s famous quotes.

 

No.1 is my favorite and was the name of the lunchtime theatre play in London where the wit of Dorothy Parker finally came into my life, a decade after her death.

 

Answers are at the bottom of this post!

  1. Men seldom make passes,

At girls…………………..

2.     Guns aren’t lawful;

Nooses give;

Gas smell awful;

You…………………….

3.     You can lead a whore to culture,

But ………………………

 

The following is taken from a Paris Review interview she gave in 1956, on the Art of Fiction.* If you’re not already familiar with them, the archives of Paris Review have some incredible interviews of literary figures  – thoroughly enjoyable and a fantastic writer’s resource.

On how she started writing:

“I fell into writing, I suppose, being one of those awful children who wrote verses. I went to a convent in New York—the Blessed Sacrament. Convents do the same things progressive schools do, only they don’t know it. They don’t teach you how to read; you have to find out for yourself. At my convent we did have a textbook, one that devoted a page and a half to Adelaide Ann Proctor; but we couldn’t read Dickens; he was vulgar, you know. … But as for helping me in the outside world, the convent taught me only that if you spit on a pencil eraser it will erase ink. And I remember the smell of oilcloth, the smell of nuns’ garb. I was fired from there, finally, for a lot of things, among them my insistence that the Immaculate Conception was spontaneous combustion.”

On whether her reputation as a wit interfered with her acceptance as a fiction writer:

“I don’t want to be classed as a humorist. It makes me feel guilty. I’ve never read a good tough quotable female humorist, and I never was one myself. I couldn’t do it. A “smartcracker” they called me, and that makes me sick and unhappy. There’s a hell of a distance between wisecracking and wit. Wit has truth in it; wisecracking is simply calisthenics with words. I didn’t mind so much when they were good, but for a long time anything that was called a crack was attributed to me—and then they got the shaggy dogs.

On contemporary writers:

“…as for living novelists, I suppose E. M. Forster is the best, … at least he’s a semifinalist, wouldn’t you think? … He once wrote something I’ve always remembered: “It has never happened to me that I’ve had to choose between betraying a friend and betraying my country, but if it ever does so happen I hope I have the guts to betray my country.” Now doesn’t that make the Fifth Amendment look like a bum?

On her own writing practice:

“It takes me six months to do a story. I think it out and then write it sentence by sentence—no first draft. I can’t write five words but that I change seven.

On whether her political views made any difference to her professionally?

“Oh, certainly. Though I don’t think this “blacklist” business extends to the theater or certain of the magazines, in Hollywood it exists because several gentlemen felt it best to drop names like marbles which bounced back like rubber balls about people they’d seen in the company of what they charmingly called “commies.” You can’t go back thirty years to Sacco and Vanzetti. I won’t do it. Well, well, well, that’s the way it is. If all this means something to the good of the movies, I don’t know what it is. Sam Goldwyn said, “How’m I gonna do decent pictures when all my good writers are in jail?” Then he added, the infallible Goldwyn, “Don’t misunderstand me, they all ought to be hung.” Mr. Goldwyn didn’t know about “hanged.” That’s all there is to say. It’s not the tragedies that kill us, it’s the messes. I can’t stand messes. I’m not being a smartcracker. You know I’m not when you meet me—don’t you, honey?

 

If Dorothy Parker was alive today, what issues do you think she’d be writing about?

 

 

English: Portrait of Art Samuels, Charlie MacA...

English: Portrait of Art Samuels, Charlie MacArthur, Harpo Marx, Dorothy Parker and Alexander Woollcott (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

*From Dorothy Parker, The Art of fiction No 13,

Interviewed by Marion Campion

To read this interview in full, go to:

http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/4933/the-art-of-fiction-no-13-dorothy-parker

 

Endings of Dorothy Parker quotes above:

1.At girls who wear glasses. 2. You might as well live. 3. But you can’t make her think.

 

 

  _________________________________

 

 

Related articles

 

Time and Place: 1950?s USA (akandrew.com)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothy_Parker

http://onetrackmuse.com/2012/06/11/a-year-in-booksday-154-the-portable-dorothy-parker/#more-3123

http://www.npr.org/2012/06/07/154148811/how-dorothy-parker-came-to-rest-in-baltimore

http://www.dorothyparker.com/wordpress/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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And it’s 1, 2, 3, What Are We Writing For? (orig. post Jan 20th)

And it’s 1, 2, 3, What Are We Writing For?

 I’ve been taking a poetry class with Catherine Smith (see Links page), called Pushing the Boundaries. I wanted to get to know one of the characters better in my new novel Under the Bed – she’s a 25 year-old poet in the East Village in 1969. A not very good poet, so I figured she wouldn’t be too hard for me to emulate. I’ve also been a bit poetry phobic so I thought it would kill two birds with one stone. I’ve loved learning the value of brevity, which can only be a good thing for a prose writer.

This week we did a Ghazal, which comes from a musical tradition of Urdu poetry, going back to the 14th century. A ghazal is made up of several couplets, which traditionally would have been set to music, sung and performed. When sung, the music provides an interlude for the audience between each couplet allowing them to resonate. An important aspect of the couplet is that each should stand on its own as an aphorism. The couplets have been compared to a ‘stone from a necklace’, each with a value of its own. Once put together it’s part of a whole. I’ve included here the ghazal I wrote as “Izzie”.

 

Ghazal:  When is a War not a War?

By “Izzie” 1969

 

No poem or painting is finished without our eyes to see.

We decide what it means. Dare to say what we see.

 

Are the mix of hues and colors still on the canvas

when they’re left in a darkened room, too dark to see?

 

Have all the colors in the world disappeared when

the sun is blazing white, so bright we cannot see?

 

Where have the other colors run to, in a land where sun burns

crimson, earth and rivers reflect blood red for all to see?

 

What is more real? What we think we see, what we’re told

to think, or what is shot in front of the whole world to see?

 

TV images of the War up Close – visual bombardment more real

than any reality in the commonplace we live and see.

 

Izzie’s paintings are finished by the viewer’s eyes. Can we

finish the War by what we dare to think and say and see?

 

 

The ghazal I’ve written asks more questions than I answer, which is symptomatic of the times (1969) and how a 25 yr. might have viewed them. By coincidence, after I’d written the ghazal, I came across a quote from Ursula K. Le Guin on twitter this week, which I thought was apropos:

“The unread story is not a story; it is little black marks on wood pulp. The reader, reading it, makes it live … “

 

In the critique part of Catherine’s poetry class, I talked about the fact that the Vietnam War was really the first war recorded live on television. We also referenced the iconic satirical protest song ‘Fixing To Die’ by Country Joe McDonald *

The refrain says it all: –

 

And it’s 1,2,3, what are we fighting for,

Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn

The next stop is Vietnam,

And it 5,6,7 open up the pearly gates,

There ain’t no time to wonder why

Whoopee we’re all gonna die

 

To most people in the UK ‘during the war’ refers to WWII. When I first went to live in San Francisco in the early 80s, when people talked about ‘the war’ everyone was referring to Vietnam. I think it’s hard for people in the UK to fully understand the enormity of the effect the Vietnam War had on an entire generation of Americans.

 

So in the spirit of my ghazal, mixed with Country Joe’s humor,  I’m going to leave you with the question:

 

What are we writing for?

 

Click on Comments at the bottom of this post and let me know.

 

* Here’s a link to Country Joe’s performance of ‘Fixing to Die’ at Woodstock, August 1969.

Country Joe @ Woodstock

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LBdeCxJmcAo

Comments

Jess

Sun, 22 Jan 2012 02:34:23

what are we writing for? To stay alive, to be alive, to be able to say all the things we can’t speak aloud ourselves and to see how all these things look through other people’s eyes.

A.K.Andrew

Sun, 22 Jan 2012 03:02:07

Thanks for getting the ball rolling Jess. I have to agree with you, especially the part about seeing how things look through other people’s eyes. To actually get inside their minds is pretty amazing. I think it helps us understand other peoples motivation too.

Catherine Smith

Sun, 22 Jan 2012 04:48:54

I agree with both of you – and writing reminds me I want to keep asking questions.I want to find out what I belive, what is important to me. I don’t always find the answers, but asking the questions still feels essential. Love your blog, Kathy! 😉

A.K.

Sun, 22 Jan 2012 08:05:10

Thanks Catherine. And you’re right The questions always take the lead.

 

 

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