Friday, April 29, 2016

Y is for Yoko Ono

My theme this year is the ABCEDARIA of Women who have inspired me

Y is for Yoko Ono

Image result for yoko ono

I know, I know - several forms of cheating going on here. Her last name is Ono not Yoko and that was my rule - only bent for Queens to date (or one named types like Boadicea) but...

This is hard and I have been inspired by Yoko on many levels. She is fiercely herself (one of my most important factors for inspiration) even though many disliked her for that. She put up with the lunatics who insisted she broke up the Beatles. Crazy and such an old story for any woman involved with any man. We were all cool til the bitch came along and ruined everything.  Yah, tell it to the marines. 

I loved how John Lennon loved her. I loved that they had a crazy tumultuous relationship. I love that she is an artist in her own right and not just the keeper of the flame (though I think she does that brilliantly). Would I want to have her come over and hang with the babes? No. Not a chance. But I don't need that to be part of the inspiration package. I like Yono's fierce independence.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

X is for Xue Tao

My theme this year is the ABCEDARIA of Women who have inspired me.

X is for Xue Tao, poet (768 to 831 BCE)  

Xue is one of a few courtesan poets that have intrigued and inspired me over the years. She was known for her wit and her ability to captivate the powers that ruled. She was close (or so it is believed) to another courtesan whose name you may or may not see here in a couple of days! I'm inspired by how prolific she remained and how she supported herself in later years by making paper!
Some 450 poems by Xue were gathered in The Brocade River Collection that survived until the 14th century. About 100 of her poems are known nowadays, which is more than of any other Tang dynasty woman. They range widely in tone and topic, giving evidence of a lively intelligence and more than passing acquaintance with the great tradition of earlier Chinese poetry. (Wikipedia)

And here are two poems


Its spirit leans like a thin hook
or opens round like a Han-loom fan,
slender shadow whose nature is to be full,
seen everywhere in the human world. 

the eagle away from the oversleeve

claws sharp as blades
eyes acute as tinkling bells
hunted rabbits over the plain received high praise
for no reason
soared into serene clouds
I must not again be held on the emperor’s shoulder

One weird and interesting fact about Xue is that a crater on Venus is named after her but in an older form of her name 'Hsueh'. Now I'm going to check to see how many others of my list of women who inspired me have craters bearing their names.

What are we to make of these long ago poets - their lives so different from our own but their perceptions perhaps not so unfamiliar?

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

W is for Rebecca West and Virginia Woolf

My theme this year is the ABCEDARIA of Women who have inspired me.

W is for Rebecca West 

Image result for Rebecca West
 Rebecca West was born Dec.21, 1892 in Kerry, Ireland.Her book Black Lamb and Grey Falcon is called a travel book but it is unlike any book I have ever read. Like the densest of chocolate, it demands to be savored slowly. I had it by my bed for just under a year. I simply couldn't consume it without lots of digestion time in between reading bouts. I also had to read great chunks of it out loud to my dear guy. West would take something she and her husband had seen on their six week trip to Yugoslavia - say a small church or the cornice on a government building and before you could see what she was up to - you'd have traveled with her back centuries into the history of that place. The trip coincided with the Nazi invasion of Yugoslavia. Her grasp and passion for politics and history carry you along until she has deposited you right where she wants you to be. Her private life was anything but - she had a ten year affair with H.G. Wells that gave her her only child, a son. She married in her thirties and stayed with her banker husband until he died but the last years were troubled and unhappy. She lived until she was 92 and was productive her whole life. Happy? I don't think so but brilliant, passionate and engaged - yes. Oh and we share a birthday which gives me a very particular and peculiar thrill - an unearned excitement.
George Charles Beresford - Virginia Woolf in 1902.jpg

and Virginia Woolf - what can I say about this woman that hasn't been said a million times? I am so inspired about her views on writing and women. A Room of One's Own is a constant companion. To the Lighthouse is a wonder of a book and I could spend a year or two reading and rereading Mrs. Dalloway.  I was first inspired by her when I read about The Bloomsbury Circle. Her innovative approach to writing is deeply thrilling. Her writing about writing is something that I think of daily. Here is something she wrote that Ursula Le Guin addressed in one of her essays. I've put it here before but it needs reminding of. It is from The Letters of Virginia Woolf, volume 3.
Style is a very simple matter: it is all rhythm. Once you get that, you can’t use the wrong words. But on the other hand here am I sitting after half the morning, crammed with ideas, and visions, and so on, and can’t dislodge them, for lack of the right rhythm. Now this is very profound, what rhythm is, and goes far deeper than words. A sight, an emotion, creates this wave in the mind, long before it makes words to fit it; and in writing (such is my present belief) one has to recapture this, and set this working (which has nothing apparently to do with words) and then, as it breaks and tumbles in the mind, it makes words to fit it. But no doubt I shall think differently next year.

Now there you are! Two inspirational writers - born in the same time period - neither particularly happy (Woolf suicided at the age of 59, stones in her pocket to the bottom of the River Ouse) but both feminists, creatives, political and engaging.  Now I need to get back to my own writing! How about you? Any inspiration out there?

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

V is for Sarah Vaughan

My theme this year is the ABCEDARIA of Women who have inspired me

Sarah Vaughan - William P. Gottlieb - No. 1.jpg

V is for the Divine One - Sarah Vaughan

Sarah's life doesn't inspire me, except that she managed to have it and still produce such amazing recordings. She was drawn to bad cats that used and misused her. She married a few of them, got into business with a few more (mostly the same ones) and only barely managed to stay safe because she had some good friends watching out for her. Her music though! That's what inspires me. We have a couple of sets of jazz compilations - like the Birdland recordings, etc... and I love it when I hear Vaughan's sweet tones. 

so listen to this - her recording from Carnegie Hall - her voice is truly at its best.

What do you think? Did you ever get to see her live? Wish I had...

Monday, April 25, 2016

U is for Jane Urquhart

My theme this year is the ABCEDARIA of Women who have inspired me.

U is for Jane Urquhart - Canadian author.
Image result for Jane Urquhart

Jane Urquhart is a writer with tremendous breadth. I'm inspired by her marvelous novels and how they bring Canadian history to life for me. In particular I like The Stone Carvers - a novel that explores the life of an early Canadian wood carver and his two grandchildren - a boy and girl. They both become part of the crew that helps carve the memorial at Vimy Ridge - the woman disguised as a man. The themes of this book embrace the cultural mosaic of Canada and the tremendous effect that the two World Wars had on a young country. The descriptions of the stone carving fascinated me as I had done some sculpting as a young woman. In fact, one of the reasons that I really like Urquhart is she often addresses the life of artists. The Underpainter is another of her novels that does this and probably my favorite of them all. 

On her personal life - I know little. She was married young and widowed at the age of 24. I believe this added a depth to those early novels of hers - an understanding of the frailty of life that enriched the stories she told. She married again to an artist and this has obviously affected her themes and understanding. I've only seen her read once and that was on a biography she wrote about Lucy Maude Montgomery (one of my M's). I liked her rather unfussy style of presenting - she has a matter-of-fact air that I found quite refreshing.   

Do read Urquhart if you like well-plotted stories, developed characters and writers who truly understand the topics they take on.