The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review

Poem for Monday

Young Poets
By Nicanor Parra
Translated by Miller Williams

Write as you will
In whatever style you like
Too much blood has run under the bridge
To go on believing
That only one road is right.

In poetry everything is permitted.

With only this condition of course,
You have to improve the blank page.


Another by Parra, the subject of Poet's Choice in The Washington Post Book World last Sunday. "English Romantics mythologized childhood as a magical time, but Parra's 'Memories of Youth' enacts the humiliating impotence of being forced 'through a thicket of chairs and tables,'" writes Mary Karr, quoting further: "'The characters stirred in their armchairs like seaweed moved by the waves/And women gave me horrid looks/Dragging me up, dragging me down...'" Williams edited with Parra an English edition of Poems and Antipoems, republished by New Directions in 1966.

We spent another Sunday at Mount Vernon, this time because the British were coming! Actually it was a reenactment (though not a recreation, since there are no precise records) of the HMS Savage's incursions along the Potomac River, when the ship sent its boats to seize provisions from the plantations on the banks. The story at Mount Vernon is particularly interesting because Captain Thomas Graves offered to free any slaves who wished to join the British, and sixteen of George Washington's slaves did so; some were treated badly by the British and eventually returned, but they all knew that Washington was desperate for money and was considering selling them.

During the reenactment of the events of April 1781, Graves came ashore and quarreled with Lund Washington, George's cousin, who ran the estate while Washington was away fighting in the American Revolution. The British threatened to burn Lund's own property if he would not provision their ships, while Lund refused them every hospitality and demanded that they leave at once. The slaves debated whether to believe the British promises and break up their community at Mount Vernon -- a community already under threat from their master -- and some chose to leave. Meanwhile the British set up an encampment and threatened to burn down the mansion.

A boat carrying Royal Navy sailors approached the wharf at Mount Vernon.

Captain Graves accompanied officers and Marines from the HMS Savage to shore.

The Marines guarded the captain as he approached Lund Washington and demanded that the general's cousin provision his ship from the estate.

Lund refused even to bow in greeting to Graves (in front of a crowd of time-traveling onlookers, no less).

The Marines threatened Lund and his people. Eventually, faced with threats to the estate, Lund capitulated and George was furious when he discovered it.

Graves also approached Washington's slaves and offered them freedom if they would support the British cause.

The slaves discussed how to share this news with the others and whether they should accept the British offer. Eventually several did, fleeing the estate.

After walking through the farm to see the lambs and the flowering trees along the river, we came home and went to dinner at my parents' -- my mother had leftover chicken from making chicken soup for Passover -- then came home and watched John Adams and The Tudors. I'm starting to feel like John Adams didn't have a single happy day in his adult life! The scene where he tells Hamilton off is terrific but he's angry and agitated, as he seems to be for most of his presidency, even more than his frustrating vice presidency, and the scene where he disowns his son is devastating but also infuriating -- oh, give the boy a break, he practically had to raise himself. Once again Abigail had all my favorite lines, particularly noting that the new nation's capital was going to be built by half-starved slaves. And I loved the scene where Adams and Jefferson greeted each other: "Mr. President." "Mr. President."

As for Henry VIII, I like him less and less with each passing episode, which I suppose is rather the point -- like More said, it was so easy to believe he would bring a Golden Age, and while I'm certainly not rooting for the rigid Church leaders (More is very chatty in this production, saying all of the things he told no one in A Man For All Seasons so no one could testify against him, whereas in The Tudors his cabal trusts one another because they're all self-righteous). I must admit I adore seeing Peter O'Toole as the Pope for a change instead of heretical cynic Henry II. But Henry VIII is such a selfish brat, and what was barely forgivable when he was younger is increasingly just repulsive. I really feel badly for Anne -- she's not a terribly nice person but she's being used by everyone around her, and she is sincerely committed to religious reform even while her father's using it for ambitious purposes. Natalie Portman taught me to appreciate Natalie Dormer in the role!

Monday I get to see dementordelta and gblvr, yay!

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