HILDA MORLEY.

Today’s post at wood s lot begins with a nice snippet of Ern Malley (and anyone not familiar with the Ern Malley hoax should read this excellent introduction, with a nice Herbert Read quote that it is “possible to arrive at genuine art by spurious means”) and moves on to quote a longish poem (“The Ships Move On“) by a poet I was completely unfamiliar with, Hilda Morley (1919 – 1998). It’s a shame such a fine poet was treated so badly by the boy’s club at Black Mountain College, where she taught at the height of its influence but is ignored in histories of the place, and even more of a shame she is still unknown to the poetry-reading public. I’ll put a short poem by her below the cut; here‘s a moving preface to her work by Robert Creeley (written shortly before her death), and here‘s a discussion at digital emunction sparked off by Kent Johnson’s nomination of her as “the most unjustly and bizarrely forgotten U.S. poet of the 20th century.”


O where I lay
half-buried at the bottom
of the stream,
          barely able
to move I am shifted
now by the current
of the inmost heart,
        I am turning
slowly
    My furrow
is broken across
      & I am set moving
gently (as nature does it, he always said)
turning inside my furrow
        slowly
as one turns before waking,
        the eyes half-closed,
half-sleeping,
      then swifter
        (with the movement
        of the inmost heart)
as the dolphin turns in the sea
—Hilda Morley

Comments

  1. John Emerson says:

    Anne Knish
    If bathing were a virtue, not a lust
    I would be dirtiest.
    To some, housecleaning is a holy rite.
    For myself, houses would be empty
    But for the golden motes dancing in sunbeams.
    Tax-assessors frequently overlook valuables.
    Today they noted my jade.
    But my memory of you escaped them.

  2. John Emerson says:
  3. digital emunction, the website
    Nothing for me there, unfortunately. Myself, I’ve always been interested in analog emunction – the blowing of the nose free-style, sans textiles and digits. I still can’t do it, but I hope that in a future blog you will be able to link to a helpful website

  4. I liked the review on the whole, but thought it unfair that the reviewer should have related so much of the plot of Metropole.
    Depending on how you parse the end of the following sentence from the review, it might appear that the current decay of English is due to the fall of communism. It reminds me of grave blessings:

    English as the language of border guards and cumbersome visa applications; English as the origin of new slang like homelessak and the new tone captured by the ubiquitous “whatever”; English as the language of “Wall Street” and “Fifth Avenue”–this wasn’t exactly what the Slovakians Prendergast got to know had in mind when they dreamed of English before the fall of communism.

  5. OT: I’ve always wondered what had happened to Herzegovinans, and now I know, thanks to cheap Palgrave’s Amazingly Cheap Concise Atlas of Eastern Europe. I have their Central Asia and Balkans Atlas on order too. I suspect that there might be other Hatters who find this interesting.
    As a concise atlas it’s still sketchy, but I’ve found a lot of good stuff. I wish that they’d had more on the Varangians, the Kievan Rus, and The Mongols, but their df. of Eastern Europe seems not to include much of Russia.
    I collect atlases the way Hat collects dictionaries, or almost, and own over a hundred of them. By son and half a dozen of his friends once visited my house and a spontaneous atlas party erupted.

  6. I noticed that too, Stu. I’m pretty sure that what she meant was that English decayed for Czechs, becoming a language of mundane dissilusionment, and not that the Czechs (or whoever) caused English to decay.

  7. I read Epepe (Metropole) in Hungarian without a dictionary, and I don’t speak a word of Hungarian. Seemed like the right Borgesian approach.

  8. I read Epepe (Metropole) in Hungarian without a dictionary, and I don’t speak a word of Hungarian.
    vanya, I hope this information about yourself doesn’t lead to grief. Neuroscientists are always on the lookout for unusual cognitive abilities. They might grab you, stick you in a machine and irradiate you, to find out which areas of your brain light up when confronted with Hungarian.

  9. I have read crime novels in Catalan, Norwegian (Mickey Spillane, “Lev Hardt” I think), and Dutch without learning the languages.
    Stereotyped material makes that possible. Where do people eat in crime novels? In diners. What do they eat? Ham or bacon with eggs, coffee and/or orange juice. What is the waitress like? Gruff but with a heart of gold.

  10. I’ve had to hock the gold, but I can still do gruff. Come over and see me sometime! Them Ukrainian gals ain’t got the toot.

  11. The poor girls always get stood up, alas. But they’re real troopers about it.

  12. I collect atlases the way Hat collects dictionaries, or almost, and own over a hundred of them.
    This is great news, Emms. I love atlases. When I was eight(ish) the people who came fairly near the top of my class were awarded prizes from the local bookshop. The one who came top (always a different girl) chose first; I remember having my eye on an illustrated encyclopedia, but when it got to my turn all that was left was a kind of atlas called World Wealth, In Maps — this was in 1961. I’m still not sure who it was meant for, but unlike the brainier kids books, that book has matured like a good wine.

  13. the people who came fairly near the top of my class were awarded prizes from the local bookshop. The one who came top (always a different girl)
    Where I grew up, girls were always top of the class, and got the best grades. It was because they had mastered fawning conformity, which I have ever found difficult. They got A’s for a handwriting that was illegible to me, but was symmetrical and rounded, as demanded. They wrote book reviews of My Friend Flicka and Nancy Drew and the Drawing Room Mystery, and got A’s. I reviewed Of Human B*ndage, only to be told that I was not old enough to read it (well, I was only 13 and they were right, but I should have gotten an A for effort).
    That was part of the reason I had bad grades in geography, because only girls got atlases. If they later turned poetess and were neglected, it’s only their due.

  14. I too love atlases.

  15. In fact, I read Of Human B*ndage at age 12 or so and rather missed the point of what I now assume was a tortured love affair of some kind. I was unromantic and unerotic at that age and thought that kind of stuff was stupid. Even when I was several years older, I found Madame Bovary completely ungripping, because who really cares about that shit?
    More recently I still disliked Madame Bovary, the book and the lady both, but at least I could tell what the two of them intended.
    Definitely, an insufficiency of atlases can warp someone permanently. But Society is to blame in this case.
    P.S. What do soc*ialism and b*ndage have in common?

  16. Ask empty.

  17. At least atlases don’t fill as much as encyclopaedia. It’s not even as if I use them anymore. Damn Internet.
    I’ve read Bovary (in English) recently-ish, but I suspect I missed a lot. (As I usually do.)
    Somewhere I have a box of Simenon in French – I should pucker up and read them. Or at least try to. No, I don’t speak French …

  18. I always enjoyed the Penguin Historical atlas series, and wished I could afford more of them.

  19. atlas of rare city maps: comparative urban design, 1830-1842
    Why only 4.5 stars out of five, Language? And why those 12 years?

  20. Hat is a hard man, Croon. best not cross him.

  21. No, no, I’m not arguing with his star rating. I haven’t read the book, I was only wondering what’s wrong with it, if he still remembers.

  22. Why only 4.5 stars out of five, Language? And why those 12 years?
    I forget why I deducted half a star — I’d probably just run across some annoying typo or other glitch. It’s a great book if you love city maps. The maps were published during those years by the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge.

  23. We’re glad you weren’t arguing, Crong. We hate it when we have to hurt people.

  24. Thanks. It’s $48, I’m mulling it over.

  25. I hate having to argue, Emms.

  26. I’ve got the comfy chair right here, and the sarcasm and litotes are ready to come out on a moment’s notice.

  27. Trond Engen says:

    Maps used to be everything to me, and I know the time and place I fell in love with them. The summer I was six we had followed my father the geodecist to fieldwork (in the neighbouring valley of our host’s mother’s ancestral home, as it happens) and I remember peeking between the legs of him and his team as they were standing around the table in our rented farmhouse planning the next day’s work, when I suddenly realized that I understood it and had opinions on their plans. Or that’s how I’ve been remembering it. Now I believe their bemused response and will to sincerely and patiently include the curious kid with the funny opinions was the real watershed.
    A few years later I had read his Reader’s Digest’s World Atlas to pieces after redrawing the maps with soft pencil and ballpen and trying to cover my traces with eraser and knife. But not before initiating another long-lasting affair: The map of the language families of the world made me look at languages in geographical terms, taking me slowly down the slippery slope through dialects and variation to language history and finally to anything linguistic. But never to any serious effort, like learning languages or taking up a serious study of the theory. And whatever I read I discovered that my father seemed to know something about it, having read serious amounts of literature on historical linguistics in his youth.
    Now, more than a generation later, much of the geographical detail I knew when I peaked at the age of 11 is lost, and it can go days and weeks without me even thinking of a map. I spend my evenings reading linguistics on paper and ‘net. It strikes me that I’ve made the opposite journey of my father. Meantime, my 10-year-old son learns alphabets and reads foreign dictionaries for fun. He’s bound to become a cartographer.
    [See, Stu? Far too long and not a hint of sarchasm. My blog would soon drown in quadrigenarian pre-sentimentality.]

  28. An eighth grade world history atlas got me started on a lot of things. It had the Kingdom [actually Khanate] of the Volga Bulgars floating out in the middle of nowhere, and the Duchy of Benevento, and so on. I’ve spent years of my life tracking down that kind of thing (the Karakitai, the Kushans, and the Khazars, and that’s just the Ks. And the Xixia.)

  29. It was because they had mastered fawning conformity, which I have ever found difficult.
    My sister seems to have been one of those. When she was about nine, she explained one of her methods to my mother in a matter-of-fact way: she routinely wore a face in class that indicated that she was enjoying herself and was interested in what the teacher was saying. She offered this explanation to account some favorable things the teacher had said about her to Mom. She had worked out this simple and useful technique all by herself.
    Like you, I couldn’t or wouldn’t approach school that way. Not sure if “couldn’t” or “wouldn’t” is more accurate.
    I’m not saying anything against my sister; she was being practical, diplomatic, making everybody’s life a little easier. And I make no great claim to honesty or any other virtue for myself: I discovered in grad school that some fellow students greatly overestimated — were, I think, intimidated by — my apparent mastery of a topic as a result of the way I nodded my head when listening to some lectures. I’ll never know whether I was faking comprehension, or whether my head just moved that way when i was trying to understand — but I fear it was the former.

  30. Grumbly, I think the author felt free to relate the plot of Metropole because in the ultra-trendy world of book reviews, if you haven’t read a book written almost forty years ago by now, you certainly never will.
    As for the story, as soon as I saw this bit:

    [...] Budai looks in vain for any sort of system that could direct him to a train to the airport: “He looked for intersections between lines, those circled stations that appeared more important, since in every major city the metro service was directly connected to the main railway routes.”

    I knew for sure that Budai was in New York City, where we have three major airports (okay, okay; one of them is in Jersey), none of them reachable by subway or train of any sort (okay, the one in Jersey is, now that Amtrak has opened a station there, but it sure wasn’t in 1970). The random mixture of physical types in the streets just confirms the diagnosis: there’s nothing implausible about Japanese-American New Yorkers with bleached hair and lip injections. Likewise, the random mixture of accents in NYC accounts for not being able to hear the same word spoken in the same way twice.
    Of course, that theory goes down in flames as soon as we hear of no articles, no numbers, and all-named streets (unless he’s spending his entire time south of Houston Street; some people I know claim never to have gone north of 14th). But it was great while it lasted. This is no city for clueless outsiders, which is not to say that we don’t need your tourist dollars; we do: just try to get yourself a native guide, so you don’t get lost or ripped-off too badly — violence is no longer a serious problem in most neighborhoods.

  31. It’s $48, I’m mulling it over.
    You should be able to find used copies for even less, Kron; of course by the time you pay shipping it’s probably a small fortune. Have you seen the Burnham Plan? (wiki) It’s probably more interesting to someone who actually lives in Chicago, but the 1909 Plan has been reproduced very nicely with the original map drawings with the soft colors. Even the paper it’s printed on is a pleasure to handle. I saw an urban planning student do a project that superimposed the Burnham plan on a satellite image of Chicago; it was eerie to see real cars on Burnham’s map. We all sat there mesmerized for ten minutes watching the thing loop.
    she routinely wore a face in class that indicated that she was enjoying herself and was interested in what the teacher was saying.
    Is it possible she was genuinely engaged in the classroom experience? What a pity no one seems to believe that either an adult woman or a schoolgirl can get recognition for actual competence.

  32. Oh, I’m sure that my sister was often “engaged in the classroom experience” in a positive sense: happy and interested and learning*. What I’m saying is that, by her own account, she often pretended to be happier and more interested than she was. I think that we all, to varying degrees, wear the mask like that at times — I don’t just mean in school — and for similar reasons. I was offering the story as a particularly clear glimpse of what can lie behind what Stu calls “fawning conformity”.
    * although maybe not so much in the year we’re talking about. I had the same teacher two years earlier, so I know whereof I speak.

  33. After all, I did say they had mastered fawning conformity. The competence was there – even “actual” competence, and in fistfuls – but I had it not. How often, over the years, I have wished to have a rounded handwriting! It would have opened many a door to satisfied living at which I have unsuccessfully knocked.
    My anecdote was not about silly girls, but neglected boys without an atlas to their name.

  34. I think the $48 included shipping to Norway.
    Those Burnham drawings were popular (i.e. they were copied a lot stylistically) when I was in architecture school, thirty years ago. They have a clarity that is seductive, but a. they’ve also got problems and b. these days with all the graphics applications that are available it’s much harder to impress people with beaux-arts renderings.
    The major influence on urban design when I was in school was a book of b&w figure-ground drawings of cities by Edmund Bacon, father (I think, father) of Kevin Bacon, the actor and inventor of the six-degrees of separation game.

  35. Crown, the WiPe article on Edmond Bacon contains a sentence whose meaning I had trouble puzzling out. I wonder how you read it. It is about a construction proposal of Bacon that met with so much local opposition that it had to be dropped:

    As an unintended consequence, the Crosstown Expressway proposal depressed property values and rents in the South Street corridor, leading to a turnover of the neighborhood’s character from largely Jewish-owned garment shops to the thriving bohemian commercial and nightlife center that it is today.

    To make sense out of this, I had to summon up all kinds of suppositions and half-familiarity-with-American-cities-in-flux. I think a Martian sociologist wouldn’t understand it, unless there is something “universal” going on here. My interpretative results:
    1) The Jewish-owned garment shops were high-tone
    2) When rents dropped, low-life business moved in (bars, strip clubs)
    3) Property values started falling
    4) Here, at the latest, the garment shop owners decided to up stakes
    5) Bohemian moved in on the heels of low-life
    6) You now go here for a lark, and uptown for a jet-trimmed evening dress

  36. *Edmund* Bacon

  37. Probably property values started falling before rents dropped, or simultaneously.
    Culture chasing lowlifes is a well-established tradition. Wherever there are loose women, there are lowlifes and there’s culture.

  38. Thanks, John! So there is after all a universal principle at work. But culture can also arise from the depths. It’s hard to tell which came first: the chick or the egg-head.

  39. I suddenly have the impression that at some point recently I wandered across the line separating worldly facetiousness from corny joke-making. I’m trying to find my way back home, but don’t wait up for me.

  40. I suspect because of its phrasing that sentence is far more interesting than the truth, Grumbly. I wouldn’t set too much store by what the architecture articles at Wikipedia say; they’re awful.
    Anyway, nobody wants to live next to an elevated highway. Post war, according to Robert Caro’s The Power Broker, a long but great book, they had the effect of cutting neighbourhoods in two and thereby destroying them (see Robert Moses’ Cross-Bronx Expressway). In my view, the middle class (Jewish-owned garment shops, in the Philadelphia case) would have left for the ‘burbs anyway, but without the freeway thing, possibly not with such devastating results as what happened in the S.Bronx.
    The idea that “bohemians will move in” and gentrify a derelict or manufacturing neighbourhood is based on what happened in SoHo, and then was subsequently engineered to happen in Tribeca, the East Village, Chelsea and parts of outer boroughs of NY.
    As far as I’m concerned, Bacon’s reputation is based on his figure-ground drawings in Design of Cities, which are an analytical tool, not on his expertise as a Philadelphia planner.

  41. David Marjanović says:

    Socialism has Cialis in it.
    (…That has profound philosophical implications.)
    Bondage is probably forbidden in itself, though.
    *Abschmeißen? You made that up, A. J. P. the Asterisked. The closest you can get is herunterschmeißen.

  42. I was following the Grumbly Rules of German.

  43. Rules are made to be weggeschmissen.

  44. Those Burnham drawings were popular (i.e. they were copied a lot stylistically) when I was in architecture school, thirty years ago. They have a clarity that is seductive, but a. they’ve also got problems and b. these days with all the graphics applications that are available it’s much harder to impress people with beaux-arts renderings.
    When I first saw them I was like “okay that’s nice, what’s next,” but the younger students were stopped dead in their tracks and were clearly having a religious experience, especially the smarter ones. Part of Burnham’s seductiveness is the way of drawing the images almost like you would draw biological specimens. I could point to one in the book that looks so much like an amoeba, but it’s a map. The city is perceived as a growing dynamic thing, which it is. I have seen some of the newer graphics they use with urban design, and I’m not impressed. It takes forever to puzzle out the green spaces and the interconnections. The sequel to Burnham, Metropolis 2020 reads like it was written by committee, and it was. (The online version is better.) Maybe that’s part of the reason that in those days they got stuff like the Wrigley Building and the Trib building, but these days all we get is the shiny cold aluminum sculpture of Millennium Park.

  45. When I first saw them I was like “okay that’s nice, what’s next,”
    Yes, me too.
    I have seen some of the newer graphics they use with urban design, and I’m not impressed.
    Leon Krier did some very clear aerial perspective drawings of city planning in the 1980s. He’s an architect, and architects are the only ones who make the nice, easy to understand drawings. Urban designers’ drawings are more diagrammatic and often use magic markers. Urban planners are the worst, they only draw pie charts and other diagrams and they only use magic markers.

  46. There’s also watercolors for the tree and transportation thingies in their street views, also the photo with the overlay, usually of sidewalks adjacent to the street and lots of New Urbanism marked pedestrian crosswalks, then there’s the 360 degree photograph, I think some suq in the emirates was done like that. It’s all about visualization.

  47. It’s the Public Administration students who make nothing but pie charts, and they use Excel.

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