On September 18th, Domenica Press, our start-up
publishing company, held a book launching party for our first
publication Shots from a Passing Car:
Poetry for other people…not just other poets.
This was Ron Vazzano’s first published
collection of poetry. (Bio). The
event was held at the Verve Art Gallery on LaBrea Boulevard
in Los Angeles, and was attended by 85 poetry lovers, friends
and well-wishers. Ron was at the podium for almost 45 minutes
talking about the genesis of his company and first book, and
read several selections from his collection. He was accompanied
on three of his poems by cellist Sarah O’Brien
who composed two original pieces for the reading. (www.sarah-obrien.com).
A good time was had by all. There is a video of the evening
to prove it.
The subtitle of the above publication Poetry
for other people…not just other poets,
is a reflection of Ron’s belief, and that of many “other
people” (particularly Americans), that poetry tends
to be an elitist art; a niche form of writing that often goes
beyond the comprehension of the masses. And perhaps worse
yet, that in this visual hyper-kinetic culture we live in,
it lacks any entertainment value. Horrors! But assuredly,
this wasn’t always the case.
Once upon a time in America, poetry was not only opium for
the masses, but some poets were akin to being, the rock stars
of their day. One such poet? Edna St. Vincent Millay.
(Voila! A rhyme). Perhaps no poet is more “famous”
for a single quatrain than she:
||My candle burns at
It will not last the night;
But ah my foes, and oh, my friends?
It gives a lovely light!
Also few people’s lives could be summed up as aptly
in one quatrain, as hers. She led a highly spirited and sexually
active life that indeed did burn the candle at both ends.
In ways, both literal and metaphoric. She also dispels another
commonly held perception of poets: that they are a rather
“geeky” and unattractive lot. She was a “hot”
to use the vernacular of today; desired and seduced by both
sexes. Outrageous stuff for 1912! For a more recent “pop”
reference point, think perhaps Madonna?
Two books about her life that we have recently read, are
highly recommended: The Savage Beauty: The Life
of Edna St. Vincent Millay (Thorndike Press
2002) by Nancy Milford and What Lips My Lips Have
Kissed: The Loves And Love Poems Of Edna St. Vincent Millay
(Henry Holt and Company 2001) by Daniel Mark Epstein. The
former is a biography in the more traditional sense of the
genre, a chronological marking of a life; the latter as the
title might suggest, focuses on the passions of her life and
the poetry that it spawned.
Speaking of “hot”, one who has undeservedly been
saddled with that translation to the detriment of recognizing
her far greater impact on Christianity, is Mary Magdalen.
Making this case in the most scholarly fashion is Susan Haskins
wonderful book Mary Magdalen: Myth and Metaphor
(Riverhead Books 1993).
Talk about repressive societies against woman’s rights?
Back in Mary’s time, to quote Ms. Haskins:
woman apparently wears her hair loose is another sign
of her fallen status, as only prostitutes wore their hair
thus is public…a good Jewess allowed none but her
spouse to see her hair unbound, and by loosening it in
public, she gave grounds for mandatory divorce.”
Although on second thought, a pretty easy way for a woman
to get out of a bad marriage we would suppose. But all felicitousness
aside, equally startling, is to think that here we are in
the 21st century, and some cultures and societies are still
requiring their women to cover their faces while out in public.
Ms. Haskins’ book offers this conclusive perspective:
Mary Magdalen has much to offer when freed from the restrictions
which gender bias has imposed upon her. Symbolism has
done her an injustice; modern scholarship has made restitution
possible. If there is still need for symbolism, would
not the true Mary Magdalen, the disciple of the cross
and herald of the New Life, no less beautiful than her
mythical persona, and far more edifying as a figure of
independence, courage, action, faith and love, serve women
better as a symbol for today.”
And in our opinion, Mary Magdalen— right there, is
reason enough for the Catholic Church to remove its stultifying
ban disallowing women to join the priesthood. She is no mere
footnote in the development of Christianity, but a productive
member of Christ’s initial group of followers. She was
an “apostle” in every sense of that word. Amen!
With the passing of Richard Avedon at 81
this past week, an artist of great magnitude was lost. We
could not help but recall the evening we met him about ten
years ago, at a book launching party for his fabulous pictorial
tome: An Autobiography Richard Avedon
(Random House 1993).
We had slipped him a poem that night, we had written (“While
Jack As Ever” page 106 in Shots from a Passing Car),
that was inspired by a photo essay he had done of the surviving
members of the Kennedy Era for The New Yorker. He
seemed genuinely thrilled to be so honored by us in this small
His portrait work in particular was stunning in its ability
to totally unmask its subject; often showing them in their
most unflattering selves. So stark are his portraits, that
at first glance, the individuals— though often world
icons—are often barely recognizable. He was almost an
assassin with his camera, at such times.
Whenever great artists pass away, it is usually said that
they will be missed. But in a larger sense, that is not true.
Because unlike most of us, they leave such a rich body of
work behind, that they in effect, remain with us forever.
And really, it is only through their work, that most of us
ever knew them in the first place. Except that in the case
of Mr. Avedon, we were able to see him react for a moment
like a schoolboy, as he gleefully tucked the poem away in
his jacket pocket, for reading at some time after the party’s
If you are in New York or plan to be there soon, there is
a fabulous theater company (Atlantic Theater Company 336 West
20th St), doing a couple of Eugene Ionesco
revivals that are worth seeing. We caught his one act plays
The Bald Soprano and The
Lesson, a couple of week ago.
Why Ionesco’s work has been missing from the scene
for some time now, is totally lost on us. This “absurdist”
playwright, who died in 1994 at age 82, is right up there
with Beckett in stature as far as we are concerned. We had
last seen “The Bald Soprano” in the early 70’s
and can state unequivocally, that 30 years later, it is as
biting and relevant as it has ever been. The ringing “doorbell
scene” alone is worth the price of admission as it challenges
the whole process of what we consider “logical thinking”.
This is by the way, a new translation by Tina Howe.
“The Lesson” is more “penetrating”
in more ways than one. While also highly satirical, it is
much “heavier” in a sense. Having read it about
three decades ago as well, it too has not diminished in any
way. Really, don’t miss these.
Arthur Miller is back with a brand new play!
His Finishing The Picture will
have its world premiere at the Goodman Theater in Chicago
on October 5th. It is alleged to be even more autobiographical
concerning his relationship to Marilyn Monroe, than the highly
praised and equally vilified, “After The Fall”.
That play was originally produced in 1964 just two years after
Marilyn’s untimely death. And a recent Broadway revival
This always raises the question: are people’s personal
lives— without their consent— ever fodder for
the artistic expression and revelation of others?
While addressing this question in any depth is certainly
beyond the scope of a newsletter, we will make this one observation:
that time is the key element to the answer.
We hardly suspect that there will be much outcry for Mr.
Miller’s latest play regardless of how close it hits
home regarding Marilyn’s alleged proclivity for popping
pills. She’s been gone now over 42 years. That and the
fact that Mr. Miller, now in his 90’s, gets the free
pass that age, survival and the passing of time seems to issue.
Please feel free to offer your input and comments to this
newsletter and in fact to any anything appearing on our website.
And be sure to come back to check out our November newsletter
which will be up exactly on November 1st. Promise.