Abridged

My blogging hour today, looked a bit like this below; a bridge over moisture and pebbles 🤷‍♀️It’s a fancy bridge though, diacritical marks, lines and everything. (I notice now, some leafy punctuation too)

Somewhere in a forest in Pennsylvania.

And then it increasingly began to look like this …

The three tiers of angels:
Stare at 26 letters on the keypad long enough to rediscover that there are
10 above, 9 next and 7 letters below. The top layer is most powerful I think, with four vowels and rhetoric. The lowest layer are like a proletariat of fallen angels, working hard at words but merely making it past Onomatopoeia, a term in fact allocated by the priests and gentry above in some peurile fashion of quantitative easing. I never understood that term but this could just be it. The middle layers appear to be grousing incessantly about the afflictions of privilege … ADD, ADHD, LSD or plainly SAD. The GIF are the fourth estate and emojis, a preconceived catechism. When I say 🤩 I see stars only after the emoji, thus with the three tiers of angels I suspect.

I love words, they can be so powerful when saying the right things; so gravelly when one has to eat them, so unfortunate too, when one tries to converse with a tone deaf animal, like supplications to a rattle snake for instance (I did that on one rare occasion a long while ago, it makes me cringe now and a reptile’s a reptile). It brings to mind a memory of when my driving instructor told me that I should never ever honk at a buffalo or a rickshaw (tuk tuk) as both would be unable to understand the language of the horn (I learnt to drive in India). Words are so beautiful when making a promise and heavenly when delivering on it, healing when in poems and mantras, trenchant in sarcasm, violent in battle cry, inspiring in revolutions, so important too for speaking long distance with family. Most of all, I love words in writing but sometimes, they seem very hard to string together…

Start writing...
The WordPress 
paragraph prompt 
is an overseer with a whip
and I feel like an excuse
of a bridge over waters 
troubled in stone, 
not exactly the Nile 
but crossing sentences 
across the shallows
is simply being cross at life 
And the words rasp 
at my throat,
circuit my lobes housed 
in a head, fancy that!
But inflections are a mere 
tingle in my fingertips.
This must be writer's bridge Ă—=====Ă—

The term ‘writer’s block’ feels like a dam against a conceit of deep waters, that could burst into a deluge or something along the lines of it. A ‘writer’s bridge’ in contrast feels like one must de-silt the river, create depth, more flow, to be a bridge that actually counts.

Dawn accreted glow 
like a need to walk 
out of a tangle 
of poetry in my head, 
to open fields someplace.
It must be the stars 
that rally us to 
experiential delights 
in thorny shrubs,
stinging wasps 
and atmosphere. 

It reminds me of Anne Sexton’s poem, ambition bird and her business of words …

The business of words keeps me awake.
I am drinking cocoa,
the warm brown mama.

I would like a simple life
yet all night I am laying
poems away in a long box.

It is my immortality box,
my lay-away plan,
my coffin.


Ambition Bird by Anne Sexton
Read more~https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/148744/the-ambition-bird-5c11322239c2b

It brings me to this wonderful transcript I read this morning, on a speech by Virginia Woolf, on words … In the link is an animation of a BBC radio broadcast she made on 29th of April 1937, they brought it down to two minutes and I enjoyed this immensely. It made my morning to listen to a person that I have come to love after engaging with poetry; it takes a certain maturity to warm up to Woolf, to see her brilliance with the very words she speaks of.

She says:

Words belong to each other, although, of course, only a great writer knows that the word “incarnadine” belongs to “multitudinous seas”. To combine new words with old words is fatal to the constitution of the sentence.

Further on:

...hence the unnatural violence of much modern speech; it is a protest against the puritans. They are highly democratic, too; they believe that one word is as good as another; uneducated words are as good as educated words, uncultivated words as cultivated words, there are no ranks or titles in their society.

Nor do they like being lifted out on the point of a pen and examined separately. They hang together, in sentences, in paragraphs, sometimes for whole pages at a time. They hate being useful; they hate making money; they hate being lectured about in public. In short, they hate anything that stamps them with one meaning or confines them to one attitude, for it is their nature to change.

Perhaps that is their most striking peculiarity – their need of change. It is because the truth they try to catch is many-sided, and they convey it by being themselves many-sided, flashing this way, then that. Thus they mean one thing to one person, another thing to another person; they are unintelligible to one generation, plain as a pikestaff to the next. And it is because of this complexity that they survive.

Finally:

Finally, and most emphatically, words, like ourselves, in order to live at their ease, need privacy. Undoubtedly they like us to think, and they like us to feel, before we use them; but they also like us to pause; to become unconscious. Our unconsciousness is their privacy; our darkness is their light… That pause was made, that veil of darkness was dropped, to tempt words to come together in one of those swift marriages which are perfect images and create everlasting beauty. But no – nothing of that sort is going to happen tonight. The little wretches are out of temper; disobliging; disobedient; dumb. What is it that they are muttering? “Time’s up! Silence!”

If not for this broadcast, I would have never known that ‘incarnadine’ is actually a colour and is defined as a bright crimson or pinkish-red colour. (And no, I did not study Macbeth at school)

'Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather the multitudinous seas incarnadine, making the green one red' Macbeth (Act II, Sc. II). 

Incarnadine brings to mind an image of the Red Canna by Georgia O’Keeffe, that I took at the library recently, which suggests, incarnadine should in fact be like the poetry of words, indefinable, not conscripted to one single shade and number in a paint catalogue. It manifests when one looks at the entire image, much like evolution I would like to believe, intricate fractals in the details. So it is with words perhaps, do they entropy towards the heat death of silence I wonder ? Some believe in Gods and deities, I believe in the colours of the red Canna today, the words of Virginia Woolf, the breath of fresh air and beauty in the infinite complexity of our universe. I think our lives are secreted within yet occluded by the literature of words in the science of being and as Woolf so elegantly observed: (at least about the English language, could apply to any other)

Our business is to see what we can do with the English language as it is. How can we combine the old words in new orders so that they survive, so that they create beauty, so that they tell the truth? That is the question.

And the person who could answer that question would deserve whatever crown of glory the world has to offer. Think what it would mean if you could teach, if you could learn, the art of writing. Why, every book, every newspaper would tell the truth, would create beauty. But there is, it would appear, some obstacle in the way, some hindrance to the teaching of words. For though at this moment at least 100 professors are lecturing upon the literature of the past, at least a thousand critics are reviewing the literature of the present, and hundreds upon hundreds of young men and women are passing examinations in English literature with the utmost credit, still – do we write better, do we read better than we read and wrote 400 years ago when we were unlectured, uncriticised, untaught? Is our Georgian literature a patch on the Elizabethan?

Where then are we to lay the blame? Not on our professors; not on our reviewers; not on our writers; but on words. It is words that are to blame. They are the wildest, freest, most irresponsible, most unteachable of all things. Of course, you can catch them and sort them and place them in alphabetical order in dictionaries. But words do not live in dictionaries; they live in the mind. If you want proof of this, consider how often in moments of emotion when we most need words we find none. Yet there is the dictionary; there at our disposal are some half-a-million words all in alphabetical order.

But can we use them? No, because words do not live in dictionaries, they live in the mind. 
Red Canna by Georgia O’Keeffe

References:

Anne Sexton poem~https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/148744/the-ambition-bird-5c11322239c2b

Virginia Woolf on words ~https://www.bbc.com/culture/article/20160324-the-only-surviving-recording-of-virginia-woolf

Pesto

And so I decided to make some Pesto. It is a paste of herbs that originated in Genoa in the Liguria region of Northern Italy. It is made by crushing garlic with basil leaves, pine nuts, blended with some olive oil, Parmesan or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (made from cow’s milk) and including Fiore Sardo, a cheese made from sheep’s milk [1] and the name originates from the Italian verb Pestare , which means “to pound”, “to crush” [2] I’ll never know if the ancient Romans made Pesto, but they certainly made a cheese, garlic and parsley paste called Moretum, which is mentioned in Virgil’s poem of the same name, although Moretum translates as ‘The Salad’ [3] This is a poem for Pesto, it’s not an epic like Virgil wrote in imitation of his teacher Parthenius, where he spoke of Symilus, the husbandman who scoured his kitchen and his garden plot to concoct a very garlicky spread for his unleavened corn bread, with the help of his African housekeeper, Scybale.  


I find Moretum interesting in that  it shows the ubiquity of herb pastes through the millennia and is an important poem since the unofficial motto of the USA, “E Pluribus Unum” (“from many, one”), finds it’s origins here. It is on the Great Seal of the United States, which was adopted in 1782 [4]  It was only in 1956 that the President approved a Joint Resolution of the 84th Congress declaring “In God We Trust” as the official national motto of the USA [5] Moretum in fact drew my attention with the mention of corn bread and an accompanying paste, so I took a closer look. 
In a blog maintained by  David Wilson-Okamura, he includes the poem [6] scanned from Joseph J. Mooney translation of “The Minor Poems of Vergil ” which notes that the Latin “Moretum,” which is usually translated salad, would be better called “cheese and garlic paste,” and that it seems to have been a somewhat attractive subject to ancient poets. I have added the notes for reference below. 


For his corn bread, Symilus bid his housekeeper Sybale lay some logs on the embers of an evening fire and boil some chilly water. Meanwhile, he has ground, twice eight pounds in weight of cornmeal which he proceeds to sieve onto a smooth board as he mixes the tepid water into it to knead a dough. Now the poem is quite simply the mundanity of waking up in the morning and making corn bread but this one was written in dactylic hexameter so it might have sounded nice in a classical tongue like Latin which took it’s cue from Homer’s, where a dactylic hexameter has six feet, each foot a dactyl, of a long and two short syllables. Here is a wonderfully short introduction to the rhythm of ancient Epic poetry [7] Symilus flattens the unleavened but salted bread into round cakes and places them on the hearth that has since been cleaned for him by Sybale. Virgil’s  measurements confound me. He used sixteen ancient pounds [8] of cornmeal for breakfast, that is 5.262 kg or 11.6 lb today [9] That’s too much of bread for breakfast, I’m sure he intended sharing it with his housekeeper but his mood that morning wasn’t particularly magnanimous as he was “solicitous about the coming day’s unpleasant emptiness “, so he was quite intent on feeding himself.


He needed something to go with his flat cakes and since he had no smoking meat hung above the hearth, nor salt cured backs and sides of bacon, except for some cheese hanging by a rope of broom and an ancient bundle of dill, he went out to his garden plot instead. There he finds himself amongst his cabbages, leafy beets, fruitful sorrel ( I should think this may have been green leafy Rumex or it may have been the fruit of the Roselle hibiscus that is great for a ruby red infusion), elecampane (like sunflower), mallows (Family – Malvaceae that consists of varieties of Hibiscus), parsnips, leeks, poppies, lettuce, radishes and big belly gourds. Some of these were not meant for the owner, but for sale at the market, from where he would return with his purse heavy but without any meat. He reflects on what he may use from the garden and his thoughts dwell over ruddy onions, leeks, acrid cress, endives, colewort (like Kale) which to Symilus, “recalls the lagging wish for sexual delights” when finally he digs from his garden everything he needs to make his Moretum. He digs up four bulbs of garlic, collects unspecified amounts of graceful foliage of parsley, stiffness causing rue (a bitter tasting edible plant that can be toxic), salt, cheese, coriander seeds, places them in his mortar “And with his left hand ‘neath his hairy groin’ supports his garment;” and he proceeds to grind it with his pestle. Out of many, comes a single colour that is not entirely green nor milky white, “color est e pluribus unus“, which except for one letter is the unofficial motto of the USA. Symilus also adds some olive oil and a scant amount of vinegar and grinds the paste to a ball. I can imagine him doing this because in my home state of Goa, the huge traditional floor mounted mortars and pestles also achieve a similar consistency of a ball, in the grinding of fresh coconut, plenty of chilli peppers and aromatic spices along with water. Thus Symilus, assailed by the vapour of garlic, curses his early meal while wiping the tears in his eyes from the smoke, and he heaps revulsion on that too as he rages. Finally “into one coherent ball doth bring the diff’rent portions, that it may the name and likeness of a finished salad fit ” he has his Moretum.

color est e pluribus unus
and out of many comes a single colour (from Virgil's Moretum)

"His hand in circles move:
Till by degrees they one by one do lose
Their proper powers, and out of many comes
A single colour, not entirely green
Because the milky fragments this forbid,
Nor showing white as from the milk because
That colour’s altered by so many herbs."

"It manus in gyrum:
dextera pistillo primum flagrantia mollit
alia, tum pariter mixto terit omnia suco.
It manus in gyrum: paulatim singula vires
deperdunt proprias; color est e pluribus unus,
nec totus viridis, quia lactea frusta repugnant,
nec de lacte nitens, quia tot variatur ab herbis."

I enjoyed working my way through Virgil’s poem and wished to dedicate my own to the making of Pesto. It has been written in the narrative technique of a stream of consciousness writing, a type where the thoughts and emotions of a narrator or character are written in a way that the reader can follow the mental state as an observer [10] It is a technique I discovered in the novel “To the Lighthouse ” by Virginia Woolf, (1927) [11]. This novel reads like a long prose poem and is genuinely a beautiful literary work. In it, there’s a fictional character called Lily Briscoe, a painter who represents the artist that Woolf considers ideal; in that she melds the rationality of the masculine with the sympathy of the feminine. The book explores a household through the eyes of this Lily Briscoe, who struggles with articulating these gendered dimensions in her painting, all the while as the author herself paints the most vivid and compelling portrait of each and every one of her characters. It inspired me to write the poem to Pesto using this Woolfian stream of consciousness technique. Enjoy the poem and the recipe therein. 

Pesto ~ davina e. solomon

There was basil aging by the kitchen window, threatening to flower and garlic was mutinying encased in nibbi* , shooting snubs at complacent onions. It's beautiful, she thought, hardly still life in a basket. What would a painter make of it ? Would his eyes glisten at the tint of emerald, as she laid out a bed of fragrant leaves, some of those pungent cloves ... Would he squeeze his brush as the juice flowed from a sunny lemon, down her wrist  and the olive oil that was thick like a moment in a dream, as they reached out to the mortar. She counted out a handful of almonds, substituted them for pine nuts. Aren't recipes like poems written for women by women, merely substitutions in a culinary science ? In the test kitchen of man, his skill would be abundant as his oils would drop almonds onto a table, pleated only in paint. Her hair she bundles up, dark as Algorab, grinding crystals of a salty constellation into this mixture that now gleams in the viridian of summer. She feels his hand on the gesso, laying the flush on her cheek, the wisps of hair stilled on canvas, for how can he capture her fluster as she grinds a fine pesto. She glances at her virridescent poem that fades in specks of cheese, like a palette she never thought she had. Would she make a poet of him as she escapes his canvas to the aurora in her own?
A recipe for Moretum from Virgil's Moretum

He then the garden entered, first when there
With fingers having lightly dug the earth
Away, he garlic roots with fibres thick,
And four of them doth pull; he after that
Desires the parsley's graceful foliage,
And stiffness-causing rue,' and, trembling on
Their slender thread, the coriander seeds,
And when he has collected these he comes
And sits him down beside the cheerful fire
And loudly for the mortar asks his wench.
Then singly each o' th' garlic heads be strips
From knotty body, and of outer coats
Deprives them, these rejected doth he throw
Away and strews at random on the ground.
The bulb preserved from th' plant in water doth
He rinse, and throw it into th' hollow stone.
On these he sprinkles grains of salt, and cheese
Is added, hard from taking up the salt.
Th' aforesaid herbs he now doth introduce
And with his left hand 'neath his hairy groin
Supports his garment;' with his right he first
The reeking garlic with the pestle breaks,
Then everything he equally doth rub
I' th' mingled juice. His hand in circles move:
Till by degrees they one by one do lose
Their proper powers, and out of many comes
A single colour, not entirely green
Because the milky fragments this forbid,
Nor showing white as from the milk because
That colour's altered by so many herbs.
The vapour keen doth oft assail the man's
Uncovered nostrils, and with face and nose
Retracted doth he curse his early meal;
With back of hand his weeping eyes he oft
Doth wipe, and raging, heaps reviling on
The undeserving smoke. The work advanced:
No longer full of jottings as before,
But steadily the pestle circles smooth
Described. Some drops of olive oil he now
Instils, and pours upon its strength besides
A little of his scanty vinegar,
And mixes once again his handiwork,
And mixed withdraws it: then with fingers twain
Round all the mortar doth he go at last
And into one coherent ball doth bring
The diff'rent portions, that it may the name
And likeness of a finished salad fit.

Notes:

*Nibbi ~  Nibbi is from Heteropsis flexuosa (Araceae). The aerial roots of Heteropsis flexuosa are harvested by indigenous communities in South America for a developing wicker furniture

MoretumThe Latin “moretum,” which is usually translated salad, would be better called “cheese and garlic paste.” It seems to have been a somewhat attractive subject to ancient poets. A poem with this title was written by one “Sveius,” and a few lines of it are quoted by Macrobius (iii, 18). Parthenius, who was Vergil’s instructor in Greek (Macrobius, “Saturnalia,” v, 17), wrote on this subject, and in the Ambrosian MS. of Vergil there is a marginal note saying that Vergil’s poem was an imitation or translation of that of his teacher. Various late grammarians mention lines 41 and 42 as from a poem by Vergil, and Mico Levita (825-853 A.D.), who wrote a work on Latin prosody, quotes line 48 as from a work of Vergil ~ Scanned from Joseph J. Mooney (tr.), The Minor Poems of Vergil: Comprising the Culex, Dirae, Lydia, Moretum, Copa, Priapeia, and Catalepton (Birmingham: Cornish Brothers, 1916).

References:

[1]~https://splendidrecipesandmore.com/2015/03/11/the-history-of-pesto-sauce/

[2]~https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pesto

[3]~http://virgil.org/appendix/moretum.htm

[4]~https://origins.osu.edu/history-news/god-we-trust-or-e-pluribus-unum-american-founders-preferred-latter-motto

[5]~https://statesymbolsusa.org/symbol-or-officially-designated-item/state-motto/god-we-trust

[6]~http://virgil.org/appendix/moretum.htm

[7]~http://brochaz.com/documents/Scansion_000.pdf

[8]~https://www.unrv.com/culture/roman-weights-measures.php

[9]~https://www.convert-me.com/en/convert/history_weight/rlibra.html?u=rlibra&v=16

[10]~https://www.masterclass.com/articles/writing-101-what-is-stream-of-consciousness-writing-learn-about-stream-of-consciousness-in-literature-with-examples#:~:text=Stream%20of%20consciousness%20writing%20refers,mental%20state%20of%20these%20characters.

[11]~https://opentextbc.ca/englishliterature/wp-content/uploads/sites/27/2014/10/To-the-Lighthouse-Etext-Edited.pdf

A Room with a View

A room with a view

Does the bird know to build a nest in blossoms? I found this on my walk days earlier and it struck me as Virginia Woolf’s, ‘A room of one’s own’, but this isn’t a study; it is actually a boudoir turned bedroom, refurbished to turn into a nursery. Those birds will get creative in there. As an aside, who is to confirm that it takes wealth to scout the best view? I wondered about the title of this poem and wrote one initially, in line with it being ‘A room of one’s own’ and then changed it subsequently into ‘A room with a view’ as I spent unearthly hours before dawn reading Woolf’s classic essay.

If the criticism of Woolf’s essay by Alice Walker [1] is anything to go by, one would imagine that it takes privilege and a safe space to be a writer while she juxtaposed it against the exclusions suffered by women of colour. I find, upon closer scrutiny that Woolf and Walker are on the same page when identifying what it actually takes to be the sort of writer, they imagine a woman writer should be, in chapter four [2] of the book where Woolf quotes

“Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt, that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.”

Chapter four, A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
Blossom 
says the wind
and exclamations of winter gather into
a nesting soliloquy.
The sky drapes a curtain
of night
and I can hear
the murmurs of dreams.
Star spangled banners
are the cape
of nationhood but here,
whispers soar on wings
of moonshine
and sleepy buds will blush at an intoxicating dawn.
A room with a view
is no basis for spring
yet on the seventh day
it rained blossoms,
a wondrous thing.

I enjoyed Woolf’s essay and many of the aspects colour timbre in the contemporary even if some of her illustrations are of literary figures from over 400 years. Her flow of thought is as rambunctious as the confluence of rivers and yet, still, soothing like a placid lake. Needless to say, my early morning view was tinted in metaphor and the poem came out the way it did, for if I were to quote Woolf further, in chapter five, she so eloquently suggests the balance of interrelated yet opposing principles even if she genders them.

…it is fatal for anyone who writes to think of their sex. It is fatal to be a man or woman pure and simple; one must be woman-manly or man-womanly…And fatal is no figure of speech; for anything written with that conscious bias is doomed to death. It ceases to be fertilized. Brilliant and effective, powerful and masterly, as it may appear for a day or two, it must wither at nightfall; it cannot grow in the minds of others. Some collaboration has to take place in the mind between the woman and the man before the art of creation can be accomplished. Some marriage of opposites has to be consummated. The whole of the mind must lie wide open if we are to get the sense that the writer is communicating his experience with perfect fullness. There must be freedom and there must be peace. Not a wheel must grate, not a light glimmer. The curtains must be close drawn. The writer, I thought, once his experience is over, must lie back and let his mind celebrate its nuptials in darkness. He must not look or question what is being done. Rather, he must pluck the petals from a rose or watch the swans float calmly down the river.

Chapter five, A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

I had so much to learn from this essay, not least, the brilliance of a mind unencumbered by the straitjacket of her times, even as much as she paints it into picture and despises it, she does not shy away from naming it. Her peroration was perhaps even more inspiring in that, it will find a place to nest in any human heart that seeks to capture life in writing, despite the prison house of language, despite the schooling of thought, in spite of the ambitious desire for audience and the inordinate thirst for a purposeful relevance.

“When I rummage in my own mind I find no noble sentiments about being companions and equals and influencing the world to higher ends. I find myself saying briefly and prosaically that it is much more important to be oneself than anything else. Do not dream of influencing other people, I would say, if I knew how to make it sound exalted. Think of things in themselves”.

Concluding remarks, A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

Notes:

[1]Alice Walker on Woolf’s Essay ~https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Room_of_One%27s_Own (retrieved on 23/apr/2021)

[2]A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf (This essay is based upon two papers read to the Arts Society at Newnharn and the Odtaa at Girton in October 1928. The papers were too long to be read in full, and have since been altered and expanded) ~http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks02/0200791h.html (retrieved on 23/apr/2021)