This Day In Literary History
On January 24th, 1862, the legendary American writer Edith Wharton was born. She was born Edith Jones in New York City. The famous saying "Keeping up with the Joneses" is said to refer to her father's family.
The Joneses were indeed an upwardly mobile aristocratic family - the kind of people Edith Wharton would skewer in her writings. In 1885, the 23-year-old Edith married Edward "Teddy" Robbins Wharton, who was 12 years her senior.
Teddy also came from an aristocratic family, one of Boston's most respected, but he wasn't an intellectual like Edith - he was a sportsman. He did, however, share her love of traveling.
Teddy Wharton suffered from acute depression - recurring brief episodes of severe depression. Over time, the episodes would grow worse, ultimately manifesting as a serious mental illness. By 1908, he would be pronounced incurable and committed.
Later that year, Edith moved to Paris, France, where she met and fell in love with Morton Fullerton, an American journalist who was working as a correspondent for the London Times.
In Fullerton, Edith found a soul mate and intellectual equivalent. They were introduced by a mutual friend - the legendary writer Henry James. Edith Wharton's first novel, The Touchstone, was published in 1900.
Her fourth novel, published in 1905, would make her name as a writer and be considered a classic. Though it was called The House of Mirth, it was no comedy. Rather, it presented a stark and scathing indictment of the fate of women in the aristocracy of early 20th century New York City.
The tragic heroine, Lily Bart, realizes that like all women of her class, she was "brought up to be ornamental" - a trophy wife for a wealthy upperclassman. But what she wants is love and a relationship based on mutual respect.
Lily's naivete results in her ruin by both vicious, scheming society women and her refusal to stoop to their level to take revenge and restore her reputation, which was tarnished when the women falsely implicated her in scandalous behavior.
Lily ultimately dies from a possibly intentional overdose of chloral hydrate, a sedative which she had become addicted to. Another one of Edith Wharton's classic novels was her novella Ethan Frome (1911).
Unlike her previous writings which depicted the misery of upper class social mores, this novella dealt with working class life and its own miserable mores. The title character is a good man from rural Massachusetts whose marriage to his bitter, sickly wife Zeena has grown colder than the New England winter landscape.
Zeena's cousin Mattie has come to help keep house and take care of Zeena. Mattie and Ethan soon develop strong feelings for each other, which they struggle to repress. Zeena suspects that the two are falling in love and seethes with anger.
When the family cat breaks Zeena's favorite pickle dish, she blames Mattie and decides to get rid of her on the pretense of needing a more competent housekeeper. Ethan plans to run away with Mattie, but guilt forces him to reconsider.
They decide to go sledding, and Mattie proposes a double suicide pact. They plan to crash their sled into a tree at full speed. At the last moment, Ethan panics and turns away.
He and Mattie survive the crash but are left crippled. The novel ends with Zeena, who recovered from her illness, forced to take care of her husband and Mattie, who is now the bitter and sickly one.
In 1920, Edith Wharton published the novel that made her the first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize. The Age Of Innocence, a tale of upper class life in late 19th century New York City.
The novel opens with lawyer and respected gentleman Newland Archer happily anticipating his upcoming marriage to May Welland, a beautiful, pampered fellow aristocrat. Archer's outlook is changed completely when May's exotic cousin, Countess Ellen Olenska, arrives for a visit.
Trapped in a rotten marriage to a Polish count, Ellen left him, scandalizing herself and her family in the process. What's worse, she plans to divorce him. Archer is horrified and has second thoughts about marrying May.
When a law partner of Archer's asks him to convince Ellen to return to husband to save May's family's reputation, he comes to understand, care about, and ultimately fall in love with Ellen. Ellen reciprocates his affection, but won't consummate the relationship because she doesn't want to hurt her cousin.
Archer marries May, but it's a loveless marriage, as he can't forget Ellen, who decided to remain separated from her husband but not divorced from him. Desperate to escape his unhappy life, Archer takes Ellen as his mistress.
Later, Archer plans to leave May, but before he can tell her, she tells him that she's pregnant. Suspecting the affair, she deliberately got pregnant to trap her husband. With no way out, Archer is forced to give up his true love and remain in a loveless marriage for the rest of his life.
In addition to her novels, Edith Wharton published collections of short stories, poetry, and non-fiction. She was living in France when World War I broke out in 1914; thanks to her connections in the French government, she was allowed to travel to the front lines.
She wrote a series of articles about France's war effort that would be published as Fighting France: From Dunkerque to Belfort. During the war, she worked tirelessly to help homeless Belgian refugees.
Edith also found work for unemployed Frenchwomen, promoted concerts to provide work for musicians, and opened tuberculosis hospitals. She edited The Book of the Homeless, a collection of manuscripts, art, musical scores, and erotica by artists left homeless by the war.
For her war efforts, Edith would be named a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor. After the war ended, she bought a villa in Provence. She would divide her time between Paris and Provence, writing and traveling. Her literary circle included her old friend Henry James and new friends Sinclair Lewis, Jean Cocteau, and Andre Gide.
Edith Wharton died of a stroke in August of 1937. She was 75 years old.
Quote Of The Day
"In spite of illness, in spite even of the arch-enemy sorrow, one can remain alive past the usual date of disintegration if one is unafraid of change, insatiable in intellectual curiosity, interested in big things, and happy in small ways." - Edith Wharton
Today's video features a complete reading of Edith Wharton's classic novella, Ethan Frome. Enjoy!
Tuesday, January 24, 2017
Monday, January 23, 2017
Theresa A. Cancro
One haiku included in Three Line Poetry, Issue #41. Joanna Weston is also there.
The Fall 2016 issue of Modern Haiku (47.3) was reviewed by Anne Graue in NewPages, an online literary site. I was quite pleasantly surprised to learn that my haiku which appeared in this issue received a favorable mention within the review.
It was an awesome birthday present yesterday to receive notice of acceptance of my flash fiction "The Right Fit" for publication in the Summer 2017 issue of Breath and Shadow.
Thank you to the Practice List for your feedback on this piece. Participation in the IWW has definitely honed my skill and increased my confidence. And the journey continues.
“Magic,” a humorous essay about my lack of skill with home repairs is up at The Short Humour Site.
Friday, January 20, 2017
This Day In Literary History
On January 20th, 1961, the legendary American poet Robert Frost read a poem at the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy.
Frost had written a poem called Dedication especially for this event. He had typed up a clean copy on his typewriter, but the ribbon was almost out of ink.
With the glare of sunlight on the January snow reflected in his eyes, the 87-year-old Frost had trouble reading his faded text and started to stumble over the words.
Frustrated, he gave up and recited another poem, one he remembered by heart. The poem was called The Gift Outright:
The land was ours before we were the land's.
She was our land more than a hundred years
Before we were her people. She was ours
In Massachusetts, in Virginia.
But we were England's, still colonials,
Possessing what we still were unpossessed by,
Possessed by what we now no more possessed.
Something we were withholding made us weak.
Until we found out that it was ourselves
We were withholding from our land of living,
And forthwith found salvation in surrender.
Such as we were we gave ourselves outright
(The deed of gift was many deeds of war)
To the land vaguely realizing westward,
But still unstoried, artless, unenhanced,
Such as she was, such as she would become.
Frost recited the poem perfectly in a commanding voice. The JFK Library later received his original handwritten manuscript of Dedication, the poem he'd planned to read at the inauguration. Here is the text of that poem:
Summoning artists to participate
In the august occasions of the state
Seems something artists ought to celebrate.
Today is for my cause a day of days.
And his be poetry's old-fashioned praise
Who was the first to think of such a thing.
This verse that in acknowledgement I bring
Goes back to the beginning of the end
Of what had been for centuries the trend;
A turning point in modern history.
Colonial had been the thing to be
As long as the great issue was to see
What country'd be the one to dominate
By character, by tongue, by native trait,
The new world Christopher Columbus found.
The French, the Spanish, and the Dutch were downed
And counted out. Heroic deeds were done.
Elizabeth the First and England won.
Now came on a new order of the ages
That in the Latin of our founding sages
(Is it not written on the dollar bill
We carry in our purse and pocket still?)
God nodded his approval of as good.
So much those heroes knew and understood,
I mean the great four, Washington,
John Adams, Jefferson, and Madison
So much they saw as consecrated seers
They must have seen ahead what not appears,
They would bring empires down about our ears
And by the example of our Declaration
Make everybody want to be a nation.
And this is no aristocratic joke
At the expense of negligible folk.
We see how seriously the races swarm
In their attempts at sovereignty and form.
They are our wards we think to some extent
For the time being and with their consent,
To teach them how Democracy is meant.
"New order of the ages" did they say?
If it looks none too orderly today,
'Tis a confusion it was ours to start
So in it have to take courageous part.
No one of honest feeling would approve
A ruler who pretended not to love
A turbulence he had the better of.
Everyone knows the glory of the twain
Who gave America the aeroplane
To ride the whirlwind and the hurricane.
Some poor fool has been saying in his heart
Glory is out of date in life and art.
Our venture in revolution and outlawry
Has justified itself in freedom's story
Right down to now in glory upon glory.
Come fresh from an election like the last,
The greatest vote a people ever cast,
So close yet sure to be abided by,
It is no miracle our mood is high.
Courage is in the air in bracing whiffs
Better than all the stalemate an's and ifs.
There was the book of profile tales declaring
For the emboldened politicians daring
To break with followers when in the wrong,
A healthy independence of the throng,
A democratic form of right devine
To rule first answerable to high design.
There is a call to life a little sterner,
And braver for the earner, learner, yearner.
Less criticism of the field and court
And more preoccupation with the sport.
It makes the prophet in us all presage
The glory of a next Augustan age
Of a power leading from its strength and pride,
Of young amibition eager to be tried,
Firm in our free beliefs without dismay,
In any game the nations want to play.
A golden age of poetry and power
Of which this noonday's the beginning hour.
Robert Frost died of complications following prostate surgery on January 29th, 1963 - nearly two years to the day that he performed at the Kennedy inauguration.
Later that year, on November 22nd, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
Quote Of The Day
"A poem begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness." - Robert Frost
Today's video features footage of John F. Kennedy's Presidential inauguration day ceremonies. Enjoy!
Thursday, January 19, 2017
This Day In Literary History
On January 19th, 1809, the legendary American writer Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston, Massachusetts. His parents, Henry Leonard Poe and Elizabeth Arnold Hopkins Poe, were both actors.
At the time of his birth, they were in a production of Shakespeare's King Lear, and Edgar may have been named after the character in the play.
When Edgar was a year old, his father abandoned the family. A year later, his mother died of tuberculosis. He was adopted by Scottish merchant John Allan, who changed his name to Edgar Allan Poe and had him baptized in the Episcopal Church.
As a parent, John Allan proved to be a man of extremes; he was both an incredibly doting father and a ferociously strict and aggressive disciplinarian. In 1815, the Allans sailed to England.
At six, Poe briefly attended a grammar school in his adoptive father's hometown of Irvine, Scotland. By 1816, he rejoined his family in London, where he attended a boarding school in Chelsea until 1817.
By 1820, Poe and his family had moved back to the United States, settling in Richmond, Virginia. In 1824, Poe, then fifteen years old, served as a lieutenant in the Richmond youth honor guard during the celebrated visit of the Marquis de Lafayette.
Two years later, Poe enrolled at the University of Virginia, where he majored in languages. The university had been founded just a year earlier by Thomas Jefferson.
The experimental college had strict rules against such things as tobacco, alcohol, and gambling, yet it also employed an honor system of student self-government.
Poe found the system chaotic and dysfunctional, adding to the stress he was already under. His engagement to his childhood sweetheart Sarah Elmira Royster had been broken off, and he became estranged from his father after his gambling debts cut into his college finances.
A year later, still struggling to pay for his education and unhappy with the honor system, he left university. After he learned that Sarah had married another man, Poe believed there was nothing left for him in Richmond.
So, in 1827, he moved to Boston, where he worked as a clerk and a newspaper writer. He began writing poetry and fiction under the pseudonym Henri Le Rennet.
In May of 1827, unable to support himself, Poe enlisted as a private in the U.S. Army, using the alias Edgar A. Perry. He claimed he was 22 years old, though he was really 18. He was stationed at Fort Independence in Boston Harbor and earned $5 a month.
That same year, his first book was published. It was a poetry collection titled Tamerlane and Other Poems. The byline read "by a Bostonian." Only 50 copies of the book were printed, and it went practically unnoticed.
Poe's regiment was posted to Fort Moultrie in Charleston, South Carolina, where he won a promotion and his monthly pay was doubled. After serving for two years, he was promoted to Sergeant Major for Artillery.
Then he decided that he wanted to end his five-year enlistment early and enter the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He revealed his real name and age to his commanding officer, Lieutenant Howard.
Howard would only discharge him if he agreed to reconcile with his adoptive father, John Allan. He wrote to John repeatedly, but received no reply. When he visited him in February of 1829, Poe found that his father hadn't even bothered to tell him that his mother had died.
Despite this, Poe and his father did reconcile, and John Allan supported his decision to leave the Army. Before entering West Point, Poe moved to Baltimore to stay with his widowed aunt Maria, her daughter Virginia, his brother Henry, and his grandmother, Elizabeth Cairnes Poe.
His second poetry collection, Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems was published. In October of 1830, Poe's father remarried. Poe disapproved of both the marriage and the illegitimate children sired as the result of John Allan's philandering.
This led to bitter quarrels between the two men, and Poe's father disowned him. Poe left West Point by deliberately getting himself court martialed. In February of 1831, he moved to New York City.
There, he released his third poetry collection, Poems. The book was financed in part by Poe's fellow West Point cadets, who loved the satirical poems he wrote that made fun of their commanding officers.
In Poe's third book, his long poems Tamerlane and Al Aaraaf were included again. The book also featured early versions of To Helen, Israfel, and The City In The Sea.
A month after he arrived in New York, Poe returned to Baltimore to stay with his aunt, cousin, and brother. His older brother Henry died five months later from complications due to alcoholism. Afterward, Poe decided to try and make a living as a writer.
Unfortunately, copyright laws were practically nonexistent in the early 19th century, and pirated editions of literary works were common. Undaunted, Poe put his poetry on the back burner and turned to prose. He sold a few short stories and began work on his only play, Politian.
In 1833, Poe's short story MS. Found In A Bottle won him a prize from the Baltimore Saturday Visiter. It also brought him to the attention of John P. Kennedy, a novelist and prominent Baltimorian.
Kennedy helped him sell some more stories and land a job as assistant editor of the Southern Literary Messenger in Richmond in August of 1835. He was fired a few weeks later for being drunk on the job.
Poe returned to Baltimore, where he secretly married his 13-year-old cousin, Virginia. After he promised to behave, Poe was reinstated at the Messenger. He and Virginia and her mother moved to Richmond. Poe and Virginia later had a second, public wedding ceremony.
By 1838, Poe's only complete novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, was published. It was widely reviewed and praised. In the summer of 1839, Poe became the assistant editor of Burton's Gentleman's Magazine.
There, he published numerous short stories, reviews, and articles, building his reputation as both a writer and a critic. That same year, his classic short story collection, Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque, was published in two volumes.
Regarded today as one of the all time great works of American literature, the collection received mixed reviews and he made little money from it. In 1840, Poe became assistant editor of Graham's Magazine.
He made plans to start his own literary magazine, The Stylus, but his plans fell through. Two years later, his wife Virginia was stricken with tuberculosis. As her illness worsened, he began drinking heavily.
He left Graham's and returned to New York, where he worked for the Evening Mirror, which would publish his celebrated poem, The Raven, in January of 1845.
Poe was paid only $9 for it, but the poem became a huge hit and made him a household name. Children would follow him as he walked down the street, and he would caw "Nevermore!" at them. They would scream and pretend to run away, then laugh and follow him until he cawed "Nevermore!" at them again.
Poe later become editor and then owner of The Broadway Journal. Still drinking, Poe would alienate himself from his fellow writers when he publicly accused poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow of plagiarism. Longfellow never responded to the charge.
After The Broadway Journal failed, Poe moved into a cottage in The Bronx, which is known today as Poe Cottage. Not long after he moved in, his wife Virginia died of tuberculosis. Poe was devastated and plunged into a quagmire of alcoholism and mental illness.
Later, he dated poet Sarah Helen Whitman, who lived in Providence, Rhode Island. Their engagement was called off as a result of Poe's drinking, his mental instability, and the interference of Sarah's mother, who did all she could to sabotage the relationship.
Poe returned to Richmond and resumed his relationship with his childhood sweetheart, Sarah Elmira Royster. He returned to Baltimore, then mysteriously disappeared. On October 3rd, 1849, he was found wandering the streets of Baltimore by a man named Joseph W. Walker.
Severely ill, incoherent, and wearing someone else's clothes, Edgar Allan Poe was taken to Washington College Hospital, where he died four days later at the age of 40. His death certificate and medical records were lost, so the actual cause of his death remains a mystery.
Newspapers reported that he died of "congestion of the brain" or "cerebral inflammation," which were common euphemisms used when a person died of illicit causes such as alcoholism, drug addiction, or venereal disease.
Before his disappearance, Poe had given a manuscript to a friend of his. It was something he'd written a while back, a poem he described as "a little trifle that may be worth something to you." It was the manuscript for his last great poem, Annabel Lee, which would be published two days after he died.
Rufus Griswold, an enemy of Poe's, somehow became his literary executor. He wrote a biography of Poe called Memoir of the Author, where he described Poe as a depraved madman addled by drink and drugs.
Most of Griswold's claims were lies or half-truths; for example, although Poe was an opium user and wrote about it, he was a casual user and never became addicted to the drug.
Griswold's biography was virulently denounced by those who knew Edgar Allan Poe. The letters that Griswold presented as proof of his claims were later revealed to be forgeries.
Edgar Allan Poe's writings, especially his classic horror stories such as The Tell-Tale Heart, The Black Cat, The Cask Of Amontillado, and The Fall of the House of Usher continue to inspire new generations of writers.
Quote Of The Day
"Words have no power to impress the mind without the exquisite horror of their reality." - Edgar Allan Poe
Today's video features a complete reading of Edgar Allan Poe's classic short story, The Fall of the House of Usher. Enjoy!
Wednesday, January 18, 2017
This Day In Literary History
On January 18th, 1867, the legendary Nicaraguan poet Rubén Darío was born. He was born Félix Rubén García Sarmiento in Metapa, Nicaragua. Shortly after his birth, his parents' rocky marriage fell apart. His father was a hopeless alcoholic.
Rubén's mother moved to Honduras to live with her new boyfriend, leaving him to be raised by her aunt and uncle in Leon. Rubén considered his Uncle Felix and Aunt Bernarda his real parents and never had any use for his birth parents.
A child prodigy, Rubén Darío learned to read when he was three years old, and begin writing poetry not long afterward. At the age of twelve, his first published poem appeared in a local newspaper.
Within a year, his work was appearing regularly in El Ensayo, (The Test) a literary magazine in Leon, where he became famous as El Niño Poeta de Leon - The Child Poet of Leon. He would often be invited to read his poetry at public functions.
Around this time, Rubén's Uncle Felix died, and he was sent off to be formally educated by the Jesuits. By then, his private studies of the great Spanish poets and writers of the day had kindled within him strong liberal convictions.
These convictions clashed bitterly with the teachings of the Jesuits, whom he would blast in El Jesuita, an essay written in 1881 - when he was fourteen.
In December of that year, Rubén Darío moved to Managua, where some liberal politicians campaigned to have a government grant pay for him to be educated in Europe.
Unfortunately, Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Alfaro, the conservative president of congress, denied the grant, as he was offended by Rubén's anti-religious writings.
After a public outcry, a compromise was offered that would pay for Rubén to be educated in the city of Granada, Nicaragua, but he opted to stay in Managua, where he would write for the city's top newspapers.
The following year, in 1882, Rubén Darío met a girl named Rosario Murillo. It was love at first sight for both of them, but there was a problem - he was fifteen years old and she eleven. He planned to marry her when she reached the age of consent, but his friends talked him out of it. He left Managua and set sail for El Salvador.
Several years later, following the sudden death of his first wife, he would be reunited with Rosario, now in her late teens. After her brother caught them in bed together, he forced Rubén to marry her in a shotgun wedding. It would not be a happy marriage. He drank and lived mostly with his mistress.
In El Salvador, Rubén Darío was befriended by the Salvadoran poet Joaquin Mendez, who took him under his wing and introduced him to the President, Rafael Zaldivar. Darío also met poet Francisco Gavidia, a connoisseur of French poetry.
Gavidia introduced him to the works of the French symbolist poets and Victor Hugo. He would later meet his idol, French symbolist poet Paul Verlaine, in Paris. He learned the French language well enough that he began writing poetry in French and using French rhythm and meter in Spanish poems.
When the Spanish-American War broke out, Darío served as a war correspondent. In his prophetic poem, To Roosevelt (1905), published several years after the war ended and dedicated to U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt, Darío accurately predicted the plunder and exploitation of Latin America and her people by U.S. imperialists:
You are the United States
you are the future invader
of the naive America that has indigenous blood
that still prays to Jesus Christ and that still speaks Spanish
His work as a war correspondent finished, Darío served as the Nicaraguan ambassador to France. He had held other diplomatic positions before, which enabled him to travel around the world.
When he visited New York City, he met Cuban poet José Martí. While working as an ambassador, he remained a prolific poet and continued to publish collections of his work.
In 1916, after writing his autobiography, Darío went bankrupt and fell ill with pneumonia. He returned home to Nicaragua and his wife Rosario, and died peacefully in bed. He was 49 years old.
Rubén Dario remains a huge influence on Spanish poetic voice and is considered a folk hero in Latin America. If you visit Nicaragua, you'll see a huge portrait of him hanging in Managua's international airport.
In 1965, a collection of Rubén Darío's poetry would be published in an English language edition by translator Lysander Kemp. This volume includes the classic Nocturne:
Silence of the night, a sad, nocturnal
silence — Why does my soul tremble so?
I hear the humming of my blood,
and a soft storm passes through my brain.
Insomnia! Not to be able to sleep, and yet
to dream. I am the autospecimen
of spiritual dissection, the auto-Hamlet!
To dilute my sadness
in the wine of the night
in the marvelous crystal of the dark —
And I ask myself: When will the dawn come?
Someone has closed a door —
Someone has walked past —
The clock has rung three — If only it were She! —
Quote Of The Day
"I seek a form that my style cannot discover, a bud of thought that wants to be a rose." - Rubén Darío
Today's video features a complete reading of Rubén Darío's poem To Roosevelt in English. Enjoy!
Tuesday, January 17, 2017
This Day In Literary History
On January 17th, 1904, The Cherry Orchard, the classic play by the legendary Russian playwright Anton Chekhov, premiered at the Moscow Art Theatre. It would be the playwright's most challenging work - that is, challenging for the directors who stage it.
The Cherry Orchard was a product of its time in Russian history - the years after serfdom was abolished and before the Bolshevik revolution. It was a time when the aristocracy was losing power and the bourgeoisie was gaining it, and struggled to find meaning in its new status.
In the play, Madame Lyubov Andreievna Ranevsky, a middle aged aristocrat, and her family return to their country estate, which is scheduled to go on the auction block, as the family can't afford to pay the delinquent taxes on it. They can't even afford the upkeep of the estate, which is crumbling.
Madame Ranevsky's clan is not the only aristocratic family to fall on hard times, (the abolition of serfdom deprived the aristocracy of its slave labor supply) but she cannot come to terms with her financial predicament.
Her aristocratic pride makes her spend money she doesn't have to maintain the lavish lifestyle to which a person of her class is accustomed. And, she still grieves for her husband and one of her sons, who drowned a month after his father died.
Family friend Yermolay Lopakhin, a wealthy merchant, suggests that to make the money she needs to pay off her taxes, Madame Ranevsky should parcel out the vast lands of her estate, build a cottage on each parcel, and lease them all for summer rental.
She rejects the idea because it would mean cutting down her beloved (and huge) cherry orchard; Before he leaves, Lopahkin offers to lend Madame Ranevsky fifty thousand rubles to buy her estate back at the auction if she changes her mind and agrees to his plan for parceling out her land.
Her feeble brother Leonid Gayev suggests some alternative solutions, such as a financing scheme involving some banker friends and hitting up a wealthy aunt for the money.
In the end, the stubborn, foolish Madame Ranevsky's plans to save her estate and her beloved cherry orchard fall through and Lopakhin buys the estate at the auction.
He tells Madame Ranevsky that he plans to go ahead with the destruction of the cherry orchard and parcel out the land. Before the curtain falls, as Madame Renevsky and her family weep, the sound of chopping cherry trees is heard.
The characters in The Cherry Orchard are walking, talking metaphors. Madame Ranevsky represents the stubborn pride of the waning Russian aristocracy, while her brother Gayev, with his addiction to billiards, symbolizes the aristocracy's addiction to decadent pleasures - another weakness.
Lopakhin represents the bourgeoisie, the middle class who profited most from the weakening of the aristocracy in the years before the Bolshevik revolution. He's a self-made man who rose from working class roots to become a wealthy merchant. He wears a fine, expensive white suit and gaudy yellow shoes.
Lopakhin has a kind of love-hate relationship with Madame Ranevsky. He's grateful for the kindness she's shown him over the years, but he also resents her condescending attitude.
Although he's wealthy - wealthier, in fact, than she is now - she still sees him as the lower class, because of his peasant roots. This is one of the reasons why she rejected his plan to save her estate.
Anton Chekhov was less than thrilled with the premiere of The Cherry Orchard at the Moscow Art Theatre in 1904. During rehearsals, the director of the production, Constantin Stanislavski, completely rewrote the second act, turning Chekov's comedy into a tragedy. The playwright was furious.
"In the second act there are tears in their eyes, but the tone is happy, lively. Why did you put so many tears in my play? Where are they?" Chekhov wrote to complain. He later went to the theater in person to supervise the production and work out a compromise with the director.
Although a comedy at heart, The Cherry Orchard delicately balances farce with elements of tragedy. Stanislavski insisted on doing the play strictly as a tragedy.
To this day, some directors still struggle to interpret the complex play. Audiences at the Moscow Art Theatre gave the premiere a rousing applause, but the critics' reviews were mixed.
When the play debuted in St. Petersburg at Panin's People's House theater, the audience of pre-revolutionary working class Russians, who understood Chekhov's scathing satire, reportedly cheered at the end, when the aristocrats wept over the demise of their cherry orchard, which was felled onstage.
The Cherry Orchard would be Anton Chekhov's last play. It was inspired by incidents in his own life, including the demise of a cherry orchard he'd planted on his own country estate.
The play was written over a period of several years, as the playwright began to lose his battle with tuberculosis. He died six months after its Moscow premiere, at the age of 44.
Quote Of The Day
"The role of the artist is to ask questions, not answer them." - Anton Chekhov
Today's video features a clip from a 1981 British production of The Cherry Orchard, starring Dame Judi Dench. Enjoy!
Monday, January 16, 2017
Mensans were asked to recall deaths that have profoundly impacted impacted them. My response, (A Husband's' Death) was published on page 31 of the January 2017 issue of the Mensa Bulletin. (If anyone wants to see it I can send a scanned pdf copy.)
101 Words accepted a little story of mine: Ten Years Later.
As Wayne explained awhile back, the assignment--if you choose to accept it--is to write a complete story in 101 words. WARNING: it's addictive.
Theresa A. Cancro
A number of publications over the past few months:
Haiku Society of America, 2016 Members' Anthology, “Full of Moonlight.” (print) - one haiku
Modern Haiku, Autumn 2016. (print) - one haiku
Presence, #56. (print) - two haiku
The Bamboo Hut, Autumn 2016 -- Ten haiku. Click on the cover, then scroll to pages 69-70.
Chrysanthemum #20 (October 2016) -- Two haiku in English with German translations. Click on download, then scroll to page 11. Arranged alphabetically by last name.
Haibun Today, Volume 10, Number 4, December 2016. One haibun, Voiceless.
During The Haiku Foundation's 2016 renku session, one two-line verse of mine was selected for inclusion in the final 36-verse renku, A Day of Snow.
Brass Bell online haiku and small poems site. October 2016 through January 2017 one haiku of mine was included each month. Arranged alphabetically by first name.
October November December January
Lost Paper blog. Four items included in "Things We Miss," a collective list, published on January 7, 2017.
The Avocet, A Journal of Nature Poetry (print), Winter 2017 issue “See how the goddess reaps," originally published on Jellyfish Whispers, October 2015.
The Weekly Avocet, #203 (print) November 2, 2016. “autumn continuum.”
The Weekly Avocet, #210, December 21, 2016. “The Sunbeam,” originally published in Dead Snakes on May 19, 2016.
Leaves of Ink – “View.” Many thanks to those members of the Poetry-W list who provided valuable feedback on this poem.
Lori Sambol Brody
Two new publications: "Dracula" in Noble Gas Quarterly and "We'll Fly Away" in Sky + Sea, an anthology published by Porkbelly Press. Thank you to the defunct Prose group for helping me on "We'll Fly Away"!!!
My review of An Unsettling Crime For Samuel Craddock, a novel by Terry Shames, has been published by the Internet Review of Books.
I have been asked by the Journal of Urban History (scholarly journal published by Sage Publications) to write a book review.
Joanna M. Weston
Four poems up at Here and Now. Scroll down and I'm there, beginning with “Home Floors.” And, three senryu up at Friday's Poems.