In Artists, Current reading, Irish Mist, Music, Poetry, Revision, Sanford Meisner, The Art of Peace, Visual artists on November 5, 2014 at 8:48 am

Something like attempting to live, write and work in the  DMZ – that narrow strip of no man’s land in which no fighting is supposed to happen.

Walking through the rain to one of yesterday’s meetings, bits of Guillaume Apollinaire playing in my mind. He, among millions of others, died from wounds sustained during the First World War. In a recent event – and against the protests of most of the people gathered for the silent march in Gaillac –  a few unidentified someones tagged the Monument aux Morts.

The Monument aux Morts is something of a fixture in every city, town, village and hamlet here – initially, the commercial brainstorm of a man who saw an opportunity when it came knocking. Given the utter carnage of those four endless years, was there a single spot on the French map that didn’t call for a memorial? There was not. Therefore, every city, town, village and hamlet has a Monument aux Morts on which are listed the names of the those who died during the carnage. People gather there at memorial events for wreath-laying, as they would in a cemetery.

Monuments are important features for humans. They serve as stand-ins or symbols for any number of concepts and emotions. Try to imagine tags on the memorial in Washington to the soldiers who died in Viet Nam, or any other such piece of sculpture commemorating a national time of trauma. Irrationality threatens straight off.

I suppose no one has stopped to consider the possibility those tags were not meant as an insult to the dead but as a protest against senseless killings. I doubt my writing this down will make a whit of difference in the passions swirling back and forth over here, concerning the dam project at Sivens. Maybe fiction, poetry, music and other forms of art are the only ways to convey some emotions. But then, even those can touch off bouts of irrationality of stupendous intensity.


When you are writing, the odd business of picking up a specific book at a specific moment. A book you’ve been meaning to read but haven’t read yet. A few pages or chapters into it, you come across a scene or a character who says or does something one of your own characters said or did in your writing session, the day before. Had such a moment last night while reading John Steinbeck’s East of Eden.

Disconcerted, at first. Pause. Read again. Nod. Yes, he got it right. Who, me? Saying Steinbeck got it right? Well, heck, yes. Or as Meisner answered when the young man said “hey, yeah, that is so true”: Thank  you, young man, you’ve just validated a lifetime of teaching. (The actual quote is in the book.)


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