The Marvel and the Albatross

My latest is up:

It begins:
Maybe 30-years ago the jazz pianist Jessica Williams speculated to a Downbeat interviewer about what she did. It couldn’t be a profession, Williams said. It didn’t pay enough. Was it a disease, she wondered. A mania? A curse? A calling imposed by heredity or the gods? I suppose most artists who can’t keep up the Honda payments ask themselves that in one form or another. Misleidys Pedroso may not, but her work, tempura and watercolor on paper, displayed through the rest of this month at New York City’s Christian Berst Gallery, raises the question of why one creates with a unique volume and clarity.
Pedroso will turn 30 in September. She has lived her entire life, with her parents and older brother, in Guines, a city of 70,000, 30 miles southeast of Havana, in a Soviet-era concrete apartment building, which faces the sea. Born deaf, she does not speak, read or write. She expresses her needs or feelings through the simplest signs. She spends most of each day at home.

I just finished…

…Tom Clark’s biography of Charles Olson.
Lately, I’ve been letting randomness influence my reading selections by picking the Best Available out of the Free Little Library boxes that have sprung up around my neighborhood, and this was the first I finished. It was instructive enough that some of my thoughts influenced and were incorporated into a piece I just submitted for publication, but here is where they began.

Olson was a terrible husband, and awful father, and not much of a friend. He had a good stint with the OWI, as a civil servant during WW II, but he flopped as an academic, and while attracting a small swarm of acolytes, his stint as an administrator at Black Mountain College led, through his whacky ideas, to its demise. He doesn’t even seem to have had it together enough for social welfare benefits, preferring to leech off those he knew for support in his final years.

I know Olson is considered a great poet, but I couldn’t make heads or tails out of the selections Clark presented, nor of the prose which is highly regarded (esp. by other poets I don’t read). Clark never makes clear, either by his own words analysis or the words of others, what is important about Olson’s work, so I was left absorbed by the calamity of his life.

The man was unable to find help for himself and he didn’t exist within a community which could find it for him. That was more compelling to me than his work.