Reblogging for all you book and library lovers: Never before seen images of the oldest Bodleian Library reading room. How I’d love to write there, surrounded by history! Click through to the article for more images.
Photograph by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0 Built in 1487, Duke Humfrey’s Library is the oldest reading room in the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford. Duke Humfrey’s Library is named after Humphrey of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Gloucester, a younger son of Henry IV of England. He was a connoisseur of literature…
Arise then…women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
“We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country,
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”
“From the voice of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with
Our own. It says: “Disarm! Disarm!
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.”
Blood does not wipe our dishonor,
Nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil
At the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home
For a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace…
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God –
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality,
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.
I found this poem by Mary Jo Bang in my in-box this morning, thanks to the wonderful daily poem sent by the Academy of American Poets. (Sign up for their “Poem-a-Day” service — it’s a lifesaver for writers, poetry lovers and seekers!)
What a wonderful way to wake up my mind and heart. Reading Bang’s explanation of the sources of her poem, you can see that she is translating some of the more esoteric cultural innovators and philosophers into a whimsical turn on being and nothingness, perception and play, historical events and the clutter of daily life and objects, greatness and the ordinary, meaning and meaninglessness. (I wonder what connections you see in this short wonder of a poem!)
Enjoy! I hope this poem inspires you to take a risk in your own writing, to translate something larger-than-life into the precious, magical, deceptively small container of words available to you as a writer.
Costumes Exchanging Glances by Mary Jo Bang
The rhinestone lights blink off and on.
I’m sick of explanations. A life is like Russell said
of electricity, not a thing but the way things behave.
A science of motion toward some flat surface,
some heat, some cold. Some light
can leave some after-image but it doesn’t last.
Isn’t that what they say? That and that
historical events exchange glances with nothingness.
About This Poem
“Bertrand Russell said, ‘Electricity is not a thing like St. Paul’s Cathedral; it is a way in which things behave.’ And it’s not ‘they’ who say, but Walter Benjamin who said, ‘Things are only mannequins and even the great world-historical events are only costumes beneath which they exchange glances with nothingness, with the base and the banal.’ In September, 1940, Benjamin died under ambiguous circumstances in the French-Spanish border town of Portbou, while attempting to flee the Nazis.”
–Mary Jo Bang