my friend Sarah’s blog

March 31st, 2012 | Other Projects

My old pal Sarah Van Arsdale has a book coming out this month, Grand Isle, her third novel. Check out her funny, illustrated blog. Her latest post is a short tribute to Adrienne Rich which links to this great essay about Rich by Susan Stinson on Lambda Literary. Susan describes very eloquently the deep, encompassing way that Rich’s work shaped her own writing and thinking.

45 Responses to “my friend Sarah’s blog”

  1. Isn’t Sarah’s blog great? I’m so with the mythic woman rolling the boulder up the hill in her illustration. It’s so exciting that she’s got a new novel coming out.

    I’m so glad that you like the essay about Adrienne Rich. I can’t thinking about her and reading her work. I facilitated a writing room at the library this morning, left three writing prompts on index cards on the table, as usual, except for, today, they were all based on work by Rich.

  2. That’s “can’t stop thinking…”

  3. Therry and St. Jerome says:

    I have never felt so straight in my entire life. I’ve never read Adrienne Rich, and feel that I have nothing to contribute here. But I loved Sarah van Arsdale’s blog! I especially loved seeing Ganesh as the ultimate multitasker. He is the remover of obstacles, you know. And I always have loved Ganesh since he appeared in Peter Brooks’ movie Mahabharata as Vyasa’s muse.

  4. Thanks, Alison! And Susan! And Therry and St. Jerome! I meant to add that while my publicist, Steve Greco, is the consummate multi-tasker, he’s much better looking that Ganesh.

  5. hairball_of_hope says:

    Oh Ganesh! We could all use a bit of that multitasking prowess, authors or not.

    Beautiful writing from Alison, Sarah, and Susan. Thank you.

    Like Susan, on hearing of Rich’s passing I rummaged through my semi-disorganized shelves, looking specifically for What Is Found
    (which I still haven’t located). I remember where it used to be, but I have no idea now. So much for cleaning up my apartment, now I can’t find anything.

    Poetry does matter, and it can change the world.

    An aside… Therry, I logged in here while listening to an unexpected encore of the aria Una Furtiva Lagrima during today’s Met Opera broadcast of Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore. I thought of you, and Voilà! here you are. (Juan Diego Flores was fabulous.) The libretto as poetry, does indeed seem to reaffirm Rich’s observation, “poetry can break open locked chambers of possibility, restore numbed zones to feeling, recharge desire.” Art imitating life imitating art imitating life…

    Una furtiva lagrima
    negli occhi suoi spuntò:
    Quelle festose giovani
    invidiar sembrò.
    Che più cercando io vo?
    Che più cercando io vo?
    M’ama! Sì, m’ama, lo vedo. Lo vedo.
    Un solo istante i palpiti
    del suo bel cor sentir!
    I miei sospir, confondere
    per poco a’ suoi sospir!
    I palpiti, i palpiti sentir,
    confondere i miei coi suoi sospir…
    Cielo! Si può morir!
    Di più non chiedo, non chiedo.
    Ah, cielo! Si può! Si, può morir!
    Di più non chiedo, non chiedo.
    Si può morir! Si può morir d’amor.


    A single furtive tear
    from her eyes sprang:
    As if of those playful youths
    envious she appeared to become.
    What more need I look for?
    What more need I look for?
    She loves me! Yes, she loves me, I see it. I see it.
    Just for an instant the beating of
    her beautiful heart I felt!
    And my sighs became as one
    fleetingly with her sighs!
    Her heart beating, her heart beating to feel,
    our sighs confounded as one…
    Heavens! Yes I could, I could die!
    More I can’t ask, I can’t ask.
    Oh, heavens! Yes I could! Yes I could die!
    More I can’t ask, I can’t ask.
    Yes I could die! If I could die of love.

    (… goes back to another day of a solo heart beating…)

  6. Kate L says:

    …the great ones pass away, and we are left with folk like the majority of the Kansas legislature, who this week passed a state law stating that LGBT folk can be legally discriminated against if the person doing the discrimination says that their religion makes them do it. Oh, religion, is there no behaviour you can’t be used to justify? It’s way too late for me to recant my ways… that video of me appearing before the Smallville city commission, coming out and speaking in favor of LGBT rights, is available to any mob armed with torches, pitchforks and internet access. Maybe I can seek political asylum in Vermont. HERE IS THE LINK to the Lawrence, Kansas, newspaper story about the Kansas legislature’s actions. Lawrence, which has a more than passing physical resemblance to Berkeley, California, if Berkeley were somehow picked up by Borg tractor beam and moved to the High Plains, recently passed its own LGBT-as-people human rights ordinance.

  7. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Kate L (#6)

    I recall a bumper sticker I saw in a shop window in Lawrence.

    “Lawrence: 20 square miles of reality, surrounded by Kansas”

    (… goes back to gorging on pasta in advance of all that matzo which awaits me …)

  8. ready2agitate says:

    off-topi – a brief Winnicott reference in the Boston Globe, tipping the pen to Taylor Swift:


  9. NLC says:

    An interesting review of Fun Home (and Jeannette Winterson’s Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?) from _New York_ Magazine:

  10. NLC says:

    [ahem]. That, of course, should read:

    An interesting review of Are You My Mother

  11. Therry and St. Jerome says:

    So AB’s mum substitutes an intellectual relationship for an emotional one? Excuse me, I have to chew on that one.

    And darling HoH, I’m so glad you got to hear JDF sing so exquisitely. He’s famous for also having sung an encore during La Fille du Regiment when his nine high C’s blew the place apart. I prefer Larry Brownlee in the role, but JDF does have his partisans. I am keenly looking forward to seeing and hearing Piotr Beczala steal the show from Trebs at the HD simulcast of Manon this weekend. The reviews state that he is fully dimensional as des Grieux and sings with more finesse than Anna.

    oops, confused the blogs, thought this one was Parterre Box, a bitchy opera blog populated entirely by opera queens. By which I am always dazzled.

  12. Ready2Agitate says:

    That was lovely, Susan. Today I called my old college friend (crush) to discuss what her work meant to us in the 1980s. I haven’t read her words in ages. It’s time to revisit…. sigh.

  13. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Therry (#12)

    I recall reading about JDF’s high-C extravaganza in La Fille a few years ago, it occurred mid-week, a few days before the Met broadcast. But alas, there was no encore for us radio devotees, so this was the first time I’d actually heard a JDF encore. And of course, I am mortified that I misspelled his last name, it’s Flórez. 🙁

    What was really terrific about the encore, aside from the encore itself, was that JDF broke character and the fourth wall when the audience wouldn’t stop chanting. He said (in English) something to the effect that “she is waiting,” pointing to Diana Damrau. Damrau, for her part, upped her game and sang a resounding aria to respond to his Lagrima. All in all, a very special moment, and it was a thrilling live broadcast.

    Also, I did a cut-and-paste of the libretto and translation, and I’m not happy with the last line. I think it should read, Yes I could die! Yes I could die of love instead of If I could die of love. Of course, si in both Italian and Spanish has two meanings, “yes” and “if” depending on context, but I don’t think the ambiguity/dual meaning is relevant here.

    I’m looking forward to Manon, and then that’s it for me. The Met Opera season ends with all four of Der Ring. Bleah. As Anna Russell says, “… and you’re exactly where you started 20 hours ago. I’m not making this up, you know!”

    (… goes back to the rites of spring: the end of opera season, the start of baseball season, and fresh asparagus on the menu …)

  14. NLC says:

    From today’s mailbag:

    Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home Musical Chosen for Sundance

    More [HERE].

  15. Kate L says:

    Off-Topic, but interesting… I joined tweeter for the first time, yesterday. I just checked my tweeting account today, and without tweetering anything, I’ve already picked up two followers.

  16. Thanks so much, Ready2Agitate. It’s true that, in addition to everything else Rich’s work does — and, that, truly, is so much — it totally brings to mind the women I had crushes on (etc.) in college in the 1980s.

  17. Oh, and, Hairball_of_Hope, I am so with you on the messy apartment. I found twelve of Rich’s books, but I didn’t find Lies, Secrets and Silence, which I know I have. I was re-reading it this winter.

    Restoring numbed zones to feeling terrifies me. Even trying to do that gets scarier the older I get, and it’s also a big part of why I write.

  18. Therry and St. Jerome says:

    @HoH, I know, I know, end of opera, beginning of summer festivals, with one of which I am intimately involved. I’m on the board of Monadnock Music, a battered festival with a great future ahead of it, beginning this summer. We’re going to do a chamber opera, we hope, but I don’t know which. Maybe Eliot Carter’s “What next?”

    And as long as I’ve got you, aside from the Queens, are there any lesbians in opera? In the plots, I mean, on the stage there’s lots, including darling Patricia Racette from my home state of NH, and adorable Jill Grove, who is wowing me in Die Meistersinger at the moment.

  19. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Therry (#19)

    I’d first look for the lesbians in the so-called “trouser roles.” I don’t think there’s much explicit lesbianism, it usually takes the form of great friendship and bonding between women. Think of the biblical Ruth and Naomi, that sort of thing.

    N.B. for non-opera fans, trouser roles are sung by females portraying males onstage. Some of these roles were originally scored for castrati, boys who were castrated to keep their high voices intact (while destroying their malehood). In modern times, soprano and mezzo-sopranos typically sing the roles, although there have been a few countertenors who’ve been singing them (a countertenor is a male who sings in the soprano range).

    (… goes back to looking for Marge Piercy’s poem about Ruth and Naomi …)

  20. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Susan (#18)

    re: “Restoring numbed zones to feeling”

    It terrifies me too, and as you’ve noted, I’ve also found it gets harder and scarier the older I get. Perhaps I should follow your example and write.

    (… goes back to searching her shelves, poetry being one of the few surefire ways to breach her moats …)

  21. hairball_of_hope says:

    Thankfully, some parts of my bookshelves are very well-organized. No doubt, the Marge Piercy fans among us (hello Feminista!) will be smiling.

    The Book of Ruth and Naomi

    Marge Piercy

    (from “The Art of Blessing the Day”)

    When you pick up the Tanakh and read
    the Book of Ruth, it is a shock
    how little it resembles memory.
    It’s concerned with inheritance,
    lands, men’s names, how women
    must wiggle and wobble to live.

    Yet women have kept it dear
    for the beloved elder who
    cherished Ruth, more friend than
    daughter. Daughters leave. Ruth
    brought even the baby she made
    with Boaz home as a gift.

    Where you go, I will go too,
    your people shall be my people,
    I will be a Jew for you,
    for what is yours I will love
    as I love you, oh Naomi
    my mother, my sister, my heart.

    Show me a woman who does not dream
    a double, a heart’s twin, a sister
    of the mind in whose ear she can whisper,
    whose hair she can braid as her life
    twists its pleasure and pain and shame.

    Show me a woman who does not hide
    in the locket of bone, that deep
    eye beam of fiercely gentle love
    she had once from mother, daughter,
    sister; once like a warm moon
    that radiance aligned the tides
    of her blood into potent order.

    At the season of first fruits we recall
    two travelers, co-conspirators, scavengers
    making do with leftovers and mill ends,
    whose friendship was stronger than fear,
    stronger than hunger, who walked together
    the road of shards, hands joined.

  22. Kate L says:

    hairball (#21) About getting older… I just sent my sister a birthday e-mail, with the title line “Today is Your Birthday / Happy Birthday To You”. I told her in the e-mail that she and I are among the dwindling number of people who recognize that line as a lyric from the Beatle’s White Album (or, I guess, even know that there was a White Album).

  23. NLC says:


    Anyone else interested in a field trip to Chicago?

    “Fevered Archives: 30 years of comics from Alison Bechdel”

  24. NLC says:

    …and for folks in Colorado:

    In short, women are starting to flourish in a genre that’s expanding to incorporate storylines beyond the superhero. And when Chute and renowned cartoonist Alison Bechdel join Acme Novelty Library’s Chris Ware on Wednesday at a Colorado College symposium, they’re likely to discuss how that looks and what it means.

    More [HERE]

  25. Therry and St. Jerome says:

    Aw, Hairball, what a lovely poem. I am not nuts about Marge Piercy in general (overexposure to her novels) but she can write a wonderful poem now and then. I’ve always been fond of the Ruth and Naomi story especially when I read that Naomi tells Ruth to cling to Boaz’s feet, which is Bible-speak for genitals. R & N are no dopes.

    Manon on Saturday!

  26. Anna in Albuquerque says:

    Totally off topic. Raffi’s probably in college now or taking his gap year kayaking in New Zealand.

  27. Ready2Agitate says:

    I dunno, I worry more about Janis these days…

  28. Andrew B says:

    Odd coincidence… In dtwof #151, “The Master’s Tools”, from 1992, Ginger, Mo, and Lois mourn and discuss the then-recent death of Audre Lorde. The strip begins with a tip o’the nib to Sarah Van Arsdale.

    (pp. 58-9 in Spawn. I think it’s also in the Essential but I haven’t checked.)

  29. Kate L says:

    Unrelated: Growing up in Kansas in the 1960’s meant the certain knowledge that you would be unlikely to survive a nuclear exchange with the Soviet Union. The reason? Kansas was dotted with underground Atlas and Titan intercontinental ballistic missile silos. Now, you can actually move into one! And, who wouldn’t want to live 14 stories underground in central Kansas? Now, that’s a selling point! Well, that and the stargate on Level 14.

  30. NLC says:


    [HERE] is another nice review of Are You My Mother (from the “Harvard Crimson”).

    However, for me, the most interesting line in the review was the first:
           “Are You My Mother?” is available in bookstores now.[!!]

    Has anyone see the book out in the wild? Or is this just wishful thinking on their part? (For example, Amazon still lists a 1May release date.)

  31. Therry and St. Jerome says:

    My bookstore, Toadstool in Milford NH, just called to tell me that my copy has arrived! I am going to pick it up on Thursday and spend the next eight hours doing nothing but reading reading reading. I’ll sign back in on Thursday afternoon and let you know how it’s going.

  32. Kate L says:

    In a few minutes, I represent the campus Women’s Center at a glitterari-literari-style wine and cheese party for filmaker Blair Doroshwalther. We’ll also view her film, The Fire This Time, which is about the New Jersey 7. These seven young women were verbally and physically attacked, and ended up going to prison for defending themselves from the homophobic man who attacked them. Once the State of Kansas enacts the proposed legislation allowing discrimination against LGBT folk on “religious” grounds, the Fire Next Time may be here…

  33. Diamond says:

    NLC and Therry and St. Jerome – how exciting!

    Here in the UK, Amazon is still saying 31st May but is bizarrely listing one second-hand copy at £20 – presumably from a reviewer?

    Not that I’m planning to buy mine there. We’ve just found out that although Amazon accounts for one in four of UK book sales, it pays virtually no UK corporation tax by nominally basing itself in Luxembourg . . .

  34. Kate L says:

    … I’m back! Most of the local glitterari and literari were women I already knew on campus. I had dinner with filmaker Blair Doroshwalther, and I almost had the nerve to ask her what it is like to be creative and talented! I had not heard about The Fire Next Time (it is still in production – the showing (today, actually) is a work in progress). I think we all will hear about it, soon.

  35. Andrew B says:

    NLC, 31, I bought my copy of AYMM today at a local independent bookstore. I got the only one they had. This is actually the same store Therry ordered from, although a different location. I can’t imagine the Toadstool has any special pull, so I would assume they’re generally available. I had not pre-ordered it — they had a copy in stock.

  36. Ready2Agitate says:

    Likewise! My local bookstore (Porter Square Books) called today to tell me: it’s here! a month early! just in time for my 5-hour flight to Denver on Friday (and I had planned to try to read the Hunger Games…) – I’m off to fetch it 2mrrow – so excited!

  37. freyakat says:

    For NYC people: I got it yesterday at the Strand.
    (I won’t have a chance to start reading it until perhaps tonight.)

  38. Therry and St. Jerome says:

    Andrew B, you don’t mean to say we are neighbors! Did you pick it up in Peterborough or Keene? Isn’t the Toad wonderful?

  39. NLC says:

    Just to complicate things a bit further, after seeing Therry and St. Jerome‘s note above (#32) I picked up a copy at Toadstool in Keene.

    (Actually, this copy will become a fortunately-timed birthday present for a friend. I’m probably going to get my copy a little later. Of course, that’s not to say there hasn’t been a little “pre-reading” involved…)

  40. Ginjoint says:


  41. NLC says:

    Ginjoint #41:

    Yes, quite right. Life in New Hampshire (and especially Vermont) –particularly in the spring — is a most enviable thing….

  42. Kate L says:

    …There’s something very familiar about the shirt that film director Blair Doroshwalther wore during her visit to campus yesterday. But what can it be?

  43. Ginjoint says: