Wednesday, December 10, 2014

On the Occasion of Grace's Birthday-----

Sienna Paley:
for my grandmother's birthday

I was in three worlds. I remember playing with these small action figures in my grandmother's living-room. The action figures would be on their farm, riding horses. My body would be distracted playing with them. Although my mind would be engaged by my grandmother, Grace playing a tune on the piano and humming.

From Duncan Nichols
Duncan, son of Bob Nichols, Grace's partner. Anyone who wants to create a yearly, other-yearly, reading for Grace (or Bob and Grace) I'd come, or I'd help organize. telephone 802 281 2692. We should be having readings of their work

Duncan's memory of life in Thetford for Grace and Bob:
I am thinking of Grace sitting in her kitchen, jotting things down. Bob is upstairs shuffling around, busy like her, at writing/tidying. Grace is sweeping small piles of house dirt, leaves, pens, bob's boot clogs, paperclips, dust, and leaving them in opportune places. Bob comes down from upstairs. He goes outside, sharpens something, dumps some ashes from the stove, brings in a bag from the car for Grace, comes back in, plunks self down and opens some letters. Grace clatters a soup pot, takes out a big block of cheddar, boils the water for tea (or Bob boils the water and Grace opens letters). Grace looks at a packet of garden seeds. "I should have planted these carrots, Bob"  "You did wonderfully, Grace." "I can't plant them now, it's so wet. It's wetter than last summer, or is it still spring." "You can plant them in the rain." "Oh YOU could and get mud all over the place, Bob."  "Did you see this letter from so and so?"   "Oh, yes, isn't that terrific."  "I remember so and so in Germany, in Sweden, in El Salvador, in Russia, in Ireland, in New York, in Burlington, in Cape Cod, in where was that?"  "it was right here."  "Oh yes, I just wanted to clean up the place, and we had no crackers... but we had cheese, we had wine, we had tea, we had photographs of the children, of the children all over the world..."  "have you seen my glasses"   "they're right here, under your sweater."  "Oh, you're so great, you know that, you're so won-der-ful."

From Bea Gates:
“Banner” dedicated to Bob, and “Oak, November” for Grace.

for Bob
1. Bob wore salvia in his blue
    shirt's buttonhole,
    brilliant summer lasting in Grace's
    garden. Red as red can be.

2. There are three beds of salvia, flaming ovals
    at the end of the drive
    where Elsa lives on the family dairy farm
    in the old stone house next to the barn.
    She sells eggs, stacked in the deep doorway,
    and vegetables on the card table by the road, honor system.
    She laughs about her high beds of salvia--
    everyone comes up the drive to talk about them--
    "You'd think there were no more flowers in the world."

3. A banner year for salvia
    and I kept thinking as the fall wore on,
    past Grace--how she always watched the spaces between
    pulling to make room for every kind,
    how the smaller buds must miss her hand,
    zinnias popping heads and tough pale stems,
    blue pansies curling to sun without her.
    The vegetable garden just over the lip of the hill,
    tomatoes still coming, long squash, and pumpkin,
    beans gone by, and Bob tramping by, walking slowly
    looking up    at the curving line of trees
    looking down    hands in pockets
    at the thick flower tangle--
    the salvia upright
    announcing triumph
    because it knows death
    alive   alive. 
--Beatrix Gates
Oak, November
for Grace
There’s an oak leaf, one    caught in the latch on the door
lodged like a letter in a letter box.
It knocks slowly, eight-prongs    the wind
tips it back, head leaning away    stem like a tail,
wind knocking softly    turning over the life of a tough brown leaf.
Stronger than a grasping hand, it takes years
for the veins to dissolve to brittle lace and still not want
to search the good brown dirt.
How did it? Why did it come so near the end? The oak.
From the bathroom window,
green rubber gloves across the sash
splay fingerless in crumpled, inside-out positions.
The leaf waves again.
The handsavers grow lazier and may have to go
in the trash bucket before the next cleaning.
I study the oak      the many kinds of brown
graying and reddening oak across the clearing.
The message will open, and I will not have touched the veins.
I write a friend whose blood is not making enough
more real blood    the kind that carries what we need
to every extremity in a day.   I spill out, too much on the page.
The oak scratches a life into the soft wind.

I wanted to send word, tell her I got the message--
you don’t have forever you know.  
--Beatrix Gates
(appeared in Ploughshares)

Garrison Keillor:
It's the birthday of American short-story author Grace Paley (books by this author), born in New York City (1922). She grew up in an immigrant neighborhood in the Bronx, where she was surrounded by a wide variety of languages. Her own parents spoke Yiddish and Russian at home, and English in public. She loved to hear the different tongues, and especially loved listening to all the gossip, but when she first started writing poetry, she wrote in a formal, stilted British style because she thought that's what poems were supposed to sound like. Then, in college, she met W.H. Auden and he agreed to read her work. She later recalled: "We went through a few poems, and he kept asking me, 'Do you really talk like that?' And I kept saying, 'Oh yeah, well, sometimes.' That was the great thing I learned from Auden: that you'd better talk your own language."
She wrote while her children were at school, and eventually moved from poetry to fiction. She wrote three stories and showed them to her friend, who happened to be married to an editor at Doubleday. He told her that if she could write seven more, he would publish the collection. Her first book was The Little Disturbances of Man (1959), and it was full of the voices of the immigrant women in her Greenwich Village neighborhood. She only wrote three books in all, but she was always busy doing something: teaching, or giving talks, or engaging in political activism.
From Nora Paley:
Today is my mother's birthday although she thought it was the 10th for most of her life. In this photo -a march against the Iraq War -she was feeling very weak and very determined though never stopped thinking about the lives of the grandchildren and the beauty of the world.

Joel Kovel writes:
"What sticks in my mind just now about Grace is how lightly she bore the burden of fame. There was a simplicity about her that allowed her to be directly herself and transcendently universal in the same moment. That's why I write, "just now," above: a great soul like Grace is always to be renewed. How her parents must have sensed something when they named her "Grace"!"

Susan Brooke Stapleton
Happy birthday Grace.... miss your beautiful spirit.

Pati Hernandez:
Happy birthday my dear friend Grace..... Always missing you, yet always with me....

Linda Elbow remembers:
"...the celebration of her being named Poet Laureate of Vermont. It took place in the Representatives Chamber of State House.  After Governor Jim Douglas introduced her, Grace stood up to speak. Douglas put behind the podium a little stool for her to stand on.
When she came to see our circuses she as always sat on the ground in the front row.
Oh, Grace!

…..What's that beautiful poem that Grace wrote about sitting outside and watching Bob work and thinking how much she loved him? There might have been a grandchild in this poem too."

Nora found it:
Here I am in the garden laughing
an old woman with heavy breasts
and a nicely mapped face

how did this happen
well that's who I wanted to be

at last a woman
in the old style sitting
stout thighs apart under
a big skirt grandchild sliding
on off my lap a pleasant
summer perspiration

that's my old man across the yard
he's talking to the meter reader
he's telling him the world's sad story
how electricity is oil or uranium
and so forth I tell my grandson
run over to your grandpa ask him
to sit beside me for a minute I
am suddenly exhausted by my desire
to kiss his sweet explaining lips. 

John Bell wrote:
 " I think the new Modicut Puppet Theater project Great Small Works is doing (for example our performance tomorrow night at YIVO), and our commitment to understanding activism, theater, and modern Yiddish culture, is, at heart, deeply indebted to the direct inspiration Grace has given us, individually and collectively."

Dr. John Bell
Director, Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry
Associate Professor, Dramatic Arts Department
University of Connecticut

1 Royce Circle, Suite 101B

Storrs, Connecticut  06268


Nomi said...

Thank you...

Ms. said...

Author Grace Paley reads several stories and "story/poems" on immigration, nationality and belonging, growing older, and the process of writing at the semiannual Robert Lowell Memorial Lecture.

GracePaley 1922–2007

Hosted by Boston University College of Arts and Sciences on April 18, 2007.