HD Blog 30: "in terms of bread and meat"

(HD and baby)

thesis is turned in…a slow drive up to lone mountain and MS into the hands of aaron shurin, my director. i am reading at USF this coming wednesday so you are all invited! also, some new blog links in the roll, so check them out and say hello…

seth has new chapters of his podcast novel, so link to his blog and check it out.

*

this next HD section is short, without annotation. how do you read this short section? any comments would be greatly appreciated, for i am suffering from post-MFA lull ~

[33]

Let us measure defeat
in terms of bread and meat,

and continents
in relative extent of wheat

fields; let us not teach
what we have learned badly

and not profited by;
let us not concoct

healing potions for the dead,
nor invent

new colours
for blind eyes.

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8 thoughts on “HD Blog 30: "in terms of bread and meat"

  1. I gots things to say… surprise surprise, loud mouth Russkie that I am… but I’m off to see Devotchka at the independant… so I’ll say it latah!

  2. So if you haven’t heard of them go out and find the band called DEVOTCHKA, run, don’t walk, to your nearest record shop and buy How It Ends or Una Volta (sorry Craig, had to plug these guys, they’re out of this world…)

    As for HD…

    Starvation, the lack of both bread and meat during WWII was enormous. Eastern Europe is the primary source of wheat for the entire EU. Operation Barbarosa, the German push into the Ukraine devastated and cut off most of Europe’s wheat supply. The Germans had the bread, the Russians had the meat. If the measure of defeat is in the most basic staples, bread to fill your belly, and meat for protein, then the loosers aren’t countries, they’re not ideologies, or regimes but those that depend on the two staples.

    I suppose I have a very storng connection to this because of my heritage. My grandmother’s youngest brother starved to death with a piece of bread in his hands. She was born in a small village outside of Odessa in the Ukraine. They had to evacuate East, away from the German “anschluss” After the war, Uzbekistan was billed as the bread bastket of Russia, and many people from the Ukraine fled there to find, well, bread. My family among them, settled in the capital city of Tashkent as it was untouched by the ravages of war.

    There’s several touching and tragic scenes in the 1993 film by Vilsmaier, Stalingrad, where German werhmacht soldiers exchange bread for meat in the streets with Russian soldiers. Then they go back to killing each other. Another scene is during the brutal winter that seeled the German army’s fate, like that of Napolean’s great Army, as bedraggled soldiers wander the bleak land and run across peasants and refuges that they trade bread for meat.

    “et us not teach
    what we have learned badly

    and not profited by;”

    This seems to me like a warning of sorts that points to Wilson’s Fourteen Points delivered at a joint session of congress, outline the means by which a conquered nation should be treated, and the result of the peace treaty as it “should’ve” been.

    I. Open covenants of peace, openly arrived at, after which there shall be no private international understandings of any kind but diplomacy shall proceed always frankly and in the public view.

    III. The removal, so far as possible, of all economic barriers and the establishment of an equality of trade conditions among all the nations consenting to the peace and associating themselves for its maintenance.

    X. The peoples of Austria-Hungary, whose place among the nations we wish to see safeguarded and assured, should be accorded the freest opportunity to autonomous development.

    These three points, from my vantage, seem to be the prime negation of what came to be known as the War-Guilt clause which saddled Germany with reparation payments that plunged it into economic disaster, inflation and recession. The army was out of work, and out of pay. Veterans were hungry for anything, and along come the brown shirts and a charismatic little man who whips them into a frenzy feeds off the anger and frustration of a conquered peoples instilling notions of national socialism and eventually erecting the third reich. Had Wilson’s points been followed, the conquered nation would’ve been rebuilt with the help of those that destroyed it, as it happened in WWII, the concept here is that the government is to blame, the ideology that lead to the war and not the individual soldier who fought and died on the battlefield. The lessons of WWI were poorly learned.

    As for potions for the dead or new colors for blind eyes I’m kind of stumped on this, but I’d like to propose that there’s something to the concept of blind. Yeah, one of those very loaded signifiers, but I like to take it back to The Odyssey and Demodocus who Odysseus meets in the land of The Phoecians. He gave up his sight, to the muse, for the gift of song, and could see things that eyes couldn’t afford anyone. Still witholding his name, Odysseus wept when Demodocus sang of his travels, of a man bedraggled and lost in the world who yearned to go home. Is HD urging us to forget the names and the borders of our national pride? Are we defined by the flags that seperate our nations and unite us through exclusivity? Who will sing our song and rouge our cheeks when we find our bier?

    Ok, maybe i do have a theory for the magic potion… Isis, which is the greek for Eset, the cow headed Goddess of Ancient Egypt, wife to Osiris. So the story goes that she learned her magic and gained her power by tricking Ra… but the real trick was when Osiris was killed and she brought him back and then he was chopped into 14 pieces and scattered around Egypt and she brought him back and helped him ascend to the world of the immortals. Eventually, its her own son that cuts off her head for meddling in a test of his manhood when he challenges Set for the throne of Egypt, yes, like any good soap opera, it gets bloody. Isis is the Goddess of healing, of birth, of magic and a mother. She is the one that keeps things together and at the same time has a side ot her not unlike Kali, methinks, the destroyer. She is ultimately, the one to weep, powerless, and yet is the one with the greatest power, to give life. I may be waxing a bit nostalgic at this point, but there’s something there…

    and now I bid you all a fond adieu…

    g’night.

    -L

  3. mephis, as always, thanks for posting! i feel very happy that you will be annotating the next sections, you’re a natural at this!

    the connection to the real life starvation during the war is a powerful one, thanks for giving those lines an actual correlative. the story about trading bread and meat is stunningly poignant, i had no idea.

    And every time i hear that story about your grandmother’s brother, it breaks my heart. thank you for sharing that story here on the blog. it is a memory, or an image, that we should all carry.

    your connection to Wilson’s fourteen points is surprising, as well as to the War Guilt clause…Thinking about the MANAGEMENT of war(Jason might have a lot to say about this)and war’s consequent trauma, seems to be an important theme in HD. or at least in the sense of the poet’s role during war…but it seems clear now that HD is speaking to how poorly WW1 was “managed” and how the lessons were not learned.

    the questions you pose i will leave as OPEN QUESTIONS, for i am not sure how to answer them:

    “Is HD urging us to forget the names and the borders of our national pride? Are we defined by the flags that seperate our nations and unite us through exclusivity? Who will sing our song and rouge our cheeks when we find our bier?”

    MAYBE OTHER PEOPLE CAN PICK UP THESE QUESTIONS…

    one more thought: i def. think your connection to Odysseus is right on…and i wonder if we can stretch it: do you think inventing new colours for blind eyes could reference Nazi experiments? Maybe not…

    *

    the connection to Isis is also strong, considering also that HD talks about Isis before. i like this passage:

    “Isis is the Goddess of healing, of birth, of magic and a mother. She is the one that keeps things together and at the same time has a side ot her not unlike Kali, methinks, the destroyer. She is ultimately, the one to weep, powerless, and yet is the one with the greatest power, to give life.”

    i think the same could be said of HD, and of what HD imagines the poet should be. Both powerless and with the greatest power. A healer, magician, and bearer. Both creator and destroyer (and by destroyer i mean the poet has the power to not remember, to not create, to not heal )…

  4. You jogged my memory Craig, big time… yeah… well, here’s another story for you. I had the some what painful pleasure of writing letters to the Russian Govt. at one time to solicit a visa for a woman, my mother’s friend’s mother, if that makes sense, she finally found one of her twins. The story went like this: she was living in Kiev, another city hit hard during WWII. During the bombings she was seperated from her twin boys. She went back into the city to try and find them, but unfortunately she never did. Instead she was captured and eventually wound up in a camp where they did indeed experiment on her eyes. They were mostly burned out of her head by some kind of solution. I remember watching her watch TV. she would sit about 5 to 6 inches from the tube and squint to try and make out the pictures. Sometime in the mid to late 90s, after many years of searching, Marina, my mother’s friend, found one of the twins. I was tasked with writing letters to get him a visa, as there was some snafu preventing him from travelling. She was too old and frail to go see him anymore, and it turned out that his adopted parents were also in poor health, and he couldn’t travel, they never saw each other, spoke on the phone, but never met. So yes, I see that as a possible connection, or another one, rose colored glasses? Maybe even rose can’t quite protect us from seeing what really happened and we have to invent new glasses, as the blind man wears, the one selling pencils out of a cup. A new color for a new age of ignorance.

    -L

  5. The Blog Also Rises…

    The Green Blogs of Africa.
    Blog in The Afternoon.
    The Blogs of Kilimanjaro.

    Yeah. You still the shit, man, my love. Congrats on handing in the big shit. Word.

    Now I need to post shit onto my blog more often!

  6. Dear CS,

    I’m really impressed by the content of this blog… Are you a friend of John Sakkis? He and I were at Naropa’s Jack Kerouac School together.

    On the HD tip, I love that you wrote a thesis about her. She’s one of my great poet heroes. My boyfriend once took me on a romantic getaway in the Colorado Rockies where we had a cottage by a running stream and there was a swing that we sat on and recited Trilogy together. I bring that book with me everywhere now. I’m in Ann Arbor, Michigan and I still have that book.

    “Let us not teach what we have learned badly, and have not profitted by.”

    I can draw parallels from that line to my own life. Maybe that’s why I’m currently training to be an English teacher and not a Poet. I have not profitted by poetry………………..
    or have I? Spiritually, yes. Practically, no. This topic could be a whole other blog–How To Live In America As A Poet.

    Congratulations on your thesis!
    I look forward to further cross-polination.

    Renee

  7. mephis, thanks again for a wonderful, interesting connection and powerful story…esp struck by this part:

    “So yes, I see that as a possible connection, or another one, rose colored glasses? Maybe even rose can’t quite protect us from seeing what really happened and we have to invent new glasses, as the blind man wears, the one selling pencils out of a cup. A new color for a new age of ignorance.”

    seth, will definitely use THE BLOGS OF KILIMANJARO AS NEXT TITLE…but i also like A CLEAN WELL-LIGHTED BLOG

    hi renee, thanks for stopping by! dont know sakkis, but read his blog and he seems interesting.

    i didnt actually write my thesis on HD, but wrote a collection of poems for my MFA thesis…i am not quite so scholarly for an academic thesis.

    i think it’s great that you carry HD with you — and reading her on a swingset seems like a nice spot. HD also takes on this issue of the practical and spiritual aspects of POETRY…in a sense, that poetry is practical because it “profits” the spiritual/psychological. But of course, it isn’t profitable as a practical endeavor…which is to say, GOOD LUCK WITH THE TEACHING!!! i feel your pain.

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