She was Phoebe Snow, the white-gowned heroine of one of the most successful advertising campaigns in American business history: Earnest Elmo Calkins’s series of streetcar advertising cards (1903-1917) for the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad. This was the onset of Phoebe’s dream.
Its poems and its history can be read at http://cs.trains.com/ctr/f/3/p/264453/2986868.aspx. For the dream itself, however, no language was required beyond a few alphabetic cells of the meaning into which Phoebe was to awaken .
And because the alphabet was a dream, the awakening from dream to meaning was happy.
I also discuss Phoebe at https://jonathanmorse.blog/2012/05/26/as-things-fade-to-white/. The photograph above comes from the story of Earnest Elmo Calkins. I’ve post-processed it for color and detail.
This mariner, equipped for his voyage with ivory cigarette holder, weathered lifeboat, and rose, is Otto Kahn, the banker whose patronage helped Hart Crane write The Bridge.
Frances Dickey’s periodical reports from the newly unsealed archive of T. S. Eliot’s letters to Emily Hale, now being blogged at
are a continuing revelation. Letters filled with passionate avowal from a man to a woman would ordinarily be called love letters, but these letters were written by T.S. Eliot, and history has opened the trunk of the machina just in time to make delivery during the Trump era. There, the marvel of the letters turns out to be their dreadful familiarity, in ways that would have been hard to credit just five years earlier. From them we now learn, for instance, that Eliot was capable of explaining to the woman he said he loved that if he were to divorce his estranged wife, the Church of England would suffer its most grievous loss since the conversion of John Henry Newman (Dickey’s posts “Temptation and Duty,” 5 February 2020, and “Establishing Patterns,” 17 February 2020).
We read such texts this year as we read Twitter this year: in hope that there may be a world outside the text.
Even if the text does seem for the moment to be all that there is, we yearn for a counterbulletin. For the author of the texts to Hale, then, perhaps as if from the beings that he classed as Grishkin and Sweeney, this tentative counter-hope from the gutter.
The gutter creatures
are two cattle egrets and a mongoose. The mongoose has been dining on food that people leave on the ground in his Honolulu park for feral cats. Like the birds who would be his prey if it weren’t for that gutter kindness, he is beautiful directly, without what Eliot might have called dissociation. When he opens his mouth to bite, he is obeying only one law: a law whose pure text originated before speech and now reveals itself in indifference to anything said in speech afterward. The spring to the kill or the flapping ascent into air are, poem or no poem.