The light through the slatted blinds in the Beinecke reading room was lovely and moist – a languid light like the rarefied climate. Scholars and researchers (not me) sort through rare books or other archives at wide library tables. Dissertation ideas float in the air. I want to walk around and look over the scholars' shoulders. This is my third week and third box of SH notebooks. This box has about 25 notebooks. And since the journals seem to contain long entries, I will be returning.
Just inside the cover were several typed pages folded together, including the Stevens poem pictured above. The House was Quiet and the World was Calm. You can see how she marked the poem, highlighting repetitions and patterns, to read closely. Below the first stanza of Tennyson's poem, Tithonus. Which I had to google to figure out. How unexpected to open the notebook and find those treasures. Her hand quite present. Handwriting looser than in the later notebooks. Her life from 1984-86 and how it bumps into mine, the years of my mother's illness and death. I was lost in her life, also remembering my own. And thinking about where this is going. And how easy it is to fall into her pages and musings. Years ago I went through a phase of reading all of Woolf's letters. A similar sensation.
I'm reading her life out of order. So I know what's coming as SH, here in her late forties, describes struggles, insecurities about her work, the poetry community, family, money, marriage. The first entry is about a reading she's done in Buffalo, where her family lived when she was very young. The quiet sadness as SH recalls her father, considers her reading of a particular poem in his memory. How much of her childhood in the city rises up in memories during the visit. "How the world tosses one about like a tiny flag -- what direction time moves in."