Thursday 12 August 2010

E. B. Browning (Elizabeth Barrett) -(1806 - 1861)

Just recently discovered her poetry. Browning is considered of the most prominent poets of the Victorian era - having influenced and inspired both Edgar Allan Poe and Emily Dickinson.

For all you ladies out there. Here is Browning's "Mother and Poet".

Dead ! One of them shot by the sea in the east,
And one of them shot in the west by the sea.
Dead ! both my boys ! When you sit at the feast
And are wanting a great song for Italy free,
Let none look at me !

Yet I was a poetess only last year,
And good at my art, for a woman, men said ;
But this woman, this, who is agonized here,
— The east sea and west sea rhyme on in her head
For ever instead.

What art can a woman be good at ? Oh, vain !
What art is she good at, but hurting her breast
With the milk-teeth of babes, and a smile at the pain ?
Ah boys, how you hurt ! you were strong as you pressed,
And I proud, by that test.

What art's for a woman ? To hold on her knees
Both darlings ! to feel all their arms round her throat,
Cling, strangle a little ! to sew by degrees
And 'broider the long-clothes and neat little coat ;
To dream and to doat.

To teach them ... It stings there ! I made them indeed
Speak plain the word country. I taught them, no doubt,
That a country's a thing men should die for at need.
I prated of liberty, rights, and about
The tyrant cast out.

And when their eyes flashed ... O my beautiful eyes ! ...
I exulted ; nay, let them go forth at the wheels
Of the guns, and denied not. But then the surprise
When one sits quite alone ! Then one weeps, then one kneels !
God, how the house feels !

At first, happy news came, in gay letters moiled
With my kisses, — of camp-life and glory, and how
They both loved me ; and, soon coming home to be spoiled
In return would fan off every fly from my brow
With their green laurel-bough.

Then was triumph at Turin : Ancona was free !'
And some one came out of the cheers in the street,
With a face pale as stone, to say something to me.
My Guido was dead ! I fell down at his feet,
While they cheered in the street.

I bore it ; friends soothed me ; my grief looked sublime
As the ransom of Italy. One boy remained
To be leant on and walked with, recalling the time
When the first grew immortal, while both of us strained
To the height he had gained.

And letters still came, shorter, sadder, more strong,
Writ now but in one hand, I was not to faint, —
One loved me for two — would be with me ere long :
And Viva l' Italia ! — he died for, our saint,
Who forbids our complaint."

My Nanni would add, he was safe, and aware
Of a presence that turned off the balls, — was imprest
It was Guido himself, who knew what I could bear,
And how 'twas impossible, quite dispossessed,
To live on for the rest."

On which, without pause, up the telegraph line
Swept smoothly the next news from Gaeta : — Shot.
Tell his mother. Ah, ah, his, ' their ' mother, — not mine, '
No voice says "My mother" again to me. What !
You think Guido forgot ?

Are souls straight so happy that, dizzy with Heaven,
They drop earth's affections, conceive not of woe ?
I think not. Themselves were too lately forgiven
Through THAT Love and Sorrow which reconciled so
The Above and Below.

O Christ of the five wounds, who look'dst through the dark
To the face of Thy mother ! consider, I pray,
How we common mothers stand desolate, mark,
Whose sons, not being Christs, die with eyes turned away,
And no last word to say !

Both boys dead ? but that's out of nature. We all
Have been patriots, yet each house must always keep one.
'Twere imbecile, hewing out roads to a wall ;
And, when Italy 's made, for what end is it done
If we have not a son ?

Ah, ah, ah ! when Gaeta's taken, what then ?
When the fair wicked queen sits no more at her sport
Of the fire-balls of death crashing souls out of men ?
When the guns of Cavalli with final retort
Have cut the game short ?

When Venice and Rome keep their new jubilee,
When your flag takes all heaven for its white, green, and red,
When you have your country from mountain to sea,
When King Victor has Italy's crown on his head,
(And I have my Dead) —

What then ? Do not mock me. Ah, ring your bells low,
And burn your lights faintly ! My country is there,
Above the star pricked by the last peak of snow :
My Italy 's THERE, with my brave civic Pair,
To disfranchise despair !

Forgive me. Some women bear children in strength,
And bite back the cry of their pain in self-scorn ;
But the birth-pangs of nations will wring us at length
Into wail such as this — and we sit on forlorn
When the man-child is born.

Dead ! One of them shot by the sea in the east,
And one of them shot in the west by the sea.
Both ! both my boys ! If in keeping the feast
You want a great song for your Italy free,
Let none look at me !

Tuesday 10 August 2010


song: "Grande Grande Grande" (1972)

Get that bottle of wine, put your feet up and enjoy!

For more information on this unstoppable force of nature, got to

The Surreal House at the Barbican

"There was a door
There was a key
I opened the door and
the key wouldn't stop

I wrote the poem above after I have started re-re-re-reading the indispensable book by Clarissa Pinkola Estes- Women Who Run with the Wolves.

I first heard of the book back when I was teaching English in an independent school in Sao Paulo over 15 years ago. All the girls were talking about it - either reading it or intending to.

On my copy of the book, thanks to my semi-obsessive mania of writing on it and adding the date when I read it - I can tell how much this book has been through with me over the years. Also I can see how some lessons take years and years to be assimilated and learnt.

But the funny thing is that I got a text message today from a friend whom I have not seen in a long time telling me about a current exhibition at the Barbican, The Surreal House -showcasing the works of artists like Francesca Woodman and Rebecca Horn and the late Louise Bourgeois.

Rebecca Horn's Piano

Somehow, for me, this highly personal and probably generally irrelevant occurrance is connected to the news of the show.

Here's the link for the Barbican website and the exhibition:


I am delighted to share the news that Pedro Almodovar is currently working on a biopic about the Italian songstress Mina, due to be released in 2012.

I was introduced to her work by an Italian friend - Diego, you know it's your fault! And I have come to love her passionate and dramatic style.

Her song "La Voce del Silenzio" was key for the authentic characterization of longing of the character Estela in my first play, "The Sea at Night".

Mina has been a musical phenomenon for over 50 years. All I can do here is to share a taster of her talent.


Sunday 1 August 2010

Sandra Nettelbeck (b. 1966)

Read an interview with German film director Sandra Nettelbeck on the excellent "Women & Hollywood" blog by Melissa Silverstein.

In it Nettelback talks about her new film "Helen" which tells the story of a woman who seemingly has it all. But the reality is that Helen (played by the always charmingly beautiful Ashley Judd) struggles with severe depression.

To read the review of the film and the full interview, just click on the link that is this post's title!

Silverstein says: "Though it’s tough to watch Helen’s journey, the film is not depressing, in fact it’s a film about hope and shows all of us that it is possible to get better. It takes time, help, patience and love."


In this blog I intend to do some historical justice to the many, many women who have contributed with their genius, creativity, adventurous spirit, nurturing - amongst other qualities - to the apparent linear and male dominated prescribed notion of History. This is just the beggining.