Let’s Get Lit
An Irish literary masterpiece and two Big Sur works of poetry bookend the weekend.
Thursday, June 14, 2012
James Joyce’s 1922 novel Ulysses is the Mt. Everest of Modernist literature, a novel so challenging and complex that few people attempt to read it, fewer finish, and fewer still grasp it. Two friends of Joyce each wrote a schemata, or diagram, to help decipher the stream-of-consciousness narrative, intellectual puzzles, religious parodies, intricate structure and mythological allusions, and to defend its artistic merits in an obscenity trial.
Joyce, a supremely Irish writer and thinker, crafted it in the visage of Homer’s Odyssey, but its story of Leopold Bloom (as Odysseus), Molly Bloom (Penelope) and Stephen Dedalus (Telemachus) is also about Dublin.
Considered a high watermark in Western literature, the book has inspired its own celebration, Bloomsday, a worldwide commemoration of the date that the “events” in the novel take place, June 16. That’s this Saturday, when the Carl Cherry Center reprises its fourth Bloomsday, beginning with an introduction to the book by Stuart Walzer, who taught Ulysses at Carl Cherry two years ago. Then comes a film screening of Stephen Rea’s adaptation, Bloom.
“To read the book, it seems really impossible to adapt it,” says the Carl Cherry Center’s executive director Robert Reese. “But everyone thinks this is the best [film] adaptation of Ulysses.”
There is a break after the screening, then attendees are expected back at 6pm for an Irish reception of Guinness beer (served room temperature, as it is in Ireland), flatbread and scones. Then it’s back into the theater at 7pm for music by Robin Keller, John Reid from Molly’s Revenge, and Paulette Lynch of the Arts Council for Monterey County, and readings/performances by actress Ginny Crapo, Michael Huston of Alisal Center for the Fine Arts, and Dublin-born Fergal Malloney, who has read Joyce’s work on Bloomsday for more than 15 years, including a worldwide radio reading for the Irish Times.
“Ulysses has deterred people,” Malloney says. “It always has and always will. It’s a difficult book to get through and understand, it requires a lot of groundwork and supplemental reading.”
Malloney says the Irish have shorter inroads to Joyce, but there are rewards for those tackling a monumental work like Ulysses.
“What he did,” Malloney says, “was he took the basic premise of the way an English novel was written and really exploded the parameters. He opens portals to the English language. A lot of it is quite funny. He makes you work, but the readings are going to be fun.”
On Sunday, another literary event is transplanted to our shores – specifically, Big Sur’s Henry Miller Library – by way of the U.K. This one celebrates the 11th book of English-born painter and poet Carolyn Mary Kleefeld, a fixture on the Big Sur arts scene since 1980. Her 223-page hardcover book, Psyche of Mirrors: A Promenade of Portraits, serves as a 25-year retrospective of her work. The poems, essays and journal entries are culled mostly from the 2000s, and the book is illustrated with her symbolic, mystical, expressionistic paintings.
There are passages of lusty commiseration with the ocean and moon, invocation of spirits and muses, and conjurings of love and the Creative Spirit, filed under chapters named “Orphic Lovers” and “Quintessential Creators.”
Love, says Kleefeld, is her highest calling: “The love poems are from that exalted place, but deeply connected to the Earth,” she says. “The most ideal love is a Platonic love that pours from the universe into all things.”
Musician Martin Shears will accompany Kleefeld’s reading. And she brings her Welsh “poet brother” and professor Peter Thabit Jones to read from his book Poems from a Cabin on Big Sur.
“I came out to America in 2008 with Aeronwy Dylan, daughter of [Welsh poet] Dylan Thomas, and did a six-week tour,” Jones says. “Wellsley College, Walt Whitman’s birthplace on Long Island, in Monterey at MPC.”
He’s back for his third residency in a small Big Sur cabin, owned by Kleefeld, overlooking the Pacific Ocean to write a play based on reclusive Big Sur resident and sculptor Edmund Kara.
Jones’ 2011 residency in the cabin is the subject of his book of poetry (and photographs), which reads like a travelogue, beginning with his arrival in San Francisco International Airport, which bore a poem more powerful than the paeans to the cabin, coast and cohorts that he writes about thereafter.
“That first poem, it was unexpected,” Jones says. “It put me into a certain frame of mind.”
That frame of mind chronicles his walks, gazes, housecalls, writing process, thoughts and wistful preoccupations with his surroundings. Both readers should benefit from the wafts of wind sifting through redwoods that Big Sur bestows on such things.
BLOOMSDAY begins 3pm Saturday at Carl Cherry Center, Fourth and Guadalupe, Carmel, $20. 624-7491, www.carlcherrycenter.org
CAROLYN MARY KLEEFELD and PETER THABIT JONES read from their works 4:30-6pm Sunday, at Henry Miller Library, Highway 1, Big Sur. 667-2433, www.carolynmarykleefeld.com