Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Aeneid By Virgil Translated by David Ferry

The Aeneid
By Virgil
Translated by David Ferry
University of Chicago Press
Chicago and London
ISBN: 978-0-226-45018-6
416 Pages

Review by Dennis Daly

Whether carrying his father and leading his son out of a burning city, navigating his fleet through a tsunami, escaping a Carthaginian seductress, visiting the forbidden realm of Hades, or engaging in mortal combat with a Latin prince, Aeneas, in David Ferry’s new and superbly rendered translation of Virgil’s Aeneid, conveys the destiny of civilization forward into its ordained future. This epic journey with episodic tragedies, and mythological wonders still captures the imagination of modern readers perplexed by their own earthly impediments and those nasty, ill-deserved thunderbolt strikes from above.

Publius Vergilius Maro (Virgil) wrote The Aeneid for Octavian Caesar Augustus during the last ten years of his life (29-19 BC). He at first ordered his executors to burn the unedited manuscript. Octavian apparently intervened and countermanded that directive. Some critics argue that the book’s purpose was to justify Augustan succession and ultimately Pax Romana. Others believe that Virgil turned his work into something much larger, an allegory of man’s destiny and independence in the face of intruding forces emanating from a panoply of misanthropic and whimsical divinities. In any case, the narrative seems to take on a life of its own, at times brutally realistic, at other times strangely comforting.

Whereas John Dryden in 1697 provided the coming eighteenth century with a glorious translation of The Aeneid to match that historical era and temperament, Ferry contributes a comparable achievement during this onset of the twenty-first century. Dryden’s heroic couplets both expanded and compacted the original text based on his understanding of Virgil’s intent. Ferry does much the same thing going with, not fighting the natural flow and intricacies of modern English. Additionally the method Dryden employed bestowed a smoothness and a halting beauty, his couplets neatly completing images and thoughts. Ferry, using loose blank verse with anapests and other feet substituting here and there for iambs, accomplishes much of the same beauty with added speed and elongated elegance. The elongation reminds one of and occasionally flirts with the original hexameter instrument, and the strategic irregularity accommodates itself very well indeed to the modern ear. In Book One Ferry’s word choices describing the fierce storm, instigated by Juno, the queen of gods, to obstruct Aeneas’ fleet, leaves the reader both breathless and awestruck,

a sudden violent
Burst of wind comes crashing against the sails,
The prow of the ship turns round, the oars are broken,
The ship is broadside to the waves and then
A mountain of water descends upon them all;
Some of the men hang clinging high upon
The high-most of the wave and others see
The very ground beneath the sea revealed
As hissing with sand the giant wave recoils;
Three of the ships are spun by the South Wind onto
A huge rock ridge that hulks up out of the sea
(The name the Italians call it is The Altars);
Three other ships the East Wind runs aground
And carries them into the shallows, a wretched sight,
The sand heaped up around them. Aeneas himself
Saw how a monstrous devouring wave rose up
And struck the stern of the ship the Lycians and
Faithful Orontes rode in…

Emotions well up and manifest themselves in Book Six when a perplexed and remorseful Aeneas in Hades meets Dido, his temptress and lover, who caused their forbidden dalliance in defiance of fate. Distraught, he questions the circumstances of her suicide. Departures like this from The Aeneid’s epic tone and majesty create the emotional depth that captures the reader and makes Virgil all the more compelling. Here’s Ferry’s splendid rendering of the scene,

Is it true, what I was told, that you were dead,
And with a sword had brought about your death?
And was it I, alas, who caused it? I
Swear by the stars, and by the upper world,
And by whatever here below is holy,
I left your shores unwillingly. It was
The gods’ commands which have brought me now down through
The shadows to these desolate wasted places,
In the profound abysmal dark; it was
The gods who drove me, and I could not know
That when I left I left behind a grief
So devastated. Stay. Who is it you
Are fleeing from? Do not withdraw from sight.
This is the last I am allowed by fate
To say to you.” Weeping he tried with these,
His words, to appease the rage in her fiery eyes.

Notice the meeting of pathos and white-hot ire at the end of the selection. As a suicide Dido was condemned to live in the past, forever enshrining her tragedy. Seems a bit unjust! And, paradoxically, quite suitable for our age.

During his quest Aeneas loses quite a lot: his wife left in Troy’s flames, Dido, his lover, succumbing to suicide, and Pallas, the Arcadian boy he was guardian to, felled by the prince of his enemies. All sacrificed to destiny. Along the way circumstances seem to alter “pious” Aeneas’ psychological makeup. In his climactic battle with Turnus, his Latin antagonist, Aeneas shuns the mercy asked for by his remorseful rival and lets vengefulness rule the day, perhaps even prospectively setting the precedent that influenced the history of Rome with strife and civil war down to Octavian’s time. After some hesitation the deal is sealed when Aeneas glimpses Pallas’ sword belt on Turnus. Ferry feels the building wrath and translates part of Virgil’s last scene this way,

When Aeneas saw it on Turnus’ shoulder, shining
Memorial of the dolorous story, and
Of his own grief, the terrible savage rage
Rose up in him, and he said to Turnus, “Did you
Think that you could get away with this,
Wearing this trophy of what you did to him?
It is Pallas who makes you his sacrifice. It is Pallas
Who drives this home!” And saying this he ripped
Open the breast of Turnus and Turnus’ bones
Went chilled and slack…

No hyperbole needed in praise of David Ferry’s translation of the Aeneid. Truly astonishing.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Sunday Poet:Celia Merlin

Celia Merlin

Celia Merlin was born in Lexington, Ky., grew up in Buffalo, N.Y., and moved to Tel Aviv where she now lives, writes, teaches and enjoys her family.  Her work has appeared in various anthologies, receiving numerous honors and recognition. Her debut collection of poems, "Of This Too", recently came out, much to her long awaited delight.


            “ on the ocean of life, we pass…”   —Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

We sit in the mall café

talking photographs.

The air is plastic,

the music benign.

In a booth near the restroom,

holding tall ice coffees,

you say you’ll be leaving again.

And I know.

In your photos, purple feathers,

headdresses of Kings,

fat crocodile teeth,

plush carpets of pines.

There are women with weavings,

brown children on boats,

angles of blue and

the rust of red soil.

I am losing my breath.

I am nauseous with awe.

I am inside the lens

of your eye.

There are shadows of green,

spreading fingers on rocks, and

Einstein-like webs

in the trees.

I am covered with waves.

I am licking a cloud.

I am climbing a

steeple of slate.

—Is there anything else..?

            the waitress asks.

-No, thanks.

            We pack up and leave.

Each to the corners

we’ve picked for ourselves.

You to your knapsack,

your travel-worn boots.

Me to my words

and the mall.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Susan Phelps, owner of Hubba Hubba--has passed.

Susan Phelps, owner of Hubba Hubba, Dies After a Last Night at Nightclub
June 6, 1938 – Saturday, November 4, 2017 

Obit by William Falcetano

Nightclubbers and fun-lovers will mourn the passing of Susan Phelps, owner of Hubba Hubba, purveyor of fetish couture and adult toys in Cambridge.  Suzie was an enormously beloved figure, not only in the nightclub scene; she was known and respected as a trail-blazing business woman, a regular contributor to good causes, a helper of those in need, and a genuine free spirit – the kind that every great city produces when it’s lucky – Cambridge got lucky for forty years.  Anyone who wandered into Hubba Hubba knew they had entered a special place looked after and cared for by a very special person. 

Hubba Hubba (a throwback phrase to the glory days of big busted blonde bombshells) was not merely a “sex shop”; it was more than a that: it was a meeting place for outcasts, a home for circus people, a club-house for strippers, sex workers, porn stars, and drag queens. Everyone felt welcomed there even the many otherwise ordinary folk who just wanted to put a twist into their sex lives.  Hubba Hubba was about freedom, mutual acceptance, and the celebration of being different, even deviant; it was about fun; and it was about tolerating other people’s kinks, even if they aren’t your own.  

Susan was born June 6th, 1938. Her father Dick Phelps was a designer of amusement parks and golf courses all over America. Suzie grew up in an atmosphere that was fantasy to the rest the rest of us – but to her that fantasy world was home. The carnival barkers all knew her as “Dick Phelps’s kid”; and she got to go on the rides for free.  That gay and care-free sense of joy never left her; and she bestowed it freely as a gift on all she met.  Countless customers left Hubba Hubba with a smile on their faces because Suzie made them feel great about their new naughty purchase. 
Suzie grew up in Lexington; a graduate of RISD in Providence, Susan had a keen eye for beauty and fashion; a fine turned leg always turned her head.  She loved to rip out the pages of fashion mags to show her friends and customers what she liked and what was au courant.  She also had a few great adventures that took her to Europe and Africa, London and San Francisco, New York and finally Cambridge, where she opened the first incarnation (there were four) of her unique store in 1977.  
In the early 1980s Hubba Hubba was a vintage shop with a few adult items for sale under glass or discretely off to the side. The store was imbued with a sense of delicious naughtiness. What stood out were a few signature touches: the bondage Barbie dolls strung up and hunched over in hilarious poses, dressed in punk-rock regalia, typify Hubba Hubba’s unique mix of sex and humor. Susan Phelps was the Vivian Westwood of Boston / Cambridge; she influenced style, fashion, and the culture of the era; and she made people feel great about spending their hard-earned cash on hedonistic purchases.

Suzie and her then business partner Liza Chapman were “the glamorous lesbian couple of Central Square”; they cut quite a figure around town in those days of shoulder pads, new wave music, and big hair. The author remembers them going to The Channel nightclub for new year’s eve, dressed in black leather pants and mink coats (not politically correct couture!) with bottles of champagne hidden underneath!  Attention must be paid!  We were young once and fabulous too! 
Eventually, the rough edges of punk rock passed into the more conspicuous glamor of the goth scene in the 1990s and early 2000s – the heyday of ManRay, when stage shows were avant garde happenings. The glamor of that era reflected a gilded culture awash in new money from computer technology and the Peace Dividend after the end of the Cold War.  The late 1990s and early 2000s were the heyday of Hubba Hubba and the nightclub scene in Cambridge.  There was a symbiotic connection between the club scene and the store.  The club scene was all about ManRay; and ManRay was all about “Fetish Fridays”.  Once a week people could peel off their mufti and squeeze into their cat suits and shiny black vinyl, kick off the wing tips and throw on the platform heels, stage make up, corsets and collars, and dance to the pounding beat of German Industrial techno and the spooky sounds of Peter Murphy.  

The dancing in those days was unlike anything I have ever seen before or since – the stage full of tangled bodies, figures in a Luca Signorelli scene of damnation, twisting, writhing, turning, kicking – all in perfect unison with the liquid music, as strobe lights dappled off the shiny vinyl and studded collars creating a mix of sensations and sounds, colors and moods that defies easy description.  ManRay was home to some spectacular stage shows – the best of which was Ooze, headed by Nicole MacDonald, creator of 99nth Mind.  With her blood curdling screams, suspended bodies, and Felliniesque sensibility, she and her talented crew turned Cambridge into something that counts as “cutting-edge”.

During all this time Hubba Hubba was a Mecca for the talented and the tasteless, the kinky and the cool.  It was a Club House for the deviant and the defiant.  To go there was so much more than to conduct a mere commercial transaction; it was a way of being different, of being with others who liked “different” things, and thought in unconventional ways than the usual vanilla herd of muggles.  They knew there was magic among them – they could see it before their own eyes every Friday night in the stunning costumes of Tara Emory and the unforgettable stages shows of Ooze.  
Susan Phelps was last seen in public at the ManRay reunion Wraith – at the Paradise Club Friday night, November 3rd.  She looked amazing in a black lace dress with corset and two giant safety pins; her beaming face was full of happiness as she was soaking in the fun, pleased to be out among the kids, selling her wares, dispensing her praise, and soaking in the love.  She will be mourned by many and her memory cherished by countless people whose lives she touched.

Stonecoast MFA Community Reading Nov 18th Arts Armory--Somerville

Reading hosted by Lo Galluccio
( Click on pic to enlarge)

Sunday, November 05, 2017

The Sunday Poet: Evaleen Stein

Evaleen Stein

This poem was sent to us by Wendell Smith who says:

The mystery brought this poem to my attention through Dr. Michael Sperber, an 86 year old practicing psychiatrist who has a poetry salon on Thursday evenings in Beverly. It was anonymously deposited in a shoe outside his apartment door. Evaleen  Stein was a 19th and early 20th century poet best known for her children’s writings. But, while the poet is not contemporary and its diction archaic, the poem’s empathy for the plight of exiles is a contemporary need, given the way we are treating emigrants, refugees, DACA children, and the homeless. What are the homeless but exiles in their homeland? Where is the Department of Homeland Security that will look to their need? The poem is taken from One Way To the Woods, published by Copeland & Day, Boston in 1897”.

The Exiles

Bare blackened boughs
That seem to press
Low skies, storm-swept and pitiless,
Must be the only roofs to house
Or shelter their distress.

They tread by night
Beneath the trees ;
Before them desert distances,
Whereon the endless snows are white,
And endless tempests freeze.

Their eyes are bound.
And iron bands
Are heavy on their helpless hands
Ordained to delve the barren ground
Of bleak, unlovely lands.

Week after week.
Across the snow
And weary wastes, they wander so;
No human heart wherein to seek
Surcease of any woe.

Their footsteps wend
Afar from hearth, and home, and friend;
Nor know they what grief hath in store
Before the bitter end.

Whate’er their deeds.
It matters not;
Their very names shall be forgot;
Their agony, their heartsick needs,
And their forsaken lot.

Friday, November 03, 2017

Legacy as Practice: How We Come to Creative Fruition in Later Life by Marc Zegans

Portrait of Zegans by John Lawson

Legacy as Practice: How We Come to Creative Fruition in Later Life

 ArtSpark first published this article at

I’d like to introduce you to a novel way of thinking about crafting our legacies. Typically, when we refer to an artist’s legacy we mean what comes after—the objects and influences that trail in the wake of an artist’s passing. But what if we imagined shaping artists’ legacies as an active and deeply fulfilling practice, one that establishes continuity between their creative work in later life and that which lies beyond? What if we saw forming legacy as a process that animates and informs creative expression, not simply as a means of attending to the future care of our work? What if we envisioned legacy as practice—a means of consciously entering and engaging the final stage of our creative careers fully and well.1

Knocking on the Door
At some point, every artist becomes aware of diminishing energy and capacities, and with these changes the proximate finitude of life. Artists reaching this juncture may find less satisfaction in their work, and discover that previously cherished social roles no longer hold particular allure. Such awareness arises in rumblings and ruminations: “How do I continue when the work has lost its light? How do I go on when I’m unsure how long my abilities will continue to hold? How can I persist when my peers are gone and the end is in sight?"

While the appearance of these questions is animated by feelings of loss, dissatisfaction, unease and fear, their presence presumes the possibility of a vitalizing response, one that brings spark and fresh appetite for new and innovative work. If an artist is willing to make significant adaptive changes, such revitalization is indeed possible. The path to productive adaptation entails a release of past socialization and prior ambitions in favor of a return to self.

To this point, meaning for the artist has been defined by various forms of accumulation: discipline, skill, social connection, reward and reputation, and by projection of self through distinctive work, self-promotion, and strategies of influence. As artists enter later life, the desire for accumulation begins to lose meaning and the urge to self-inflation that underwrites the practices of projection diminishes in attraction. When this structure of meaning crumbles an artist may come to recognize that he or she is entering a period of life in which value and fulfillment are found by precisely opposite means.

Rather than continuing to work on old terms predicated by familiar motives, an artist’s late life finds renewal through a conscious and willing transformation of creative identity, a shift from the role of art warrior (or tribal leader) to elder. An elder artist’s task is to shape a living legacy by exchanging ambition and authority for the freedom to offer wisdom, to work with renewed spirit and emotional depth, and to bestow parting gifts while yet alive. This turn to heart and spirit can open a channel to the larger Self and yield creative work of great force and profundity. But the turn does not come easily.

Making the Turn

Though an elder’s role carries immense satisfaction, it’s often hard for artists to imagine operating in such capacity. So they resist—stretching, straining, overworking, and sabotaging the people coming up behind them; struggling to remain relevant, or falling prey to listless depression. Then, the resistance having proved futile, a crack may open, and the artist’s inner dialogue may shift. “I would come to grief if I shared with no one what I have learned. If I relinquish control and open my heart, my work may find new life. I don’t want to be careless about what I leave behind.” And with such acknowledgements the artist lets go, accepts the freedom of great age and begins to learn the practice of creating legacy.
We can see this transition to elder as a process of waking up. The artist who has accepted the elder’s role and who has begun the work of creating legacy has arrived at wry self-acceptance, come to embrace life as it is, and is alert and alive to the moment. An artist so situated speaks with clarity and directness. “I’m no longer building a creative career; I’m finishing the journey. I have nothing to prove, but I’m happy to share what I’ve learned along the way. I’m concerned with using my time well, and with what I will leave behind. I want to work now from my heart and to follow the call of my spirit. I want to die with my brush in my hand.”
So how does this newly awakened artist proceed?

Engaging in Practice
Artists thrive in late life by abandoning claims to status, reputation, esteem and control in favor of fully expressed individuality, and the capacity for deep generosity from which legacy is made. Such artists relax into the moment; discovers humor in their emerging limitations; connect with and channel the larger Self in work that travels through the heart, and bestow wisdom on those who seek it. Artists arrive at this place by developing and expressing what Carl Rogers termed, “…this underlying confidence in themselves as trustworthy instruments for encountering life.”2

In functioning as Rogers’ trustworthy instrument, legacy as practice begins. From the perspective of life as encounter, bestowing wisdom and dispensing one’s gifts become natural extensions of what we might call expressive receptivity.Energy for new work, often embracing novel subject matter and proceeding by different means arises from this same source.

Beyond dispensing wisdom and developing novel work, legacy as practice often entails cultivating a capacity to collaborate with skill and generosity. Artists, particularly those in the performing arts, entering later years often find themselves working with less experienced, less knowledgeable, and less skilled colleagues. For artists still enmeshed in their roles warriors for the craft, this can be a source of immense frustration. (i.e. “I can direct circles around that idiot thirty-year old. Why should I put up with this crap?”)

Artists who have embraced the role of elder meet such experiences quite differently because these encounters represent for them neither an indignity, nor a threat to reputation. Consequently, they proceed with generosity, engaging the possibilities in the moment, embracing the naivety, insecurity and awkwardness that accompany the vital energy of their younger colleagues. By exercising warm sagacity in such situations, they become valued collaborators, passing on their craft by illustration and through gentle suggestion.

Such emergent capacity for collaboration, and the need for older artists to infuse their lives with new sources of inspiration, especially in domains, such as writing and the visual arts, where artists commonly work alone, suggests the need for a robust intergenerational brokering system that pairs older and younger artists. Possible pairings might include: mentorship programs; actively curated project-based associations; intergenerational exhibitions; master-classes; social events and service activities. The need for such intermediary structures presents a robust opportunity for educational institutions; arts support organizations, and philanthropies.

A Trustworthy Instrument
The artist creating legacy is facing neither inward, nor outward, but is balanced: accepting and offering, inspiring and expiring, a swinging gate through which life and expression pass simply. This artist is free, vital, unencumbered and engaged. Such an artists accepts fully that he or she does not know how things will end, but sees the openness of the situation as a shaper of priority and as a spur to action.

An artist so situated brings powerful resources to the enterprise, among these: a capacity to look back with awareness; a knowing of how things can unfold; an embodied sense of loss that can direct attention, inform action, and instruct methods; deep grounding in the methods of production, and variety in experience and human encounter. More powerful is the wisdom to see that these are simply resources—tools, available to be used, but not binding on the artist.

The sage artist understands that the art of creating legacy is a process of live engagement and self-determination, informed, but never governed, by accumulated experience and the resources it provides. It is a means of working intentionally and astutely from the heart, accepting what comes, offering what one has, and producing that which is needed. Proceeding from this awakened state, artists, who conceive of legacy as practice, unleash the prospect of producing work that sparkles with vitality, pulses with humor, shines with love, and perhaps finds transcendence. And that is why fulfilled artists never stop working, because for them legacy is practice.

1. For more on the stages of a fulfilled creative life, see Arc and Interruption | Grantmakers in the Arts
“Toward Becoming a Fully Functioning Person,” Carl R. Rogers, ASCD Yearbook, Perceiving, Behaving, Becoming: A New Focus for Education, 1962.
© Copyright Marc Zegans, 2017. All rights reserved.

Marc Zegans is a creative development advisor who helps artists; writers and creative people thrive and shine. He is the past executive director of Harvard University’s Innovations Program and a working poet with four collections in print.  Marc can be reached for consultation at:  His website is