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Ugly Buddhist Woman
The Dalai Lama said, "Well, yes, a woman Could be the next Dalai Lama, but she'd have to be good looking." ugly.buddhist.woman@gmail.com
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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Riding vs Graves

Spoils by Robert Graves
When all is over and you march for home
The spoils of war are easily disposed of:
Standards, weapons of combat, helmets, drums
May decorate a staircase or a study,
While lesser gleanings of the battlefield-
Coins, watches, wedding-rings, gold teeth and such
Are sold anonymously for solid cash.

The spoils of love present a different case.
When all is over and you march for home:
That lock of hair, these letters and the portrait
May not be publicly displayed; nor sold;
Nor burned; nor returned (The heart being too obstinate)-
Yet never dare entrust them to a safe
For fear they may burn a hole through two-foot steel.
Laura Riding and Robert Graves

Riding’s original ménage à trois with Graves and his wife Nancy Nicholson ended with Riding winning Graves in 1929 by jumping out of a fourth-floor window and nearly killing herself. The Graves-Riding alliance, which evolved into a sexless but alarmingly intense household on Mallorca, eventually dissolved when, in 1939, Riding fell in love with Schuyler Jackson, a “gentleman farmer” who had a nominal job as reviewer of poetry for Time magazine. They married in 1941, and eventually settled in Florida, where Jackson died in 1968; Riding died at ninety in 1991. Her extreme bitterness toward Graves, whose work she regarded as derived from her own, appears in its full strength in the hitherto unpublished essay printed in The Word ‘Woman’ under the title “Robert Graves’s The White Goddess“:

After I terminated the association that had existed between Robert Graves and myself, he released himself first into a rampant desperation, of one interrupted in a secure status as a literary modern of enviously sophisticated authority, the rôle, in verity, a sinecure, by virtue of its dependence on the grace of what I had given him, and allowed him to take, of my values, knowledges, laborings towards basic definitions of the nature of the human experience, and of human existence itself. After the rampant desperation came a rampant self-expenditure in new freedom felt to make use of my thought, my work, my poetic work and varied general writing, without restraint of fear of challenge by myself or detection of reproach by others….
The White Goddess is but one of the many post-1939 exploits of Robert Graves in conversion of the Riding general opus into Graves raw material.
This relatively sober piece of accusation soon dissolves into the following:
It would not be enough to say of The White Goddess that it is a spectacular show of poet-piety, earnest in its hypocrisy, a profession of poetic faith enacted with pseudonaive mind-immersing in glittering expanses of shallow poetic theorizing, into which is poured a foamy grandiose effusion of nothingish spiritualistics affecting learnedness…. The White Goddess is worse than this. It is a personal infliction, an act of revenge committed with the kind of gruesome emission of sounds of triumph that large hawks, scouting over an area, loose on high, even before they have made their kill.
New York Review of Books, November 18, 1993, Helen Vander, "White Goddess!"
Rational Meaning: A New Foundation for the Definition of Words
By Laura (Riding) Jackson and Schuyler B. Jackson
Edited by William Harmon
Introduction by Charles Bernstein
University Press of Virginia, 1997

"The publication of Rational Meaning: A New Foundation for the Definition of Words brings to completion one of the most aesthetically and philosophically singular projects of twentieth-century American poetry. No North American or European poet of this century has created a body of work that reflects more deeply on the inherent conflicts between truth telling and the inevitable artifice of poetry than Laura (Riding) Jackson." --Charles Bernstein, from the introduction.
Existing only in manuscript since the 1940s but enjoying an underground reputation among friends and advocates, this primary document by one of the most original and influential of American poets and thinkers is now being published as Rational Meaning , Laura (Riding) Jackson's testament of the necessity of living for truth. Begun as a dictionary and thesaurus in the 1930s, the work developed into a fundamental reevaluation of language itself. Riding, in close collaboration with her husband, continued this monumental project over the succeeding decades, completing it after his death in 1968. The work, which she regarded as a "Magna Carta of the human mind," has heretofore been seen by only a handful of people. Yet the recent resurgence of interest in Laura Riding is nourishing the growth of scholarship and study, in which this culmination of a life's work will play its part as her true significance becomes more widely understood.