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" ' Behold, I make all things new." Then he said, 'Write these words down'" (21:5). Hearing this in the monk's choir, I gasped. No wonder this chapter is Dickinson's favorite. Christ's commission may well have helped her define her calling, her vocation as a poet (and I would clam, one of the great biblical interpreters of the nineteenth century.) I gasped again, as a phrase entered my mind: " Ezra Pound thundered,'make it new,' and Jesus said, 'I will." . . .


Dragons within, dragons without. Evil so pervasive that only the poetry of the apocalypse can imagine its defeat . . . We will sing a new song. 


Kathleen Norris, The Cloister Walk (1996)



Quote 

"Hell is the absence of the people you long for.”

EMILY ST. JOHN MANDEL



June Author of the Month:

Emily St. John Mandel

Emily St. John Mandel (1979- ) is the author of six novels, most recently Sea of Tranquility and is a Canadian novelist and essayist. Her previous novels include The Glass Hotel, which was selected by President Barack Obama as one of his favourite books of 2020, was shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, and has been translated into 23 languages, and Station Eleven, which was a finalist for a National Book Award and the PEN/Faulkner Award, and won the 2015 Arthur C. Clarke Award among other honours, has been translated into 36 languages, and aired as a limited series on HBO Max. Emily St. John Mandel was born and raised on the west coast of British Columbia, Canada. She studied contemporary dance at the School of Toronto Dance Theatre and lived briefly in Montreal before relocating to New York. 


(Source: Goodreads, Biography: www.emilymandel.com)


For an example of her books: see Book Pic of the Month.




Susan Sontag, Essayist and So Much Else:

A new film on Susan Sontag gives an intimate look at her passions.

Essay by Emily St. John Mandel

HUMANITIES, September/October 2014, Volume 35, Number 5 (Numbers 1-3).

1.


How to capture a life? A problem of biographical projects, especially those involving subjects who left behind multiple books and interviews and hours of film footage, is that ten edits of the same story will yield ten different lives. This raises a further question with which every biographer must contend, even for lives much less complex and ecstatic and varied than Susan Sontag’s: How much space should be given over to the messy details of the private life—the love affairs, the children, the fraught relationships with family—how much to the public life, and beyond that, how much to the environment and the era by which that life was shaped?


Nancy Kates’s new documentary film, Regarding Susan Sontag—a fascinating, moving, and often gorgeous entry into the canon of works produced about Sontag since her death—doesn’t neglect the time and the social forces that shaped Sontag’s life, but, for the most part, the narrative that emerges is deeply personal. It’s a close portrait of a woman who was, in the words of her son, “interested in everything”: Wittgenstein, but also sci-fi B movies; John Cage, but also Fred Astaire.


“She wanted to have everything at least three ways,” Christopher Hitchens wrote in his memoir, Hitch-22,. . . and she wanted it voraciously: an evening of theater or cinema followed by a lengthy dinner at an intriguing new restaurant, with visitors from at least one new country, to be succeeded by very late-night conversation precisely so that an early start could be made in the morning.


Sontag was born in New York City in 1933, raised in various suburbs—on Long Island, near Tucson, the San Fernando Valley—and when she enrolled at Berkeley as a teenager, she felt she’d found home, standing in line and hearing Proust’s name pronounced correctly for the first time. When she recounts this on video decades later, you can still see the ecstasy of that moment in her face.


She transferred to the University of Chicago, where she married a professor whom she’d only known for ten days. She had a child, went to Oxford on a philosophy fellowship, divorced; fell in and out of love with women and men in Paris and New York; wrote novels, stage plays, and essays on subjects ranging from photography to illness to horror movies. She was brilliant, beautiful, and forceful. She established herself as a cultural critic and a public intellectual, and became excessively famous. By the time of her death—of cancer, in 2004—she had left an indelible and sometimes controversial mark on American culture.


2.


In the edition of the New Yorker that appeared a week after 9/11, the Talk of the Town section was given over to a number of short essays by prominent writers, Sontag among them, reflecting on the atrocity. The other writers offered subdued, anguished reflections on the horror of watching the attack unfold, on its aftermath. They wrote of human connections, of grief, of their shock and disorientation as they tried to find bearings in this baffling new world in which we’d all suddenly landed. Sontag, on the other hand, came out with knives drawn. “Where is the acknowledgement,” she wrote,

that this was not a “cowardly” attack on “civilization” or “liberty” or “humanity” or “the free world” but an attack on the world’s self-proclaimed super-power, undertaken as a consequence of specific American alliances and actions?


At a moment when the prevailing sentiment was grief, she’d already moved on to critiquing the language, and she came across as insensitive at best. An early clip in Regarding finds her defending her position on ABC, a representative of the Heritage Foundation interrupting and talking over her to explain that Sontag is “an offensive writer,” part of the “‘blame America first’ crowd,” whose “version of patriotism is ‘blame America, blame America.’”


When she eventually succeeds in getting a word in edgewise, she explains that her point in the New Yorker wasn’t that America was to blame, her point was that “this sort of build-up of moralistic words to describe this horrendous atrocity was not helping us to understand and reach an intelligent response, political and military, which I’m absolutely in favor of. I’m not a pacifist.”


It was an argument, in other words, for precision and intelligence in our use of language. In the cacophony of interruptions that follows, Kates cuts to an editorial that Sontag wrote as a teenager, in the North Hollywood High School newspaper:


The battle for peace will never be won by calling anyone whom we don’t like a Communist. If we do this, we shall some day realize that in the effort to preserve our Democratic way of life, we have thrown away its noblest feature: the right of every person to express his own opinion.


This is one of the great pleasures of Regarding, these glimpses of the early life, Kates’s grace in connecting these glimpses to the life and the career that followed. Peter Haidu, a scholar in medieval studies, remembers the teenaged Sontag well. “She sat me down on her bed,” he recalls, “and ran through the argument of the Critique of Pure Reason, Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. She must have been fifteen.”


3.


It’s a given that Sontag was possessed of an extraordinary mind; a strength of Regarding is its depiction of an equally extraordinary will. She was who she was—Susan Sontag the icon, as opposed to, say, Susan Sontag the very-well-read-but-unpublished housewife—because she willed herself out of one life and into another. Then another, and another.


In one of the film’s most compelling interviews, shot in Sontag’s later years, a reporter pries gently into the early chronology: college at fifteen, marriage at seventeen, a child at nineteen. “These numbers suggest what?” she asks.


 Sontag replies:

Eagerness to grow up. I hated being a child. I couldn’t do what I wanted to do. I wanted to stay up all night. . . . I wanted to talk to people. I wanted to meet people who were interested in what I was interested in.


I couldn’t do what I wanted to do. In Regarding, this problem seems as relevant to Sontag’s marriage as it was to her childhood. “Marriage,” she wrote in her journal, “is based on the principle of inertia.” An unfortunate conception of marriage for anyone, but particularly disastrous for a person whose internal equilibrium seemed to require constant motion. In 1957, Sontag left her husband and son in the United States—she made arrangements for five-year-old David to be cared for by her husband’s parents—and crossed the Atlantic to study philosophy at Oxford. “I think,” her sister Judith says of this decision, “she just wanted to do what she wanted to do. That’s really all there is to it.”


“She was constantly discovering things and becoming a new person,” the French scholar Alice Kaplan notes in the film, “and that was her essential avant-gardism. You can either suspect it or really, really admire it.”


Or both. It’s possible to admire it on one level and, on another, suspect a certain lack of attention to the effect of those reinventions on the people around her. “She was never able to know what goes on in another person,” her former girlfriend Eva Kollisch said. “I mean the sensitivity that we exercise in everyday life all the time, you know, like ‘what are you thinking, what are you feeling, where are you in this?’ Susan was not sensitive. She was not a sensitive person.”


But Kates’s depiction of Sontag’s decision to leave is nuanced. Sontag may have wanted to do what she wanted to do, but, as Alice Kaplan points out, American parenting in the mid fifties was very different from American parenting today. Some things that seem unfathomable now were less so back then, and vice versa. Moreover, the model of passing off one’s children to other people was a familiar arrangement: Susan and Judith had been raised by relatives until Susan was six and Judith was three, their parents being occupied by the fur-trading business in China.


Consider for a moment this passage from Jenny Offill’s exquisite recent novel, Dept. of Speculation, in which a married female writer considers the path not taken:


My plan was to never get married. I was going to be an art monster instead. Women almost never become art monsters because art monsters only concern themselves with art, never mundane things. Nabokov didn’t even fold his own umbrella. Véra licked his stamps for him.


It is absolutely possible to be an artist and to be married. It’s difficult to be both an art monster, in Offill’s splendid phrasing, and a responsible spouse. And it seems a fairly safe assumption that being both an art monster and a wife would have been virtually impossible in the mid fifties.


Reflecting on the collapse of his marriage with Sontag, in a story that appeared in the New York Observer a year after her death, Philip Rieff said, “I think what I wanted was a large family and what she wanted was a large library.”

Movie Night with Voetelle


YouTube Specials

Emily Isaacson is known for her lucid and dramatic poetry, as well as her astute vision to  use revelation to make information, images, and words relevant and meaningful. Her use of images and soundtracks to create movies during Covid lockdown has contributed to some of her poetry being put to sound and images for her viewers.

See her YouTube here.

Call to the Poets


Before the Fire


There was a vandalised wall

between my heart

and my mind.

The graffiti coloured wall drove

believers underground

for fear of persecution.


Few continued on in this vein

of silence over spiritual matters,

of quiet church,

humming the great hymns of the faith

in reservation

behind bolted doors.


When the wall came down,

missionaries came

like tiny people,

only for us to tell them

there was no watermelon

on this side of the wall before now.


They talked about Creation,

but we had only heard

of evolution.

Their script

was to smile, accept us,

and invite us in.


We were an acceptable darkness,

with poverty of religion,

no candle to see by,

like being married

with no wedding rings

and no church.


Then there was a bonfire,

and people surrounded it

with their hands stretched out;

better to be warm, we thought,

than cold.

Now we could sing louder.


Alleluiah, alleluiah

rang over the hills

of Germany:

it was a sad and glorious song.


Emily Isaacson, published in Hallmark (2017)

Self portraits by Isaacson

Emily Isaacson is a poet with both Canadian and American influences, who is a dual citizen. Her prolific verse and multimedia art bring poetry to life: she has created over 75 videos of her poetry, and hosted a weekly poetry movie on YouTube during Covid lockdown. In the last sixteen years her sites have been visited over 1.8 million times by more than 45 countries. She is also an arts advocate who has taught on Creative Writing. She has a Bachelor of Science from Bastyr University in Seattle and is currently the Director of the Wild Lily Institute, founded to preserve her poetry and legacy.

She now invites you to her secret cache of over 35 photos, taken by herself over a time span of 15 years.

All photos are under copyright by WLI. To use any of these photos for media purposes, please contact us.

VISIT GALLERY

The Fleur-de-lis

What is Emily Isaacson's claim to fame?

__________________

She was chosen to write the sacred manuscript of The Fleur-de-lis to commemorate the marriage of Prince William to Kate Middleton in 2011.

_____________________

This historical book of Canadiana literature contained over 800 poems in English and French and was published in three volumes.

____________________

Not only that, it was her first real publication of her work, and took her over 5 years to complete. She claims this divine invitation was given to her by God and that it is a prophetic and anointed work.

____________________

Read more about this amazing book . . .  

The Lion and the Unicorn Tapestry

Emily's stylised poetry under the symbol of the Fleur-de-lis is world-renowned for its poignant and lyrical style and theatrical use of language. She engages an audience that may have lost interest in the dusty field of poetry long ago. Now rekindle the fire: postmodern poetry at its finest hour.

Visit  Here

Quote

"But she lives; for great poets do not die; they are continuing presences;

they need only the opportunity to walk among us in the flesh."

-- Virginia Woolf,  A Room of One's Own

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ISAACSON'S Latest Poetry

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"The New World sounds its horn to all its evangelists, antagonists and enthusiasts, in bold claim of the English language and all its endeavors. There are those who will rise up. This new renaissance of post-modern verse varies in its expense from page to page, and yet, no expense is spared. The jewels of the world vary greatly, but few are as rare a find as this trilogy of works of the Black Saint. . . "


Preface to Victoriana (2015)

ISAACSON POEM

I listened from out the little window

to see if I could hear your song

in the lane,

and when the familiar whistle sounded,

even my dulcet heart gave way.


There was the song of us

that whistled on the moor

before the seasons began,

when we knew we’d be together

even in a foreign land.


There was the wood

that burned dry in the hearth;

I took a coin from my purse,

and counted the face on it

memorizing the moments your touch

reached out in healing.


There was the building of

something new amid the old,

a search for independence,

a need to voice a referendum.


The old country calls me home.

Its architecture has not yet crumbled.

I wave from my window

and write Scottish poems

to the sonorous bagpipe,

the fire, burning, burning cinders.


From the poem "Burning Cinders"

Victoriana

What is the length of the 

complete works?




Isaacson's complete works includes over 1600 poems in chronological order, ranging from age 13 to her most recent unpublished works. The book is at present approximately 1,100 pages.


The Wild Lily Institute

1.8  Million Visits to WLI

 1 6 2 ,  6 4 2   visitors

1,  8 6 1 , 6 2 1   visits  to  all  Wild Lily sites.

What are WLI sites?       

S P I R I T U A L   L I F E 

Take courage and find solace in your faith ...

Visit our page of encouragement

Love in the Time of Plague.

Recommended Reading

List of the Month

Visit here: June pics

Toward the replanting of a land—

once deserted, cold, and barren, still;

now citrus, and the olive, myrtle stand,

our pride in the distance, through the hills

spilling fine perfume and virgin oil.

Early songs still rise from temple mount

amid the prayers, centuries old toil.


--Emily Isaacson, The Replanting

House of Rain

A VOETELLE SITE

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Emily Quote:


“Does anyone here know how to use a pressure cooker?”


Emily Isaacson