Monday, March 10, 2008



Before I get to the 17th--- St Patrick's Day--- I have a round about way of getting there via the very poorly annotated journal of Edmund Wilson THE SIXTIES.(April 1960) (Page 25) "Only three inmates at Yaddo, the off season: Dawn Powell, Pati Hill and another girl who was writing a novel but hadn't published anything yet...I asked them all about dreams of flying... Pati Hill is supported by something that she says is like waterwings. She feels that she is able to do it, or ought to be able to do it without support, but never has quite enough self-confidence... the Green girl from Cincinnati plunges down a flight of stairs and at the bottom there appears a gigantic man's face."


I can assume everyone knows who Dawn Powell is. The only mostly forgotten American author who has been successfully reborn, and that rebirth is due to the fact that she is a very good writer and Gore Vidal wrote one of the most convincing and
inviting essays...
The friendship between Powell and Edmund Wilson can be described by an entry in Powell's DIARY for February 15, 1961. "Dinner with Bunny (Wilson) at Princeton Club...determined to be less than our sleepy age, afterward knew we wanted a drink but were hardly able to sit up and stay awake. Our feet with one accord strolled into Liquor Store where we each selected pints of rye, strolled out into cab and tore to our separate beds where we could drop our clothes, put nipple on bottle and slurp the whole thing down at ease.(page 421)


The "Green girl" is found in Dawn Powell's DIARY, "Arrived Yaddo... Very bright girls. Hannah Green (Cincinnati, Wellesley, taught at Stanford)...Hannah--- like Eugene Comstock--- warm, large, lazy, doggy-body, warm, juicy fruity voice, rich juicy blue eyes, clouding and brimming and laughing--- edible blue eyes, Luscious. Eyes give impression of beauty--- which may or may not be there. (page 408)


In 1972, Hannah Green will finally publish THE DEAD OF THE HOUSE, one of the very very few books by an American that can be thought to be genuinely visionary and which can sit easily on the same shelf for instance with the novels of Julien Gracq. It exists in American literature on the same shelf with THE GRANDMOTHERS, BEYOND THE BEDROOM WALL, GOING TO PATCHOGUE, BECAUSE I WAS FLESH, PATERSON...
LITTLE SAINT will appear after her death. "Mr. Nabokov" her essay on having Vladimir Nabokov as her professor at Wellesley is of the most delicate and clear...
Hannah was married to John Wesley about whom she wrote and who near 80 is still painting.
Not a day goes by that I don't miss Hannah who died... I can't bring myself to put the date down.
This year Nelida Pinon might be coming to America and so finally to again talk with someone who knew Hannah...
A long time ago Hannah knew two Irish poets: Thomas Kinsella and Desmond O'Grady...


Let Dawn Powell describe Pati Hill: Pati Hill arrives... familiar American girls in Paris or Rome---skiers, swimmers, ping-pongers, free-wheeling, friendly. If poor, their manners, accomplishments and dress are casually aristocratic and rich. Looking for adventure, love, the new pioneers--- not beatnik types but more adaptable, socially savvy. Pati--- high style Paris model maigre, chic, boarding school voice, wide ugly face trained to photographs, the delicate lady manner that draws service from everyone. One automatically brings her the things she has failed to notice--- so station wagon drives all around on her errands (as it would for K(atherine). A(nn). Porter (Dorthy) Parker..."

Let Powell continue Hill's description from the SELECTED LETTERS OF DAWN POWELL, "Pati Hill and I gathered buckets of snow and boiled it on the electric grill to wash our hair (avoiding the dry hard water). The snow was so hard we could have fried it like scrapple."

Let Powell in the Selected Letters describe both Hill and Green, "The ex-model Pati Hill keeps writing short plays for Spoleto and skis and defends all moot characters mentioned as "terribly sweet." This for Mary McCarthy too-- as Swados lifted an eye (me too) she was even more defensive. Then Hannah Green said, I hear she (McCarthy) is terribly beautiful and glamorous." Whereupon Pati squealed, "Beautiful! Glamorous! Good Heaves, she's the worst dressed most dreadfully dowdy creature I ever saw! I wish you could see her dressed up in what the poor dear thinks is smart. Goodness knows she probably spends hours fixing herself up and the transparent tops supposed to be seductive and showing her broken shoulder straps and Oh my word no---"...

"Pati Hill discovered a strange dirty old-style book in Mrs Katrina Trask's weird library--- a naughty-nun-and-hot-lover 1880 tale, Venetian Lover, translated by Whittaker Chambers! Full of naked bosoms and flagellations on white nun virgin flesh by older nuns and dark lovers---whee!"


Last week Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill wrote and asked if I ever saw a copy of Pati Hill's IMPOSSIBLE DREAMS to send it to her.
Now you see how the plot thickens...


In Flann O'Brien's felicitous phrase, the standing army of Irish poets is ever expanding. The numbers undreamed of in his time have been increasing of late at an accelerating rate as every town of any size in Ireland now offers courses on how to write poetry... the universities can not restrain themselves... and these alarming numbers have been added to by the Americans of Irish origin and sometimes of no origin at all. They used to talk of the beef and butter mountains in the EEC... but mountains of poems all of them written by shitting pissing poets...


There are four essential books of contemporary Irish poetry:
1, THE FIFTY MINUTE MERMAID by Nuala Ni Dhomhnall
2, COLLECTED POEMS (2006) by Thomas Kinsella
3, THE DARK EDGE OF EUROPE by Desmond O'Grady

That's is it. These four living poets.


One essential book of prose: WARRENPOINT by Denis Donoghue.


A FAREWELL TO PRAGUE and THE EDGE OF THE CITY by Desmond Hogan. In the hopes that Hogan will stay away from the dread short story virus that still infects Irish writers... I have hopes but they might be defeated. These two books offer some hope for an interest in writing as writing... probably in the long run this will be defeated, sadly...


Pati Hill ended up owning a village in France and having a show at the Cooper Hewett Museum in New York. For a time she was a copy machine artist who was making a copy of Versailles...


We once spent the Fourth of July Weekend with Pati Hill in her house at Stonington, Ct. We met the widow of Gaston Bergery, the famous model Bettina Jones... the talk of Drieu La Rochelle, Paul Morand...


We once spent two weeks with Pati Hill--- in another of her houses--- this time in Sens where she talked of being a mistress and when Curzio Malaparte came to Paris and where we were given key and essential lessons on what it means to be beautiful and why it is maybe better to be no longer beautiful and the meaning of friendship in France... in addition to IMPOSSIBLE DREAMS Pati wrote: THE PIT AND THE CENTURY PLANT, THE NINE MILE CIRCLE, ONE THING I KNOW, PROSPER and THE SNOW RABBIT (with illustrations by Galway Kinnell--- if only his drawing had stopped him from writing poetry!)

Pati Hill was an intriguing woman and remains a very dangerous woman, a dangerous memory...