Hold It All


Colin Irwin, Bob Dylan, Highway 61 Revisited
New York : Billboard Books, 2008
Legendary Session


You’ve been through all of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s books… And dropping a barbell he points to the sky saying, “The sun’s not yellow it’s chicken” … But the second mother was with the seventh son … You shouldn’t let other people get your kicks for you … Now when all the clowns that you have commissioned have died in battle or in vain …And the Good Samaritan, he’s dressing he’s getting ready for the show … I need a dump truck mama to unload my head … I started out on burgundy but soon hit the harder stuff … Don’t say I never warned you when your train gets lost …


The message of My Back Pages was there would be no more messages. Irwin, 40

Highway 61 changed everything, but what had changed Bob Dylan? He went from protest singer to wayward folkie to avatar of the rock era, during the 12 months in which he burnt brighter than any star since Elvis Presley. It didn’t matter what was on the other side of the doors he was kicking down, because once he stepped through, nothing would ever be the same again. Folk imploded, rock expanded, pop art mingled, the mainstream succumbed and show business was turned on its head: for songwriting, arrangements and lengths there is a before Highway 61 and an after. 8 Read the rest of this entry »

“What a Community!” Reading The Book of Mev by Jean Durel

My friend Jean sent me the following…

Have so loved The Book of Mev — even though my heart was breaking at times and tears were streaming down my face.  Of course I knew the end, but I had no idea what the journey would be like.  I so enjoyed reading about Mev’s and your budding relationship; was touched by many of the readings from other places that you included; especially loved reading about Mev when the pope went to Denver.  That was impressive!

But I was ill-prepared, even though you hinted at what would come, for Mev’s final journey and what havoc the brain tumor would cause in her body.  Unbelievable.  I had not heard the term, “the Arco Angels,” even though I knew the area had a closely knit community.  How vulnerable you allowed yourself to be and how supportive they were!  What a community!

Right now my next door neighbor is dying from stage 4 melanoma.  He is in hospice near Mercy Hospital so Helena and I went out to see him yesterday.  He is weak but alert and can whisper. Family and friends were visiting and of course there was great interest in some sports game on TV.  Later Helena commented that people don’t talk to the dying person about the fact that he is dying, thank him for his life and all he shared, etc.

She definitely has a point, but I was trying to imagine myself in my neighbor’s position and wondered how I would react if everyone who came in felt they had to talk to me about dying.  Think it would get old quickly.  But then again, maybe not.

So I thought about you and the Arco Angels and wondered how people dealt with that over the 7 or 8 mo. of Mev’s illness.  Anyway, wondered if this might sometime be an appropriate theme for one of the Sunday gatherings.


A Question from Lynda Barry

Emily Dickinson wrote at least  1,700 poems.

–Lynda Barry, Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor


Lines Written on the Back of a Wangari Maathai Postcard by Katja

I remember cookies crumbs on 6 North Coffee tables
I remember the banishment of “should”

I remember Being Peace
I remember blue-lined notebooks

I remember Natalie Goldbergisms
I remember writing outside the margins

I remember “be in love with yr life”
I remember calling you by your true name



The Good News of Translation


Thanks to __________, I  Was Able to Read_______’s  _________  [Language]


Richard Fein, Yankev Glatshteyn, Selected Poems [Yiddish]
Hillel Halkin, Sholem Aleichem, Tevye the Dairyman [Yiddish]
Nili Wachtel, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Meshugah [Yiddish]

Martha Collins and Thuy Dinh, Lam Thi My Da, Green Rice: Poems [Vietnamese] 
Mobi Ho, Thich Nhat Hanh, The Miracle of Mindfulness: A Manual on Meditation [Vietnamese]

Cedric Belfrage, Eduardo Galeano, The Book of Embraces [Spanish]
Andrew Hurley, Reinaldo Arenas, The Color of Summer [Spanish] 
John Lyons, Ernesto Cardenal, The Origin of Species and Other Poems [Spanish]
Samuel Putnam, Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote [Spanish]

Alexander Burry and Tatiana Tulchinsky, Anna Politkovskaya, A Small Corner of Hell: Dispatches from Chechnya [Russian]  Read the rest of this entry »

Dirda in Threes

General duties of a student — pull everything out of your teacher;
pull everything out of your fellow students. —Sister Corita Kent

Michael Dirda, Readings: Essays and Literary Entertainments
Indiana University Press, 2000

Michael Dirda has written about books at the Washington Post for decades.

Commencement Advice
Live all you can. It’s a mistake not to. —Henry James 
Keep an “interior citadel” — Marcus Aurelius
The most effective weapon of any man is to have reduced his share of histrionics to a minimum.  —Andre Malraux

Frances Yates
Marjorie Nicolson
Margaret Schlauch

Flaubert, The Temptation of Saint Anthony
Cowper Powys, Wolf Solent
Sorrentino, Mulligan Stew

Audio Recordings
John Gielgud, Old Testament
Jeremy Irons, Lolita
Ian McKellen, Robert Fagles’s Odyssey Read the rest of this entry »

Continuation via Chris Wallach

From Thich Nhat Hanh–

One autumn day, I was in a park, absorbed in the contemplation of a very small but beautiful leaf, in the shape of a heart. Its color was almost red, and it was barely hanging on the branch, nearly ready to fall down. I spent a long time with it, and I asked the leaf a lot of questions …

I asked the leaf whether it was scared because it was autumn and the other leaves were falling. The leaf told me, “No. During the whole spring and summer I was very alive. I worked hard and helped nourish the tree, and much of me is in the tree. Please do not say that I am just this form, because the form of leaf is only a tiny part of me. I am the whole tree. I know that I am already inside the tree, and when I go back to the soil, I will continue to nourish the tree. That’s why I do not worry. As I leave this branch and float to the ground, I will wave to the tree and tell her, ‘I will see you again very soon.’”

From Chris Wallach–

We are gathered here by Zoom because we have lost someone who is very close to us and we are grieving.  We can look deeply and see the ways in which she continues.  She has nourished so many of us. Some parts of who we are are manifest because of our connections with her.  She is like the leaf on the tree that has fallen and continues to nourish the tree.  Our community and this world are her tree, the tree that Jean nourished.  Jean is still very much alive in each of us who knew her, were touched by her, or were touched by those who knew her. She continues in each of us. We are her continuation.

Dear Teacher by Yael DiPlacido-Eastman

I once asked Jean Abbott what made her choose the path that she chose in life.  Her answer became a guiding principle in my life.  She said that she was raised to believe (I believe she quoted her father here) “that the person who asks you for help is doing you a favor.”  This sort of understanding radiated from her face, her voice, and her actions. There was always a gentle smile on her face, kindness and patience in her words, and a look of awe and love in her eyes.  She was generous with saying I love you and when she said it, there was no doubt she meant it. (She said it to me the first time we met, when I asked her if I could do my practicum with her.)

A person like that stays with you long after your paths part, and even after she’s gone out of this life. She is A Presence and will continue to be that through the ripples of love she created with her work, her teaching, and her being.

I don’t remember the details of all that she had done in her life before founding the Center for Survivors of Torture and War Trauma. I remember there was the harboring of asylum seekers, work in South America, work in Bosnia post genocide.  Working with the poor and mentally ill in STL… She didn’t seem to be afraid of the situations and people that are too incomprehensible or unbearable for most of us.  How rare and extraordinary it is to meet someone like that, who despite all the atrocities she witnessed remained unjaded in her love for the world. Read the rest of this entry »

Share the Wealth: With Gratitude for Jean Abbott

I invite you to join us for an evening of sharing stories about Sister Jean Abbott (1943-2021), who was the founder of the Center for Survivors of Torture and War Trauma here in Saint Louis. You don’t have to have known Jean to show up; she led a remarkable life of caring, serving, and healing, and was an inspiration and lifeline for many people.

We meet by Zoom
Sunday 31 January
7:00 p.m. Central Time
Email me for URL


The following obituary appeared in the Post-Dispatch.

Sister Jean Abbott, dedicated advocate for St. Louis war refugees, dies at 7

Erin Heffernan Jan 11, 2021

ST. LOUIS — Sister Jean Abbott, a longtime advocate for St. Louis refugees recovering from the trauma of war, died recently at age 77.

Sister Abbott, a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet St. Louis Province and founder of the St. Louis Center for Survivors of Torture and War Trauma, became a central figure in the St. Louis refugee services community through her work providing sanctuary and counseling to immigrants.

She died unexpectedly Thursday (Jan. 7, 2021). The cause of death was not known by Monday, according to friends and a spokesperson for her Catholic order.

Born in St. Louis in 1943, Sister Abbott took a vow of poverty and entered religious life in 1961. She worked for several years as a Catholic school teacher, with stints at St. Catherine of Siena Grade School in Denver, Our Lady of Lourdes Grade School in St. Louis and Compton Heights School, before she decided to obtain her master’s degree in social work at St. Louis University. Read the rest of this entry »

The Mutation of Vision

Pierre Hadot, What is Ancient Philosophy?
Translated by Michael Chase

My friend Pat and I have been reading and discussing via Zoom works by French philosopher Pierre Hadot since this past summer.  Having previously read The Present Alone Is Our Happiness (a series of interviews) and Philosophy as a Way of Life, we are now going through What Is Ancient Philosophy?  Here are some illuminating passages I’ve pulled from these recent explorations….

Horace: Think about arranging the present as best you can, with serene mind. All else is carried away as by a river…. While we are talking, jealous time has fled. So seize the day, and do not trust the morrow! … Persuade yourself that each new day those dawns will be your last. Then you will receive each unexpected hour with gratitude.  196

Epictetus: We, too, should converse with ourselves, should learn how not to need others and not to feel aimless when we are by ourselves. We must pay attention to the divine and to our real relation to the rest of the world; must consider what our attitude toward events has been and what it is now—what things cause us grief, and how they might be treated and extirpated. 202 Read the rest of this entry »