There is a poet named Dorothy Dow who I hope to write sometime about at length, maybe in a book, or an essay, I feel that I am stealing something by even saying her name, as she has been so inspiring to me, this sounds strange, I know, you say who? Maybe I'll write about her in the Semiotext(e) book. I wanted to write about her in Mad Wife. But then I was working on Mad Wife and then found out I was working on the Semiotext(e) book. But John found Dorothy Dow's archives in dusty boxes uncatalogued tucked away in the stacks at the Newberry Library - she had lived in the Gold Coast all her life, her only point of archivable interest was that Edgar Lee Masters was once in love with her, and they had a long correspondence. And she had published a couple of poetry collections in the 20s-40s, even in Poetry magazine. But then stopped publishing. But kept writing. And at the Newberry in the boxes all of these versions of a memoir in verse. I would go every day a summer when I was really really first trying to write. I would go and sit in the airconditioned office my hot thick skin and John would be working at his job there and we would have lunch together. My swollen feet the bleeding bandages from wearing sandals too tight. We had just returned from London. Everything so raw then. So raw again. I was sad, scared, sensitive, so sensitive. And I would leaf through all of Dorothy Dow's life and I fell in love with her. And I cried tears for her, like I cried tears when I finished Jane Bowles' biography.
And I would take notes in pencil, pencil, pencil, where are those notes? I do not know. About what it meant to be a writer and a woman, then, now, to be keeping house for a boy-man you married so you could live together in London, and you loved, ardently, and wondered whether you could hyperventilate on that love, whether that love was somehow, oppressive, how you were so submerged in him, how lonely you were when he went to work so you followed him like a lost dog, a love that in those days kept you from writing, the madness of love, wondering, is it different for women? the love? the way it destroys, keeps the pencil from the hand? thinking of dorothy dow and edgar lee masters and what a father figure he was, imagining all sorts of narratives, and then she married a doctor and she had to keep house, and she still wrote all of these pulp stories under a pseudonymy like Zelda and published in places like College Humor, but now she was wife, and that was different, to be wife, and thinking what makes a woman writer write in a notebook, stop writing in a notebook, write, not write, stop publishing, retreat to the private.
But she tells in memoir in verse of a story of a painter she knew, he was a well-known Chicago painter, and she had been writing these poems, and publishing some, and he said to her, You have a talent to be a writer, but do you have the strength?
And I know what that means. I think of this often, especially lately. The strength. Not to write. But to be a writer. Sometimes I don't know if I have the strength. For my feelings get hurt easily on say, blog comments.
But at least now I am reflecting on Dorothy Dow. Oh, Dorothy. How should I write of her? I just don't know.
More than any other compulsion, say to announce my existence, which is there, I have a compulsion to pay tribute.