A SUICIDE SITE that needs to be
SHUT DOWN

(This entry deals with suicide. Please avoid reading it if you have any tendencies that way. Instead go to some of these resources.)

I am fuming, eight days later, about a website I read about in a long, investigative New York Times article. The site is one that actively, enthusiastically, and fully encourages suicide. To date, many deaths have been attributed to the site. And these are not people who have chosen to end their life of a long painful disease. That is a whole other story. This is the story of young people in distress.

In my twenties, I was one of those people. I can honestly say now that there was no big cause for it. I was lonely and depressed, living away from my family and community, overworked among a lot of dim-witted people, but hey, welcome to life after college, right? I maintained a very cheerful front, and to this day, the couple  that was with me the night of my biggest attempt can't believe it. They say I seemed so relaxed and happy, had cooked a big dinner for them and their two kids. 

But when they left my apartment on Lake Erie, the loneliness hit like the storms that whip up so high on that body of water because it is so very shallow. As were my blues. I botched the job, and when I woke the next very late afternoon, it was with a gratitude I maintain to this day. And yet I did ponder the possibility twice more in the following months.

And so today I remain very glad there was no place then that I could go to have people cheer me on. 

A recent essay in The New Yorker by David Antrim has suggested to me another way of looking at suicide, that it is not a matter of one day a person just finally offs themselves. He says that instead, it is “a disease process, not an act or a choice,” by which he means that it is a mental disease that takes over the mind and causes the action, that is not a matter of agency, "that when we ascribe agency to the afflicted ('killing' oneself or 'committing' suicide, we ascribe agency to the afflicted."  

I don't know that I can ascribe all my tendencies at that time to a disease. I know there were a lot of poets committing suicide (Plath, Sexton, Berryman), which I found intriguing. 

I do know that this website is a horror. The NYT debated giving a link to the site and decided to place one at the end of the article in the hopes of alerting parents of teens. I am not posting a link. Instead, I'll repeat this link:

BE WELL, and if you can't be well, find someone to talk to and not a website.
 

WOMAN WITH A FAN LINKS 3

LINKS TO INTERVIEWS AND REVIEWS


Review by Diane R. Wiener of Woman with a Fan: On Maria Blanchard in Wordgathering, A Journal of Disability Poetry and Literature, Fall 2021 (vol. 15:3)
https://wordgathering.com/vol15/issue3/reviews/woman-with-a-fan-on-maria-blanchard-diane-kendig/



"Interview with Diane Kendig: Woman with a Fan" in The Ekphrastic Review, 9/4/21
https://www.ekphrastic.net/ekphrastic-journal/interview-with-diane-kendig-woman-with-a-fan-on-maria-blanchard 


Hour-long Audio interview with Diane Kendig on "Poetry Spotlight" sponsored by the Ohio Poetry Association and hosted by Jeremy Jusek. Here it is on Apple Podcasts
https://podcasts.apple.com/podcast/id1562176682

Or explore and listen to available episodes using any link below.

 


Woman with a Fan Links 2

Links to Blanchard 

María Gutiérrez-Cueto y Blanchard was born in Santander, Spain in 1881 and died in Paris, where she is buried, in 1932. 

Some photos

Blanchard at age 18

By Anonymous - [1], Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=65187576


This has always been one of my favorite photos of her, as it shows her teaching. She was beloved by her students, especially the Australian student, Maude Sumner, who was with Blanchard when she died.


I like the hint of a smile in this one. I first saw it on a Facebook page, which has about 500 followers.



Links to exhibitions




Documentary

The documentary, 26 Rue du depart, era una vez Paris is a documentary in Spanish by Gloria Crespo which examines Blanchard's life with interviews by people today. You can see the first three minutes on Vimeo:
https://vimeo.com/38234006

A short video at the Santander exhibition (in Spanish with English subtitles) includes interviews with art critic Maria Jose Salazar and others:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=32WQivz1HOk


On misshapen backs and luck: Spain and the U.S.

Blanchard sometimes said she left Spain because of the prejudice she experienced due to her disability, specifically, the way people would chase her down the street to touch their lottery tickets to her deformed back, believing it would bring them luck. "Only in Spain!" she said, and I nodded, thinking of some of the backward thinking I had seen there, especially in the 1970s. But then, Paul Beauvais found this NYT article about a bat boy who had a misshapen back, supposedly due to a fall:
https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/02/nyregion/eddie-bennett-yankees-batboy-cemetery.html

A White Sox player put his hand on the boy's back, believing he was good luck, and the team took him on as its batboy. When they won the Series, he received a ring along with each of the players. Later, in 1921, the Yankees hired him away, for luck, and their wins were attributed to him as well as Babe Ruth. 


My book, Woman with a Fan: On Maria Blanchard, is available from Shanti Arts


Woman with a Fan: Links 1

Woman with a Fan: On Maria Blanchard 
Links to works online:

***"Two Sisters" (page 23)
https://www.ekphrastic.net/ekphrastic-journal/maria-blanchards-two-sisters-by-diane-kendig

I am indebted to Lorette C. Luzajic of Ekphrastic Review who published the poem with the painting.


***"Behave Yourself --Joan of Arc" (p.24)
https://art.rmngp.fr/en/library/artworks/maria-blanchard_sois-sage-dite-aussi-jeanne-d-arc_huile-sur-toile_1917

Blanchard's cubist works are not my favorite, because cubism isn't my favorite, but I love this one with that wry title. If only Joan of Arc could behave herself. If only Blanchard could have and become the schoolteacher in Salamanca as her family wished her to.


***"Seated Woman/Femme Assise" (p.22, sorta)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IF3j9UoT27A

This painting actually is in the book, and I am grateful to the Meadows Museum in Dallas, Texas ("The Prado on the Prairie") for their use of it. One of my readers, Rachel Morris, who knows so very much more about art than I do, said, "I love cubism," and I must admit that this little video from the Meadows Museum has helped me to appreciate Blanchard's cubist works immensely.


***"Cubist Still Life" (p.22) 
https://hoodmuseum.dartmouth.edu/objects/p.968.32

This painting is at the Hood Museum at Dartmouth. 


***"Child with a Handkerchief/Toothache" (p.34)
https://www.pinterest.com/pin/525232375280902701/

Blanchard actually produced two portraits of children on this theme, and I actually wrote on the child in white, which I will show later. But this pink-dressed child clearly has the same ache going, though she is perhaps a different model.

And speaking of models, my model for this poem is one by Andrew Marvel, though the portrait his is based on seems not to exist any more. Here's his poem:

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/48329/the-picture-of-little-t-c-in-a-prospect-of-flowers

**********************************************************

Works in the book which have been reproduced in the book (with permission) can also be found online are "Woman with a Fan," and "The Communicant"  (both at the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid, where you will find several more of her cubist works) and  "The Ice Cream Cart" (at the Pompideau Museum in Paris)

Next up: photos of Blanchard

My book, "Woman with a Fan," an Intro



 It's been a long time coming. I stumbled up on my subject matter in 1986, a pretty good year in my life, all things considered. I was re-reading a book of prose essays by Federico Garcia Lorca in translation and found myself galvanized by his first short piece, a funeral elegy for a painter named Maria Blanchard. I couldn't find much more about her, just an anecdote in a biography of Diego Rivera, whom she loved and with whom she shared a studio in Paris.

I tried to find her art. The head librarian at the college where I taught, Bob Schirmer, managed to find a book on her at a small college in Connecticut and get a photocopy sent to me. I was so excited to get the package, only to open it and see that in the  black and white photocopies of the day, Blanchard's  paintings looked like Rorschach tests. 

In 2007 trip to Spain, Paul spied her name as we entered the Reina Sofia Museum, and I practically RAN up the stairs to see her huge, "Woman with a Fan." In the gift shop, I found a 10x14 inch, 740 page book of her complete catalogue at the top. I bought it and cradled it on my lap the whole plane ride home. 

My good friend the writer Tom Barlow suggested a blog where I link the art that I've written about, and this series will do that. Later this fall, I hope to also post a few works that are not online. (I will be showing those for the first time at the Lit Youngstown Fall Literary Festival in October.)

If you don't have a copy of the book and would like to purchase one, my website tells you how to do that: dianekendig.com 

And the publisher, Shanti Arts, has a nice page of info on the book here

See my second blog with links to Blanchard's artwork here.
See my third blog about Maria herself here

Home Again Indeed Road Trip Days 13 and 14

 Iowa City, Iowa to Canton, Ohio


Nebraska goes on forever, and then we arrived again, two weeks later, at the Graduate Hotel in Iowa City. There was one subtle change in our room. You can compare the previous shot here with this one. An ear has been added and a quote:



We put on our athletic shoes and walked out onto the mall, but it was Sunday, and a lot, including the bookstore was closed. The restaurant we ate at was open, but so was the one next door, Bastawith a happy crowd of pizza eaters on the sidewalk. We went in, and the place was really really really busy, but the manager was great, sent us to the bar to order our pizza to go, and the uber-busy bartender served us two drinks while we waited. Put this place on your list!


We had pizza and salad back in the room, went to bed early, and drove all the next day, when we ran into two driving near-disasters. The first involved a sudden right lane closing on I-80 in Ohio. We were in the middle lane, and the driver on the right moved right onto us while a driver in the left lane was moving 90 miles an hour. In an instant, he moved onto the berm just enough for Paul to ease over half a lane, and we all made it through but it was very scarey, and ODAG needs to get earlier warning and people in a closing lane need to not wait till the last second and drivers should not be driving 20 miles over the speed limit.

The second involved our car stalling out about 9 times on the way home. Paul babied it and shifted and restarted, and we were able to get a green light at the corner of 12th Street and Perry and just sort of each on down that last mile to our driveway. 

Home again, Jiggedy Jig. Our 12 tomato plants survived our absence. The peonies bloomed without me, but I had saved four buds in the refrigerator and set them to bloom for our homecoming. 





Great to be home!
 

Home Again Indeed, Road Trip Day 12 and 13

 Rock Springs and Rawlins WY to Sydney, NE

Days 11, 12, and 13 were primarily driving days that can be depicted as mountains to  the Salt Lake Desert, then mountains, then the plains of Nebraska, on and on for hours and hours. Paul drove. I finished listening to Cather's One of Ours.



















We did nothing in Cold Springs except sleep, get up and head out to get to Rawlins in order to get the Wyoming Pioneer Prison tour. A whole staff of young people showed up, jazzed from having joined several crews in cleaning up downtown Rawlins that morning.

 
Our tour guide, Lauren, recited a prison's story  typical of others at Alcatraz, Eastern Penitentiary, and the Wyoming Territorial Prison: tales of the good and the bad: of the baseball team that was tops till their star player was executed for murder. (His name was Seng, and his crime sounds very contemporary: he murdered his boss to revenge him for his firing.) We learned of executions and escapes, lockdowns and lockups. So much remains the same, terms like "fish" and weapons called "shanks" made of pens, toothbrushes, and worse. 
Shanks
The usual extracurriculars of crafts and art (lots of murals), writing, schooling, and music, lots of bands.

We got the story of Annie Bruce, the "woman" (age 14) who went to prison for murdering her father with a poisoned pie. Relatives believe her mother was the real culprit. She eventually got her sprung, and she went on to be married, have kids and live to 86.









I bought a book by one of the inmates titled The Sweet Smell of Sagebrush which has some lovely phrases but otherwise is unreadable. . I should have bought the Annie Bruce t-shirt.


DOWNTOWN RAWLINS

Sandra Dent
Told the best coffee was at Mukwana, downtown, we drove downtown and parked and looked and found no coffee. But 
we found two city officials 
Sheep Wagon
finishing up the Rawlins clean-up day. Like many places along our route, towns were trying to come alive after a year of, uh, pandemic lockdown, and the clean-up marked Rawlins's start: clean up and open up. Marketing and Project Co-ordinator of Rawlins, Sandra Dent, took us to her office and gave us brochures and a lesson in the famous Rawlins Red Rock, which for decades provided a base for red paint, including the original paint on the Brooklyn Bridge. She told us about the Sheep Wagons, purportedly invented in Rawlins, and these days, it looks like they are providing small homes for Nomadland retirees. She also told us about an app called "There's a Story Here" that provides podcasts for self-tours of many cities, including Rawlins. They have a big block party coming up July 9th & 10th. Looks like a hoot!

But we still hadn't found coffee, and Sandra gave us directions to Mukwana, 


where Taya and Sarah sold us coffee, and talked us into the very light scrumptious donuts they had just made. 
Taya Morrell and Sarah

Two women sat at a table and chatted with us about Canton (one had a sister who had lived there) and gave us advice for our route the next day. I stood there, maskless, marveling at a conversation with strangers. 

We got directions to the grocery store, got lost, asked directions from a friendly young woman tending her yard, her kids and her dog, and found The Market, where we gassed up the car and stocked up our provisions for the last days of driving after we'd stay the night in Sydney, Nebraska. We did absolutely nothing in Sydney but sleep. Nice.