Image result for virginia woolf

Good news, Marla!

Marla Muse: I’ve heard. Mary is back. Her fans are making a ruckus in the tents by the lake leading up to the arena.

The Post-Modern Bracket is next, but we need to get back to the Modern Bracket.


Conrad, Remarque, and Thurber have advanced, but we have five more first round contests in this amazing Modern Bracket.

Marla Muse: Virginia Woolf. When I see pictures of her, I think she may have been the most beautiful woman in the world—but what does this mean?  It means nothing.  Depending on who loves it, and from what angle you gaze upon it, and all the changes that happen to a face over the years, there is no most beautiful; there is only most loved.

Marla, I’ve never heard you speak quite like this. What’s gotten into you?

Marla Muse: Shut up.

OK. Well. If we look at this passage from Virginia Woolf, from “A Room Of One’s Own,” I think we’ll find not only a sublime speech, but a strangely anti-feminist one.

Marla Muse (as if in a trance): It’s remarkable.

It is fatal for any one who writes to think of their sex.

It is fatal to be a man or woman pure and simple; one must be woman-manly or man-womanly. It is fatal for a woman to lay the least stress on any grievance; to plead even with justice any cause; in any way to speak consciously as a woman. And fatal is no figure of speech; for anything written with that conscious bias is doomed to death. It ceases to be fertilized. Brilliant and effective, powerful and masterly, as it may appear for a day or two, it must wither at nightfall; it cannot grow in the minds of others. Some collaboration has to take place in the mind between the woman and the man before the act of creation can be accomplished. Some marriage of opposites has to be consummated.

If one is a man, still the woman part of the brain must have effect; and a woman also must have intercourse with the man in her. Coleridge perhaps meant this when he said that a great mind is androgynous.

No age can ever have been as stridently sex-conscious as our own. The Suffrage campaign was no doubt to blame. It must have roused in men an extraordinary desire for self-assertion; it must have made them lay an emphasis upon their own sex and its characteristics which they would not have troubled to think about had they not been challenged.

The blame for all this rests no more upon one sex than upon the other. All seducers and reformers are responsible. All who have brought about a state of sex-consciousness are to blame, and it is they who drive me, when I want to stretch my faculties on a book, to seek it in that happy age, when the writer used both sides of his mind equally. One must turn back to Shakespeare, then, for Shakespeare was androgynous; and so was Keats and Coleridge. Shelley was perhaps sexless. Milton and Ben Johnson had a dash too much of the male in them. So had Wordsworth and Tolstoy.

The whole of the mind must lie wide open if we are to get the sense that the writer is communicating his experience with perfect fullness. There must be freedom and there must be peace. Not a wheel must grate, not a light glimmer. The curtains must be close drawn. The writer, once his experience is over, must lie back and let his mind celebrate its nuptials in darkness. He must not look or question what is being done. Rather, he must pluck the petals from a rose or watch the swans float calmly down the river. And I saw again the current which took the boat and the undergraduate and the dead leaves; and the taxi took the man and the woman who came together across the street, and the current swept them away, as I heard far off the roar of London’s traffic, into that tremendous stream.


Edmund Wilson has the unlucky task of going up against Woolf.

A literary critic, Wilson knew F. Scott Fitzgerald at Princeton, proposed marriage to Anais Nin by saying he had much to teach her, which she took as an insult, did not pay federal taxes for years, called Lovecraft and Tolkien hacks, had many marriages, and supposedly many affairs, and quickly turned down LBJ’s invitation to the White House in 1965.

Wilson, to defeat Woolf, will attempt to do so with this:

“Come outside a minute,” I said, when everybody was clapping and cheering. “I want to tell you something.” She went with me in silence—I was satisfied and proud, and I also felt really excited. There would be people in the courtyard, I knew, so I took her to the terrace at the side of the house. I kissed her, holding her tight against me, one arm about her naked shoulders, the other under her soft bare armpit just where the breast begins; and she seemed to me voracious and hot as I had never known her before. I said nothing, for the kiss said all. But we couldn’t go on, so at last i stopped and looked away to distract myself. There above us in the sky where it was always summer hung the dust of the richly-sprinkled stars that gave the illusion out here of being both closer-to and more tinselly than they ever did in the East—the stars of the blissful Pacific that had the look of festive decorations for people to be gay or to make love by, yet with which I had never been able to feel myself in any vital relation as I did with the remote ones at home. I spoke of this and when I looked back at her face, I saw that she was smiling and gazing up with her lips parted in such a way as to show great long bare-gummed teeth that stuck out and yet curved back like tushes and that seemed almost too large to be contained in her mouth. She looked like a dog panting when you take it out for a drive, and for a moment I was sharply repelled; but then, saying, ‘Yes, I see what you mean,’ she closed her lips, and the teeth disappeared. I saw only her wide wet mouth, and I pounded kisses against it with summoned determined passion, tasting her perfume and her flesh. It was precisely those long teeth, I thought, that gave her large mouth its peculiar attractiveness: it might have been unpleasant, but wasn’t.

My head is swimming, Marla. I’ve never been witness to a contest like this. Wilson’s memoir invokes sublimity in a strange, but forceful way. The unapologetic realism.

Yet Woolf’s passage may be the most remarkable thing in Letters a woman has written, ever.

Marla Muse:  Then Virginia wins?

She does.


F. Scott Fitzgerald—the fifth seed, is famous, died when still young (44) and has a famous entry. The fan turnout is enormous!  The crowd is speaking along to every word. Tattered copies of Gatsby are everywhere.  White silk and cotton. What a scene.

Most of the big shore places were closed now and there were hardly any lights except the shadowy, moving glow of a ferryboat across the Sound. And as the moon rose higher the inessential houses began to melt away until gradually I became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors’ eyes—a fresh, green breast of the new world. Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby’s house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an æsthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.

And as I sat there, brooding on the old unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning——

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

The American sublime.  Does his opponent have a chance?

We doubt it.  It is the tall and gangly Englishman, Stephen Spender, a friend of Auden’s, publisher of an art magazine secretly funded by the CIA, who brings to this match up a poem which sounds like it was self-consciously written to be ‘great’ poem; but then some say he pulled it off!  What do you think, Marla?

I think continually of those who were truly great.
Who, from the womb, remembered the soul’s history
Through corridors of light, where the hours are suns,
Endless and singing. Whose lovely ambition
Was that their lips, still touched with fire,
Should tell of the Spirit, clothed from head to foot in song.
And who hoarded from the Spring branches
The desires falling across their bodies like blossoms.
What is precious, is never to forget
The essential delight of the blood drawn from ageless springs
Breaking through rocks in worlds before our earth.
Never to deny its pleasure in the morning simple light
Nor its grave evening demand for love.
Never to allow gradually the traffic to smother
With noise and fog, the flowering of the spirit.
Near the snow, near the sun, in the highest fields,
See how these names are fêted by the waving grass
And by the streamers of white cloud
And whispers of wind in the listening sky.
The names of those who in their lives fought for life,
Who wore at their hearts the fire’s centre.
Born of the sun, they traveled a short while toward the sun
And left the vivid air signed with their honour.

Marla is not sure.

She’s smoothing her hair.

She’s running off somewhere, now…

There are parts of the first stanza where one says to oneself, “oh come on, this is silly,” but then something happens when we get to “essential delight of the blood drawn from ageless springs breaking through rocks in worlds before our earth,” and there is something so wonderfully fresh, sweet, and lyrical (even though it is still naive) about the last stanza, and by the time we read, “they traveled a short while toward the sun,” the poet has us.

But F. Scott Fitzgerald wins.



  1. maryangeladouglas said,

    March 23, 2020 at 6:07 pm

    Haha. Good one Thomas Graves. Thanks for making me laugh. I was getting too intense in my studies today. I am reading Virginia Woolf. I love all her writing but no way was she a feminist. People who think so could NOT have read her writings. She pokes gentle fun at the suffragettes at least in the novel Im reading now, Night and Day. She did not consider herself as a proponent of anything. She just had her own thoughts and her thoughts are delightfully circuitous, semi ironic and by rurns like something out of a dream, a very well articulate and shimmering dream.
    And that is also my favorite photograph of her. She did believe in having a private literary life and a life of thought that was winged. And her life of thought really WAS winged. Marla is a stitch. She is both kind of Venus and Tinkerbell by turns at least according to me and I certainly hope I have not irritated her by saying so because I do NOT want to be winged like the Wendy Bird was by her. No puns intended.

  2. maryangeladouglas said,

    March 23, 2020 at 6:10 pm

    correction : I do not want to be winged like the Wendy Bird was by the Tink aspect of Marla. And by turns not rurns. Be well Marla. cover the distances minus the social.

  3. maryangeladouglas said,

    March 23, 2020 at 6:23 pm


    for J.M. Barrie

    it’s sure they want to shoot the Wendy bird down

    she murmured half dazed falling through the sapphire clouds

    the haze over the lagoon

    it’s always this way not another

    small hearts banded cut out from a valentine

    seemed suddenly sifting down her

    in the blue gauze of the dress and the day

    half wounded bird am I am I

    the mermaids almost heard her cry

    I think of her that way.

    and of the devilish fairy not at all.

    we of the bluebird tribe are small

    our thoughts are golden

    shot from the high towers

    wounded in mid song.

    mary angela douglas 23 august 2019

  4. maryangeladouglas said,

    March 23, 2020 at 6:27 pm


    for Virginia Woolf

    I gathered fresh gardenias: you were missing

    and zinnia periled summers waved me by.

    I followed down the path of your demise,

    my own breath caught in trees

    above the Flood

    and pressed my fingertips into

    your orchid-backed mirror’s

    perfect pearl-on-pearl

    turning through each

    dream-curled edge

    into the whorl of

    contravening years

    and sallow interpreters.

    o willow willow war was near

    but the kindness of your mind

    does not contract; the crisp

    carnation rooms are still

    your own:

    a crystal condensation’s flame

    on the flung-open window; the

    inlaid diaries of quartz

    and rain-

    all chatelained gestures foregone

    for these moonlit cloud-inscriptions

    of uncalibrated grace are written

    on the evening sky.

    sensing your angel’s churning wing,

    I cried.

    o rose geranium stillness

    violet sky

    against which lemon lovely sounds were


    your apricot excursion’s standing down

    oh why

    no second snow on snow’s appearing,

    starred like winter’s cotillions,

    only warmer…

    your garnet constellations

    break apart and my heart


    losing this kaleidoscope


    with no continuance:

    the semi-precious laws remain in force.

    mere sleeves of her egress remain:

    sheer-beaded brocade caught

    as the moment, strand by strand

    too visibly dissolves.

    desert me now, sotto voce,

    as your angels melt in music,


    then I saw

    brightness brightness

    every shining phrase unshunned

    and drowned in Light

    mary angela douglas 30-may-2 june 2009

    • maryangeladouglas said,

      March 23, 2020 at 6:29 pm

      I know I posted these two poems before but they seemed to fit the conversation in a tangential way and I do love the tangential. Besides, these are only comments here and they are collapsible like telescopes or submarine appearances even if I think they are sometimes inlaid with opal. Long like the poetry of opal too. I am a fan. Virginia Woolf was pure opal.

      • maryangeladouglas said,

        March 25, 2020 at 7:49 am


        if I have to stand only in corners

        whenever anyone doesnt understand what I mean

        the thing they fail to recognize,

        I still can dream. I could dream in an ant farm

        being one of the ants, the straggler ant

        making up tiny reasons to look at a wisp of sky

        a rainbow going by in a dewdrop flood

        oh listen to me when you think you’re stuck in the mud

        maybe or that people have counted you out

        it doesnt matter

        if you get splattered waiting for the bus.

        think of us I hear the old ghosts say in primroses

        and in lavender

        who also were treated this way.

        forget it.

        there’s gold in everything.

        mary angela douglas 24 march 2020

  5. maryangeladouglas said,

    March 25, 2020 at 7:53 am


    a wish to use gold and silver in the poem

    to fly it above the hedges in a paper wind

    then to ascend

    in purple clouds as if they were drawn with crayons or

    stained with grape

    and to say aloud oh shine, shine my kite of words

    above the green hedges the ones with the holly berries

    and the little birds

    stay close to home even if you soar but a little

    have the transparency of song low flying cloud

    dropped in a pale green april

    and coming down

    slight cantering toward the ground

    and in the apple dawn, before school.

    mary angela douglas 25 march 2020

  6. maryangeladouglas said,

    March 25, 2020 at 9:01 am


    funny how when you feel symbolically speaking

    you’ve been bought and sold yourself a few times

    your wish to sell nothing yourself becomes more pronounced

    not even a thin mint

    and so you scatter silver breadcrumbs before the birds of gold

    so that they sing as they say or as was said of old at the doors of Heaven.

    but we are talking about the economy now

    or maybe just forced to listen to those who wont stop talking about it

    and I wish i wish money had never been born

    among all these green hills,

    still living. and I descry it from my soul feeling oh God

    surely, we could have lived another way.

    mary angela douglas 25 march 2020

    • thomasbrady said,

      March 25, 2020 at 3:07 pm

      Ah economy. I read somewhere once that Christ was born on the day when universal taxation began in the Roman Empire. Perhaps money and the economy and all these worldly things are how the word of God spreads? Spreading is necessary for the good to spread, too.

      • noochinator said,

        March 25, 2020 at 8:54 pm

        The rich are taught from youth to spend
        Their wealth as if they’re poor—
        They have to: if they’re generous,
        They’ll soon be rich no more.

  7. thomasbrady said,

    March 25, 2020 at 3:12 pm

    Mary, your poetry is…quite delightful in a manner that perhaps certain sophisticated people will reject, but I hear what it’s doing, and it is doing something…which should be very popular…

    “you scatter silver breadcrumbs before the birds of gold…”

    “dropped in a pale green April…before school.”

    • maryangeladouglas said,

      March 26, 2020 at 3:01 pm

      Sophisticated people sadly miss a lot. I am remembering my childhood always so as to prolong my vanishing off the earth. Here’s a star song


      there is a starlight of the mind

      that cannot vanish over time

      but only intensify beyond all former magnitudes

      variegated and refined

      of the red and blue the pink and the wine the chartruese

      all strange colours over time made more and more

      jewellike and laudable spilling out in little pink sapphire

      glints of ice and haloed, snow misted

      the Heavens crowning earth refulgent in amber.

      Not city lights nor bright polluted sunrise or sunset can dim yet

      their fervor in the mind since childhood twinkling

      and wrought into a song we sang as if the star could hear us

      over Bethlehem: provincial and healing

      little as we were and loving everything that shines.

      mary angela douglas 26 march 2020

      • maryangeladouglas said,

        March 26, 2020 at 3:21 pm

        Haha. Never could spell “chartreuse” worth a darn.

  8. maryangeladouglas said,

    March 26, 2020 at 5:45 pm

    when words were lined with roses I was happy

    when emeralds spoke to me from dreams and became the ballets

    Balanchine was famous for, scores full of jewels

    the bouquets heaped onstage

    when the clocks were empty as snow, on the bell towers

    when the bells rang it was Christmas every hour

    and in all my clauses on blue lined paper, snow was imminent.

    you may think a thumbprint on a wall is not a work of art

    but all things are beloved of children when they are small

    except for the ones so poorly guarded by their angels.

    we could speak in diamonds if we chose to

    why do we speak in nails

    and make of the earth a sad sad jail

    why dont we ban the word eviction

    all cliques notwithstanding

    and remember how we wanted to be gipsies

    when we grew up.

    mary angela douglas 26 march 2020

    • maryangeladouglas said,

      March 27, 2020 at 6:45 pm


      I have stood in dream grass in my dreams

      yet never felt the earth beneath my heel

      was I floating then was I somewhat angelical

      a being more like cloud than anything else?

      how could I tell.

      still I was there.

      where are we really here on earth

      I feel my dreams question me so fleetingly

      but I’ll get marked down somewhere maybe

      for never knowing how to answer that.

      As it happens, in fairy tales, perhaps it could be revealed

      how is it that some return home with a gilded leaf from the

      dreamtime clutched in one hand

      irrefutable proof to them at least

      and no mistake that

      they were really somewhere when they dreamed

      though not on any map esteemed

      from time to time this greatly comforts me.

      when I am near to tears:and the cartographers flee.

      o to be lost in dream snow learning to let go

      of the too qualified Here

      mary angela douglas 27

      • maryangeladouglas said,

        March 28, 2020 at 6:33 am


        there is no brighter metaphor than Christ

        though some would have you bury him pretending to be nice

        and pray that you dont mention him again

        he still will rise

        the planets in his eyes.

        the web of morning broken

        by the pearls of dew

        he weeps for you anew among wild grasses

        and a broken Garden

        and right beside you.

        why why do you deny Him.

        imagine Him as AWOL in the world

        what words are vessels for

        they want you to ignore

        who spoke the world to Light.

        oh let it be.

        they only see what they want to see

        and spill the radiance at their feet so carelessly

        like infants still unknowing.

        mary angela douglas 27 march 2020

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