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Poems like “You Kindly” capture two brilliant paradoxes that run through Olds’s work. They give the impression of being wildly personal, even as the experiences they describe—in this case, the erotic union of spouses—are common. And they break with the female-confessional tradition as represented by Olds’s predecessors Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton, who used their poetry to rattle the bars of the cozy middle-class matrimony and maternity that they felt imprisoned them. Olds found a path to her own radical artistry by championing the domestic everyday. Breastfeeding a baby; coaxing a sick child to take his medicine; drinking wine on a summer evening with your husband as a comfortable prelude to sex. These are ordinary moments, the kind most of us, if we are lucky enough to have them, wash down life’s drain. Olds rescues them from obscurity by paying them the close attention of her verse.

From “Sharon Olds sings the body electric” by Alexandra Schwartz in The New Yorker.

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We Alone

We alone can devalue gold
by not caring
if it falls or rises
in the marketplace.
Wherever there is gold
there is a chain, you know,
and if your chain
is gold
so much the worse
for you.
Feathers, shells
and sea-shaped stones
are all as rare.
This could be our revolution:
to love what is plentiful
as much as
what’s scarce.

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In the subtropics, around the middle of summer things start to die in the heat so Christmas is a strange presence in the season, although I guess not unlike Christmas being situated in the dead of winter in the northern hemisphere. Because the season of summer is not associated with new life here, but rather with the onset of destructive storms, bush fires, drought, and burning sun. Kitchen gardens are largely left to rest. The weeds grow furiously but otherwise everything feels very slow in the humidity.

Storms signal Christmas is coming and the garden succumbs to the mix of overgrown and death.

For me, the foods of summer are all Mediterranean, Mexican and Asian and seem to come in the colours of Christmas. And we eat out in the garden unless the mosquitoes are terrible.

My favourite part of Christmas is all the spontaneous socialising. Friends who message you to tell you they have two Cabernets and are waiting out the rain in a quiet corner, so hurry up and join them in the bar… and other friends who invite you and your kids to swim in their pool and share pot luck dinners together, and friends who beg you to be invited over because their kid is going spare and they want to talk and laugh with you, and all the playfulness and, the exposed skin and lying under a fan even, the goddamn craft (which now includes sewing by my kids).

And this year it included for me a writing deadline for (hopefully) another book anthology next year.

Previous views of December here:

2015

Interestingly, I didn’t post photos in 2014.

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

I love to see what December looks like in your part of the world, so if you care to, leave a link to your own December photos in the comment section.

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The other day a reader/blogger who also follows me on Instagram noted that my photo feed has the intimacy of domestic life that used to be on my blog. It’s true. My Instagram account is locked and having that little bit more control over the audience has allowed me to feel more myself over there in recent times. If you’re a reader here and I sorta know you then you are welcome to follow me on Instagram.

 

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As with any personal essay or memoir written by Rachel Cusk, this is wonderfully thought-provoking and insightful. “Making House: Notes on domesticity” in The New York Times. 

We moved house often, and each time it appeared that it was the perfecting of our environment that was causing us to leave it, as though living there had been a process of construction that was now complete. In much the same way as an artist’s deepest moments of intimacy with a canvas half-consciously generate the need or desire to rid himself of it, my mother perhaps felt a gathering frenzy as she bequeathed her domestic vision to us, for the sight of us starting to make ourselves comfortable there was surely the proof that the picture was finished. The summons of the unknown generally overrides sentiment; possibly, it feeds off it. To continue creating, a person perhaps has to maintain an essential discomfort in the world. The kitchen, where my mother spent most of her time, was often the smallest and dowdiest room in the houses we lived in; and I, too, have found myself working over the years in cramped bedrooms or at the kitchen table, even when a degree of prosperity would have permitted me to claim the much-vaunted room of my own.

In Italy once, I was given a private tour of a beautiful castle, led by the owner through room after impeccably furnished room, only to glimpse at the end through a half-open door a tiny, cavelike space crammed with all the evidence — a gas stove, a television, a tatty sofa — of daily life: This was clearly where the family spent their time. I have often looked at photographs of writers in their elegant book-lined studies and marveled at what seems to me a mirage of sorts, the near-perfect alignment of seeming with being, the convincing illusion of mental processes on public display, as though writing a book were not the work of someone capable of all the shame and deviousness and coldheartedness in the world.

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We’re having this horribly warm autumn and I am sure it has nothing what so ever to do with climate change and we should all just keep burning coal like there is no tomorrow.

So this autumn we are still swimming.. but occasionally cool enough to begin bicycle riding, wear cardigans and stockings and put a doona over us and cook roast veggies, but mostly not. The only thing happy with the mild autumn is the kitchen garden, which is pleased as punch.

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