April 27, 2014 § 1 Comment
My first impression of Ellis Avery’s novel The Last Nude was, “Oh brother, another tale of the artist sleeping with the model.” I’ve been hard-pressed to find a book or a movie where this doesn’t enter the plot. Of course, much of history upholds this narrative with Diego Rivera’s mad lust for his models, Lucien Freud’s misogyny, and Picasso’s narcissism. In the film Venus, Peter O’Toole’s character has an old man boner for a young girl that he convinces to model – the purpose, of course, being so that he can peer in through a window and see what she looks like naked. The idea of the art model as an object of lust is really the only narrative we hear about in the mainstream.
The most realistic representation of what the artist/model relationship is like is in a French film entitled The Artist And The Model. This film was not only very realistic, but it showed the process of making art in a way that we never get to see outside of actual studios. At one point, the artist feels the curve of the model’s knee and reaches around the muscles of her shoulders, which makes her rather nervous regarding his intentions. Set in the forties, there were less rules then. Today, an artist generally never touches the model, though sometimes it still happens in the most unobtrusive ways.
I’ve written before about how I often run across people who are judgmental of my life as an art model. They picture the studio as some den of depravity, where pervs are sketching me one minute and jacking off in the bathroom in the next. Those that judge seem to think of me as some kind of enabler. They admonish the thought of running across a painting of me nude, and then what?
As I leave my body to be still in the pose – I observe the artists as they grow in their skill, approaching the difficult equation of capturing the human form, creating shape through shadow and light, measuring each angle, examining my structure next to a skeleton, identifying every muscle and how it connects to other muscles and bones. I am a living and breathing human anatomy lesson.
From my point of view, art modeling has been a study in subtle realistic poses – contrapposto, odalisque, the curve of the back, the angle of the head. I know exactly what my body can handle for what length of time. The pressures of stillness are a strange study, and I’ve learned from many mistakes – how to create poetry while balancing your weight to avoid pain.
In The Last Nude, the famous Art Deco artist Tamara de Lempicka picks up an American female model in the Bois de Boulogne. Rafaela is still a teenager, but she’s been selling her body to old rich men for a life of independence in 1920’s Paris. Tamara seduces her, and Rafaela falls in love. It’s the first time that Rafaela sleeps with a person for the love of it, rather than for what she wants. But is that really the case? In the heat of their summer together, Tamara paints the most stunning nude of her career. She keeps her motivations a secret from Rafaela, and to the young naive girl, the relationship is not what it seems.
I work in a wide range of settings, mainly art schools and private studios where several artists gather for sessions. I enjoy the people who call me to come in every three months. They’re dependable. It never gets too personal, but it’s always fun to see them after a while.
On the other hand, working for the people who get swept up in me as their muse can at once feel more relaxed and have an increased sense of pressure. The more they look, the more they see new lines that amaze them. Or they think of new scenarios to pose me in, week after week.
I get stuck having to wear my hair exactly the same way for months of sessions, and once I was chided for the fact that my hair grows. At times I feel claustrophobic being around the same people for too long (another reason why the variety of the job generally works well for me). Then I begin to resent how much I come to love these people, knowing that one day they’ll drop me and move on to the next model (as they should). Whether or not I’ll get to see them much after that point is left to be determined. When you are an artist, there is little time for friendships. Everyday is devoted to work. This is another cliché’ that gets broken – artists are not lazy, and their quest is somewhat obsessive and heroic for all the obstacles in their way.
Outside of the studio, the social strata present degrees of separation. More well known artists are likely to give you the feeling that you need to take a number to talk to them at art shows. The excessive amounts of time spent in their studio, countless meals eaten together – it’s all for naught when your time as muse is up. The intense connection dissipates over time.
Models have been fighting to be more than just the model since the dawn of figurative art. Before the 20th Century, female art models, dancers, and actors were basically viewed as “whores”. The main motivation of whoring yourself is to gain money and power and find success in the thing you love to do (which usually doesn’t involve seducing ugly old rich men). It’s a way out of poverty for people with assets and aspirations beyond the daily drudgery of life.
It makes sense that throughout history, models have often slept with the artist, especially in cases where the artist is wealthy and socially mobile. Sex can feel like a transfer of power, genius, and a solidifying bond. But in extremes of power imbalance, it often ends badly for the model.
Of Picasso’s models and lovers, overall, their lives ended in complete disrepair. They never recovered. The only one who was a success post-Picasso was Francoise Gilot, who left him of her own accord, knowing that her art career would go nowhere if she continued to live in his shadow.
The model remains as a vague representation of a person. A person we will never truly know. What makes the Mona Lisa famous? No one knows what she’s actually thinking, but whatever it is, her thoughts look very interesting. That’s the trick of being a good model – to always have a curious mind that never stands still within the stillness of your body. I love to be within my brain, barely aware that I am onstage, ignoring intense amounts of physical pain as the warm air of the space heater embraces my body.
I’ve seen thousands of versions of myself in drawings and paintings, and it is rare that any of them really fully capture me. I’m counting about five in my head right now. But that’s not really the point. My body is only a guide to what the artist sees. After so many years at it, I still feel excited to see what people are working on, and feel a sense of surprise when there is a new voice that speaks through the fascinating curves of lines and paint. I don’t think I’ll ever lose that sense of wonder, because I am an artist as well.
For the last year, I’ve been increasing my time and efforts in my painting practice. I knew that painting would come back to me one day. It was all I did for so long, and then went away when I became a writer.
People struggle with the idea of others in more than one role. They are sometimes amazed to see me painting. There is a tug of war between days that I model, days that I paint, and days that I write. Models are never just models. They are poets, actors, burlesque dancers, musicians, singers, and artists. It is the perfect job for the creative person who wants to make their own schedule, be their own boss, work as much or as little as they want to.
Hopefully, the majority of our lot will make something of themselves. I overheard a well-known artist say, “We’ve lost so many models to thinking that they want to be artists. It’s a real problem!” Quite a lot of people would like to see others remain in their known role. It’s up to each of us to make our lives what we feel it should be.
I never stop reaching for greatness. It’s a magical thing to work for people who teach me to go that much farther. Art is a discipline; a playfulness; an openness; an exploration. I get to watch people create from onstage, and then go home and do the same. I’ve found my place in Seattle through my work, and I’m building a sense of community and friendship.
Did I mention that I’ve never met a model that slept with the artist? It wouldn’t bother me if I did. But the point is, it’s a job like any other. Word spreads fast, and we depend on the money to get by. For those that don’t take it seriously, go ahead and fool around. Though trust me, overall, artists aren’t nearly as sexy as people make them out to be. We’re a nerdy lot.
April 16, 2013 § Leave a comment
I used to wear long flowing skirts with rainbow bursts of color splashed across the side. There were headscarves with silver thread in dusty rose, orange, chartreuse, and umber. Large silver hoops with turquoise beads, amber stones around my neck, and a three inch long silver cuff with inlay that made me feel invincible.
The exotic bohemian garb began when I was a professional belly dancer, and the style grew until it seemed I’d turned full-blooded gypsy. I had style for sure. But my style spoke louder than I ever could. A lot of people would take one look and write me off as one of those annoying hippies. But I didn’t smoke out, I was never going vegan, and I hated the idea of groupthink.
Behind my back, my boss at an art gallery said, “Lauren only dresses that way because she needs too much attention. She’s insecure.”
Having just moved back to anonymous Seattle from connected New York, I certainly was having an insecure moment, trying to find my footing. It had nothing to do with the way I dressed.
For me, my attire was in the spirit of the dance. As an artist, I loved to wear all the objects that made me happy. When it began, I was on the East Coast, missing the laid-back vibe of the West Coast, where people can just “be.” The scene I’d left in Seattle wouldn’t think twice about my dress. But by the time I moved back, I was totally over the Burning Man crowd.
I’d been involved with enough guru wannabe’s to know that the whole thing was a hoax. The drugs made people feel powerful in an otherwise disempowered life. Overnight, you could go from being a hooker to a tantric practitioner, or from a massage therapist to a healer or shaman. The ultimate path was to find a way to make money off of your newfound mystical powers. But I was always the one paying for their dinner. Then came resentment, and statements like, “You don’t appreciate my gift.” Because really, one person never has enough worship to give them. The people I knew, needed as many lovers as possible. Hence, I got tired of the scene, though my style remained the same.
Three years later, I was newly married and having a crisis of not feeling attractive anymore. I gained weight, and stopped getting looks from men or glares from jealous women. A server at a brunch spot that I went to every weekend asked me if I was pregnant. My empire waist dresses and wrap skirts seemed like the culprit in letting myself go. Or maybe it was the decadence of being in love.
I wanted to feel sexy again. But even more than that, in a city where you could go to the same coffee shop everyday for years without a single person ever talking to you, I wanted to feel approachable. I was tired of appearing mysterious and intimidating. It might have worked in New York where people have the balls to talk to anyone, but in Seattle, not so much.
Piece by piece, the bright colors disappeared. My hemlines began to climb up to my thighs. As an art model, I can’t wear any jewelry, so that slipped away too. The only thing that remained the same was the tights and combat boots. Now it’s all a slim minimalist aesthetic. Black cotton dresses with ruching at the sides, short blazers, Rocker T’s. I fit in just about anywhere I go, while still looking somewhat interesting. People can get to know me without a bunch of snap judgments about my dietary restrictions, my spiritual life, my bank account, or my need for attention.
I have a close friend, Freda, who moved here from New York shortly after I did. She fell for a hippie vegan guy and now they are preparing to move into their second yurt in Eastern Washington. They have a cool life together – growing their own food, playing in a band, working temporary jobs. She has long itchy dreadlocks, and years later, I still pine for her chocolate brown silken strands that tickled instead. She left her job as a Geologist, and even surveyed Yankee Stadium at one point. Food-wise, we’ve found common dietary ground by dining at sushi or Indian places.
Freda finds her solace by being identified with a group that shares hardcore values. But she is amazing, simply on her own. When I get those rare moments of having Freda solo time, the belly-shaking laugh comes back, and the spark in her eyes reappears. It’s when I know she’s stripped to the core of her pure self.
I stand by while her friends are sometimes judgmental, calling me an enabler for having a drink with her before their show. I’ve watched her go through evolutions, and I’m sure she’ll go through more. It’s the nature of our lives as free spirits. I don’t really get this current evolution that she’s in, but I do my best to be supportive. I’m on the other side now, looking in.
Every commune eventually reaches its end. It’s the nature of the hippy beast. This week, I read the highly entertaining novel, Drop City, by T.C. Boyle. For years I laughed over the front cover in bookstores – eight naked people lying facedown in a circle amidst wild flowers and grass. Looking at the cover, it’s uncertain whether or not they have just drunk the wrong kind of kool-aid, or if they’re all facedown, taking a bizarre nap. But in their facedown nakedness, arms piled around their backs, they seem stripped of individual identity.
It’s 1970, and a commune of hippies decides to skip out on the land regulations of California. Their leader, Norm, moves them all to his uncle’s deserted cabin in the middle of Alaska. As can be expected, chaos ensues. Their lazy cluelessness in the wild is contrasted by the hard work of the settlers down the river, who work day and night to store food for the onset of winter. The greatest plot twist hits as 24/7 nighttime descends and the thermometer drops forty degrees below zero. Utopia is forgotten for the harsh struggle against fierce elements.
It seems we’re all trying to protect ourselves from the harsh truths of nature. In the wilds of Alaska, it can’t be avoided. Religions all promise a utopia on the other side of death. The thought of it completely bores me. Nature is much more exciting. It’s a struggle, it’s a discipline, it’s a code of values completely contrary to anything humans want to snuggle up to.
While reading, I thought a lot about the dropout hippies on their drug binges doing nothing as months and even years passed. Only on drugs, does it ever feel okay to languish. The idea is such a concept of extreme youth, and not even in youth does that make you happy.
It was my birthday last Thursday, and I tried doing nothing all day. I felt increasingly depressed as the minutes ticked by. I collapsed with sleepiness on the bed and couldn’t get up without a homemade mocha and a campy Ami Stewart vinyl record playing “Come on baby light my fire.” Disco + Hippy = Crazy.
I am on the settler end of the spectrum. I love action. I love getting things done and preparing for the future. I love being a survivor. It seems I’ve won some kind of fight against submitting to the corporate world, which is something that hippies and settlers have in common.
On a positive note, without the hippy movement, we wouldn’t have the entrepreneurial market that we have today. Through their vision to see outside of the box and create technology, now artists can make their own rules, and sell their work without the big man in charge. That’s the thing. Most hippies turned into yuppies eventually. They got bored of tuning out, so they turned on and got with it.
Sometimes I put on the old clothes, just to see how they make me feel. But they represent a Lauren that doesn’t exist anymore. All of that fabric slows down my stride, and the long skirts get wet and dirty in the rain (not to mention the bell bottoms). I feel like I’m wearing a costume. I can’t see myself beneath the eccentric character.
My life now is all about movement. I’m in a race against time to achieve my goals as a writer. I’m growing a life with my husband. All of my values have shifted. When I was in my twenties, I thought everything would remain the same. But it all grows. That is the way of nature. We just have to tend to it.
November 4, 2012 § Leave a comment
I had a dream the other night, that I was one of three siblings. One sibling had stripped our father of his skin to see how we are made. He was laid out on a gurney, and we looked at the red layers of muscle, studying how they fold and overlap.
Our father was invincible and extremely angry. Maybe it was the process we had put him through, or maybe he was that way before, but he was insane and out to get us. Wherever we went, he followed – all over the world. We were on the run, and the situation was dire. We couldn’t kill the father, because the father was within all of us. But he was out to destroy what he had made.
You could make some religious allusions to all of this symbolism, or you could say that this is nature. I did not play myself in the dream, and the father and siblings were not my own.
The imagery stems from a slide show that Camille Paglia displayed in her talk last week at the library, of Leonardo Da Vinci’s private notebooks. In it, he studied the structure of muscles, and a fetus inside a dissected womb. If anyone had found out, at the time, that he was dissecting cadavers, the church would have severely punished him for it, maybe even put him to death. The drawings give us a sense that he is looking at things he should not be seeing.
This week, I read Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley. I love her for being such an emancipated woman, born to radical parents in 1797. Frankenstein is not my kind of book. I only read it because it was on a list of the greatest books ever written, and it’s so obviously influenced our culture, where science (or philosophy as it was called in Shelley’s day) can go too far, producing something gruesome and disastrous.
“So much has been done, exclaimed the soul of Frankenstein – more, far more, will I achieve; treading in the steps already marked. I will pioneer a new way, explore unknown powers, and unfold to the world the deepest mysteries of creation (Shelly, 33).”
But once Frankenstein achieves his obsession, he is horrified as the creature takes its first breath. He realizes his mistake and deserts the monster. But after a series of murders of all those closest to Frankenstein, the creature gets a chance to tell his story. He began his life with love, but everyone he met hated and reviled him, turning his pain into a need for revenge.
Around the time that the novel was written, Mary had lost her first baby and had just given birth to a second, named William. Her half-sister committed suicide, and her partner, Percy Shelley, still had a wife who drowned herself in the Serpentine. Mary then lost a third child. After the novel was finished, she lost her son William, gave birth to Percy Florence who survived, and had a dangerous miscarriage after that. In the summer of 1822, Percy, her partner, drowned with two friends in a storm off the coast of Pisa. The badly decomposed bodies were burned, but Percy’s heart was removed and eventually buried in Rome. Mary was only twenty-five.
Reading her story in the introduction was much more horrific than the ghost story she wrote while summering with Percy and Lord Byron. The natural reaction, especially with losing a child, is to think at first that they will come back to life.
I edited a novel once, where a mother lost her baby and couldn’t let go of the little corpse. It had to be pried away from her. The writer was Australian, and was certain that American audiences wouldn’t be able to handle it, since in our culture we choose to be so far removed from death and dying.
Becoming a mother is to also face the possibility of ultimate loss – the chance of miscarriage, the chance of failing to protect your child from a world that is full of struggle, disease, and danger. For Shelley, bringing a corpse-like creature to life is the ultimate revenge against nature that takes away.
My strange dream of the father stripped of his skin reminds me of seeing the Bodies Exhibit. All those parts that make a whole, the muscles and organs frozen in time, not quite life-like in their preserved state, but disturbing because they were alive once, now frozen in space, dead, and there for our voyeuristic fascination.
In an art class, the students were told to spend twenty minutes drawing my head, and twenty minutes drawing a skull placed directly behind me. They moved in a circle alternating between death and life. For some reason, that day, all the students drew me to look much older than I am. I looked decrepit, as they over-emphasized the sagging lines of my face. I wished I had never looked.
I have reached that age, my thirties, where you begin to realize that you’re never going backwards. The physical body has changed its chemistry completely. I’ll never be tiny and thin again, my metabolism has slowed down, my liver throws back all the toxins I send its way, my immune system is sensitive to any disturbance.
But beyond my body, I’ve grown much stronger. My spirit feels invincible, unbreakable, my sense of discipline is becoming as solid as a rock, and nothing but my body slowly breaking down, could ever stop me at this point. It’s not quite as much fun as being young, dumb, and out of control, but this is the season for building my life. Knowing how quickly it all passes, I push harder each day to express in words and art the things that make us feel alive and well.
October 17, 2012 § Leave a comment
I just finished reading My Apprenticeships, by Colette – the French novelist and performer born in 1873, most famous for the novel Gigi. My love for the writing of Colette has always felt like a guilty pleasure – like intensely dark chocolate, a red bouduior drenched in velvet, or my new perfume Black Afgano, a hypnotic blend of hashish and tobacco. I slip into Colette’s books and fall away from distraction – finding complete understanding of all that I have left behind to be with her.
My Apprenticeships is a memoir of Colette’s young adulthood as a country girl, new in Paris, and married to M. Willy – an older man who had a knack for publishing and self-promotion. M. Willy asked her to write stories based on her days in boarding school with a few titillating bits thrown in. He eventually published them under his own name, and the Claudine series became so popular that every girl in Paris wanted to look just like Claudine. But Colette received none of the credit, or the proceeds.
“Love comes disguised as a thunderbolt and often vanishes at the same pace (Colette, 103).”
The problem with M. Willy was that he was in love with his own power over oblivious doe-eyed youth – the minute Colette began to near thirty, with success in the theater as an actress, he was done with her. He suggested a different kind of life, and by different, she understood that he was asking her to leave.
“How old was I? Twenty-nine, thirty? – the age when life musters and arrays the forces that make for duration, the age that gives strength to resist disease, the age when you can no longer die for anyone, or because of anyone. Thirty already – and already that hardening which I would compare to the crust that lime-springs form, dripping slowly (Colette, 101).”
Before M. Willy’s suggestion of a different kind of life, a woman offered Colette a traveling show with thirteen trained greyhounds.
“I have forgotten the name of the envoy who let fall this balm, this dew, this temptation, this breath of the high-road, this scent of the circus. I shrugged my shoulders and refused even to see the thirteen greyhounds. Thirteen greyhounds, their fabulous necks outstretched, the curve of their bellies drinking in the air. And thirteen hearts to conquer. Disquiet, anxiety. It was all very well for me to shrink back into my scribe’s virtue, my familiar, faithful fear, anxiety remained, working within me, for me. Thirteen greyhounds, a rampart, a family, a home. How did I ever let them go (Colette, 122)?”
Just as I am, Colette was a complete nomad and a solitary homebody at the same time. She was theatrical (No matter how many times I turn my back on it, there are always new ways to be on the stage). She never had many female friends (women blow in and out of my life like the breeze). She lacks sentiment, or any idealistic tripe, and yet, her writing revolves around love – realistic love rather than fake, idealized love.
For a long time I worked for the circus. Unfortunately, there was no act with thirteen glorious greyhounds. As suited to my homebody needs, it was a circus that doesn’t travel – they just change shows every four months to create a different theme on the same variation. Teatro Zinzanni – a dinner theater involving vaudeville acts, an opera singer, a chanteuse, acrobats, trapeze artists, aerialists, jugglers, and lots of sequins.
The tent is one hundred years old, and imported from Europe. You get the sense that Colette could have performed there. Table 13 is haunted, and the guests that sit there always behave in a ridiculous way and leave feeling dissatisfied somehow. Sometimes in the back hall, the chairs flip themselves off the hooks on the wall. At night, after the show is over, one lamp is left lit on the stage to keep the bad spirits away – it’s an old circus theater tradition.
To be in the tent after everyone is gone late at night, is more intense even than the spectacularly glitzy show. The quiet is strange because you still hear the sounds in the air – forks clinking, voices singing, the announcer bellowing, the instruments swooping music to the swinging people in the air. The tent holds an enormous amount of energy. Every night 268 people are served their food simultaneously. Within five minutes they all have their plates. Every entrée somehow always tastes the same, no matter what it is. It tastes like it’s been in a heating box for hours.
At the circus, I worked as a dancing server. Every night I crammed into a small mirrored-dressing room with ten other girls who had beautiful bodies and very loud mouths. We applied our liquid eyeliner, tons of rouge and bright matte lipstick. We swapped fishnets (this weird extreme version that are so strong they leave dents in your legs, but are not quite strong enough to withstand the abuse that we put them through). The girls gossiped, sang at the top of their lungs, and swapped stories about auditions, boys, and crappy day jobs. Being quiet, I always felt like I was on the outside looking in. The loudmouths had their own club, and the quiet ones had secrets shared backstage when everyone else couldn’t hear.
99 percent of the performers were introverts when offstage. They were from all over the world, and the one thing that stood out, was how lonely they all were. Well, except for the performers that lived in Seattle. As for the international stars – the more beautiful, ethereal, and otherworldly they were, the more alone they seemed to feel. They never stopped traveling from circus tent to circus tent, wherever they could find them, throughout the world. Marriages didn’t last, unless the partners were in an act together, or always in the same show.
The servers looked up to the performers with adoration and jealousy. Almost all of the servers were actors or musicians. We presented the performers like diamonds every night, while we were relegated to the periphery of the tent with brief food-baring dances at the center. We were scolded whenever we accidentally stepped into the performer’s spotlight, or tripped into their path.
Every Sunday night to make up for it, we all went to sing karaoke down the street. We needed that moment in the limelight to refuel our egos. One night, we found ourselves up against the cast of Hello Dolly, and surprisingly, we put them in the dust with our singing skills and audience lust.
Besides being told every now and then that I needed to “sparkle more” or that my tickets were “too perfect,” I suppose I wasn’t so bad at being a server at Teatro Zinzanni. Five nights a week, sometimes more, I was there doing the exact same repetition every night. The circus began to feel like a broken record, a loop that could suck me into the vortex. I had tendinitis from carrying too many plates, and my back was always a mess. Without fail, just before we opened the curtains to let the guests into the tent, I had anxiety attacks – dizzy and nauseous, like I was about to pass out.
Work came home with me too. The same workmares haunted me over and over in my sleep – flashing lights, lurid faces, and some terrible obstacle course to get to my tables. In general, the same cluster-fuck that I lived every single shift.
Now when I see my past coworkers from TZ, I am always impressed by their extreme energy. I wonder if it’s the tent that gave them that tenacity, or if they would just naturally be that way if they had not worked there. Being around greatness makes you strive to be great as well. No one wants to be that server in the wings, and if you don’t get out eventually, you languish there until you are too old to “sparkle” anymore.
It’s obvious that the theater added to Colette’s greatness as a writer. In the theater she studied people and places, traveled, and gained admirers. She became a ravishing woman in that circle of activity.
In one of my favorite scenes from My Apprenticeships, Colette meets Mata Hari, and relays what a fake she thought she was.
“The people who fell into such dithyrambic raptures and wrote so ecstatically of Mata Hari’s person and talents must be wondering now what collective delusion possessed them… the colour of her skin was disconcerting, no longer brown and luscious as it had been by artificial light but a dubious, uneven purple… (Mata Hari) did not move a muscle as the voice of Lady W________ rose beside us, saying in clear, plain words:
“She an Oriental? Don’t be silly! Hamburg or Rotterdam, or possibly Berlin (Colette, 129-130).””
Teatro Zinzanni was exactly like Mata Hari. For a while I was in love with the fantasy life. On rainy, depressing days I could escape into the lights and forget my own life. But then the cracks began to show – the constant stench of body odor backstage and non-stop febreze spray in the pits of our costumes, the guy who refused to pay on New Years Eve, the way we all had to fake it every night of our lives, the way I had no life outside of the tent, and how the rest of the world began to feel distant and strange, like it was passing me by and I was missing it.
On my bookshelves, there are fifteen books by Colette. I stumbled onto them in chance meetings in bookshops. Some are almost impossible to find. My favorite (and her favorite as well) is The Pure and the Impure – a dark foray into the erotic underworlds of Paris. There is really no plot, just character after character swimming in their own particular decadence. When I first read the book, decadence was my tool for self-discovery. Now I see it as a tool for avoiding pain. I’m not in pain anymore, so I don’t’ really need decadence, at least, not all that much of it.
Colette understood life, unflinchingly – her writing is poetic because of this. It’s not the poetry of solitude, but the poetry of human understanding – beautiful life, dark life, art that imitates life, life that always has a new beginning.