Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Recent Visitation of Jupiter Pluvius


New York is feeling much like Dublin today. Thundershowers, wet winds and drenched socks took hold of the city during "a recent visitation of Jupiter Pluvius," this mid May morning. The rain has stopped, the trees are washed but the pavement is still dark with damp. As Joyce writes in one of his early poems about the rain: " Rain has fallen all the day./ O come among the laden trees:/ The leaves lie thick upon the way/ Of memories." Performer Marc Singer describes Dublin in similar circumstances as Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom walk home after a rain shower on Radio Bloomsday this June 16, less than a month away!

Water is almost a character in Ulysses as well it might be given the typical wet and rainy Irish climate. Of course, Ireland much like Manhattan, is an island surrounded by water, and its writers talk often of the sea.

Several chapters of Ulysses take place by the Sea. "Thalatta! Thalatta!" The novel begins in the Martello Tower as Dedalus watches Buck Mulligan shave and take a bath in the ocean. Stephen refuses to swim, and admits to being a hydrophobe, or at least that is what he tells Bloom at the end of the novel in the Ithaca episode, explaining why he doesn't want to wash his hands. Later in Proteus, he walks on the beach thinking of his past and imagining his future. You will hear the poet Paul Muldoon perform an excerpt from the second half of this chapter on Radio Bloomsday.

Even Bloom has his moment by the sea. In the Nausicaa episode, we return again to the Atlantic Ocean as Bloom watches the fireworks and the girls playing in the sand. I also love the end of Lotus Eaters episode which also sets Bloom in a body of water, the bath: " He foresaw his pale body reclined in it at full, naked, in a womb of warmth, oiled by scented melting soap, softly laved. He saw his trunk and limbs riprippled over and sustained, buoyed lightly upward, lemonyellow: his navel, bud of flesh: and saw the dark tangled curls of his bush floating, floating hair of the stream around the limp father of thousands, a languid floating flower.

Yesterday, I was discussing Ulysses with the charismatic actor, Jim Fletcher, who recently played the title character in Gatz, Elevator Repairs Service's unforgettable performance of the complete text of The Great Gatsby. He will be performing John Milton's poem about a shipwreck Lycidas on Radio Bloomsday, which is referenced several times throughout Ulysses by the students in the Nestor episode and by Dedalus in Proteus as he walks along the strand. Milton wrote the poem about his college friend, another aspiring writer, who died in a shipwreck off the coast of Ireland. It is obviously a favorite poem of Stephen's. He has emerged alive from the shipwreck of his life, not to be romantized as the poet who could have been but challenged to become the writer of his dreams. Can he do it? Even if his snarky friends keep him from being published in their literary journal. Who will help Stephen find his place on the literary landscape that is his destiny? No one offers to help him, it seems except Bloom, and Bloom can barely get Molly a singing gig once a year.

But Bloom has ulterior motives. He sees Stephen as a possible suitor for his daughter Milly. His wife Molly has her own designs on the young poet, however. As she says during her monologue fantasizing about being the muse of the handsome writer:

they all write about some woman in their poetry
well I suppose he wont find many like me
where softly sighs of love the light guitar
where poetry is in the air
the blue sea and the moon shining so beautifully
coming back on the nightboat from Tarifa
the lighthouse at Europa point
the guitar that fellow played was so expressive
will I ever go back there again
all new faces
two glancing eyes a lattice hid
Ill sing that for him
theyre my eyes
if hes anything of a poet
two eyes as darkly bright as loves own star
arent those beautiful words
as loves young star
itll be a change the Lord knows
to have an intelligent person to talk to about yourself
not always listening to him and Billy Prescotts ad
and Keyess ad and Tom the Devils ad
then if anything goes wrong in their business we have to suffer
Im sure hes very distinguished
Id like to meet a man like that
God not those other ruck
besides hes young

Tune in on Thursday, June 16th at 7pm to hear Stephen, Bloom, Molly and more on WBAI in NYC and KPFK in Los Angeles and on wbai.org from anywhere in the world!

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