I’ve never seen the author of Tender Buttons and Three Lives look as she looks in this painting by Picabia from 1937. Her head is small, perched on wide and rounded shoulders draped in brown. Beneath the cloak, a soft blue blouse with a large brooch peeks through. On her face, a sort of “oh well” smirk on thin, taut lips.
“This minute my small toes are shrinking / of their own accord. I have no say / whatsoever. Blame it on buoyancy, / without which, rambunctious and passive / as a beachball on the breakers, I / never would have bobbled here. The wild green groans / by which I lived before language / now gesture and have at me / only in dreams.”
We seized the night and shook it till it broke, / so time and bottles and most of our shoes / spilled from its breaking—and music gushed too: / Paris and Nikos relentless till five. // Blame them for this minefield of broken glass, / our unreasonable outbursts of joy. / Someone danced until his knees were bleeding. / Someone said she had fractured her being.
Emerson once said that society was a mob, conspiring against the sovereign strength of the self. Now we are an electronic mob, and the forces of distraction are powerfully arrayed against us. It has always been the case that society never wanted a writer to write a book, something you will discover when you leave this place and try to create the space and time to write. Society doesn’t want your book of stories or poems, and you will have to push against society, as if you had your shoulder to the door of a crowded room; you will have to shove your book into existence, birth it violently.