Melvin Dixon: “We Live Bravely in the Light”

Photographers Unknown, Parva Scaena (Brief Scenes): Photo Set Twenty-Four

They won’t go when I go. (Stevie Wonder)
Live bravely in the hurt of light. (C.H.R.)

The children in the life:
Another telephone call. Another man gone.
How many pages are left in my diary?
Do I have enough pencils? Enough ink?
I count on my fingers and toes the past kisses,
the incubating years, the months ahead.

Thousands. Many thousands.
Many thousands gone.

I have no use for numbers beyond this one,
one man, one face, one torso
curled into mine for the ease of sleep.
We love without mercy,
We live bravely in the light.

Thousands. Many thousands.

Chile, I knew he was funny, one of the children,
a member of the church, a friend of Dorothy’s.

He knew the Websters pretty well, too.
Girlfriend, he was real.
Remember we used to sit up in my house
pouring tea, dropping beads,
dishing this one and that one?

You got any T-cells left?
The singularity of death. The mourning thousands.
It begins with one and grows by one
and one and one and one
until there’s no one left to count.

Melvin Dixon, One by One, Love’s Instruments, 1995, Tia Chuca Press, Chicago

Born in Stanford, Conneticutt in May of 1950, Melvin Dixon was a creative writer, as a novelist, poet, translator and literary critic. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 1971 with a Bachelor of Arts in American Studies, and earned a Master of Arts in 1973 and a Doctor of Philosophy in 1975 from Boston University.

Dixon wrote poems, novels, short stories, essays, critical studies, and translated many works from French. Searching for his literary heritage, he traveled throughout the Caribbean, Africa and Europe, and researched such men as Leopold Senghor, the poet and former president of Senegal; the Haitian novelist and poet Jacques Roumain; and author Richard Nathaniel Wright, whose 1945 book “Black Boy” became an instant success and a work of historical and sociological significance.

Melvin Dixon wrote openly about his homosexuality in both his published and unpublished works. As an active spokesman for gay communities and their issues, he incorporated the complexities of gay lifestyle and identity, as well as his identity as a black man, into his work. Dixon’s first collection of poems, “Change of Territory” published in 1983, examined the involuntary journeys of African slavery and the later historical migration of African Americans from the southern United States to the north. In 1987, he wrote a critical study of African-American literature entitled “Ride Out the Wilderness”.

The influence of James Baldwin’s work upon Dixon’s writings can be seen in his two novels, the 1989 “Trouble the Water”, a novel of family reconciliation which won the Nikon Award for Excellence in Minority Fiction, and the 1991 “Vanishing Rooms”, a novel of homophobia and racism revolving around three people who are each affected by the death of a gay man in New York City. “Vanishing Rooms” was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award for Gay Men’s Fiction. Dixon’s final volume of poetry, entitled “Love’s Instruments” published posthumously in 1995, was a tribute to gay men with AIDS-related illness.

Melvin Dixon translated many works from French to English. Included in these works are his translations of Haitian poet Jacques Roumain’s poetry; Professor of American Literature at the University of Paris, Genevierve Fabre’s history of black theater since 1945, entitled “Drumbeats, Masks, and Metaphor” and  published in 1983; and “The Collected Poetry of Leopold Seder Senghor”, published in 1991. This translation of Senghor’s work contains the majority of his poetic oeuvre, including his “lost” poems.

Dixon was an Assistant Professor at Williams College from 1975 to 1980, and a Professor of English Literature at Queens College of the City University of New York from 1980 until 1992. He also taught at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, Fordham University and Columbia University. Dixon received a number of awards and fellowships including a Fulbright lectureship in Senegal from 1985 to 1986.

Melvin Dixon was in a long-term partnership with Richard Horowitz, an openly gay man who worked from 1983 to 1987 as a program officer of the Ford Foundation in Dakar, West Africa. Upon Horowitz’s return to the United States, he worked with the Ford Foundation to finance projects for AIDS patients internationally. He died at his summer home in Provincetown, Massachusetts, from complications due to AIDS in July of 1991. He was forty-four years in age.

Melvin Dixon had been battling AIDS since an initial diagnosis in 1989. At the age of forty-two, he died from AIDS-related complications in Stanford, Conneticutt, on October 28, 1992, one year after his partner. The Melvin Dixon Papers, which contain primarily of manuscripts, correspondence, notes, and journals, are part of the Archives and Manuscripts department of the New York Public Library. They are housed at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division, located at 515 Malcolm X Boulevard, New York City.

Note: “this one” in the second stanza of the poem, “One by One”, refers to Dixon’s lover, Richard Horowitz

Edward O. Phillips: “The Universe is Copernican”

Photographers Unknown, Parva Scaena (Brief Scenes): Photo Set Twenty-Three

“To grow old is to realize the universe is Copernican, not Ptolemaic, and that self and the loved one do not form the epicenter of the solar system>”

—Edward O. Phillips

Born on November 26th of 1931 in Westmount, an enclave of Montreal, Edward Openshaw Phillips was a Canadian novelist who has written mainstream literary fiction and is best known for his series of mystery novels featuring gay detective Geoffry Chadwick. 

Edward Phillips earned his Bachelor of Arts from McGill University in Montreal, and earned his Bachelor of Civil Law Degree from the Université de Montréal. After deciding against legal practice, he graduated from Harvard University with a Master’s Degree in Education, and later earned a second Master’s Degree in English Literature from Boston University. Phillips taught English for seven years, first in the public English school system and later at Selwyn House School, an independent boys’ school located in Westmount. 

Having a long-established interest in drawing and painting, Phillips pursued this interest with art classes at both the Visual Arts Center in Westmount and the Montreal Museum School of Art. He later entered his work in numerous group shows and was exhibited in five solo shows within Canada.

Throughout his teaching career and painting period, Edward O. Phillips devoted himself to his writing, from which would come twelve novels and numerous short stories. His first novel, “Sunday’s Child”, the first of six titles in the Geoffry Chadwick series, was published in 1981, and was shortlisted for the Books in Canada First Novel Award. Phillips won the Arthur Ellis Award, presented annually by the Crime Writers of Canada, in 1987 for his novel “Buried on Sunday”, the second book of the Chadwick series. In 1989, his novel, “Hope Springs Eternal”, was shortlisted for the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humor. 

Phillips’s short story, entitled “Matthew and Chauncy”, was adapted by director and screenwriter Anne Claire Poirier into the 1990 film “Salut Victor”. Produced by the National Film Board, the film starred Jean-Louis Roux as Philippe and Jacques Godin as Victor in the story of two older men, one openly gay and one closeted, who fall in love during their stay at a retirement home.

Edward O. Phillips spent most of his life in Westmount, Quebec. Openly gay, he was in a fifty-two year relationship with partner Kenneth S. Woodman, who passed away in 2018. Edward Phillips died on May 30th of 2020 of complications from Covid-19. 

 

Timothy Liu: “Tiny Flares Corkscrew Up the Sky”

Photographers Unknown, Parva Scaena (Brief Scenes): Photo Set Twenty-Two

Faces sludging forward on the esplanade
to where we are. What we are is energy—
our bodies angled skyward as fading blooms
parachute towards the earth, the crowd
a spent militia—torn blankets left behind
as we march to the riverfront where
tiny flares corkscrew up the sky to release
delayed reports. The night gives up
its ghost—wreaths of smoke crowning floral
cornucopias that spill a motherlode
of fire onto both sides of the shore,
hoarse voices bellowing out rote words
learned in grade school that take on
meaning in a country of peace where
thousands scream through the dark, waiting
for that twenty-one gun salute.

Timothy Liu, A Boston Fourth, Poetry, July 1996

Born in 1965 in San Jose, California, Timothy Liu is an American poet and author residing in New York City. He earned his BA in English at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, and his MA in Poetry at the University of Houston in Texas. Liu also studied at the University of California at Los Angeles and the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, where he met his husband, the artist Christopher Arabadjis.

Liu considers poet and critic Richard Howard, Welsh poet Leslie Norris, and American writer and literary critic Gordon Lish as his mentors. His poetry, based formally on the meter of syllables, explores the themes of identity, violence, sexuality, with the narrator as witness. His works also deal with cultural taboos and situations largely left out of poetic writing.

Timothy Liu’s work includes: the 1992 “Vox Angelica” which won the Norma Farber First Book Award from the Poetry Society of America; “Say Goodnight”, published in 1998 and winner of the PEN/Beyond Margins Award; the 2004 “Of Thee I Sing” winnerof the Poetry Book of the Year Award from Publishers Weekly; the 2005 “For Dust Thou Art”; “Don’t Go Back to Sleep” in 2014; and “Tin House” published in 2018..

Liu’s most recent works include “Luminous Debris: New and Selected Legerdemain 1992-2017” published in 2018 by Barrow Street Books and a finalist in the 2019 Thom Gunn Awards; and his twelfth book of poems, “Let It Ride” published in 2019, which explores how the necessities of life and art join to provide a path forward at midlife.

Timothy Liu has served as a core faculty member at Bennington College’s Writing Seminars and is currently a Professor of English at William Paterson University in New Jersey. His journals and papers are archived in the Berg Collection at the New York Public Library.

For more information on Timothy Liu, including books and poems: https://www.timothyliu.net

Fernando Pessoa: “Masquerades Disclose the Reality of Souls”

Photographers Unknown, Parva Scaena (Brief Scenes): Set Twenty-One

“Masquerades disclose the reality of souls. As long as no one sees who we are, we can tell the most intimate details of our life. I sometimes muse over this sketch of a story about a man afflicted by one of those personal tragedies born of extreme shyness who one day, while wearing a mask I don’t know where, told another mask all the most personal, most secret, most unthinkable things that could be told about his tragic and serene life. And since no outward detail would give him away, he having disguised even his voice, and since he didn’t take careful note of whoever had listened to him, he could enjoy the ample sensation of knowing that somewhere in the world there was someone who knew him as not even his closest and finest friend did. When he walked down the street he would ask himself if this person, or that one, or that person over there might not be the one to whom he’d once, wearing a mask, told his most private life. Thus would be born in him a new interest in each person, since each person might be his only, unknown confidant.” 

—Fernando Pessoa

Zane Grey: “Every Second the Scene Changed”

Photographers Unknown, Parva Scaena (Brief Scenes): Set Twenty

“I sat there for a long time and knew that every second the scene changed, yet I could not tell how. I knew I sat high over a hole of broken, splintered, barren mountains; I knew I could see a hundred miles of the length of it, and eighteen miles of the width of it, and a mile of the depth of it, and the shafts and rays of rose light on a million glancing, many-hued surfaces at once; but that knowledge was no help to me. I repeated a lot of meaningless superlatives to myself, and I found words inadequate and superfluous. The spectacle was too elusive and too great. It was life and death, heaven and hell.” 

—-Zane Grey, The Last of the Plainsmen

Cormac McCarthy: “Anything is Possible”

Parva Scaena (Brief Scenes): Set Nineteen

“The truth about the world, he said, is that anything is possible. Had you not seen it all from birth and thereby bled it of its strangeness it would appear to you for what it is, a hat trick in a medicine show, a fevered dream, a trance bepopulate with chimeras having neither analogue nor precedent, an itinerant carnival, a migratory tentshow whose ultimate destination after many a pitch in many a mudded field is unspeakable and calamitous beyond reckoning. 

The universe is no narrow thing and the order within it is not constrained by any latitude in its conception to repeat what exists in one part in any other part. Even in this world more things exist without our knowledge than with it and the order in creation which you see is that which you have put there, like a string in a maze, so that you shall not lose your way. For existence has its own order and that no man’s mind can compass, that mind itself being but a fact among others.” 

—Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian, or The Evening Redness in the West

Henri Cartier-Bresson: “The Precise and Transitory Instant”

Parva Scaena (Brief Scenes): Set Eighteen

“Of all the means of expression, photography is the only one that fixes forever the precise and transitory instant. We photographers deal in things that are continually vanishing, and when they have vanished, there is no contrivance on earth that can make them come back again. We cannot develop and print a memory. The writer has time to reflect. He can accept and reject, accept again; and before committing his thoughts to paper he is able to tie the several relevant elements together. There is also a period when his brain “forgets,” and his subconscious works on classifying his thoughts. But for photographers, what has gone is gone forever.” 

—Henri Cartier-Bresson, The Mind’s Eye: Writings on Photography and Photographers

Henry Miller” “Our Finest Impulses”

Parva Scaena (Brief Scenes): Set Seventeen

“Everyday we slaughter our finest impulses. That is why we get a heartache when we read the lines written by the hand of a master and recognize them as our own, as the tender shoots which we stifled because we lacked the faith to believe in our own powers, our own criterion of truth and beauty. Everyman, when he gets quiet, when he becomes desperately honest with himself, is capable of uttering profound truths.” 

–Henry Miller

Joseph Campbell: “One’s Infatuations”

Parva Scaena (Brief Scenes): Set Sixteen

“To become—in Jung’s terms—individuated, to live as a released individual, one has to know how and when to put on and to put off the masks of one’s various life roles. ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do,’ and when at home, do not keep on the mask of the role you play in the Senate chamber. But this, finally, is not easy, since some of the masks cut deep. They include judgment and moral values. They include one’s pride, ambition, and achievement. They include one’s infatuations. It is a common thing to be overly impressed by and attached to masks, either some mask of one’s own or the mana-masks of others. The work of individuation, however, demands that one should not be compulsively affected in this way. The aim of individuation requires that one should find and then learn to live out of one’s own center, in control of one’s for and against. And this cannot be achieved by enacting and responding to any general masquerade of fixed roles.” 

-Joseph Campbell, Myths to Live By

Olaf Stapledon: “Striving to Hear the Music of the Spheres”

Parva Scaena (Brief Scenes); Set Fifteen

“Is the beauty of the Whole really enhanced by our agony? And is the Whole really beautiful? And what is beauty? Throughout all his existence man has been striving to hear the music of the spheres, and has seemed to himself once and again to catch some phrase of it, or even a hint of the whole form of it. Yet he can never be sure that he has truly heard it, nor even that there is any such perfect music at all to be heard. Inevitably so, for if it exists, it is not for him in his littleness.

But one thing is certain. Man himself, at the very least, is music, a brave theme that makes music also of its vast accompaniment, its matrix of storms and stars. Man himself in his degree is eternally a beauty in the eternal form of things. It is very good to have been man. And so we may go forward together with laughter in our hearts, and peace, thankful for the past, and for our own courage. For we shall make after all a fair conclusion to this brief music that is man.”
Olaf Stapledon, Last and First Men

Thomas Mann: “The Striving of Life to Comprehend Itself”

Photographers Unknown, Parva Scaena (Brief Scenes): Set Fourteen

“Consciousness of self was an inherent function of matter once it was organized as life, and if that function was enhanced it turned against the organism that bore it, strove to fathom and explain the very phenomenon that produced it, a hope-filled and hopeless striving of life to comprehend itself, as if nature were rummaging to find itself in itself – ultimately to no avail, since nature cannot be reduced to comprehension, nor in the end can life listen to itself.”
Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain

Thomas Mann: “A Man Lives Not Only His Personal Life”

Parva Scaena (Brief Scenes): Set Thirteen

“A man lives not only his personal life, as an individual, but also, consciously or unconsciously, the life of his epoch and his contemporaries. He may regard the general, impersonal foundations of his existence as definitely settled and taken for granted, and be as far from assuming a critical attitude towards them as our good Hans Castorp really was; yet it is quite conceivable that he may none the less be vaguely conscious of the deficiencies of his epoch and find them prejudicial to his own moral well-being. All sorts of personal aims, hopes, ends, prospects, hover before the eyes of the individual, and out of these he derives the impulse to ambition and achievement. Now, if the life about him, if his own time seems, however outwardly stimulating, to be at bottom empty of such food for his aspirations; if he privately recognises it to be hopeless, viewless, helpless, opposing only a hollow silence to all the questions man puts, consciously or unconsciously, yet somehow puts, as to the final, absolute, and abstract meaning in all his efforts and activities; then, in such a case, a certain laming of the personality is bound to occur, the more inevitably the more upright the character in question; a sort of palsy, as it were, which may extend from his spiritual and moral over into his physical and organic part. In an age that affords no satisfying answer to the eternal question of ‘Why?’ ‘To what end?’ a man who is capable of achievement over and above the expected modicum must be equipped either with a moral remoteness and single-mindedness which is rare indeed and of heroic mould, or else with an exceptionally robust vitality. ”
Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain

James Fenimore Cooper: “These Intrepid Woodsmen”

Parva Scaena (Brief Scenes): Set Twelve

“Chingachgook grasped the hand that, in the warmth of feeling, the scout had stretched across the fresh earth, and in that attitude of friendship these intrepid woodsmen bowed their heads together, while scalding tears fell to their feet, watering the grave of Uncas like drops of falling rain.”
James Fenimore Cooper, The Last of the Mohicans

Aldous Huxley: “The Doors of Preception”

Photographers Unknown, Parva Scaena (Brief Scenes): Set Eleven

“We live together, we act on, and react to, one another; but always and in all circumstances we are by ourselves. The martyrs go hand in hand into the arena; they are crucified alone. Embraced, the lovers desperately try to fuse their insulated ecstasies into a single self-transcendence; in vain. By its very nature every embodied spirit is doomed to suffer and enjoy in solitude. Sensations, feelings, insights, fancies—all these are private and, except through symbols and at second hand, incommunicable. We can pool information about experiences, but never the experiences themselves. From family to nation, every human group is a society of island universes.”
Aldous Huxley, The Doors of Preception

Kilroy J. Oldster: “I Shall Listen to the Teaching My Blood Whispers”

Photographers Unknown, Parva Scaena (Brief Scenes): Set Nine

“I must cease living the false life of an imposter, and stop worrying about the future or risk sacrificing the joy of living in the moment. I am a seeker. I shall listen to the teaching my blood whispers and ecstatically accept life unfolding in whatever manner my innate material demands.”
― Kilroy J. Oldster, Dead Toad Scrolls

Winston S. Churchill< "A Nod of Recognition"

Parva Scaena (Brief Scenes): Set Eight

“If you cannot read all your books, at any rate handle, or as it were, fondle them – peer into them, let them fall open where they will, read from the first sentence that arrests the eye, set them back on the shelves with your own hands, arrange them on your own plan so that if you do not know what is in them, you at least know where they are. Let them be your friends; let them at any rate be your acquaintances. If they cannot enter the circle of your life, do not deny them at least a nod of recognition.”

― Winston S. Churchill, Painting as a Pastime

Paulo Coelho: “The Magic Moments Go Unrecognized”

Photographers Unknown, Parva Scaena (Brief Scenes): Set Seven

“I could have.What does this phrase mean? At any given moment in our lives, there are certain things that could have heppened but, didn’t. The magic moments go unrecognized, and then suddenly, the hand of destiny changes everything.”

― Paulo Coelho

Robert Anton Wilson: “Masks of the Illuminati”

Photographer Unknown, Parva Scaena (Brief Scenes): Set Six

“The normal is that which nobody quite is. If you listen to seemingly dull people very closely, you’ll see that they’re all mad in different and interesting ways, and are merely struggling to hide it.”

― Robert Anton Wilson, Masks of the Illuminati

Hermann Hesse: “He Who Travels Far Will Often See Things”

Photographers Unknown, Parva Scaena (Brief Scenes): Set Five

“He who travels far will often see things
Far removed from what he believed was Truth.
When he talks about it in the fields at home,
He is often accused of lying,
For the obdurate people will not believe
What they do not see and distinctly feel.
Inexperience, I believe,
Will give little credence to my song.”

―Hermann Hesse, The Journey to the East