19 thoughts on “A Little Box of Words

  1. Hi,

    Can’t speak for Canada, but in England, Christmas Day is the traditional day for gift-giving.

    Boxing Day was originally the day set aside for the awarding of Christmas boxes (gratuities), by the household, to tradespeople.

    (Source: Oxford Dictionary of English)

    Ron,

    Yes, I’ve heard about the gratuities, as well as some other explanations – distribution of alms from the almsboxes at church, and so on. I’m sure there are many who exchange gifts at Christmas – perhaps even most, at this point. Still, the first Brits I knew exchanged gifts on Boxing Day, and when I spent Christmas in England Boxing Day was a day for gifts as well as Christmas Day itself, so it’s simply stayed in my mind as a custom.

    Perhaps it’s a bit like the discussions that go on in this country as people try to decide whether to exchange gifts on Christmas eve or Christmas Day. Our family always thought a bit of both was the perfect solution!

    In any event, I hope your Christmas Day was a fine one. Best wishes for the New Year!

    Linda

  2. Hi Linda:

    For us Boxing Day is when you stand in line to watch a sporting match; which is a contest between two athletes with their hands covered with special leather gloves. It has nothing to do with the exchange of presents shortly after Christmas. Different languages, different meanings. :-)

    I’ve read T.S. Eliot on and off, but not being English my native tongue, I’ve had a hard time understanding what he means. Maybe under your guidance I could see the light.

    I’ve studied the English language for over 58 years, but still can’t say I’ve mastered it. But let me tell you, that each day I learn something new. Digital dictionaries, electronic word spellers and digital thesaurus are my constant aides.

    Thank you for teaching me some English literature. I promise to keep hanging in there.

    Buenas Tardes,

    Omar.-

    Omar,

    Ah – the boxing matches. We have those, too, although I haven’t seen a complete one since my grandmother died. She was a great fan of watching them on television. I think the matches held here now mostly are “pay per view”, but I can’t say for sure.

    I’m sure you know that even the “same” language can have amusing differences. I have friends from England and Wales. Every now and then I have to stop them to ask what this-or-that word means. I’ve found British English and American English can be very different – and misunderstandings do happen! The key is to keep learning, as you so rightly point out. Your English is extraordinarily good because you’ve continued to study – when I first began reading your blog, it read as easily as if English were your first language.

    As for Eliot – even though I love his work, I certainly don’t understand all of it. As a matter of fact, I don’t even like all of it, though I try to be appreciative. But every year I push a little farther, and find new things to enjoy – like this reading!

    Linda

  3. As with so many other holidays, Boxing Day seems to have descended into yet another excuse for screaming about low prices and unbelievable deals. The original idea still seems sweet, though.

    Here’s a possible sign of holiday fatigue. After reading the sentence about your Aunt Ina and her egg-laying chickens, I clicked on the link for bad poetry. When I returned to your post, I must have skipped a phrase or two, because I thought Ina was chasing the chickens around the farm and imploring them to “let me read this to you!” (Actually, it’s funny either way.)

    I also enjoyed listening to the recording of Eliot. I had never heard his voice, and the one in my head wasn’t even close.

    Thanks, Linda.

    bronxboy,

    I didn’t know until this year that our midwestern custom of giving money to the postman, milkman and newspaper carrier was rooted in Victorian England. A British friend tells me tradesmen would call at houses on the day after Christmas to collect “Christmas boxes” as thanks for their good service throughout the year – yet another thread in the “Boxing Day” tapestry. Thanks to charlespaolino, I ended up reading the whole of “A Christmas Carol” last night, and discovered echoes of the practice there.

    Hmmm… perhaps another sign of holiday fatigue is that I even linked to Randall Jarrell’s “Bad Poets”. It might well be confusing, but when I found it in the midst of some Eliot-searching last night, I was completely taken by it. I’d never read it, and found myself laughing out loud at his comment that reading manuscripts can be “as if the writers had sent you their ripped-out arms and legs, with ‘This is a poem’ scrawled on them in lipstick.” The first person I thought of was Aunt Ina, which at least tells you something about the intensity of her poetic impulse, if not the quality of her work! ;-)

    I can tell you this – she probably would have had a more obliging audience with the chickens than with her relatives!

    I’m glad you enjoyed the recording. His voice surprised me the first time I heard it, too.

    Linda

  4. Wonderful as always, and inspiring in the shortened days of the solstice. I felt as if I’d succumbed to my own eclipse and not returned to the light. Eliot’s recitation of my favorite passage was just the thing to jar me loose on my orbit. Many thanks from frigid Kansas.

    Tom,

    Glad to be of service. I had no idea this was your favorite, too – welcome again to wonderful serendipity.

    I woke early the day after Christmas, feeling a compulsion to get moving. You, at least, will understand if I say I’d like this to be the year of Quoz, and if I’m to get there, I’d best be hitting the road. Eliot’s always good for a shove.

    Linda

  5. I’m laughing, Linda, because I still to this day first think of a boxing match when I hear Boxing Day…before taking a quick breath and remembering what “they’re” talking about. Astrid’s brother in Canada celebrates it and I try to remember more quickly with each consecutive year.

    How splendid to hear T.S. Eliot’s voice. OMG. That is a Christmas gift in and of itself. Thank you for that…for the voice which sometimes IS everything.

    Ginnie,

    Sometimes “voice and verb” is as great as “vision and verb”! One of my greatest discoveries in the past couple of years has been a celebration of voice called “poetry slams” – events which are a little like watching Eliot and Dickinson playing the dozens on a Bronx streetcorner, if you can imagine such a thing.

    Despite criticism from some quarters, I think the movement toward greater emphasis on the spoken word is terrific. I’ve been especially impressed by Peter Nevland, a Texas kid who started at the University in Texas in Mechanical Engineering and who’s a moving force behind “Spoken Groove” – a kind of cross between a 1960s coffeehouse and a country carnival. One of his most well-known poems came along at just the right time for me. I think you’ll enjoy it, too. Feel free to substitute “take pictures” for “write”, if you like!

    Linda

  6. That was a surprise and a delight, to hear T.S. Eliot’s voice. When he read “And all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well,” I really believed it. I needed that today.

    Becca,

    I do love those words – I suspect you know they’re from Julian of Norwich (1342-1416?), an English mystic whose “Revelations of Divine Love” are known for their optimistic tone. Even people who don’t know Julian or Eliot often are familiar with the quotation, although they may not realize Julian was given to referring to God as “mother” as well as “father”.

    I was introduced to her writing at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in NYC, when I attended an evening of liturgical dance. I can’t remember now who was performing, but I did find a lovely video of her words accompanied by the Alvin Ailey Dance Company. I think you’ll enjoy it.

    Linda

  7. Drat! I left a long and lovely comment here a few days ago, but realize that my laptop shut down after writing it (battery power) hence, it never “made it”!

    In a nutshell, I loved hearing about Eliot and hearing the voice and he was of course here in STL for some time and I have to go back and fact check, but the warehouse (reportedly) that inspired the name Prufrock is/was located here in town. Must go in search. It’s one of those book-geeky things we love!

    Hope your holiday is rocking along (in the trendy meaning, not the boat moving back and forth meaning) and that you have inspiration coming at you from everywhere to jettison you into another excellent year of writing that takes you…anywhere you want!

    Always grand to hear from you and hear you here, too, of course. Regards to Dixie and your Mom!
    Holiday hugs to all!

    oh,

    Wiki is wonderful! The hint was enough, and I found the story of Prufrock – although I’ll contain myself for the time being in case you bring the information here yourself. I never would have found it without you.

    The most interesting part isn’t so much the origin, as Eliot’s statement that he had no memory of hearing the name in its original context and didn’t consciously choose it. He was signing himself as T. Sterns Eliot when he wrote the poem, though, and said he chose the form J. Alfred Prufrock because of that.

    I haven’t a clue what the new year will bring, but I’m ready for it. It’s time to clear the decks and prepare to sail on – there are three titles in my files that could be stories. It may be time to do something about that. ;-)

    Linda

  8. Thank you so much for sharing – what a lovely break in the middle of my work day. It would be wrong to say I am not a fan of T.S. Eliot, but I certainly don’t know much of his work. You’ve made me want to learn more. I can just hear that voice reading the Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, though!

    Courtney,

    How wonderful to see you popping up. I hope you’re doing well, and that your holidays were festive and fun.

    I’m glad you found something cheering here – so much talk of Prufrock has sent me off to read him, too. I’d forgotten it, but one line from the poem – “Dare I disturb the universe?” – was the theme for the 2009 poetry month. That Mr. Eliot is quotable, for sure!

    I was lucky enough to find Harcourt, Brace’s new edition of the complete poems and plays at Half-Price Books about a year ago – no clue how that happened! But it’s a treasure, and when I can’t quite deal with the more esoteric stuff, there’s always “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats”! Sometimes I read them aloud to Dixie Rose, who seems to like them.

    Happy New Year to you – hope to see you back soon!

    Linda

  9. Linda, I was going to comment on Juliana, but you already did. The Eliot selection is a favorite. Another favorite place Juliana shows up is in a song sung by Gordon Bok and others (which has become an informal anthem of many of my Quaker friends) – the refrain, “All shall be well, I’m telling you / let the winter come and go / all shall be well again, I know”.

    Mary Ellen,

    I found Gordon Bok but didn’t find the song because I didn’t do a great deal of searching. My computer has developed some very strange behaviors in the past day or so and keeps shutting itself off – or attempting to back itself up. I’m a little nervous about getting everything done before it throws its next hissy-fit.

    In any event, what an apropos line – “let the winter come and go”. I know you’ve had your taste of real winter already and probably are ready to see it go. But the rhythms of life are what they are, and soon enough winter and every sort of cold will flee.

    I hope your holidays were lovely. I’m really so happy you stopped by, and glad I mentioned one of your favorites. I trust everyone in your family is fine, both two and four-legged.

    Linda

  10. Hello Linda,

    Not only did I get to “catch up” and read “A Hidden Hallelujah” I got to read this story also.

    You know, I never grew up knowing much about “Boxing Day” and my family never talked about it at all. I did begin to meet some people who celebrate Boxing Day once I moved to SE Florida and we have people from the old “British Empire” here who still celebrate the day.

    I find it a very interesting concept and sort of wish it were celebrated a little more. It would take a lot of pressure off of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day!

    Enjoyed another great story by you and wanted to say
    Thank you and Happy New Year!
    Patti

    Patti,

    I had friends once who wanted to “stretch” the season a bit. They wanted to do it for themselves – she was as much of a decorator as you, and hated to see everything back in boxes by two days after Christmas.

    They started letting their kids choose two of their presents to “hold” – one for Boxing Day, and one for Epiphany on January 6. It was amazing how well it worked out – the kids learned about some other traditions and had something to look forward to through the whole Christmas season. Not only that, they took down a some decoration or other every day after Christmas, until on January 6 there was only the lighted tree remaining – so they didn’t have to face the whole cleanup then. If I had a passle of kids, I might even consider it myself.

    Thanks so much for stopping by in the midst of the holiday whirl – here’s to a great New Year for all of us!

    Linda

  11. Have a wonderful and happy New Year :-)

    Carol x

    Carol,

    I’m so looking forward to more of your wonderful and unusual photographs in this coming year – and to watching that boy of yours grow! Happy New Year, and all the best to you.

    Linda

  12. Linda,

    As I’ve always thought, you have a natural capacity for the visuals. And regarding voice, allow me to make one holiday recommendation. It starts with the cliche: If you’re going to see one film this year (you still have time), go see ‘The King’s Speech’… you’ll see how voice can be presented in a dramatic mode, no less poetic, or human.

    Second thing, if you have time, explore this site: Imagejournal.org

    Third, for some inexplicable and unfortunate reasons, all the visuals and icons on my sidebar have disappeared. I checked with WordPress, their Support is closed until Jan. 3. I went on the forum, one of their staff responded and just said ‘sorry for the inconvenience, just a glitch’. But they could not replace them back.

    I try to maintain a pleasant mood despite all this. My wish for you is heartfelt: Have a very Happy New Year, Linda and all the best for a meaningful and rewarding 2011!

    Arti,

    Well, since it’s 9:38 on January 1 (how could that have happened so soon?!) I guess “The King’s Speech” is going to have to be my first film for 2011. That’s rather nice, actually, as I’m resolved to do more film watching this year – thanks to the influence of a particularly dear film critic! And I’ll look at the recommended site.

    As for those visuals and icons – I had quite a surprise this morning when I logged in. Mr. Eliot’s photo at the top was gone, and an image of frolicking dolphin had been substituted. That’s particularly strange, since I’ve never taken a photo of a dolphin, don’t have any photos of dolphin on my hard drive and host my photos through an ftp server completely unassociated with wordpress. Unfortunately, I was in such a hurry to get the right photo in place I didn’t think to check the url for the dolphin image, so unless it reappears we’ll never know.

    I did look at your site and the icons were back in place – but of course I wouldn’t know what else might be missing. My own pleasant mood’s been disturbed by a particularly nasty virus that’s eaten up several of my programs. I’m trying to look at it as a cyber-version of the old sailing aphorism: “If you ain’t been aground, you ain’t been anywhere”. ;-)

    Happy New Year to you – I’m really looking forward to 2011 with great anticipation – particularly for your guidance through the world of film!

    Linda

  13. Happy New Year, Linda! I arrive better late than never, but well before midnight. After taking a peek at the weather channel tonight, I hope you are safe and sound…

    My comment concerning Boxing Day – for my family it is a day to celebrate love and friendship with those we didn’t get to see on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day – drag the holiday out a little longer and have another excuse for a good meal. It is also traditionally the day we have plum pudding. Yum!

    And I see a comment mid-stream about three titles in your files? Waiting for stories? It sounds so wonderfully organized, which I aspire to in this coming year.

    It is so nice to drop in and catch up with you, and it feels extra special being the last day of the year.
    Peace and good wishes to you. I hope it is a fabulously fulfilling year. Thank you for the support you have been so generous with in 2010. May our relationship continue to grow!

    qugrainne,

    What a delight to hear from you. I know you’ve been busy with other projects, but you certainly have been missed. It’s been good to get word when you have something new for us to read – be sure to keep that up! (The little “alerts”, as well as the writing!)

    I don’t know if “organized” is the right word. A painter whose blog I read regularly recently spoke of “intent” – and intentionality might just be my word for this year. The question of how to keep blogging while working on other writing is one I haven’t even begun to answer – it seems as though it would be impossible to simply “switch” back and forth. But of course that can’t be the case, as many people keep several projects going at once. I suspect it’s akin to what I went through when I started varnishing. You can’t work on just one boat – there needs to be another one or two to work on while varnish is drying, after all! So, it may be that my varnish work can inform my writing in quite a practical way. We’ll see.

    I hope a good year for you, too – and don’t forget to drop a new photo in your blog for us from time to time. We don’t want to be seeing that baby the next time all decked out for her first day of school!

    Linda

  14. You see, I used to have all the “Top Ripples” movie posters and book covers linking back to my posts, they’re all gone. So are my ‘Copyscape’, ‘My Free Copyrights’, and your good ‘T-Shirt’. And since you mentioned Mr. Eliot’s photo gone and an unknown dolphin photo, you should watch out. Have to contact Support after Jan. 3, just to report and let them know of the glitch.

    Arti,

    That’s right! Now I remember. Well, we’ll just have to wait. One clue, though – in IE7, some little bits of my theme template are gone, but they’re present in Firefox. Very strange. I did go look at your blog in FF too, but everything’s still missing. Perhaps you can find a cached page and get the code to put them back easily. Hope so!

    And may this be the end of your blog trials and tributions for 2011!

    Linda

  15. Hi Linda

    a very Happy New Year to you from Scotland, just recently free of a great deal of snow! Thank you for that gift of Eliot reading.

    “….we shall not cease from exploration….” onwards is one of my favourite passages.

    Anne

    Anne,

    What a delight to see you! A friend who lives in Wales has a grand-daughter who’s schooling in Scotland, and the weather reports haven’t been good at all.

    I’m so glad you enjoyed the piece and that I found one of your favorites. A happy new year to you – I’m resolving to be a more faithful reader and better communicator in the new year!

    Linda

  16. Linda – well, have been snooping around a bit about the Prufrock name in Eliot’s seminal poem. What I have found is NOT what I was looking for/remembering.

    There was the ” Prufrock-Littau furniture company, at Fourth and St. Charles Streets, St Louis, the city of Eliot’s birth and poetic evolution. The company had a literary connection: it advertised its wares in Reedy’s Weekly, a St Louis literary periodical of the 1900-1920 period.”

    And so it is thought, as you already know, that Eliot had seen these ads if not the warehouse itself…and therefore adopted the name, consciously or not (since he says he did not remember doing so..)

    Strange, though. I could have sworn I have been somewhere in the Gateway and seen the sign myself…one of those dreams, perhaps. But I’m on the lookout.

    And also, apparently several Prufrocks lived in STL at the time of the poet. Maybe he snagged the name from one of them, like JK Rowling snagged the Dursleys (Harry potter’s relatives) from neighbors who lived down her street.

    Who knows, really, the flotsam and jetsam picked up by the writer’s mind?

    Nonetheless, I’m on the lookout for Prufrock, in writing, on any wall at all in STL.

    oh,

    You must go and look at this postcard, and be sure to read the exchange in the five comments below it. Truly funny stuff: “Let us go then, you and I, with a balloon recovered from evening sky…” You’ll see.

    What tickled me is discovering that Prufrock-Littau had a store on Fifth Avenue in NYC. Are you sure you haven’t been cruising 5th Av in your dreams, or time traveling instead of vacation traveling? We may need to begin questioning you a bit more closely about your excursions! ;-)

    Now you have me even more curious. I’ll be interested to hear if you turn anything else up.

    And happy new year!

    Linda

  17. What a treasure to hear Eliot himself read his work! (Oh, please T.S. — will you read me “Cats” — your version, not that Webber fellow’s, though he is truly worthy.)

    Here at MSU we have something called the Vincent Voice Library — an enormous collection of readings, speeches, etc., on tape (well, I think they are moving it digitally, bit by bit). Every now and then one will pop into my radar and I think how lucky we are to be in an age of technology where we can actually preserve such things. Thank you for the treat.

    jeanie,

    My first experience of hearing an author read his work came in the mid-60s, when Allen Ginsberg showed up on the Iowa college and university circuit. It was an interesting experience, as you might imagine – but interesting in a strange way. Ginsberg seemed bored with his own words; the reading was flat and not very appealing.

    On the other hand, hearing William Faulkner’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech in his own voice never fails to move me. That’s one of the treasures that’s now available to everyone, thanks to programs like the Vincent Voice Library. In the closing lines, Faulkner says, “The poet’s voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.” I suspect he was using “voice” as a metaphor for words, but just as in the Singing Revolution, there’s power in the matching of words and human voice.

    Linda

  18. Linda – I loved the postcard and the banter exchange – what fun! And how did you find this? (you’re an expert “net-surfer/finder” – that must be it!) And how eye-opening appropriate it is to your own post here, and our comments. It would be very cool, though nearly more than I could handle, to be a time traveler. But I SWEAR, I saw something downtown one day that made me go “Ah, Prufrock!”

    As promised, I’ll be on the lookout and must check out a few other references as well and see what I can find/glean.

    BTW, if you even lean toward watching the movie (1994 I think) of Tom and Viv, you might wish to reconsider, unless you get to see it for free without even spending a rental fee. I watched it some time ago, all pumped up and excited in a geek Eliot/English kind of way and no one else was home and I even had my fave ice cream – and I was sorely disappointed. They have got to do better on the “lit” movies, and that goes for the Dorothy Parker (again, 1994) movie as well, titled Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle. However, opinion being what it is, you might very well enjoy either or both of the films. I’m just sayin…’

    The hunt for more Eliot info continues…!

    Cheers!

    oh,

    Sigh. You know how I am with films. I have a new little notebook where I write down every film someone references that sounds appealing, “important” or simply of interest to me because it’s important to them. But watch movies? Double sigh. It’s just not been a part of my life and now, though the impulse is there, working out the detail is difficult.

    Details, of course, means “time”. Even the weather hasn’t cooperated with me this year. Last January was so terribly frigid no work was possible for about three weeks. That presents its own problems, but I could have watched a lot of movies. Now, I’m just waiting for the bad weather, although I have so many projects in mind I’m not sure I’d get around to the movies. Probably the most workable solution’s to get mom a dvd player and watch movies at her place. Anyhow – your two are on the list now. As I said to someone recently, even if I hate them, I’ll know about them. That’s not bad!

    Linda

  19. Hi Linda.
    In Australia, Boxing Day is a public holiday, and is a big sale day in department stores. I have the impression that originally it was the day that servants received presents. There’s no Boxing Day in Chile, though.

    I enjoyed listening to T.S. Eliot’s reading of his poetry very much, so thanks for including that. There’s nothing like a poet or other writer reading their own work, with that special tone of authority that can belong to no one else, and it’s just reminded me of listening to the recordings of the Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda in his readings of his own works.

    Andrew,

    There is something wonderful about hearing an author read his own work, or an artist talk about a photograph, painting or sculpture. That’s one reason I enjoy your blog so much – you don’t simply post the photos, there’s some commentary to accompany them – where you were, what worked, what didn’t.

    I have great gaps in my literary knowlege, especially when it comes to South American writers and poets. When I discovered the connection between BP’s Macondo well and Gabriel García Márquez’s novel “One Hundred Years of Solitude” I was more than intrigued. I tucked reading the book onto this year’s “to-do” list – we’ll see if I get it done!

    Linda

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