The New York Public Library Acquires a Collection of Rare Virginia Woolf Materials

A portrait of Woolf by Roger Fry c. 1917 – Leeds Art Gallery / Public Domain

“How much better is silence; the coffee cup, the table. How much better to sit by myself like the solitary sea-bird that opens its wings on the stake. Let me sit here for ever with bare things, this coffee cup, this knife, this fork, things in themselves, myself being myself.” Virginia Woolf, The Waves



The New York Public Library just announced the acquisition of an extensive Virginia Woolf Collection. This collection provides a rare glimpse into the life of the iconic writer and, merged with existing Library collections related to Woolf, formulates one of the world’s most complete and important collections of Virginia Woolf material.

The Library has acquired by purchase and gift this collection of rarely seen Virginia Woolf material: correspondence, rare printed books and unique material such as photographs, original artwork and ephemera, including Woolf’s passport.



Patience and Fortitude, the “Library Lion” statues, in the snowstorm of December 1948 / Public Domain Photograph from the now defunct United States Information Agency




The collection of 153 items was assembled over decades by William Beekman. It will join the Library’s existing Virginia Woolf holdings in the Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature, accessible from the Library’s Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street. With this new acquisition, The New York Public Library holds what is arguably the most complete and important collection of Virginia Woolf material in the world.

The Library’s Berg Collection is currently home to Virginia Woolf’s diaries and notebooks; draft material for all of her works of fiction; nearly 3,000 pieces of incoming and outgoing correspondence, as well as photographs; books; legal documents; and her walking stick. The existing collection, which spans the years 1888 to 1941, numbers nearly 3,700 individual items and began with the acquisition of Woolf’s diaries in 1958, directly from her husband, Leonard Woolf.

“Virginia Woolf’s writings are essential to literary modernism, long one of the core collecting areas—and one of the most frequently accessed—of the Berg Collection at The New York Public Library,” said Andrew W. Mellon Director of the Research Libraries, William Kelly. “The acquisition of the William Beekman Collection of Virginia Woolf and Her Circle adds extraordinary depth to what is already one of the Berg’s strongest collections. With this acquisition, the Library reaffirms its commitment to Virginia Woolf, to literary modernism, to early feminist writing, and to documenting the creative process through incomparably rich collections.”

Highlights of the new acquisition:

  • Extensive correspondence, including a set of eight letters from Virginia Woolf’s husband, Leonard, and sister, Vanessa Bell, to Vita Sackville-West regarding Woolf’s disappearance and suicide.
  • Showing a different side of the author’s personality, a humorous “proclamation” written on the eve Vanessa Bell’s marriage, which Woolf wrote from the perspectives of three apes, Billy, Bartholomew, Mungo, and a Wombat.
  • Copies of the first editions of Woolf’s books, including Jacob’s Room (1922), Mrs. Dalloway (1925), and To the Lighthouse (1927). Each retain the original jacket illustrations designed by Vanessa Bell and several are inscribed to intimate associates
  • Unique items such as Woolf’s passport name card with picture, unpublished poetry by Vita Sackville-West, and books from Woolf’s own library.
  • Letters and gift books inscribed to Florence Hardy (widow of Thomas Hardy), David Garnett, Clive Bell, and other prominent members of the Bloomsbury group.

The Beekman collection complements the Library’s holdings, while providing greater breadth and important context for many of the items. This is seen with the addition of the letter from Leonard Woolf to Vita Sackville-West regarding Virginia’s presumed suicide and finding her walking stick floating in the river. The Berg Collection is home to the walking stick.

Virginia Woolf

Adeline Virginia Woolf (1882–1941) was an English novelist, essayist, biographer, and feminist. Woolf was central to the Bloomsbury Group*, a coterie of British artists, writers, and intellectuals active in the first half of the twentieth century. In 1917, Woolf founded with her husband, Leonard, the Hogarth Press and published what would become foundational works of Modernism, including T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land in 1923. She also wrote nine novels, two collections of short stories, a biography, and three book-length essays in addition to other works. She wrote approximately 400 essays and 4,000 letters, and kept a diary for most of her life before committing suicide in 1941.

 

*The Bloomsbury Group—or Bloomsbury Set—was a group of associated English writers, intellectuals, philosophers and artists in the first half of the 20th century,[1]including Virginia Woolf, John Maynard Keynes, E. M. Forster and Lytton Strachey. This loose collective of friends and relatives was closely associated with the University of Cambridge for the men and King’s College London for the women, and they lived, worked or studied together near Bloomsbury, London. According to Ian Ousby, “although its members denied being a group in any formal sense, they were united by an abiding belief in the importance of the arts.” Their works and outlook deeply influenced literature, aesthetics, criticism, and economics as well as modern attitudes towards feminism, pacifism, and sexuality. A well-known quote, attributed to Dorothy Parker, is “they lived in squares, painted in circles and loved in triangles”. Wikipedia MORE

“I could not be more delighted to see my collection find a permanent home with the marvelous Woolf material already held by The New York Public Library in the Berg Collection,” said collector, William Beekman. “The Berg’s wealth of related holdings and its curatorial resources mean that these books and documents, which have given me so much pleasure, will be available to scholars and the general public to study and enjoy for years to come.”

The collection has been processed and is available for research purposes at the Berg Collection.

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This post is complied courtesy of The New York Public Library, Leeds Art Gallery, Wikipedia, and my bookshelf. 

Rose Main Reading Room

The New York Public Library is a free provider of education and information for the people of New York and beyond. With 92 locations—including research and branch libraries—throughout the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island, the Library offers free materials, computer access, classes, exhibitions, programming, and more to everyone from toddlers to scholars, and has seen record numbers of attendance and circulation in recent years. The New York Public Library serves nearly 17 million patrons who come through its doors annually and millions more around the globe who use its resources at nypl.org. To offer this wide array of free programming, The New York Public Library relies on both public and private funding. Learn more about how to support the Library at nypl.org/support.


Jamie Dedes. I’m a freelance writer, poet, content editor, and blogger. I also manage The BeZine and its associated activities and The Poet by Day jamiededes.com, an info hub for writers meant to encourage good but lesser-known poets, women and minority poets, outsider artists, and artists just finding their voices in maturity. The Poet by Day is dedicated to supporting freedom of artistic expression and human rights and encourages activist poetry.  Email thepoetbyday@gmail.com for permissions, commissions, or assignments.

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Recent and Upcoming in Digital Publications: Jamie Dedes, Versifier of Truth, Womawords Literary Press, November 19, How 100,000 Poets Are Fostering Peace, Justice, and Sustainability, YOPP! * The Damask Garden, In a Woman’s Voice, August 11, 2019 / This short story is dedicated to all refugees. That would be one in every 113 people. * Five poems, Spirit of Nature, Opa Anthology of Poetry, 2019 * From the Small Beginning, Entropy Magazine (Enclave, #Final Poems), July 2019 * Over His Morning Coffee, Front Porch Review, July 2019 * Three poems, Our Poetry Archive, September 2019


“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton

“On Living” and “Letters from a Man in Solitary,” poems by Nâzım Hikmet

“It’s this way:
being captured is beside the point
the point is not to surrender.
Nâzım Hikmet, Poems of Nazım Hikmet



On Living

Living is no laughing matter:
You must take it seriously.
So much so and to such a degree
that, for example, your hands tied
behind your back,
your back to the wall
or else in a laboratory
in your white coat and safety glasses,
you can die for people –
even for people whose faces you’ve
never seen,
even though you know living
is the most real, most beautiful
thing.
I mean, you must take living so
seriously
that even at seventy, for example, you’ll
plant olive trees –
and not for your children, either,
but because, although you fear death you
don’t believe it,
because living, I mean, weighs heavier.

Nâzım Hikmet, Poems of Nâzım Hikmet

Letters from a Man In Solitary 

1
I carved your name on my watchband
with my fingernail.
Where I am, you know,
I don’t have a pearl-handled jackknife
(they won’t give me anything sharp)
or a plane tree with its head in the clouds.
Trees may grow in the yard,
but I’m not allowed
to see the sky overhead…
How many others are in this place?
I don’t know.
I’m alone far from them,
they’re all together far from me.
To talk anyone besides myself
is forbidden.
So I talk to myself.
But I find my conversation so boring,
my dear wife, that I sing songs.
And what do you know,
that awful, always off-key voice of mine
touches me so
that my heart breaks.
And just like the barefoot orphan
lost in the snow
in those old sad stories, my heart
— with moist blue eyes
and a little red runny rose —
wants to snuggle up in your arms.
It doesn’t make me blush
that right now
I’m this weak,
this selfish,
this human simply.
No doubt my state can be explained
physiologically, psychologically, etc.
Or maybe it’s
this barred window,
this earthen jug,
these four walls,
which for months have kept me from hearing
another human voice.

It’s five o’clock, my dear.
Outside,
with its dryness,
eerie whispers,
mud roof,
and lame, skinny horse
standing motionless in infinity
— I mean, it’s enough to drive the man inside crazy with grief —
outside, with all its machinery and all its art,
a plains night comes down red on treeless space.

Again today, night will fall in no time.
A light will circle the lame, skinny horse.
And the treeless space, in this hopeless landscape
stretched out before me like the body of a hard man,
will suddenly be filled with stars.
We’ll reach the inevitable end once more,
which is to say the stage is set
again today for an elaborate nostalgia.
Me,
the man inside,
once more I’ll exhibit my customary talent,
and singing an old-fashioned lament
in the reedy voice of my childhood,
once more, by God, it will crush my unhappy heart
to hear you inside my head,
so far
away, as if I were watching you
in a smoky, broken mirror…

2
It’s spring outside, my dear wife, spring.
Outside on the plain, suddenly the smell
of fresh earth, birds singing, etc.
It’s spring, my dear wife,
the plain outside sparkles…
And inside the bed comes alive with bugs,
the water jug no longer freezes,
and in the morning sun floods the concrete…
The sun–
every day till noon now
it comes and goes
from me, flashing off
and on…
And as the day turns to afternoon, shadows climb the walls,
the glass of the barred window catches fire,
and it’s night outside,
a cloudless spring night…
And inside this is spring’s darkest hour.
In short, the demon called freedom,
with its glittering scales and fiery eyes,
possesses the man inside
especially in spring…
I know this from experience, my dear wife,
from experience…

3
Sunday today.
Today they took me out in the sun for the first time.
And I just stood there, struck for the first time in my life
by how far away the sky is,
how blue
and how wide.
Then I respectfully sat down on the earth.
I leaned back against the wall.
For a moment no trap to fall into,
no struggle, no freedom, no wife.
Only earth, sun, and me…
I am happy.

Trans. by Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk (1993) / Poem Hunter

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Nâzım Hikmet

Nâzım Hikmet (1902 – 1963) was a Turkish poet, playwright, novelist, screenwriter, director and memoirist. He was acclaimed for the “lyrical flow of his statements”.  Since he was a revolutionary in his time, he seemed a good poet to present today, the day we celebrate Global 100,000 Poets and Friends for Change and The BeZine Virtual 100TPC. (Join us HERE and share your work. Read that of others.)

Additionally, he has always fascinated me, not only because of his poetry and the way he spent his life, but because he was born in the same time and place as my father, someone I barely knew.  I feel a bit like I get a glimpse at the times and culture into which my father was born when I read Hikmet.

Described as a “romantic communist” and “romantic revolutionary”, he was repeatedly arrested for his political beliefs and spent much of his adult life in prison or in exile. His poetry has been translated into more than fifty languages.

Despite writing his first poems in syllabic meter, Nazım Hikmet distinguished himself from the “syllabic poets” in concept. With the development of his poetic conception, the narrow forms of syllabic verse became too limiting for his style and he set out to seek new forms for his poems.

He was influenced by the young Soviet poets who advocated Futurism. On his return to Turkey, he became the charismatic leader of the Turkish avant-garde, producing streams of innovative poems, plays and film scripts. Breaking the boundaries of syllabic meter, he changed his form and began writing in free verse, which harmonized with the rich vocal properties of the Turkish language.

He has been compared by Turkish and non-Turkish men of letters to such figures as Federico García Lorca, Louis Aragon, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Pablo Neruda. Although Ran’s work bears a resemblance to these poets and owes them occasional debts of form and stylistic device, his literary personality is unique in terms of the synthesis he made of iconoclasm and lyricism, of ideology and poetic diction.[5]:19

Many of his poems have been set to music by the Turkish composer Zülfü Livaneli. A part of his work has been translated into Greek by Yiannis Ritsos, and some of these translations have been arranged by the Greek composers Manos Loizos and Thanos Mikroutsikos.

Because of his political views his works were banned in Turkey from 1938 to 1965.

Nazim Hikmet was awarded the International Peace Prize in 1950.


Jamie Dedes. I’m a freelance writer, poet, content editor, and blogger. I also manage The BeZine and its associated activities and The Poet by Day jamiededes.com, an info hub for writers meant to encourage good but lesser-known poets, women and minority poets, outsider artists, and artists just finding their voices in maturity. The Poet by Day is dedicated to supporting freedom of artistic expression and human rights.  Email thepoetbyday@gmail.com for permissions, commissions, or assignments.

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Recent and Upcoming in Digital Publications Poets Advocate for Peace, Justice, and Sustainability, How 100,000 Poets Are Fostering Peace, Justice, and Sustainability, YOPP! * The Damask Garden, In a Woman’s Voice, August 11, 2019 / This short story is dedicated to all refugees. That would be one in every 113 people. * Five poems, Spirit of Nature, Opa Anthology of Poetry, 2019 * From the Small Beginning, Entropy Magazine (Enclave, #Final Poems), July 2019 * Over His Morning Coffee, Front Porch Review, July 2019 * Three poems, Our Poetry Archive, September 2019


“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton

Filmmaker Ava DuVernay (writer, director, producer) to Receive Voice of Influence Award at PEN America 2019 LITFEST

DuVernay at the 2010 AFI Film Festival and SAG “BreakThrough” Filmmakers Party courtesy of Mariemaye under C BY 3.0

“Creativity is an energy. It’s a precious energy, and it’s something to be protected. A lot of people take for granted that they’re a creative person, but I know from experience, feeling it in myself, it is a magic; it is an energy. And it can’t be taken for granted.” Ava DuVernay



PEN America just announced that groundbreaking director, producer, and activist Ava DuVernay will receive the Voice of Influence Award at the organization’s 2019 LitFest Gala in Beverly Hills. She will join previously announced LitFest Gala honoree songwriter Diane Warren (Artistic Expression Award) at the 2019 LitFest Gala on November 1, 2019 at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel.

“We are honored to recognize the unparalleled work that Ava DuVernay has done throughout her career, which constantly reminds us of the true purpose and power of storytelling,” said Michelle Franke, executive director of PEN America’s Los Angeles office. “We admire the rigor with which her work has explored the lesser-heard, all-too-often suppressed voices of history.

Michaelle Franke continued, “PEN America is proud to stand with leaders like Ava, who challenge and inspire us, and whose contributions further our mission to protect and celebrate creative expression and who use their words to transform the world.”

For more information on the PEN America’s 2019 LitFest Gala, visit HERE.

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Ava DuVernay in 2015 courtesy of usbotschaftberlin / Public Domain

Winner of the Emmy, BAFTA and Peabody Awards, Academy Award nominee Ava DuVernay is a writer, director, producer and film distributor. Her directorial work includes the historical feature film SELMA, the criminal justice documentary 13TH, and Disney’s A WRINKLE IN TIME which made her the highest grossing black woman director in American box office history. Based on the infamous case of The Central Park Five, her current project WHEN THEY SEE US recently garnered 16 Primetime Emmy Award nominations, including Outstanding Limited Series and Outstanding Director and Writer for a Limited Series nominations for DuVernay.

Currently, she oversees production on the fourth season of her critically-acclaimed TV series QUEEN SUGAR and her upcoming romance anthology CHERISH THE DAY for Warner Brothers Television. Making history as the first African-American filmmaker to win the Best Director prize at Sundance for her micro-budget, self-distributed feature MIDDLE OF NOWHERE, DuVernay continues to amplify the work of other people of color and women of all kinds through her non-profit film collective ARRAY, named one of Fast Company’s “Most Innovative Companies.” DuVernay sits on the advisory board of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, and co-chairs the Prada Diversity Council. She is based in Los Angeles, California.

This post courtesy of PEN America and Wikipedia

***

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. Its mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.


ABOUT 

Jamie Dedes. I’m a Lebanese-American freelance writer, poet, content editor, blogger and the mother of a world-class actor and mother-in-law of a stellar writer/photographer. No grandchildren, but my grandkitty, Dahlia, rocks big time. I am hopelessly in love with nature and all her creatures. In another lifetime, I was a columnist, a publicist, and an associate editor to a regional employment publication. I’ve had to reinvent myself to accommodate scarred lungs, pulmonary hypertension, right-sided heart failure, connective tissue disease, and a rare managed but incurable blood cancer. The gift in this is time for my primary love: literature. I study/read/write from a comfy bed where I’ve carved out a busy life writing feature articles, short stories, and poetry and managing The BeZine and its associated activities and The Poet by Day jamiededes.com, an info hub for writers meant to encourage good but lesser-known poets, women and minority poets, outsider artists, and artists just finding their voices in maturity. The Poet by Day is dedicated to supporting freedom of artistic expression and human rights.  Email thepoetbyday@gmail.com for permissions, commissions, or assignments.

Testimonials / Disclosure / Facebook

Recent and Upcoming in Digital Publications * The Damask Garden, In a Woman’s Voice, August 11, 2019 / This short story is dedicated to all refugees. That would be one in every 113 people. * Five poems, Spirit of Nature, Opa Anthology of Poetry, 2019 * From the Small Beginning, Entropy Magazine (Enclave, #Final Poems), July 2019 * Over His Morning Coffee, Front Porch Review, July 2019 * Three poems, Our Poetry Archive, September 2019


“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton

Ah, Yes! I remember it well … Atlantic Avenue, reading coffee grinds, and the French novelist and woman of letters, Colette

Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette (1873-1954)

“Sit down and put down everything that comes into your head and then you’re a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff’s worth and, without pity, destroy most of it.” Collette, Casual Chance, 1964



I remember it well: my first encounter with Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette. Picture it.  Brooklyn. A Lebanese restaurant someplace on Atlantic Avenue, ambiance of the Middle East, redolent with fragrances of cinnamon and cardamom and the mouth-watering smell of lamb roasting.

It was 1958. We had just seen the movie, Gigi, starring Leslie Caron, which is based on Colette’s novella of the same name.  You might remember that in the early scenes Ms. Caron wore a wide-brimmed straw hat with a ribbon tied in a bow. The ribbon trailed gracefully down her back. I had such a hat and suffered the illusion that I looked just like Gigi in the film. This illusion was strongly supported by the fact that Gigi is my childhood nickname. In fact, from that day on and until her death, my mother would tell everyone  – as she did at the restaurant on this occasion – that I was Gigi before Gigi. I knew it wasn’t true. I’d read in the newspaper that there was a book written in 1944, which would predate me by six years. I was hungry to get my hands on it.

As the adults talked, I mentally replayed scenes from the movie and imagined a woman sitting at her desk writing the story that became the movie. I might have felt smart and pretty and even glamorous and certainly rather grown-up, but I would soon be relieved of my illusions. My mother allowed one of the restaurant patrons – an artist – to do a picture of me. Much to my dismay all he saw and drew was a scrawny olive-skinned kid with a rather gauche hat that sat too far back on her head. Nothing at all approaching the light, elegant, grown-up beauty of Ms. Caron. Then our supposed* distant cousin, Julia, the restaurant owner, worked her special magic.  She told fortunes by reading the sludge left in the cup after drinking Lebanese coffee. Julia would provide this service . . . “reading” coffee grounds . . . for her favorite (i.e., frequent) patrons.

*Note: Honestly, everyone we met from Lebanon was pronounced a cousin, so I’m skeptical.  Cousin in spirit and language, maybe. Blood cousin? Not so sure. 

At Julia’s my special treat was one cup of Lebanese coffee with my baklava. On this day, Mom let Julia do a reading for me. It had none of Julia’s usual romantic niceties: “You are like the sun and the moon. He is the sun that warms your heart. You are the moon that reflects his strength.” Or, “I see a key. Many doors will open for you. And, see there?  There are two bells entwined with a string.  There will be much love shared.”  There was to be no romance like the fictional Gigi’s for me. No. No.  For me there was: “See that, Gigi. Two books. You must keep up your studies. Therein is your happiness.” Maybe Julia did have something of a seer’s eye. I turned out to be better at reading books than reading men and I’m content with that.


“Then, bidding farewell to The Knick-Knack, I went to collect the few personal belongings which, at that time, I held to be invaluable: my cat, my resolve to travel, and my solitude.” Colette, Gigi, Julie de Carneilhan, and Chance Acquaintances: Three Short Novels


As for Sidone-Gabrielle Colette (a.k.a. Colette), the Nobel nominated (1948, Literature) French novelist, actress, and mime, this was my introduction and the beginning of my appreciation for her life and work.

Colette was a prodigious writer of many popular literary works. The Claudine stories were the first. For La Belle Époque, Colette’s writings were racy but – perhaps unfortunately – by today’s often jaded tastes, not so much.  While Colette’s life was too much on the wild side for me, I appreciate her courage and honesty and I do love her writing, so full of an appreciation for life and so rich in perfume, color, and humor, occasionally wry.


Publicity still of Colette for Rêve d’Égypte at the Moulin Rouge.

Quotable Colette

For the romantics among us:

“I am going away with him to an unknown country where I shall have no past and no name, and where I shall be born again with a new face and an untried heart.”


The story of Gigi is about a young Parisian who – in her family’s tradition – is being groomed for a career as courtesan. A handsome, wealthy, and well-placed young man is targeted by her grandmother (Mamita) and aunt for Gigi’s first relationship. For the movie version, the story is sanitized to get by the American censors. It was 1958 after all.


“You will do foolish things, but do them with enthusiasm.”


Colette’s life and work are honored in film, song and story by (among others) The Year I Read Colette (YouTube video) by singer-songwriter Roseanne Cash, The White Rose by Truman Capote (describes his first meeting with Colette), and the movies Colette and Becoming Colette. Les Vrilles de la vigne is number fifty-nine on Le Monde’s 100 Best Books of the [20th] Century. When Colette died, she was denied a religious burial by the Catholic Church because of her divorces but the French people justly honored her literary significance with a state funeral.

If you are reading this post from an email subscription, you’ll likely have to link through to the site to view these trailers from two movies about Colette.

© 2019, words, Jamie Dedes; photo credits – 1.) Colette’s photo, public domain, 2.) Rêve d’Égypte photograph copyright unknown (probably in public domain), 3.) the different types of Arabic coffees with the Hejazi / Najdi golden coffee seen on the left and the Levantine black “qahwah sādah” (plain coffee) on the right 

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