After dinner with Jane I woke up in the middle of the night

IMG_6764At dinner with Jane Hirshfield, before her talk at ALOUD, she asked– since I couldn’t tell her all of them– to tell her one conversation I’d heard in Poland that she should know about.  I’ve even forgotten what I said in that moment, since in my heart, I really didn’t know the answer. I woke up at 3 AM that same night, realizing just what it was– that one most important conversation I heard/had in Poland.

It was four iterations of the same conversation, heard on four different occasions in four different cities (Warsaw, Krakow, Sejny, Lublin) with 4 different sets of Polish friends, with Tomasz and Sylwia; with Wojtech and Joanna; with Maja and Adam; with Kris and Malgorzata. And I wrote to Jane: “We would be sitting in some lovely cafe, in Kazimierz, for example, in the sun, eating a beautiful meal—pierogi and beet salad, a glass of chilled Italian white. One person would remark what an idyllic moment this was, and the other would respond, ‘I wonder if this is what it felt like in August, 1939?’ Then we’d talk about Putin and what aggressive moves he might make, just what was he capable of? Then they’d tell me what their “Plan B” was… time to consider that fellowship at the university in Chicago, or that job in London or Los Angeles. Then the partner/spouse would admonish him/her and say, ‘Oh you’re being paranoid, that’s not going to happen…’ and they would talk and disagree and share their worries, about Ukraine, about unpredictability in the Baltics and then you began to wonder just what DID an idyllic day in August 1939 in Poland feel like? Yes, I heard this conversation at least four different times in four different cities in a country that’s been invaded, occupied, torn apart. On a beautiful day in late spring, 2015.

And it was a beautiful spring night in Los Angeles, with Jane about to read poetry at ALOUD, to talk about uncertainty and not knowing, to help us think about how, in its “musics, its objects, its strategies of speech, thought and feeling, a poem plucks the interconnection of the experience of self and all being.” And we sat under the olive trees in the last slanting rays of sun in the garden in front of the Central Library. Image [painting by Andrzej Wróblewski, from the show “Wróblewski Recto/Verso,” Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw [photo of LS and JH by Irene Borger] [Jane Hirshfield quote, from TEN WINDOWS: How Great Poems Transform the World, Knopf 2015]

4 Responses to “After dinner with Jane I woke up in the middle of the night”

  1. Bette Levy Says:

    Enlightening! I especially like the last paragraph about the rays of sun & the olive trees.

  2. That is such a powerful way to connect past and present. Hopefully no one will have to use Plan B

  3. This is so beautiful, Louise. You really have a bead on the pulse of Poland today. How scary. Amazing. My love to you. I’m on Mt. Desert Island now, it’s beautiful and calm here, but thinking of you, and LA, and Jane, who I so much admire. So beautifully written, all these posts. All love, Lindy

    From: “The Crooked Mirror, Louise Steinman’s Blog” Reply-To: “The Crooked Mirror, Louise Steinman’s Blog” Date: Friday, May 29, 2015 4:23 PM To: Lindy Hough Subject: [New post] After dinner with Jane I woke up in the middle of the night

    WordPress.com Louise Steinman posted: “At dinner with Jane Hirshfield, before her talk at ALOUD, she asked– since I couldn’t tell her all of them– to tell her one conversation I’d heard in Poland that she should know about. . I¹ve even forgotten what I said in that moment, since in my heart,”

  4. Suzanne agnew Says:

    in the photo with jane, you look like sisters.

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