Saturday, November 27, 2010
Degrees of Separation
I met a man once in Manhattan who had known Auden. Not as remarkable, perhaps, as meeting someone who had known the secretive Greta Garbo, but I'm a West-coast girl and have only been twice to New York. Over tea, he gave me a new simile for the poet's face: "like a waffle iron," he said, which I found vivid. And Auden met Yeats once, and thought he was "pure evil." And it is a little known fact that Yeats once met Hopkins in Dublin, though it was a dull evening and they didn't have much to say to each other.
I don't like the idea of talking to famous people - it makes me dizzy. I'm afraid I would talk gibberish; or worse, fall completely silent. Though Seamus Heaney visited Lexington just before I began studying here, and I do kick myself for missing him. Oh well. I can continue folding my paper snowflake.
Hopkins' grandfather, as it so happens, studied medicine with Keats. Whew. After that I can't go on. Everything goes misty. What other poets can I wiki-walk over to? Hmmm... my mother and Dana Gioia were in a class together in the seventies. I met Erik Keilholtz in San Francisco once; he had given a lecture on Fra Angelico. Erik was friends with surrealist poet Philip Lamantia, who was friends with all the Beats.
I wonder dreamily if I can connect myself to Virgil somehow. I did meet Cardinal Arinze once. He is hilarious. He also knows Pope Benedict, who knew John Paul II, who knew... and etc., etc. Every pope either knows the old pontiff or knows other cardinals who knew him. This is the easy part. Virgil, on the other hand, knew the Emperor Augustus. Is Constantine the first link between popes and emperors? I assume they weren't talking before the whole "In Hoc Signo Vinces" incident.
But what I'd rather imagine is that Virgil used to get his breakfast sometimes in a thermopolium near the Palatine Hill, and he had a bit of a crush on the cute guy who worked there, one Quintus Fabius, who later opened a new shop trans tiberim, or as they now say, in Trastevere, where he made friends with a Jewish scribe, whose grandson briefly worked for the poet Statius... and so on for centuries... and the farmer from Bracciano, just north of Rome, met a girl from Gubbio, and they got married, and their son, who was studious, became a professor at the Sapienza University of Rome, and one of his students fought in the Second World War, survived, and took charge of Zubboli's Books in Assisi, and when I dropped in in 2007 and asked if he had any Vergilio, he said no, but we do have some Ovidio. And he smiled wryly through his white beard and sold me the Metamorfosi di Publio Ovidio Nasone.
Who are you connected to?