Monday, August 27, 2007

By Grand Central Station, I Sat Down and Wept--The love songs of Elizabeth Smart

Poets and poetesses can be such baroque figures. Baroque? Never mind baroque--go really fantastical and common: Rococo!

Take Elizabeth Smart and George Barker.

Elizabeth Smart, of Ottawa, fell in love with George Barker's poetry. A poetess herself, she said Barker was the genius of poetry, a feeling that Barker apparently shared. Barker was absolutly hypnotic with women, and something of a rat.

They eventually met--on Elizabeth's dime to get him out of wartime Japan where he was teaching--but Barker came accompanied by a wife.

Wife or no wife, a tryst developed and two passionate people "ate and devoured each other" (Barker's words) to the result of two illegitimate children, Barker leaving his wife--only to go on and marry somebody else and not Elizabeth.

At about this time Elizabeth Smart, living in London, produced her breakthough poem, By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept.
The book of poetry acquired a cult following and twenty years later it was on the shelf of every Sixties hippie in love. (Even me).

By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept is the story of Elizabeth and George Barkers affair up until the time of the writing of the poem.

And here begins my despair as a writer and sparsely published poet. (You can check me out by clicking onto "Ryerson l967" (above) for my early college poetry.

I don't have the talent of George or Elizabeth, but I have been Gerorge Barker to so many poetesses.

Thank God there were no children outside my marriage at the time.

But I swear every affair I've had was with a woman writer, and in each case, it was always gorgeous woman, so turned out and so sexy that you had to weep.

This, at least, I had in common with George Barker: I would be attracted to idyllic women and there was noting I could do about it. And neither, it seems, could they.

But a recent documentary on Elizabeth Smart certainly brought to mind the passion of two people, and how Tristan and Isolde can end in such tragedy.

And yet the art, the art, the beautiful words.
How many times have I sat at Union Station, the red Via light on to signal an oncoming train, and yet I knew it was the red light put out by my own Roxanne in that famous song by the Police.
Roxanne, don't put out your red light.
It was very close to the pathos of Elizabeth Smart.
And Like Elizabeth Smart, I too began to write, but in a different way.
My intention had been to write as great a lament as
By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept.

But here is what came out instead:
He saw the teardrop on the rose
And again he saw the teardrop on a rose
And he knew he could never melt the teardrop
And he knew this was already the end.
So he kissed the face of the evening wife
As he had kissed it before, in all its varying forms
And again said hello to the precipice of silence
A precipice of silence
For his eighteen months of loving.
The Queen of Swords is crossed over
And all the king's horses and all the king's men
Are trying to get her together again
Like me
To no avail
.Gigolo and Gigolet
This side of the Lake of Mutilation
Strike a match And the hotel burns.
There is only this path of silence
As we dump our gods
And become like them.
A tad solipsisitc, no?


Trevor Record said...

Hey Ivan. Yeah, I know Elizabeth Smart. She has her thing going for her, that's for sure. Couldn't help but think she was a bit of a chowder head... But then I've never been involved in any affairs with married women. You know, a couple semesters I got in an argument with my poetry teacher when I called Rilke a wussy adulterer. She seemed to think that artists should be judged on the value of their works, not their value as human beings. Bah, where's the fun in that. said...


You're way ahead of me on your research on Rilke.

But the lady in question was certainly something of a star f*cker when it cam to literary or psychoanalytic notables.

Apparently Lou Salome was deadly with intellectual men. She put some sort of hex on Friedrich Nietzsche...He was after her, but she kept eluding him and going with other men.
The frustrated Nietzsche would yell, in his room, "They are not fit to clean my boots!"
He then went after Wagner's wife, and was eluded again.
No wonder he ended up quite mad, plowing the piano with his elbows.
...The sensitive Nietzsche in the
company of all those bibilous men and their wives with the roving eyes.
I sometimes think Freud wasn't talking about complexes when he talked about complexes.
There were weird things going on in Viennese society in pre-W.W.l times.

Electra coplex. Oedipus complex.

Oedipus complex my foot!
Face it. the patient really was riffing his mother.
Oh old Vienna!

Ain't it great to gossip about deat geniuses?


benjibopper said...

i like it.

i think you should have started with the poem and (maybe) followed with the story behind it. it could also stand alone.

my favourite poem about lovers is chelsea hotel.

nietzsche was a mysogynist woman hater.

Trevor Record said...

I think that trash-talking dead geniuses makes me feel like I could be one of them at some point. "Look, maybe these guys wrote good stories, or had great ideas, but they also had gaping character flaws just like me. So I could be one of them." At least that is what I tell myself... said...

Oh how right you are, Benji.

I had a madrechingador
of a time composing this blog, for some reason.

Ivan said...


Have you seen pictures of Charles Baudelaire--or even Poe, his granddaddy.

Tortured souls.

Ivan said...

p.s. to Benji,

I think it was Janis Joplin who was gracing Leonard Cohen that night.

There was some foo-furaw in the press about it.


Inside our hands, outside our hearts said...

I am getting ready to leave but had to coment after seeing the comment of Baudelaire. Charles and his wicked ways. Always seemed to have if not be in trouble. The forwn on his face could tell a thousand stories. I love his contempt for the dark side of writing, but feel awful that he feel so deeply for it.

But then please me invite Rimbaud. Poor, poor Authur so misunderstood by those that read him, but more importantly his own mother. Of course, we can blame some of his hardships on that horrid man that enticed him to Paris, only for him to be devastated and a writer become lost never to write again at the age of 19.

Elizabeth so passionate, but sad inside, how could she be anything but knowing her love would never truly be hers and so she must play second fiddle over and over again.
I rather like the idea that she was lost in her own misery ... perhaps that was one of the main things that made her so attractive or maybe not... what do I know.

Of course we can add Lord Byron, but only for the sake of answering me this, "Why do all the male, well, most of the male poets look so pretty"?...smiles. No wonder the ladies seemed to enojoy him and he them.

Oh Ivan, you have got sinking into the white mist of poetry and if not soon I may become like Anothy Hopkins in Instinct, and begin to like it so much that I stay there and blend in the fine woodwork. Never to write again. said...

We got a pretty smart crowd out tonight.
Tara, I'm impressed by your knowledge of the Modernists...And everygody else's.
My poetry? More like spadewrork than fine woodwork.
But thank you for your lovely image at the end of your comment.
I am flattered.



Josie said...

Tara, did you ever see a photo of Ivan as a young man? He definitely qualifies as one of the beautiful poets.

Knock your socks off...:-)

R.J. Baker said...

Hold on...

Let me blow the dust off the Webster's...


Ah, here it is SOLIPSISM, "My Mind" - existential.

You always send me to the dictionary...the unfortunate product of a US public scholl education.

How about:

"...they were digging a new foundation in manhattan
and they discovered a slave cemetary there
may their souls rest easy
now that lynching is frowned upon
and we've moved on to the electric chair
and i wonder who's gonna be president, tweedle dum or tweedle dummer?
and who's gonna have the big blockbuster box office this summer?
how about we put up a wall between houses and the highway
and you can go your way, and i can go my way
except all the radios agree with all the tvs
and all the magazines agree with all the radios
and i keep hearing that same damn song everywhere i go
maybe i should put a bucket over my head
and a marshmellow in each ear
and stumble around for
another dumb-numb week for another hum drum hit song to appear"
an exceprt Ani DiFranco, Fuel

TomCat said...

Pretty heavy duty there, Ivan. It brings to mind a fated relationship I had with an artist in my youth. Same dynamic. Despite the painful memories, I do miss those days. said...


If that's you own poem, I'm kinda proud to have it up in my comment spot.

Ivan said...


I am all adither! :)

Ivan said...


Yeah, feeling great pain but young and alive nevertheless.


R.J. Baker said...


I wish it were mine, it's partial lyrics to an ani difranco song called Fuel. Check it out...she plays a mean guitar too said...


will check out



You're back!

I've got half a mind to go and tell
Erik and Bernita and Jaye and all.

benjibopper said...

yes, i saw the summation of that press years later. an interesting couple those two.

but who can keep track of each fallen robin?

benjibopper said...

ps. love a good latinization of cuss. said...


Amor is Roma backwards?

Those damn Romans!


I loved Italy, but the place is full of!

Josie said...

Ivan, what did you mean in that e-mail you sent me? You have scared the tar out of me. said...

Aw, Josie, I just write for effect.

What I meant was your were too gorgeous not to go out with anyone.


Josie said...

Ivan, and you're too diplomatic. I could literally(!) hear your jaw drop when I phoned you.

Ivan: "Oh, sh*t, how am I going to get out of this one. She's armed and dangerous, and hunting for bear."

Oh, well, we had a giggle, anyway. said...

I must be careful to talk in an agreeable voice on the telephone.

Way back, some witch changed me into a newt.

Monty Python: I got bettta.


Josie said...

Ivan, check out my latest post on my blog.

the walking man said...

No wonder I suck at writing! I've never seduced or been seduced by another married writer (or even a single one either.) Damn I knew I was missing out somewhere in my education, besides never graduating two years of college. Shit. That's it my whole lack of drama in life is what I have failed at.

Unless fucking foremen counts because that certainly gave them an education that lasted damn near 20 years. That must have been what made me a very good mechanic!

Oh the despair of having a good wife at home
never really allowing my eye to open to the dormers
of possibility
of all that i could ha' had wi' jus a few words
*sigh* too late now
my brain once south
has mo'ed north of my mouth.


mark said...


Beautiful satire.

Yes, it does seem at times that you have to be a dog-f*cker and a reprobate (and here is the oxymoron!)to earn your writer's halo.
There is a particular animal who, in the absence of material, will deliberately commit adultery so he'll have something to write about.
It seems all modernism, beginning with Poe, is the transgression against contemporaty mores, the bending of commandments, the revolt agains science.
"Let your pen go where it may, even to the devil," a Baudelaire might say in his Flowers of Evil.

The genius Updike's characters are forever f*cking, sucking and masturbating, like grotesques out of a Fellini film where even the demons and basilisks fart copiously and bugger each other.
More often than not, the modern writer has no moral compass. He can show us the way things work, but not before doing great damage to our sensibilites.
Gone is the l9th century when the great works were produced and literature had gone about as far as it could.
James Joyce jacked off in a movie theatre, the lady running off before the job was done, and poor Jimmy following her around like a half-f*cked fox in a forest fire, then really going bananas with unreadable sh*t like Finnegan's Wake.
Ah, genius is profane.

My philandering was not my intention, believe me.
But it seems the god has a price and you have to bring it all down before you can build it up again.
Seems you have to destroy before you can craeate.

...end anti-sermon.

Thanks very much for you input, Mark.
I really do think moral superiorty trumps artistic superiority.

Ivan said...


Well, well. We're going to have to have a look-see.

Enjoyed our little telephone conversation.


Inside our hands, outside our hearts said...


No I have never seen a yiunger picture of Ivan, however I am sure he was adorable. He just has a way about him. said...

Oh Oh.
And I in Dutch!


Honk! I'm all feathers! :)

Ivan said...

I just checked out that blog.

Whew. Thatw was close.

Glad all's well, sort of.

Great new blog today. About people beintg in their circles, bubbles, and sometimes the circles touch in what surely must be parallel universes.

Circles. Make me think of Francek
Kupka, the old Czech painter. Largely, he drew circles.
Well, I am not Francek Kupka.
Like I was telling E. A. Monroe, I am more like Frantic Cupcake.
But yeah, I uderstand circles.
Says Montaigne, however, that it is difficult to square the circle while perched atop your wife!

Ah, the limp hand of intellectuality.
Interesting spam I'm getting of late. Try MegaDik...Your penis will grow!
Gee, can I get a quart of that stuff? :)


Inside our hands, outside our hearts said...

ugh younger... can you tell I hate messing up?
Ivan, Feathers or not... woohoo!!! said...



Josie said...

I have to tell everyone who comes here to visit Ivan...

...he has a wonderful laugh. We indeed have a giggle.

He had better be careful what he says from now on, the Quarks (including Tara) will slap him up the side of the head, hey boychik? said...

Mother will spank.

(I hope). :)

EA Monroe said...

Boy, it's amazing what all I can learn over here, Ivan!

Sienna said...

Ditto, (what Liz said)....:-)

Pam said...

Thanks, Liz and Pam! :)


leslie said...

GAWD! I start out reading (and learning) about great poets/poetesses and philosophers, etc. and I end up with a feather-assed "spankee"!!! ROTFLOL This was an absolute gas of a post and comments! (No jokes about the gas, now, Ivan! ;D)

Seriously, though, I never studied "litrachoor" as it seems a lot of posters have. And...I am really sorry about that because I LOVE to read and learn. I have a dream of going back to UBC to take courses in "litrachoor" and "hissstry" just for fun - some people might think "HUH?" - for fun??? but, no I really want to learn more about the lives and works of the famous writers and history makers. I learn so much whenever I pop over here. Thx Ivan.

Oh...almost forgot...remember I'M the goose quark! ;D

Donnetta Lee said...

We dump our Gods
And become like them

I like that. I'm meditating over it.


Nick said...

Georgeous writing... said...

Omigog. We almost mislaid a quark,The Goose Quark and you surely didn't lay any eggs in your commnents. Right-on!

Feather-assed spankee! LOL.

Last threesome I was involved in, the other male had lace on his shorts...Okay, okay, I had horsies on mine! Couple of real lotharios!
And we had been so bad!
Brings to mind our Stephen Leacock (Sort of a Canadian Mark Twain), who said, "Okay, okay, you made me Doctor of Literature..
"But I never doctored anybody's litarature.
"My cook knows more about literature that I do."

Ivan said...


Your own very realistic writing somehow makes me think of Norman Mailer's granddaddy, Dr. Destouches, or Celine!

Ivan said...


The impersonal "gods" who were manipulating me at the time I wrote the poem were people playing with my head.
Had to offer a response.

Got it published in a magazine and I lad five copies at their doorstep.
...I think I kind of overdid the "creative response" bit.
Said She Who Must Be Obeyed,
You have libelled me and you have libelled my husband."
Husand?...She had dishonestly dumped me!

Damn, the killer instinct seems to take so many forms.

...I'm sure you didn't need all this information. Hah.