Welcome to my blog..

"We struggle with dream figures and our blows fall on living faces." Maurice Merleau-Ponty

When I started this blog in 2011, I was in a time of transition in my life between many identities - that of Artistic Director of a company (Apocryphal Theatre) to independent writer/director/artist/teacher and also between family identity, as I discover a new family that my grandfather's name change at the request of his boss in WWII hid from view - a huge Hungarian-Slovak contingent I met in 2011. Please note in light of this the irony of the name of my recently-disbanded theatre company. This particular transition probably began in the one month period (Dec. 9, 2009-Jan. 7, 2010) in which I received a PhD, my 20 year old cat died on my father's birthday and then my father, who I barely knew, died too. I was with him when he died and nothing has been the same since. This blog is tracing the more conscious elements of this journey and attempt to fill in the blanks. I'm also writing a book about my grandmothers that features too. I'd be delighted if you joined me. (Please note if you are joining mid-route, that I assume knowledge of earlier posts in later posts, so it may be better to start at the beginning for the all singing, all dancing fun-fair ride.) In October 2011, I moved back NYC after living in London for 8 years and separated from my now ex-husband, which means unless you want your life upended entirely don't start a blog called Somewhere in Transition. In November 2011, I adopted a rescue cat named Ugo. He is lovely. As of January 2012, I began teaching an acting class at Hunter College, which is where one of my grandmothers received a scholarship to study acting, but her parents would not let her go. All things come round…I began to think it may be time to stop thinking of my life in transition when in June 2012 my stepfather Tom suddenly died. Now back in the U.S. for a bit, I notice, too, my writing is more overtly political, no longer concerned about being an expat opining about a country not my own. I moved to my own apartment in August 2012 and am a very happy resident of Inwood on the top tip of Manhattan where the skunks and the egrets roam in the last old growth forest on the island.

I am now transitioning into being married again with a new surname (Barclay-Morton). John is transitioning from Canada to NYC and as of June 2014 has a green card. So transition continues, but now from sad to happy, from loss to love...from a sense of alienation to a sense of being at home in the world.

As of September 2013 I started teaching writing (composition and rhetoric) as an adjunct professor at Fordham University, which I have discovered I love with an almost irrational passion. While felt blessed for the opportunity, after four years of this, the lack of pay combined with heavy work load stopped working, so have transferred this teaching passion to private workshops in my own apartment and working with writers one on one, which I adore. I will die a happy person if I never have to grade an assignment ever again.

I worked full time on the book thanks to a successful crowd-funding campaign in May 2014 and completed it at two residencies at Vermont Studio Center and Wisdom House in summer 2015. I have done some revisions and am shopping it around to agents and publishers now, along with a new book recently completed.

I am now working full-time as a freelance writer, writing workshop leader, coach, and editor. Contact me if you are interested in any of these services.

Not sure when transition ends, if it ever does. As the saying goes, the only difference between a sad ending and a happy ending is where you stop rolling the film.

For professional information, publications, etc., go to my linked in profile and website for Barclay Morton Editorial & Design. My Twitter account is @wilhelminapitfa. You can find me on Facebook under my full name Julia Lee Barclay-Morton. More about my grandmothers' book: The Amazing True Imaginary Autobiography of Dick & Jani

Recently, I started a website Our Grandmothers, Our Selves, which has stories about many people's grandmothers. Please check it out. I will be blogging there, too, now. You can also contact me through that site.

Friday, June 24, 2011

rainy grey day and Jani's words

So, the grey raininess, which I think will make me more productive instead just kind of makes me feel meh.  I did read through many of Jani's poems today and also a lot of her letters last night.  The twin tones of courage and loneliness are so pronounced.  There is also clarity and delusion, with a lot of clarity in the political sphere and some with her own self, but regarding others a lot of delusion.  And I think, because I recognize some of my own delusional tendencies in hers, a bit depressing.

However, when reading some of her political writing, much of which was published, it's almost like I can see her in the room again - her eyes flashing, her uproarious raspy laugh, her hands on her thighs in one of her beigy-peach colored pant suits.  Or one hand with Benson & Hedges cigarette (or a cigar!) and another with a glass of white wine.  Saying another one-liner, telling a story of another political triumph, her favorite being that every time she argued in front of community groups about how the attempted rape laws should be changed from misdemeanour to felony and in general rape should be raised from a 'moral' crime to violent assault, some guy would almost inevitably say about rape "Face it, you women like it", which would cause her to come down from her podium (she was 5'9"), pull him up by his tie and say "That sir is a product of your own masturbation fantasies," and plunk him back on his seat before walking back to the podium.  Did that precise scene ever happen?  God knows, but damn it's a good story.  And something like it probably did happen, which is why the press was all over her like white on rice.

Me, I would sit in the corner, 13 or 14 years old, pale, Homer-reading, Latin-learning shy, so shy I could barely speak, wide eyed, amazed, terrified, and like everyone enthralled.

And the law did change, by the way, and in part because she and her minions handed out pamphlets to all the state legislature members, mostly men, with a silhouette of a politician on the front and the question: are you a rapist?  If no, vote for Proposition __.  It worked.

However, for the flip side of this 45 (younger folks: a 45 was a single song on an LP - the other side of the LP was called the B side or flip side, and the less popular song was on that side...can you hear my joints creaking?), I will give you an example of one of the poems, which as I mentioned in an earlier post, are not brilliant as literary examples, but they do convey her emotional state.  First one about love and another about mothers (Isidora - please note!)

Poems of Jani Mace (1916-1980):

Lester Dickinson Farm
Forever condemned
To breathing life into stones
Into men
Whose blood is chill
I am doomed
By some unalterable
Sacrificial principle

Bittersweet tastes and trickles
Squeezed out
Of erotic surrender
Instinctive generosity
Of body and heart
Is rebuffed by men
Of meager sensibilities

So eager to please
With sensuality
So heedlessly aimiable [sic]
A compulsive sexual
Always inclined
To take long odds

Practically speaking
Always backing
The wrong man
At the wrong time
He invariably is
    too young
      too old
       too married
        involved elsewhere

As I stare into middleage
From emotional rockbottom
I see only
   shadows of love
     inebriations of love
       tastes of love
         trickles of love
But never yet
One true love

Yet remains
An expanded vision
Of love
Some transformation
In my sense of it
That may still assauge [sic]
My loneliness

Sturgeon Bay, 1975  jm

She had a profound experience in 1975, that was the summer she spent along on a farm in Wisconsin, and started writing her novel, the one she sweated bullets over, rewrote many times and was never published...initially called Powervine and then Clary.  It's about a political woman in a world of political men, who eventually succeeds.  She wrote this after losing her battle for Alderman in the 7th Ward.  She had been ordered by her doctor to go into the hospital for 5 days due to exhaustion and congested heart problems, but instead she decided to come out to the farm and write.  I also have read many letters from her to various younger men, I think mostly all married, inviting them to visit her and telling each of them that he was "the only one" she was inviting.   I think one of them arrived, the one who told her not to call him at home, but she seemed very happy to have seen (according to some more lurid poems, which I will refrain from putting here).


Another type of poem she wrote were more political poems.  A couple of them are quite lucid.  This one I think is interesting, because I'm fairly certain it was meant for my mother.

Jani Mace
Milw, Wis.


Wear your body
Like a sail
Leaning into the wind
Defying the elements

Wear your mind
Like a crown of jewels
Catching sparks
From other jewels

Wear your femaleness
For you carry
The seeds of history

You are the earth
The sea and sky
The wind of time
The gatherer of fruits

You are as beautiful
As flowers
As strong as pine
Against the mountain

You are the preserver
Of humanity's dreams
Of the universe

It is your mother right
My sister
To command your destiny
And cradle your own soul

Else your daughter dies


So, there's a feminist one.  And it's obvious and all that, but because I somehow feel embarrassed for her because of that, and for me, because I want to be the granddaughter of Denise Levertov instead (not really but you get the idea...and in fact Levertov did write some pretty didactic poetry at one stage...), I want to add that when she wrote this, it was at a time when only 1% of women in the US made over $10,000/year.  She was one of them and so was my mother.  It's breathtaking that that was the mid-70s, but it's true.  A lot has changed in a short time in regards to this and I think it's hard to remember how bad it was.  And how unusual it was for women to be able to make a living in any way.  Jani did through teaching at public (state) school and my mother was wending her way to the directorship of a state arts council.  

What I saw, as the young person watching, were two highly stressed women who were drinking a lot and accomplishing a lot, who people seemed to have a lot of respect for.  But even then I could see the damage, more in my mother than Jani, because she lived further away.  So, she could remain heroic in some way.  Not so, the poor mother - the one you actually see a lot.  Well, depending on when, but at times.  And at times my mother did seem heroic to me, too.  But me, I was going to be pure, I was going to be an artist and not be sullied by all these drab, workaday concerns.  I would fly, be famous or somehow just live in a small house somewhere where I could write poetry and paint.

In other words, I didn't want to be there.

But now, looking at Jani's writing and poetry, and seeing both the similarities and the differences.  I used to write poetry like hers but do not anymore.  I was given some incredible tutorials in poetry, for one thing, but also I was fortunate enough to get sober young and wake up out of the misty wine-soaked POV that dominated a lot of my earlier stuff.  Not to say my poetry is that great, it isn't.  But I have had the opportunity to learn a lot about poetry and develop a voice, which I could do in part because of when I was born and the opportunities that afforded me, I think.   I think whatever 'poetry' I write now is in the form of my stage texts (you can link to some at side of blog if interested)...

I also worked my ass off to get scholarships to a bunch of fancy schools, I suppose it's important to add.  But both of the schools I went to would have not been open to me even 10 years prior, so there you go.  So easy to take this all for granted.  My PhD supervisor was a woman, my internal examiner was too.  Women are running theatre companies, writing plays, doing all sorts of amazing things.  And it's getting Normal.  Other than V.S. Naipaul, my current nemesis, most people seem to think it's cool.  (Speaking of Naipaul Jani makes references to people telling her, approvingly, that she "thinks like a man."  To this she responded, no I don't, I think like a woman.  Women have brains, too.  You just don't hear them a lot.)

So Jani, wildly imperfect, wine drinking, chain smoking Jani, had a lot to do with some of these changes and for that I say hooray for her.  And all the women like her who, at great personal cost, kicked butt to change the world.  It might not make the greatest poetry, but hey, I have a PhD, have had plays published, produced and awarded and am writing a book about her.  Not bad.  Not bad at all.

And, finally, on a completely different note, RIP Peter Falk - one of my favorite actors ever.  Especially in the Cassavettes films, but even Colombo and of course as himself in Wings of Desire.  I have a feeling, with absolutely no knowledge to back this up, that he would have been as cool to meet in person as he seemed.  Maybe not, but I'd like to think so.  So, well done Peter Falk, thanks for coming down to earth to bless us for your 83 years, and have fun with the new wings.

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