Pictured: Thelma Wood and Djuna Barnes from Autostraddle’s 150 Years of Lesbians And Other Lady-Loving-Ladies. In the October 1959 issue of Poetry, Marie Ponsot reviews Djuna Barnes’s verse play, The Antiphon:
Let me make plain that I find for her [Djuna Barnes] as in others of her generations dazzling gaggle of creative girls—e.g., H.D., Mary Butts, Edith Sitwell, Kay Boyle, Bryher—one radical resemblance: their art runs hard upon the nature of the numinous and draws its power from their transcendant sense of the work of the making artist. Three of them quote at various times and in varied translations, “A poet is a light and winged thing, and holy.” I believe they mean it.
Brian Phillips, in the December 2006 issue of the magazine, explains that Barnes’s Nightwood was written “while living with Peggy Guggenheim after the breakup of her relationship with Thelma Wood.”
“'Nightwood' is itself. It is its own created world, exotic and strange, and reading it is like drinking wine with a pearl dissolving in the glass. You have taken in more than you know, and it will go on doing its work. From now on, a part of you is pearl-lined.”
– Jeanette Winterson, from the Preface to Nightwood by Djuna Barnes
Morbid ? You make me laugh. This life I write and draw and portray is life as it is, and therefore you call it morbid. Look at my life. Look at the life around me. Where is this beauty that I a supposed to miss? The nice episodes that others depict. Is not everything morbid ? I mean the life of people stripped of their masks. Where are the relieving features? Often I sit down to work on my drawing board, at my typewriter. All of a sudden my joy is gone. I feel tired of it all because, I think, ” What’s the use? “ Today we are, tomorrow dead. We are born and don’t know why. We live and suffer and strive, envious or envied. We love, we hate, we work, we admire, we despise… Why? And we die, and no one will ever know that we have been born.
~ Djuna Barnes, 12 June 1892 - 18 June 1982, when asked why she was ” dreadfully morbid”, in an interview by Guido Bruno (December 1919)
Images from wikipedia.