Kiss me, I'm Catholic.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

The Last Post.

Three and a half years is a pretty good run for a blog, I think. Looking through my archives, I'm struck by how much of my life is recorded there. And by how many fascinating and friendly people commented on my posts. I started Basia Me back in high school, and now I can see grad school on the horizon. It seems like a very short time when compressed into the archives of a blog. And yet I managed to do a lot of growing up in those months.

I know that some of you will be sad to see Basia Me end. I'm sad about it too, but I just can't keep up this particular blog anymore. For some time now I've been wanting to write a more focused blog, because all of my inspiration these days is coming from poetry and the discussion of poetry, and I always held myself back from narrowing Basia Me. But now I feel burnt out on this blog. I need a change, irrational as that may sound.

So, without further hemming and hawing, here's my new blog:

For Keats' Sake!

The name isn't just a cute pun. This blog is my crie de cour in defense of beauty and in defiance of 99% of the poetry that has been scribbled these last forty years. Some of you may remember the mouse poem in America and the contest it spawned. Well, this is the kind of stuff that keeps me up at night. I can either start writing about it, or suffer a breakdown of Eliotian proportions. Seriously, there's a reason why normal people find the mass of today's poetry to be about as enjoyable as a sharp stick in the eye, and it's not because all the good poets have been thrown in a gulag by Bush, or because modern poets are brilliant beyond mortal comprehension, or because there's something in the water nowadays that prevents us from writing anything musical, intuitive, or intricately made. Though I recently read an article in Poetry that came close to saying that:

Fifty years on, it may be impossible to write well in the exalted language that intoxicated Sylvia Plath (and me) in the days when poets aspired to rise through the magic of words to a level above ordinary life.

Without uncritically assuming that this is what the author really believes, I will respond by saying that if I believed that proposition were true, I would have to lie down and die. The rich music of verse, from inspired Isaiah to Auden at his most urbane and flippant, is what makes a poem a poem. Keats said that the poetry of earth was never dead, and meant that nature is always full of purpose and music; but I will be a plodder and have it mean that poetry has been with us from the beginning and will only leave us when we leave it.

The poetry of earth is ceasing never:
On a lone winter evening, when the frost
Has wrought a silence, from the stove there shrills
The Cricket’s song, in warmth increasing ever,
And seems to one in drowsiness half lost,
The Grasshopper’s among some grassy hills.

The world is wide and poetry surely thrives in many places outside of America, like the grasshoppers singing in one hemisphere when winter has silenced them in the other. But all my hopes and concerns lie in the Anglosphere, and I'm very interested in the fate of that hardy little cricket.

So here goes. Father Hopkins, pray for me!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Blogging from Rome

It's been two weeks since I arrived in Rome, and it already seems like I've been here longer than that. Though I am still not used to walking across St. Peter's Square to get to class every day. I've been to Mass in St. Peter's, met Cardinal Arinze, celebrated the feast of St. Scholastica at Monte Cassino, and marked the feast of Cyril and Methodius by partying and processing at San Clemente. Tomorrow I'm leaving for Assisi, then for Florence and Siena. The internet is erratic here, and I have to get up early tomorrow, so I'll simply refer my readers to the new blog I've made for my semester in Italy. I've put up a few pictures there.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Belloc's Windmill

Did you know that Hilaire Belloc's old mill at King's Land is being used as a set for a British detective show?

I didn't, until I found this site, which will tell you all about the windmill and (this is important) when you can visit it. During my semester in Rome I'll have some free weekends, and I intend to make a little trip to England sometime in April.

Shipley Windmill is simply crammed with memories of Belloc. One Christmas, the Belloc children were led out into the wintry dark and up through the trapdoor onto the second floor of the mill, where they found an improbable Christmas tree, covered with candles, and their presents beneath. At other times of the year they used the windmill in their innocent games, which typically involved jumping on the sweeps and riding the mill as if it were a ferris wheel. They were straight out of the Cautionary Tales, those Belloc kids.

Monday, January 22, 2007

A Local March For Life

Washington was out of the question, so I went to a small march in my hometown. There was a Mass and then a "prayer walk." The Asian priest who said the Mass was named Fr. Noel and I have never heard anyone so passionate in the pulpit. At first he was calmly magisterial and somber. He spoke of the demons of the biblical world, how they were thought to kill children. Then he began to talk about the killing of children today, and his voice filled with anger. I listened in nervous awe as he came close to tears, flared into perfect righteous anger again, and turned his anger into the gentleness of a saint - the kind of gentleness that scares you; it's like a bottomless sea, perfectly still. And he did this multiple times. I kept waiting for him to scream "FIRE!" and summon a bucket brigade by accident, like Edmund Campion did. Fr. Noel, at least, was not inured to the evil we were protesting today.

Our march took us through downtown, where a counter-march was waiting for us. On seeing us they began to chant and walk down the other side of the street, while we kept silent. Our numbers were slightly larger than theirs, but they had more support from bystanders and drivers. Anyway, here are the pictures. Click on them to see the full size versions.

My best shot, I think

View of march


Across the street

The church

Saint Nicholas, savior of children


Peter and Paul

Two Short Stories for January 22

Hills Like White Elephants
by Ernest Hemingway

I first read this in high school, and I was intrigued by the way it snuck around the ideology of my largely pro-choice classmates and haunted them. They read Hemingway's curt little description, The shadow of a cloud moved across the field of grain, and saw fertility denied and love imperiled. The story is just a conversation, really - it uses the absolute minimum to achieve its effect. Amy Welborn has a thread about it here.

Why Can't He Be You?
by Eve Tushnet

This story has the same realism as Hemingway's. And by "realism" I mean its honesty about how quotidian and colorless evil can be when you actually see it, in real life, without a lot of adjectives decorating it. Graham Greene said something (I don't have the quote) to the effect that often it's easier to die than to make a scene, as anyone who has ever prayed at an abortion clinic can attest. (The poem below came from that feeling of helplessness.)

Eve's story, though, holds out the stark assurance that these suspended emotions will be purged in the end, "someday, but not today." Today, the narrator's very equanimity reveals a convalescent conscience and a soul still weak from a long illness, the longest illness; but someday she will know the raw happiness of grief. Beati qui lugent. Someday this sensual twilight will be lifted from us, and the music that rules us in the logical kingdom of our principles will sound in the substantial air, self-evident to the ear, so that we can march and dance to it at the same time. And death shall have no dominion.

But it will not be today. Not on this day out of all the year.


Hell has a paved front walk
And a manicured lawn,
A shade tree that must rustle its leaves
In the hours before dawn,
And a street address.

Hell blackens earth with blood,
But in the dark.
Passersby have no idea -
Not a cry, not a mark
Escapes the white rooms of that sanitary place.

Hell's wedged between a preschool and an embassy.
The babbling children playing tag next door
Attract no baleful notice, it would seem;
Unless harm rains silent, as from a reactor core.
You probably expected to see more.

Even the truth-fast criers-out who come
Day after day to pray and plead in very life's defense
Find their minds grown distant and diffuse
When the honeyed light of Sunday afternoons
Warms walls that ooze the blood of innocence.

by Meredith


Friday, January 19, 2007


My grandfather died on September 14, on the feast of the Triumph of the Cross. I know I have been gone for a long time, but I am asking you all for your prayers. My family did not expect this and we have all taken a hard blow.

Thursday, January 18, 2007


To the handful of souls still reading this blog: your heroic patience has been rewarded. Sometimes Bonny Prince Charlie really does come back to Scotland; sometimes Numenor rises from the waves; sometimes Firefly goes back on the air for another season. (At least they do so in my peculiar version of reality.) From time to time during my delinquency (hiatus is too dignified a word for it) I would peek at Basia Me and think, "Argh! When is this blogger going to update her site?" After a split second I would realize that I was responsible for all that inactivity, and I would leave, crestfallen.

In two weeks I am going to move to a new blog which will be about my Italian adventures, and hopefully about my English adventures as well. That will last for three months, and afterwards I will decide what I want to do about Basia Me. When I started this blog back in high school, it ranged over plenty of topics but had very little focus or definition. After Rome, I will either redesign it or start a new blog.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

I haue hadde it wyth thes cursed by Seynt George snakes on this cursed by Seynt George shippe!

What is it with all these dead people reviewing movies? Now we have Chaucer reviewing... well... you know. Not only does he review it, he turns it into a Romaunce. And he draws a touching moral from Samuel Jackson's notorious line:

‘What haue ye seyde?’ askede the PRIORESSE then. ‘I did curse the snakes,’ seyde Sir Neville, ‘and therwith the shippe, in the name of Seynt George who ys a patron of valour and chivalrie.’ ‘Ywis,’ seyde the PRIORESSE, ‘yower cursinge hath borne good fruyt, for methinkede whan I herde ye speke thus that the arme of man, eek even of a mighti man swich as yowerself, is but a litel thinge compared to the grete power of God the which is dispensed thorow the mediacioun of the seyntez. And thes serpentes the which do make werre ayeinst us aren figuraciouns of the sinne of ower firste parentes who weren by a serpent deceyved, and thus thei signifien that we sholde seke nat strengthe in knighthede but in prayere and devocioun. For syn we face thes foule serpentes, mesemeth we must seeke succour and aide from the gret seynt who is the enemy ysworn of al maner of serpentes.’

‘Dang, babye,’ seyde Sir Neville, ‘ye speke gret wisdam.’

And alle the crewe prayed to Seynt Patrick and thorow hys mercy the serpentes were slayne every oon of hem and the shippe came safelye to shore.

Good Lord saue us alle yn swich a maner as thou hast saved Danyhel in the liones den and Jonah in the wales bellye and saue us especiallye from Snakes on the See, in the name of Jesu ower Lord and Seynte Patrick


(My thanks to Patrick.)

"Chaucer" has also produced a work titled The Cipher of Leonardo, in which Dan Brown's idiotic prose becomes rather more agreeable verse.

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