Saturday, May 7, 2016

Arlene Corwin writes

Forgotten Male Vanity
    (A Theme To Ponder)  
We’ve gotten used to male hair 
And what men wear: 
Long hair, no hair, lip hair, false hair, 
Hair plugs, hair dyes, ponytails, painted nails, 
Half beards, whole beards.  Now all wear beards: 
Long, short, chin beards, 
Unattractive half beards; 
Shoulder pads, rolled sleeves, 
Crotches hanging to the knees, 
Asses showing up the crack, 
Backward caps 
Which abs- 
Don’t belong to baseball. 
Narrow shoes, pointed toes, 
T-shirts underneath tuxedos, 
Arab scarves in place of ties, 
Toupees and mascara-ed eyes. 
Skin – I almost left out skin. 
How could I omit the skin? 
Muscled photos all the rage, 
Nude men engaging youth! 
Not cool!  Not couth! 
Tattoos cov’ring all of him: 
Every member, every limb 
Get this: thighs calves, ankles, wrists, 
Upper arm to fingertips. 
(how I love to make these lists) 
Chests, necks, rumps, hips, 
Toes-es, noses, penis tips, 
Which bring me to the piercings - 
Let’s not leave behind the piercings: 
Nose holes, ear holes, lip holes, navel holes, 
Tongue holes! How gross! 
Chests bare, backs bare, heated waxings everywhere. 
No hair anywhere.  An oiled muscled body 
Cannot share a hair. 
A theme for pond-er.

The Examination of the Herald; The Lacedaemonian Ambassadors [from LYSISTRATA] -- Aubrey Beardsley


  1. "Superbly premature as the flowering of his genius was, still he had immense development, and had not sounded his last stop. There were great possibilities in the cavern of his soul, and there is something macabre and tragic in the fact that one who added another terror to life should have died at the age of a flower." This memorable obituary of Aubrey Beardsley was given by Oscar Wilde, with whom he had collaborated on the play and illustrations of "Salomé" which premiered in Paris in 1896. (Wilde also said he had "a face like a silver hatchet, and grass green hair.") At 12 he began performing concerts as an "infant musical phenomenon" and later he published poems and drawings in his grammar school magazine. At 20 he began taking classes at the Westminster School of Art and also traveled to Paris, where he discovered both the poster art of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Japanese prints, both of which would be major influences on his own style. Most of his work was in ink, and featured large, dark areas contrasted with large, blank ones, and areas of fine detail contrasted with areas with none at all. His first commission was to illustrate a new edition of Thomas Malory's 16th-century "Le Morte d'Arthur," and he continued to deal primarily with works of history and mythology, including his illustrations for a privately printed edition of Aristophanes' antiwar play "Lysistrata."

  2. In 1894, with the American writer Henry Harland, he founded "The Yellow Book" and served as its art editor until losing his position due to Wilde’s arrest in April 1895 on charges of homosexuality. The clothbound quarterly was one of the chief British journals of the 1890s, with literary output by Max Beerbohm, Arnold Bennett, "Baron Corvo", Ernest Dowson, George Gissing, Sir Edmund Gosse, Henry James, Richard Le Gallienne, Charlotte Mew, Arthur Symons, H. G. Wells, and William Butler Yeats; and Beardsley recruited leading artists such as Charles Conder, William Rothenstein, John Singer Sargent, Walter Sickert, and Philip Wilson Steer. Beardsley was probably responsible for the idea of the yellow cover; in Paris, books such as "À rebours" by Joris-Karl Huysmans were wrapped in yellow paper to alert the reader to their lascivious content. Le Gallienne wrote that it "was certainly novel, even striking, but except for the drawings and decorations by Beardsley, which, seen thus for the first time, not unnaturally affected most people as at once startling, repellent, and fascinating, it is hard to realize why it should have seemed so shocking. But the public is an instinctive creature, not half so stupid as is usually taken for granted. It evidently scented something queer and rather alarming about the strange new quarterly, and thus it almost immediately regarded it as symbolic of new movements which it only partially represented." Though the journal never published anything by Wilde (who claimed it was "not yellow at all"), it was linked to him because of his association with Beardsley and many of its other contributors, he had a copy of its first issue with him when he was arrested, and Dorian Gray, the titular character of his only novel (1891), had been corrupted by a notorious "yellow book." After Beardsley's dismissal, with Arthur Symonds and Leonard Smithers (a pornographer friend of Wilde who also published books bound in human skin), he launched "The Savoy," named after the London hotel that was infamous as the location for Wilde's trysts. Though it only ran for 8 issues, the monthly included work by Yeats, Beerbohm, and Joseph Conrad, and allowed Beardsley to pursue his own literary ambitions. After converting to Roman Catholicism in March 1897, he fruitlessly begged Smithers to "destroy all copies of Lysistrata and bad drawings ... by all that is holy all obscene drawings." That year his chronic tuberculosis caused him to move to the French Riviera, where he died on 16 March 1898 at the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Menton at the age of 25. An unfinished poem hinted at his developing literary talent:

    Carelessly coiffed, with sash half slipping down
    Cravat mis-tied, and tassels left to stream,
    I walked haphazard through the early town,
    Teased with the memory of a charming dream.

    I recollected a great room. The day,
    Half dead, lit faintly on the walls the pale
    And sudden eyes that showed the formal play
    Of woven actors in some curious tale.

    In fabulous gardens, where romantic trees
    Perched on the branches birds without a name."


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