You are on page 1of 18

This is a Letter to Virginia Woolf

Our friends, how seldom visited, how little known—it is true; and yet, when I meet an unknown person, and try to break off, here at this table, what I call ‘my life,’ it is not one life that I look back upon; I am not one person; I am many people; I do not altogether know who I am—or how to distinguish my life from theirs.
Virginia Woolf “The Waves”

Philosophy


Words of your art are the world, perceptions of selves weave portraits from sea. One life is not confined to one body. Promised in the body something more certain than itself.

First Memory


The one that paints red and purple flowers on your mother’s dress? The one where the base of your bowl of life stands upon this one memory? Lying swaddled in the nursery in St. Ives. Her white dressing gown. Reflection of turquoise in the mirror crinkled like the wool blanket she wrapped. Obsessed with the lighthouse, the sea. You said you were lying and hearing this splash of the waves breaking, and you saw the light: barreling waves. Moments of being embedded in moments of non-being. Who was in your kaleidoscope of selves? Did you reinvent your self? Your mother’s?

Dear V -I


Hysterical as I read how you loathed Freud. He claims psychoanalysis brought about your creativity and that you needed to see a therapist. I bet you were thankful for Leonard; he put Freud in his place. “If Virginia had gone to see somebody about her mental breakdowns, the creativity, the madness, it would have stopped.”Good for him. It was more Preferable to be mad and creative than to be analyzed. Who wants to remember that horrible dress your mom made you wear to St. Ives anyway? You said you “ceased to be obsessed by your mother. You no longer hear her voice; you do not see her. … you suppose that you did for yourself what psychoanalysts do for their patients. You expressed some very long felt and deeply felt emotion. And in expressing it you explained it and then laid it to rest.” And you didn’t even have to pay, right? Unless by writing. You do lighten up a bit on Freud , whose “ sense of the power of the past and of the primitive emotions that lurk beneath the veneer of culture can be seen in To the Lighthouse.” But he is still that “screwed up shrunk very old man.”

“Did you see who just walked by?” “I could smell a light hint of self absorption in this gaudy unpleasant theater.” “Who does he think he is showing up at the same conference? What is he going to do? Go up there and tell you that your novels are just a cry out for help?” “Arsehole.”

The Road to the Beach


Has my ocean traveled with your wind? Waves send mysteries abroad. Barrels pursue each other as sea divides itself from a dark horizon. Without its companion, one cannot be by itself. The sea as ourselves. The wind as our thoughts. Fragments travel on ship’s cargo, Lost: another sea to breathe with and conform to.

Insider


The sea always comes back. Is that why you love the waves? Indefinite. “We may sink and settle on the waves.”

Rhythmic pounding marked passages of time. Whose breath comes, goes unconsciously. “Who am I? Am I all of them? Am I one and distinct? I do not know.” Oceans commune at the shore line before break. “And the words that trail drearily without human meaning; I will reduce you to order.” Your outside was full of disorder, confusion. What were the little things that wept? “Beech trees, the river bank, where the trees meet united like lovers in the water.”

Not a ruined or wasted thing. Meaning in an ordinary Wednesday afternoon. “All is shattered.”

D e a r V - II


You would have really enjoyed meeting Jacques Lacan. He doesn’t find confidence in the structure of “I.” The self? Well, he thought that we were all made up of “selves” and our identity never stops forming. We are tied to others, just the way that you made The Waves. Everybody is fragments, and “I” is actually “we.” Good call, V. “In bringing into being the "I" who will play the protagonist in the subject's life story, forming a link between the subject's psyche and the world outside, the mirror stage lays the groundwork for the cultural formation of identity.” The mirror stage brings memories of childhood. Your mother? Was she in the mirror?

“More tea?” “Please, Sigmund drives me to drink.” “I never wanted my theories to be married to his. It is so unfortunate that we are in literary articles together.” “I’m glad we had lunch, Jacques. Cheers!”

To The Lighthouse


Conformed to the bay. Illuminating. Inaccessible. Indefinite.

Certain of a love. A painting. A destination. A home.

Changing as time travels. Blues parallel. Destruction comes. Ground eats away.

Constant reminder of an intertwined melody. Of delicacy. Of the mirror. Of the waves.

V‘s Diary


Saturday, August 12th Hovering in your mind today after you read Dickens and Austen. The Moths. The image. The struggle in your pen. Wednesday, September 25th The Waves now. You wanted to quit. I’m thankful you didn’t. It wasn’t pleasurable to write. I promise, it was pleasurable to read. Saturday, November 30th Your room at Rodmell would be the key. Something was missing. It was nonsense. You kept erasing and you couldn’t find the center. Is there such thing? Wednesday, April 9th So many questions you left. Are there no true words? Is there only one person? One exact thing to slip into while keeping the book itself alive? You give us a hint. Bernard: he goes on straight in the final stride. End. Wednesday, January 7th We can’t read The Waves between tea and dinner. High pressure pushes brains to knots. Half past twelve, you’re tightly spun. Sunday, July 19th L said a masterpiece. This is extremely difficult, V. What did the reviewers say? Your friends? It screwed their brains up. Thursday, October 8th Published. Hogarth Press.

Unbury the Seventh


A vase on the table of past. Six selves missing the seventh.

Red Carnation.

What words were left? Ones that satisfied everything but happiness, loss? Is the cowardly world conquerable together? But weren’t they always on their own?

I have lived a thousand lives already. Every day I find relics of myself in the sand.

The death of the self. The heroism in the unattainable.

By the Edge of End


Here lies a companion for nature’s ground. The antagonist for a limitless reality found.

No painter or composer could frame this commitment. Battle, a fierce battle.

Fight for an answer and join a world not confined to intimate things.

Surrender at last, the struggle is over. Wishing for independence among others.

Find another connection. One that is separate from your mother’s.

The question is if your purpose is good here? There is no answer.

Overtaken with relief, instead of fear. Without virtues, who can you be? Who could you become? Overwhelming doom you can’t run from. Realization laid you down, made you numb.

Found


. . . . . . . The sun un risen. . . . . . The waves un shored. . . . . . Self repairing…

March 28th, 1941 Sussex, England The pen stopped here.

 Notes on Philosophy I chose this poem as the first one of the collection because it brings together all of the aspects that this collection entails: Woolf, waves, and identity. The spaced letters within the title that are seen throughout the collection represent fragmented wholes, just as an identity is composed of fragmented selves. Works consulted for this poem: Broughton, Panthea. ""Virginia Is Anal": Speculations on Virginia Woolf's Writing Roger Fry and Reading Sigmund Freud." Journal of Modern Literature (1987) Woolf, Virginia, and Jeanne Schulkind. Moments of Being. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1985. Print. Woolf, Virginia. The Waves. New York: Harcourt, Brace and, 1931. Print.  Notes on First Memory In Woolf’s memoir Moments of Being she expresses the love she had for her mother by bringing us into the first memory she has of her. She speaks of being on the train to their home in St. Ives and paints images of the scenes from her nursery. Here we start to see an obsession with the sea. Woolf describes the sounds and colors of the sea and the lighthouse outside of her window. Woolf is quoted directly throughout this poem in italics. The reference to the self brings up a sense of identity theory. This theme is prevalent throughout each poem, pointing out theories that express identity composed of multiple “selves.” Lois Tyson’s explanation of deconstruction of the self in her book Critical Theory Today: A UserFriendly Guide was the main focus of this poem and was meant to introduce readers to the reoccurring theme of each poem to follow. Works consulted for this poem: Broughton, Panthea. ""Virginia Is Anal": Speculations on Virginia Woolf's Writing Roger Fry and Reading Sigmund Freud." Journal of Modern Literature (1987) Woolf, Virginia, and Jeanne Schulkind. Moments of Being. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1985. Print. Tyson, Lois. Critical Theory Today: A User-friendly Guide. New York: Garland Pub., 1999. Print.  Notes on The Road to the Beach This poem combines the identity theme and the sea theme through imagery to the reader. It’s more subtle and relaxed. I felt that this was important to put after Philosophy and First Memory because it’s a lighter “spin” off of it without the exactness of the collection’s theme. Works consulted for this poem: Woolf, Virginia, and Jeanne Schulkind. Moments of Being. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1985. Print. Woolf, Virginia. The Waves. New York: Harcourt, Brace and, 1931. Print.  Notes on Insider Each stanza on the left is meant to be personal conversation to Woolf, while the conversations on the left are quotes taken from The Waves by each main character. Each quote was picked either by reference to the love of the ocean, or the uncertainty of a singular identity in each character. The two conversations are meant to intertwine into a stream of consciousness flow. Works consulted for this poem:

Chun, Maureen. "Between Sensation and Sign: The Secret Language of The Waves." Journal of Modern Literature 36.1 (2012): 53-70. Defoe, Daniel. "The Precarious Autopoiesis of Modern Selves: Daniel Defoe's Moll Flanders and Virginia Woolf's The Waves." European Journal of English Studies 5.3 (2001): 335.  Notes on V’s Diary This idea was composed after reading through Woolf’s diary, particularly the sections where she mentions her writing process of The Waves. In A Writer's Diary, Woolf writes of her opinions and ideas of her novel in progress. Each date is an actual date that each stanza is based upon within Woolf’s diary. This poem is also meant to be written with a stream of consciousness flow. Works consulted for this poem: Woolf, Virginia. A Writer's Diary: Being Extracts from the Diary of Virginia Woolf,. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1954. Print. Woolf, Virginia. "Modern Fiction." The Common Reader. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1925.  Notes on To the Lighthouse This poem is based on Woolf’s novel To the Lighthouse. Although this novel does not necessarily deal with identity in the ways that The Waves does, it is known for being Woolf’s most autobiographical novel. Through writing this novel, Woolf is still searching for the center of her own being, looking to the lighthouse out of her window in St. Ives as a refuge. Works consulted for this poem: Woolf, Virginia. The Waves. New York: Harcourt, Brace and, 1931. Print. Woolf, Virginia. To the Lighthouse. New York: Harcourt, Brace &, 1927. Print.  Notes on Unbury the Seventh The “seventh” refers to Percival. Percival is so pertinent to the idea of identity that I wanted to look at his situation in a different aspect for this poem. The red carnation is a direct reference from The Waves and is mentioned when the characters learn of Percival’s death, the identity between each character. Each character lost a part of their “self.” Works consulted for this poem: Hulcoop, John. "Percival and the Porpoise: Woolf's Heroic Theme in The Waves." Twentieth Century Literature 34 (1988): 468-88. Woolf, Virginia. The Waves. New York: Harcourt, Brace and, 1931. Print.  Notes on By the Edge of End This poem alludes to the death of Virginia Woolf, not to a physical death, but to the realization of the death of her mother and the realization that although we are “made up of selves” we must still be individual. Woolf lived a life through her mother’s selves, even though she had died years prior to Woolf’s completion of her novels. The obsession stayed strong throughout Woolf’s writing. Would she ever be able to separate herself from her mother? Did Woolf ever find the center of her own being? Works consulted for this poem: Lucenti, Lisa M. "Virginia Woolf's "The Waves": To Defer That "appalling Moment"" Wayne State University Press 40.1 (1998): 75-87. Woolf, Virginia, and Leonard Woolf. The Death of the Moth and Other Essays. New York: Harcourt, Brace and, 1942. Print.

 Notes on Found This poem is the most ambiguous of all and I wish to keep it that way. Works consulted for this poem: Woolf, Virginia. The Waves. New York: Harcourt, Brace and, 1931. Print.

Works Consulted
Berger, Barbara. “A Sense Of Orders: An Introduction To The Theory Of Jacques Lacan.” Journal of Analytic Social Work (1996): 83-98. Broughton, Panthea. ""Virginia Is Anal": Speculations on Virginia Woolf's Writing Roger Fry and Reading Sigmund Freud." Journal of Modern Literature (1987). Chun, Maureen. "Between Sensation and Sign: The Secret Language of The Waves." Journal of Modern Literature 36.1 (2012): 53-70. Defoe, Daniel. "The Precarious Autopoiesis of Modern Selves: Daniel Defoe's Moll Flanders and Virginia Woolf's The Waves." European Journal of English Studies 5.3 (2001): 335. Hulcoop, John. "Percival and the Porpoise: Woolf's Heroic Theme in The Waves." Twentieth Century Literature 34 (1988): 468-88. Lucenti, Lisa M. "Virginia Woolf's "The Waves": To Defer That "Appalling Moment"" Wayne State University Press 40.1 (1998): 75-87. Tyson, Lois. Critical Theory Today: A User-friendly Guide. New York: Garland Pub., 1999. Print. Woolf, Virginia. A Writer's Diary: Extracts from the Diary of Virginia Woolf,. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1954. Print. Woolf, Virginia. Common Reader. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1925. Woolf, Virginia, and Leonard Woolf. Death of the Moth and Other Essays. New York: Harcourt, Brace and, 1942. Print. Woolf, Virginia, and Jeanne Schulkind. Moments of Being. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1985. Print. Woolf, Virginia. The Waves. New York: Harcourt, Brace 1931. Print. Woolf, Virginia. To the Lighthouse. New York: Harcourt, Brace 1927. Print.