Monday, October 7, 2013

MARY CLARK ON THE LIFE OF AN ELDERLY BOHEMIAN POET

 

Tally: An Intuitive Life, by Mary Clark, is based on the life and thought of an elderly Bohemian artist, Paul Johnston (PJ), and his relationship with two young poets. PJ lived in Greenwich Village, NYC, most of his adult life. He developed a theory of intuitive, conscious living. He valued an independent, non-conformist lifestyle, and lived for many years in near-poverty but in the epicenter of culture with all its richness. This book is a chronicle of his life, and his friendships in his last years, taken from his letters and writings, and audiotapes he and the author did together.
 
Mary Clark revealed that the name Tally comes from an early conversation in the book, when the poet Rogue first introduces a young writer, Erin Yes, to PJ. In PJ's garret Rogue and Erin see the remains of a long life filled with varied interests: books, film, modern art, theater, dance, photography, music, family and friends. Rogue says to her: "I'm drawn to old age because I want to know how it all adds up, or doesn't add up in the end." 



In the beginning, Erin simply wants to help an old man whose sight and hearing are failing. She becomes intrigued by some of his ideas: how an intuitive program is built up in childhood, how we deal with guilt and innocence, what leads to amiability and hostility, and how we can adjust our "intuitive self-guidance." Rather than rationalize or justify our motivations and actions, he believed we had the ability to honestly (that is, without defensiveness or righteousness) evaluate our intent, behavior and its consequences, and make a change that is positive and remain, or renew ourselves, as innocent, amiable human beings.
 
In time a friendship forms. With her help PJ publishes some of his writing and hosts parties in his artist's loft. He tells her that they are "together in amiable affection." As PJ struggles with illness and old age, Erin becomes ever more deeply involved in the often difficult, but also rewarding, friendship with this eccentric Old Man.
 
Read more about Tally on her blog at: http://literaryeyes.wordpress.com
 
Tally: An Intuitive Life was published by All Things That Matter Press in August 2013 and is available on Amazon as a print book and Kindle book.

34 comments:

  1. Mary, thank you for sharing your most original book on the Blogroll!

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  2. Thanks for giving me the opportunity. It has been a pleasure working with you and talking about writing and reading.

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    1. Thank you, Louise. It was one I wanted to write a long time. I feel I have given both him and myself "new life," as he would say.

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  4. There is so much to learn about living a full life from our so called "eccentrics" and Mary has captured the essence of this in her story. Thank you, both Marta and Mary, for sharing this grand post!

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    1. Thanks for your comment. It was a complex relationship with lots of ups and downs, but it was one that stayed with me for a lifetime.

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  5. What a great post. It's interesting to hear this artistic man share his thoughts and life's work, instead of hearing about it from psychologists--a different viewpoint from one who lived a different lifestyle. This is a book I'd like to read.

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    1. Micki, thanks for your response. His conversations and his writings challenged me to think about the world differently, although I was already in tune with the general direction. I did earn a B.A. in psychology and it all went out the window with PJ. There's no substitute for real life and real people.

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  6. Hi,
    This sounds like an interesting book that I would definitely like to read. It is similar to another book I am reading by James Hillman titled The Force of Character. It also deals with aging and its importance.

    Although Tally maybe more focused on relationships, it seems as if it points out the importance of generations getting to know and learn from one another, and I believe that is crucial to living a fulfilled life.

    I have added your book to my reading list.

    Shalom,
    Patti

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    1. Patti, thanks. I agree with you about the importance of generations getting to know and learn from one another. PJ had a way of transforming reality and bringing you in. He said although he knew I was much younger, he was 35 again . . . For my part I was able to empathize with some of the difficulties he faced as he aged and contemplated death.

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    2. I'm looking up The Force of Character. Thanks, Patti.

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  7. Mary's article reminds us that people who've been fully immersed in life make good (maybe the best of) friends even as the aging process diminishes their intensity. All it takes is a little loving kindness and willingness to listen, and we can learn more than a college education. And with the added benefit of receiving any kindness given, often tenfold.

    I'm making some dates with my more senior acquaintances and friends today!

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    1. Thank you, Joyce, for your astute observation that those "who've been fully immersed in life make good (maybe the best of) friends even as the aging process diminishes" them. I've always enjoyed the company of those a bit older than I am, but now I'm on the other end, and find I like the company of those younger!

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  8. You've done it again, Marta! You've selected another unique person to interview about her most interesting book. Mary, I love that whole idea of nonconformity not just for the sake of nonconformity but for the unencumbered freedom it gives to life. Well done.

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    1. Elaine, I enjoyed your comment about "nonconformity not just for the sake of nonconformity, but for the freedom." That "unencumbered freedom" meant a life of risk as well as reward, but it was essential to his nature and he had the courage to live it.

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  9. Thank you, Marta and Mary, for this insight into the lives of three fascinating and unusual people who live in, but not off, our conformist society.

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    1. Bryan, that's an important point: not living "off our conformist society." We benefit when society has depth and variation. That makes those who live on "the margins" or who "dropout" in order to "drop in" to a more meaningful life so important.

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  10. Fascinating topic indeed, thank you Marta for bringing this to attention, and Mary for this brief insight into what sounds like a marvelous book.

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    1. Thanks, PJ. I enjoy reading your clear-thinking posts on LinkedIn and Google+. I'll be putting excerpts of this book online in the coming months.

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  11. Posting for Pat, who cannot enter her comment:

    Mary, I love the idea that someone is so interested in helping another, especially an elder. Too many are left without anyone ever knowing how special they. What a lovely tribute Mary. Thanks for sharing. Poetry is like food to me.

    Blessings, Pat Yeager

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    1. Poetry was food to Rogue and Erin Yes on their rambles around the Village. After all is said and done, at the end of the day, I still love to sit down with a book of poetry.

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  12. Thanks for this Marta, a very interesting look at the relationship between two people. Sad to hear that this is the last blogroll.
    Laurie.

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    1. Thank you for reading it, Laurie. It's really original, and I'm happy to have showcased it!

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  13. Lovely snapshot this, Marta. I'm always interested in non-conformists, they make for the most genuine and interesting characters and true human nature can be found in them. I'm working on a new story at the moment, but at the back of my mind I have another story brewing which deals with our modern and very false world falling over, and in that story one of the central characters is very much a non-conformist

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    1. Delighted that you liked it, Neil. Non-conformists are the ones who change the world :)

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  14. A fascinating story about aging, nonconformity and enjoying creativity and the continuing vitality and relationships which develop. This is a book I have already earmarked for reading. It will be interesting to see how some of us boomers, now reaching maturing years, who experienced and lived within the tectonic shifting of societal norms in the 1960s, rediscover our own creative and nonconformist lives in old age, where technology and welfare support provide a different context of outlook than how PJ chose to live. I suspect new models of cultural non-conformism are already evolving, some reflected for example in the growing boomer literature now taking hold.

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    1. As a boomer I have been thinking about this too. I am coming back to my youth in another way, as a seasoned veteran you might say. How to be independent and pursue meaningful activities? I sincerely hope you are right about the "new models of cultural non-conformism." Also, I think our current younger generation is pretty hip.

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  15. Just yesterday, I picked up Leonard Cohen's Book of Longing and like all books of its kind, was able to savor a single poem in many of its aspects until another day when the mood strikes me again and I choose another. My take on Leonard's 'A Life of Errands' seems to align with PJ's in the lovely ways of aging and so this piece is a timely find for me. I so love a book that invites me to delve into the richness of character of the subject and I suspect that PJ is one such original. Until now, Leonard held that lofty position in my heart and now it is time to entertain another. Thank you Mary, for introducing me to PJ who has now been added to my 'to-read' list. Leonard, move aside. Company is coming!

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    1. I suspect Leonard Cohen has his "conflicts and comprehensions" as did PJ. This is a book about an aging person that is not sanitized, but portrays each individual in their best and not so best moments. Throughout it all PJ tried to hold on to his sense of humor in an absurd world. BTW I love Leonard Cohen's work.

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  16. Those who chose the Bohemian life style did not opt out of society because they refused to conform but because they had much to give by way of art. Marta, you did a fine job introducing us to PJ!

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    1. This is so true, Sal. The need to create led him to a life of art.

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    2. Sal, I was lucky to make Mary's acquaintance. I'm only an intermediary here :)

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  17. Posting for Sarah Mallery, who cannot enter her comment:

    "I really enjoyed reading this article, particularly the part, "I'm drawn to old age because I want to know how it all adds up, or doesn't add up in the end." What a unique way to view a subject that most people dread!

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    1. Thank you so much to all of you who have visited and commented!

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