“Stay, This Moment”: Reflections on the 25th Annual International Conference on VW (Bloomsburg, PA)

I miss so much of it already.

I love teaching at URI, and there’s plenty of writing and revising I need to do this summer. I look forward to running through Newport again in the coming months and enjoying life with my life-partner and occasionally seeing my local friends and reading books and trying (always, but mostly failing) to post here.

Madelyn Detloff’s Title Slide (Plenary Dialogue with Melissa Bradshaw)

But I still miss so much of it.

I don’t necessarily miss the feeling of fuzzy brain that sets in after several sequential panels, presentations, special events, and plenaries, but that feeling quickly fades in conversation with the expanding group of friends and friendly acquaintances who have been kind enough to keep me company at the Annual International Virginia Woolf Conference these past four years. I miss them, their graciousness, their laughter, their intelligence, their humor, their insights, their challenges to me and others. I just miss them, their thisness.

But, of course, I also miss this (a treat from Rose Marie’s Restaurant).

I also miss learning that strange things still exist. Like this book of poetry (written by a nine-year-old and referenced in Melissa Bradshaw’s plenary dialogue with Madelyn Detloff). It includes—though it may be hard to read the by-line—an oddly generous critical introduction by Amy Lowell.

And I miss discovering new best friends.

And watching networks build.

And this lovely duo.

And the suddenness with which a familiar passage takes on new, exigent, and alluring dimensions.

A paper on Woolf’s and Katherine Mansfield’s diaries (by another new friend) brought to mind the last 1932 entry in the former’s diaries. “This is in fact the last day of 1932,” Woolf writes and continues:

but I am so tired of polishing off Flush—such a pressure on the brain is caused by doing ten pages daily—that I am taking a morning off, & shall use it here, in my lazy way, to sum up the whole of life. By that phrase, one of my colloquialities, I only mean, I wish I could deliver myself of a picture of all my friends, thoughts, doings, projects at this moment. Vita is on the high seas, sailing to America. Our new car came, vicariously, yesterday—we are lent one. And I had a long letter from Ottoline, of sheer affection, & one still longer from Ethel Smyth, of dubious jealousy & suppressed temper & love strangled & out bursting. And Anrep . . . Angelica’s party . . . And Miss Scott Johnson . . . And we are us usual needing manuscirpts; the dew pond is filling; the gold fish are dead; it is a clear pale blue eyed winters day; &—&—&—my thoughts turn with excitement to The Pargiters, for I long to feel my sails blow out, & to be careening with Elvira, Maggie & the rest over the whole of human life.

And indeed I cannot sum this up, being tired in the head. I think of Lytton too. Yes, of course this autumn has been a tremendous revelation . . . I had no restrictions whatever, & was thus free to define my attitude with a vigour & certainty I have never known before . . . I therefore spoke out in my own voice to Eddy & tried to <subdue> circumscribe Logan. Well—it is always doubtful how far one human being can be free. The ties are not purely artificial. One cannot cut a way absolutely straight. However, I secured a season of intoxicating exhilaration. Nor do I intend to let myself pay for it with the usual black despair. I intend to circumvent that supervening ghost—that which always trails its damp wings behind my glories. I shall be very wary, very adept—as now—writing languidly to avoid a headache. To suppress one self & run freely out in joy, or laughter with impersonal joys & laughters—such is the perfectly infallible & simple prescription.

For example, with Julian & Lettice Ramsay last night—why not simply become fluid in their lives, if my own is dim? And to use ones hands & eyes; to talk to people; to be a straw on the river, now & then—passive, not striving to say this is this. If one does not lie back & sum up & say to the moment, this very moment, stay you are so fair, what will be one’s gain, dying? No: stay, this moment. No one ever says that enough. Always hurry. I am now going in, to see L. & say stay this moment. (Diaries, Vol. Four, pp. 134-35)

So much of this passage resonates with me now: the brain pressure; the desire to capture some sort of All; the impulse to catalogue; the fancy to say to Life, “Hold on. Just a little slower now. Please, let me relish it”; laughter; an impersonal joy; a becoming-involved in the minds and lives of others; a knowledge that my current affirmations may be thwarted; a present stubbornness to insist on trying anyway. Trying to write. To share. To keep moving.

Reading on . . .


  1. Reblogged this on Blogging Woolf and commented:
    Here’s another reflection on the 25th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf, held June 4-7 at Bloomsburg University. In it, Benjamin D. Hagen of the University of Rhode Island’s Feinstein Providence Campus, shares his Woolf fatigue and Woolf joy, along with some enticing visuals and links.

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