I don't like her! She wouldn't have lasted three minutes with Bordinay. Today is today, Bosley. Esteemed veteran actress Gloria Gibson seeks the help of her old friend Charlie after she experiences a string of frightening mishaps, including seeing a man hanging from a tree in her front yard. Because all of the events are recreations of scenes from her films, there is some speculation that she might be hallucinating. Gloria insists that someone is trying to drive her crazy--or perhaps even kill her. Sabrina stays in Gloria's house as her secretary, while Kelly lands a job as an extra in her next film.
Jill hangs around the set as a reporter. Gloria nearly dies when she is trapped inside her trailer after it is set on fire. Kelly finds it suspicious that one of the stage hands, Galbraith, just happens to have a crowbar handy to pry open the trailer door. Galbraith and his friend Barkley become nervous as Jill investigates the "accident. Sabrina and Jill see Galbraith and Barkley with Gloria and her husband in an old photograph.
She reveals that they once helped her husband obtain a reproduction of a famous painting, which now adorns a wall in her den. Kelly is bewildered to see Gloria's agent, Frank Ross, meeting secretly with Galbraith on the set. She is caught calling her friends, and Frank chases her onto the catwalk with a gun. Sabrina and Jill arrive to help her. They reveal that the painting was actually an original, worth millions; Galbraith and Barkley decided to re-acquire it after the death of Gloria's husband.
Frank hoped to keep Gloria from working so that she would become destitute and sell the house, putting the painting into the trio's hands. Quotes: Kelly: "I did plays in high school and college, and I never get speeding tickets. What does that have to do with anything? The owner of a cruise line hires the Angels to determine who is responsible for a series of accidents during the voyages, including the death of a honeymooning couple. The Angels receive a threatening note before they have even boarded the ship. A crew member is murdered during the cruise, and Bosley is knocked out and stripped naked after a phony "man overboard" warning.
The killer locks Kelly into a passageway and turns on the steam valve; but she is able escape through a panel in the ceiling. Bosley, Jill and Sabrina announce that Kelly is dead, and ask the passengers to submit to fingerprinting so that their prints may be compared to those supposedly left on the steam valve. The killer takes the bait; and Kelly catches Harry Dana, the ship's comedian, wiping the valve clean. The Angels capture him, only to learn that he has planted three sophisticated bombs somewhere on the ship.
The deranged Dana explains that he developed psychic abilities after a car accident a few years ago, and blames his boss for his inability to obtain funding to begin a research center. He finally reveals the location of the bombs. A member of the bomb squad communicates with the Angels via radio and helps them work on the devices, which they are ultimately able to throw overboard. Quotes: Jill: "My guess is, he's the murderer. How else would he know that Charlie called us angels? He was trying to come on to all three of us and needed a collective noun.
Howard Fine enters a massage parlor, where the owner has shot and killed a customer for assaulting an employee. Fine kills him for threatening to expose his involvement with the establishment, which is a front for prostitution. The chief of police hires the Angels to investigate corruption within the vice squad, as someone has been tipping off the massage parlors before raids. Bosley and Jill re-open one of the parlors, while Sabrina goes to the police department as a special investigator from Phoenix.
Fine instructs two men to run over Sabrina in an alley. She gets their license plate number, and is stunned to discover that the car is registered to police cadet John Barton. Kelly returns to the police academy and enrolls in the same class as Barton. He and his friend Miller admit that they are involved in a rather lucrative venture. Fine plans to kill Natalie Sands, the girl who was beaten at the massage parlor; but Sabrina interrupts.
Natalie reveals that her boss received inside information from "Doc," a man with ties to the police department. Fine spares her life because she cannot identify Doc or his associates. Bosley records a conversation between Barton and Fine that proves their involvement in the scandal. Fine calls Bosley and explains that he will "look out" for his establishment in exchange for weekly payments. Sabrina's ex-husband, who had been transferred to Santa Barbara, notices her name plate during a brief stopover at the police station. He ends up blowing the Angels' covers.
Jill goes to the restaurant where Kelly is dining with Barton and advises her to watch him. Jill and Kelly ride to a junkyard with Barton and Miller, but realize that something is amiss and disarm them. Fine takes Sabrina to the junkyard and plans to kill her, but walks right into an ambush. He shoots himself in the stomach. Quotes: Bosley on phone : "We take reservations, but she's booked up through next week. No, she wouldn't do that. I don't think she even knows what it is!
I know I don't know what it is! Sabrina and Kelly are upset over Charlie's decision to hire a replacement for Jill, who has taken a leave of absence to pursue a career as a race-car driver. Their fears quickly fade after they discover that their new partner is Jill's younger sister Kris, who attended the police academy in San Francisco.
They must fly to Hawaii after Charlie calls and reveals that he has been kidnapped from his boat. The Angels meet Charlie's captor, a cunning young smuggler named Leilani Sako. She threatens to kill Charlie unless the Angels help her husband Billy escape from prison. Sabrina determines that they will break Billy out, and then return him after Charlie is safe.
Billy's lawyer arranges for a court hearing, and the Angels and Bosley set up an elaborate scheme to stage an accident and spring him from a police car. The Angels grow concerned over the interference from one of Leilani's rivals; who attempts a hit on Leilani, shoots Billy's sister, and threatens Kelly.
Leilani loses Charlie to the competitor, Alfred Blue, but still hopes to force the Angels to return her husband. Sabrina emphatically states that she will not see Billy again unless she helps them find Charlie. Blue tries to cut his own deal for Billy. A man's body washes up on the beach--with Charlie's identification in his back pocket. Quotes: Bosley: "I always thought the world of Jill. She tell you anything else? Bos made him up. Charlie's been kidnapped, and I haven't even seen him yet. Could get rich. I think. The Angels cannot identify the body, but one of Leilani's men says that it is not Charlie.
Billy describes to Bosley the way he fell in love with Leilani, and laments her reluctance to give up their shady lifestyle. Billy suggests that they simply trade him for Charlie, but the Angels refuse to even consider sacrificing him. Kelly and Kris search for Sammy Telford, an eccentric man who might have information about Blue. One of Leilani's men tries to kidnap them to set up an exchange for Billy, but Blue's men drive the attackers away. Leilani assures Kris and Kelly that she had nothing to do with the kidnap attempt, and promises that there will be no further interference.
Kris finds Sammy at a nude beach, where he is preaching about the dangers of too much sun. She must discard her clothes to get onto the beach and talk to him, prompting much teasing from Kelly and Sabrina. Sammy tells Kris that Blue is most likely holding Charlie on his yacht. The Angels cannot call the police because they would get into hot water for springing Billy. Sabrina contacts Blue and pretends that she wants to turn over Billy in exchange for cash and future employment opportunities.
She goes to his yacht to discuss business, with Kelly, Kris and Billy hiding under a cover in her speedboat. The trio sneaks on board the boat, where Kris barricades herself in the engine room and Kelly takes over the bridge. Sabrina tries to free Charlie, but he breaks loose of his shackles and jumps out a window while she is fighting with Blue and his men.
Kelly steers the boat toward shore; and the Coast Guard comes aboard and accuses Blue of harboring a fugitive. Billy comes out of hiding and surrenders, claiming that Blue broke him out of prison. The Angels follow Charlie's lead by jumping overboard and swimming to shore. Quotes: Kelly and Sabrina laugh hysterically.
Kris: "Well, fine. What would you have done in my place? A temperamental ice show owner hires the Angels to investigate after someone breaks into his office. Billy, a slow-witted locker room attendant, accepts a bribe to leave a door unlocked so that some masked men can kidnap the male skating star. They also take his partner, much to Billy's dismay.
Kelly and Kris audition for the show. They are able to sweet-talk the artistic director into accepting them, although Kris is reassigned to clown duty after she repeatedly falls down. Two fabulous skaters suddenly show up out of nowhere to take over for the missing leads.
Kelly finds their appearance rather suspicious, but is unaware that they are actually highly skilled assassins. Their employer also nabs a security guard and sends in one of his goons as a substitute. While checking out the missing female skater's apartment, Sabrina has a run-in with one of the kidnappers. She tries to chase him, but gets arrested for commandeering a truck and accidentally slamming into a police car.
Sabrina talks with a wino who has been hanging around outside the arena all week. She learns that a limousine with diplomatic license plates has been involved in several mysterious happenings. The skaters practice a routine in which they will fire muskets that contain American flags. The masked men knock out the ice show's machinist, and the new skaters' "cousin" offers to fill in for him. He tampers with the muskets, putting real artillery into two of them. Quotes: Kris: "It's Canoe, isn't it?
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I knew it was Canoe. You know, with your body chemistry, it's like gardenias in the fall. You see, I left it in the room when I took my gun out of my purse to shoot at the gorilla who was driving the limousine. A gorilla can't drive even if he does have his license. It was a person in a gorilla mask. Now we've got a drunk that sounds like a bad song supplying the clues. Kris develops a friendship with Billy.
After cooking her dinner, he tearfully explains his role in Helene's kidnapping. Sabrina learns that the only files in Max's office affected during the break-in were the arena lay-out and seating chart. While talking with Mason about the infamous limousine, Kelly sees the vehicle arrive. She pays a motorcyclist to follow it, and ends up at an Arabian restaurant. She poses as a belly dancer and gains access to the room where Dirgus and his associates are meeting. Unfortunately, her veil falls off during her routine, allowing Dirgus and his henchman to recognize her.
She is taken to the warehouse where the skaters, security guard and Iggy are being held prisoner. They are able to create a catapult; and launch Kelly to the top of the room, where she climbs out the window. She makes it to the arena and sends help to the warehouse.
Sabrina and Bosley work as vendors and keep an eye on a group of sheiks in town for an OPEC meeting, as they seem to have some role in all the commotion. Kris realizes that Olga and Luisi are going to shoot the sheiks, and tackles them as they try to fire their weapons. She and Kelly knock them out; while Billy helps Bosley and Sabrina take down Dirgus and his henchman. The conspirators were dissidents from various Arab nations, who hoped to assassinate their compatriots and seize control of much of the world's oil.
Quotes: Kelly with Southern accent : "I wanna thank you for bein' so kind and courteous. I'm gonna be sure and talk about you to my cousin Ermadine now. I can't stand up! Ben Pawl, the host of the Miss Chrysanthemum pageant, flies out from Iowa to seek the Angels' help after someone begins scaring away the contestants. Kelly and Kris enter the pageant, while Sabrina and Bosley pose as a news crew filming a story about the event.
Someone fires shots into Kris's room, and a sandbag is dropped on the main stage in the middle of rehearsal. Two rather stupid men try to bribe one of the judges an older woman into voting for Billie Jolene, the daughter of a wealthy Texas businessman. When she refuses and begins hitting them, they kidnap her.
Sabrina stakes out the airport as the replacement judge arrives. She overhears the men bribe and blackmail the woman until she agrees to vote for Billie. Sabrina hides in the guys' trunk in the hopes of finding the kidnapped judge, but gets caught in the act. After the wealthy Millie refuses to pay the men to release her, Sabrina suggests that they might be able to get Bosley to cough up the money.
They approach Bosley with guns drawn, but Kelly and Kris jump offstage in the middle of the show and beat them up. The goons reveal Sabrina and Millie's location, and confess their role in the bribery scam.
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Billie is disqualified, but a disappointed Kelly and Kris lose the pageant to a girl who recited a soliloquy from The Merchant of Venice while twirling a baton. Bosley explains that the host told the judges not to vote for them because they were not legitimate contestants. Charlie spends all of his time watching a woman in a bikini play with a medicine ball. Quotes: Pawl: "This isn't for real, is it?
I mean, this isn't really going to be on a network television news show. You see, we're private detectives. We gotta pick up a dollar here, a dollar there. Every little bit helps. Pigeons can't skulk. They were skulking in there. They are skulking pigeons! No, we shouldn't ask for whom the bell tolls. When one man is lost or friend is injured, when the bell tolls, it tolls for all of us. Bosley: "Which one of you would have won? Sabrina's college roommate Angela, a stewardess, receives threatening phone calls from someone who keeps leaving her black roses.
Sabrina goes to stay with her, while Kelly and Kris go into training to become stewardesses. One of the other stewardesses is attacked in a parking garage and killed with a karate chop to the throat. Mai Ling, a trainee with a chip on her shoulder, becomes a suspect because she holds a black belt in karate. The killer calls Angela and orders her to follow his instructions or risk losing more of her friends. She agrees, and refuses to tell Sabrina what is going on. Angela obeys a recording in which the killer orders her to drug the co-pilot; hijack the plane during a test flight for the student stewardesses; and kill the pilot upon arriving in Peru.
However, the pilot is actually her stalker; he arranged the hijacking scenario to make himself appear innocent of any wrongdoing. Angela accidentally shoots the pilot in a struggle, and then hits her head and gets knocked out. The co-conspirator, who has assaulted the flight engineer, pulls out a gun and orders the stewardesses to get the cockpit door open. Kelly and Kris refuse to act until he explains. He says that he and the pilot plan to sell the airline's new automated pilot technology, which can fly the plane until it lowers to an elevation of fifty feet.
The co-pilot wakes up long enough to put the plane on automatic pilot. Kris and a tall woman disarm the gunman, and Mai Ling kicks in the door. Kelly must follow the tower's instructions to bring the plane to a safe landing. Quotes: Sabrina: "I wonder what Burt Reynolds is up to.
A couple of weeks ago at dinner at Devereaux's restaurant. It was right after you threw your salad in my lap. The Barzak family circus is plagued by a number of mysterious accidents. The owner's son, David, seeks the Angels' help to determine the cause. They must keep their identities a secret from his father, a gypsy who believes in handling his problems on his own--and also has a problem with women in the workplace. Sabrina seeks work as a clown's apprentice, while Kris becomes the knife thrower's assistant. Kelly convinces Barzak to hire her as a motorcycle daredevil, but two men sabotage her equipment.
Sabrina and David quickly take a liking to one another. Someone leaves a snake in her bed in the hopes of scaring her away, and Kelly and Kris narrowly escape when their tent is set on fire. Intrigued by his strange behavior, Kris swipes a glass with the fingerprints of knife thrower Helmut. A computer check reveals that he is an East German circus star who recently defected. Anton Tarloff, the clown, is actually behind all of the misdoings. He blames Barzak for his niece's death in a circus accident years earlier, and has become obsessed with driving him out of business.
Tarloff and his cohorts suspect that the Angels are cops and decide that they must do away with them. One man knocks out Helmut and takes his place in the knife-throwing act, but Kris gets away. He reveals under duress that Tarloff plans to kill Sabrina by using a real sword in their comedic duel. He cannot bring himself to do this because Sabrina reminds him of his late niece.
Kris tackles a sniper, thwarting his attempt to shoot Kelly during her motorcycle jump. Bosley tries to avoid the persistent advances of an amorous little person. Quotes: Barzak: "I have no problem with women, long as they wear skirt and stay in kitchen wear they belong. Why don't you stay with me?
Sabrina: "What is that?! Resort owner Hildy Slater hires the Angels after her drifter nephew, Frank, is strangled in his cabin. Kelly and Kris join the staff, while Sabrina goes undercover as a magazine reporter. Bosley checks into the facility and struggles to stick to his diet. Sabrina begins to fall for one of the guests, Doug O'Neal. Lon Molton, Hildy's right-hand man, dons a stocking mask and attacks Kris and Kelly in their cabin. Someone later leaves a fake bomb in the cabin in the hopes of driving them away. Sabrina refuses to believe that Doug is responsible for the crime.
She tells him that she is writing a story about the murder, and Doug freely admits that Frank was one of his best friends. He claims that he came to the facility to try and find some answers. Kelly and Kris search Doug's room and discover that he is carrying newspaper clippings about B.
Smith, a man who disappeared after committing a two-million-dollar skyjacking. An indignant Sabrina suggests that they confront Doug with the allegations. Doug ransacks Kelly and Kris's cabin and finds the money hidden inside the wall.
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Lon hits him over the head and takes the money, but Kelly and Kris catch up to him on horseback and tie him up. Doug confesses his role in the skyjacking to Sabrina; he landed in a tree after jumping from the plane, and suffered severe injuries. Frank assumed that he was dead and took the money, and Doug finally tracked him down at the cabin. He accidentally shot Frank during a scuffle, and Lon finished him off after Doug fled. Doug tries to convince Sabrina to run away with him, but she holds him at bay until Kelly returns.
Quotes: Kris: "I'm so disappointed. I thought that sex would be running rampant. You just haven't caught up to it. She's giving me 'belonging' lessons. A young woman hires the Angels to find her missing aunt, an eccentric old woman who believed in the existence of UFOs. Kris and Bosley pose as a couple and join the Celestial Research Foundation, an organization run by Dr.
Franklin Perine that is devoted to the study of alien life. The group often arranges UFO sightings for its members. Kelly romances James Britten, a disgraced astronaut who works as a front for the foundation, in order to elicit inside information. Sabrina intentionally allows Dr. Perine and company to catch her tailing their car.
She pretends to be a bungling detective investigating the possible infidelity of one of their members, and is allowed to come to the group's desert headquarters and snoop around. Kris establishes a rapport with nerdy Teddy Nolan during a meeting, but he clams up when she mentions Mrs.
Kelly comes to his office, claiming to be a visitor from outer space, and demands answers. He says that Mrs. Sheridan was dragged away by two men while shouting something about the temperature on Venus. The Angels conclude that Mrs. Sheridan was murdered because she had realized that Dr. Perine's theories conflicted with scientific fact and was about to expose him as a fraud.
Britten confesses his involvement with the institute to Kelly, who tries to convince him to get out. Perine discovers that Kelly is a detective and orders Britten to kill her. Kris distracts Dr. Perine while Bosley uses Mrs. Sheridan's dog to help locate her body, which is still buried at the headquarters.
Sabrina gets caught snapping photographs of the phony flying saucers, but Kris comes to her aid until Bosley and the police arrive. Britten sabotages Kelly's seatbelt before taking her up in his airplane. She notices this and creates her own makeshift belt, and then forces Britten to land the plane at gunpoint. Quotes: Dr. Perine: "The space visitors are just like ordinary human beings like you or me, with one very definite distinction. Perine: "Absolutely not. You never did.
The Angels and Bosley go undercover as station employees and investigate a number of possible suspects.
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He realizes that she considers him a suspect, and proves his innocence by turning over shells from his guns which do not match the bullet fired at Joy. Kelly poses as Joy because of their similar voices. She goes after a man who threatened Joy for exposing him as a wife beater, but finds that he died a few days earlier. Kris tries to infilitrate the clan of motorcycle thief Dwayne Hansen. She fears for her life when the group sees through her act; but Dwayne has given up his criminal ways, electing to captalize on his notoriety and start an acting career.
Sabrina approaches Professor Arthur Croyden, who lost major research grants after Joy exposed his cure for the common cold as a fraud. Joy's attacker forces Kelly off the road and tries to run over her, but Buck and Sabrina buzz him in the chopper and drive him away. Croyden realizes that Sabrina's story is phony and injects her with truth serum.
He plans to kill her, but Kelly, Kris and Bosley arrive in the nick of time. Kelly chases Croyden across the entire campus and takes him down. Quotes: Kelly on wife beater Ernest Quinlan : "I want to get at this one. I told my mother I'd never do that. But I might run around with him for a while. Tommy Anders is arrested for causing a disturbance at his girlfriend's home. He calls Kelly, who helped the one-time juvenile delinquent get in his life in order by encouraging him to enlist in the Air Force. He explains that he became worried when his girlfriend stopped writing him, and went AWOL after her roommates gave a phony excuse to explain her disappearance.
His girlfriend's roommates take Kelly aside and tell her that Marie is pregnant with Tommy's child; she has contacted an adoption agency, which will sell the baby. Kelly poses as a pregnant woman planning to give up her baby and enters the adoption home, where she seeks out Marie. Marie admits that she has changed her mind and wants to keep her child.
In order to prove that the agency is breaking the law, Sabrina and Bosley assume the roles of a chain-smoking socialite and her wealthy husband and outbid another couple for Kelly's baby. Kelly informs them that a girl recently disappeared after deciding that she didn't want to give up her baby. She was found dead a few days after giving birth, and her mother believes that someone murdered her for threatening to expose the agency.
Kris crashes a party thrown by agency co-owner Hugh Tomlinson, pretending to be desperate for money. He sets her up with a man to conceive a child, which will then be sold. The guy warns Kris not to become involved in Tomlinson's schemes, so she reveals her true identity. Tommy ignores Sabrina's warnings and sneaks into the adoption home.
He gets caught, and is held prisoner with Kelly and Marie. Chaffey elects to spare their lives until after Marie gives birth so that he can collect the fee. Marie goes into labor, leaving Kelly to deliver the baby. Sabrina, Kris and Bosley arrive to rescue them. Kris goes into shock after wounding Chaffey in a shootout, as she had never shot anyone. Tommy and Marie marry and plan to rejoin his unit. Charlie arranged for emergency leave so that Tommy wouldn't have to face a court martial. Quotes: Charlie: "We start with Kelly getting pregnant. Ellen Jason seeks help from the Angels after someone tries to kill her during rehersals for a film version of the musical Sweet Misery.
The sound stage is considered "jinxed" because a number of accidents have occurred since Norma Friedrick died in a fall while filming a scene fifteen years earlier. Ellen's ex-husband, Frank, falls under suspicion because of the couple's rocky relationship. He has no interest in re-teaming with his wife for the film, but the studio will not finance the picture without him. Kris, who is a huge fan of Frank's, approaches in the hopes of getting him to re-consider. They become friends as she protects him from some thugs trying to collect money, and she reveals that she once had a part in a summer stock production of Sweet Misery.
Frank agrees to do the film to pay off his gambling debts, but only if Kris can play one of the smaller parts. Frank and Ellen's teenage son, Larry, grows frustrated with his parents' constant bickering. He runs off, vowing never to return. Someone tries to drop a light on Kris's head after a take. Kelly and Sabrina chase someone up on the catwalk, but he vanishes. Kelly learns that Anton Metzger, the stage hand who tried in vain to save Norma's life after her fall, has an apartment across the street from the set. The Angels discover that his apartment is a shrine to Norma.
They realize that he has been responsible for all of the "accidents," and decide to draw him out by re-creating Norma's final scene. The plan succeeds, and Sabrina comforts Anton and assures him that Norma no longer needs his protection. Larry returns, and the Jasons decide to repair their relationship.
I think it's got a nice ring to it. Kelly: "Well, I think I should call and tell him you simply refuse. Kris puts her hand over the phone. Kris: "You do and I'll break your arm. Magician Wendell Muse seeks the Angels' help to prove that he did not set a series of mysterious fires at Fashion City warehouses across the country. Sabrina poses as a wacky French lady and convinces Joseph Watson, owner of Fashion City, to hire her as a designer.
Bosley and Kris go undercover as a hilarious "mind-reading" act. Someone causes fire to come out of the shower backstage, nearly burning Kris. Kelly claims to be the daughter of a famous illusionist in order to get close to a magician named the Great Danzini and determine whether he is a suspect. Sabrina gets caught in a blaze at the Fashion City warehouse. Intrigued by the fact that the telephone had rung just before several of the fires, she investigates.
She discovers that someone is rigging the phones with phosphorus, thereby starting the fires just by making a call. Sabrina fixes a sabotaged phone and observes it as part of a plan to catch the culprit. Kris sees Mary Ann Webb, Danzini's assistant, making the call from backstage during the "disappearing lady" trick. Mary Ann explains that her husband accepted money from companies to set "magic" fires as part of an insurance fraud scam.
Watson double-crossed him and left him trapped in one of the fires, so Mary Ann began destroying his businesses as revenge. Watson finds Sabrina in his office and assumes that she is the one responsible for the fires. He ties her up and rigs the phone, leaving her for dead.
Kelly and Kris arrive to pull Sabrina out of the blaze, and the police catch up to Watson. Kelly and Sabrina won't leave Kris alone after Charlie reveals that he was in the audience for her act. Quotes: Kris: "Let me guess. Their bookings were all along the time that the Magic Man was I will try to steer you in the right direction.
Sammy Davis Jr. Sabrina and Kris have a run-in with the kidnappers during a charity event. Herbert comes over to Sammy's house to take him up on his promise to let him drive one of his prized automobiles. The kidnappers mistake Herbert for Sammy and nab him. The Angels convince Sammy to lay low so that the kidnappers will believe they succeeded. Sabrina finds the dollar amount to be rather suspicious.
Kris poses as a floozy and gains access to the office of Andy Price, Sammy's business manager. She discovers that he has embezzled a great deal of money to cover his debts, and agreed to help orchestrate the kidnapping to cover his tracks. After Bosley leaves with the ransom money, Sammy and his wife emerge and explain the case of mistaken identity. Kelly and Kris claim that an electronic tracking device was planted in the money, prompting Andy to take off to warn the kidnappers.
The Angels trail him to their hideout, and Sammy insists on coming along because he feels responsible for Herbert's predicament. The kidnappers plan to kill Herbert, and decide they must do away with Andy after he objects. After Sammy distracts them, the Angels break in and subdue everyone. Sammy feels sorry for Andy and decides not to press charges against him. He invites the Angels to an opening, but they are horrified to discover that it is for Herbert's newest boozeteria.
Quotes: Kelly: "I understand, Mr. You prefer to be incognito. I'm a veteran! What did he mean by that? I got a chain of liquor stores. What you got, chump? The Angels and Bosley head to the Sunwest Dude Ranch to investigate the death of Joseph Frisch, who was found murdered on the facility's bus. They pretend to be strangers, but camp foreman Ed Cole becomes suspicious when he sees them talking with the sheriff before boarding the bus. He places a burr under a horse's saddle, causing it to buck Sabrina. George Jackson, a sleazy private investigator who once worked for Charlie, calls two men and reports the location of one of the camp's guests.
Bosley learns that Cole and ranch guest Jean Trevor were once employees of Frisch's company. Jean denies having ever met Frisch. Kelly overhears a scuffle in Cole's room, and someone shoves her out of the way as she enters. She finds that Cole has been murdered. Bosley is perplexed to see Jean embracing a man named Ed Miller, as she had reportedly been involved with Frisch. After much prompting, she finally admits that Frisch switched identities with Ed Miller because some of his mob associates are out to get him.
He told Jean that he killed Miller in self-defense, but the man was actually just an innocent bystander. Frisch also murdered Cole because he had recognized Frisch and was trying to blackmail him. The mobsters show up in Frisch's room while Sabrina is talking with him, and take them both prisoners. They try to escape on horseback after the sheriff calls for a roadblock, but Kris and Kelly catch up to them. Kris wounds one of the men in a shootout; she isn't thrilled, but is able to handle it. Quotes Kelly: "What about Miss Trevor? I think she's attracted to me. She said, 'I like the cut of your cloth.
A tennis player narrowly escapes severe burns when someone traps her in the showers. The incident drives away many of the entrants in that week's tournament. Kris, a former collegiate player, joins the field; while Sabrina and Kelly pose as a designer and model of tennis clothing. Mexican champion Carmita Medina is found murdered while meditating.
A sniper fires several shots at Carrie Jo Evans, an aging star attempting a comeback. Sabrina and Kelly chase after the sniper, but cannot even tell if it is a man or woman. The investigation focuses on Ronnie Kyle, a player turned broadcaster who has become very bitter since losing a grudge match to Carrie Jo. Kris tries to bait him by challenging him to a match, and he storms out during the first game. However, Bosley discovers that Kyle is an old drunk who couldn't possibly have been fit enough to run away from Sabrina and Kelly. A rattlesnake attacks Helga, the Swedish champion.
The culprit, Eddie Fisk, overhears the Angels telling her that they are detectives. Carrie Jo eavesdrops and learns that her sponsor, Arlo Spinner, has had Fisk arrange the "accidents" to drive away her competition. He believes that she will win the tournament and everyone will buy his rackets to emulate her. Carrie Jo approaches Sabrina and Kelly during her match and explains the situation. They head out to help Kris, who staves off an attack from Fisk in the locker room.
Arlo manages to trick the Angels and hold them all at gunpoint, but Sabrina realizes that he won't personally kill anyone and convinces him to give himself up. Bosley agrees to a date with a woman who keeps staring at him as he conducts his towel boy duties. Quotes: Kelly: "For birthdays or fun days, a perfect gift for your lady or business associate. You cannot keep it. Three men pull off a diamond heist, but one of them jumps out of the car and runs off with the loot. Ring leader Denny Dinsmore shoots him, and he manages to get himself to a hospital before collapsing. Dinsmore and his partner, Williams, show up at the office and hold Bosley and the Angels at gunpoint.
Dinsmore forces Sabrina to wear a locking belt covered with charges; unless Kris and Kelly can find Murdock and retrieve the diamonds in ten hours, he will activate the device and kill Sabrina and Bosley. Murdock, who is very weak after having the bullet removed, leaves the hospital to meet a fence and sell the diamonds.
Kelly and Kris force the security guards who aided with the theft to lead them to the motel where the exchange is to take place. They discover that Murdock has died and the diamonds are gone. Kelly and Charlie each call the office and make it seem as though Kris has vanished and plans to leave the country. Kelly tips off Sabrina and Bosley by saying that Kris abandoned her station wagon she actually drives her sister's old Cobra , and Sabrina recognizes the name of the "company plane" Kris will be using as a street.
Sabrina and Bosley convince the crooks that Kris has sold them out and accepted a partnership with Murdock. Sabrina points out that they can still stop her at the airport, and claims to have a shortcut. Kris and Kelly set up a roadblock. Sabrina conks the distracted Dinsmore over the head, giving herself enough time to jump into a nearby pond and deactivate the charges.
Dinsmore and Williams are apprehended, and Interpol catches the fence at a French airport. Two men take legendary jewel thief Freddie "The Fox" Brander prisoner and demand that he reveal the whereabouts of a priceless diamond. He escapes, and seeks the Angels' help to retrieve the stolen gem from a wealthy Arab and return it to a museum. He admits that he is looking for an exciting ending for his autobiography. They travel to a Caribbean island; where Freddie and Sabrina pose as a snooty lord and lady, with Kelly as their secretary.
The men who had nabbed Freddie follow them and observe their every action. In order to get Kelly into Faris Salim's house, Bosley spreads a rumor about his secretary so that she will be let go. Freddie then fires Kelly in front of Salim at a restaurant; he quickly hires her. Kris "selflessly" makes a play for Salim's hunky son Ali, a car fanatic who disapproves of his father's ways. Salim invites Freddie and Sabrina to his birthday party, where they feign boredom so that he will show off the diamond.
They furtively take photographs and notes about the various security measures; including guard dogs; security monitors; an alarm that is triggered if anyone makes contact with the floor; and a snake inside the glass case. Ali observes Kris's actions and realizes that she is planning to steal the diamond. She reveals her true motives, and asks him not to give them away. The Angels drug the dogs, and Kelly distracts the man on duty by dancing with him. Freddie takes ill and cannot go through with his part of the heist.
Freddie's rivals approach him at gunpoint. Sabrina uses a blowtorch to cut through the bars surrounding the window, and Kris goes into the room on a rope and hangs above the diamond. She sticks a piece of metal into the case to distract the snake while she snares the diamond. Salim's right-hand man sees them running across the lawn, but Kelly steals his sub-automatic machine gun so that she can make her getaway.
Ali comes to Freddie's rescue and kisses Kris goodbye before the Angels flee. Quotes: Ali: "Should we try it? You don't even know Salim's secretary. I enjoyed it. So did I. Especially the part where you ran along the roof of the Salim mansion, you lowered yourself down with a rope and picked the diamond out with your teeth. Her team, the Ducks, is scheduled to play an exhibition game at the Los Angeles Coliseum the following week.
Charlie notes that Sabrina and Kelly once took part on a police football team, and instructs the Angels to go undercover as members of the Ducks. Julia Smyth, owner of the Ducks' opponent, tries to recruit quarterback Sabrina for her team. Sabrina notices that Julia rides a motorcycle, and suspects that she might be involved in the attack. Kelly and Kris hope to wrap up the case before the game so that they don't have to play, while Sabrina wants to teach the overconfident Julia a lesson. A mean-spirited woman named Grinelda continually takes cheap shots at Kris during practice.
She taunts Kris and nearly baits her into a fight, but Kelly shows up and kicks her ass. Bosley develops a rapport with Pokey, a receiver who often becomes confused on the field because she suffers from dyslexia. Kelly befriends Joe Phillips, a washed-up ex-jock who frequently attends the Ducks' practices.
The motorcyclists attack Kelly and Joe in a parking lot after their lunch date. Kelly draws a sketch of one of the bikes, and Bosley tracks down the name of individuals who have recently purchased that model. Kelly and Kris visit a garage, only to discover Joe and some friends leaving in a van. Kris finds a blueprint of the Coliseum on the premises. They realize that Joe and his friends are planning to steal the proceeds from the previous night's rock concert.
They tried to scare the Ducks so that the game would be cancelled or moved, leaving the stadium vacant. After foiling the heist, the Angels learn that Grinelda and Julia are old friends; Grinelda was obviously planted to steal the Ducks' plays. The Angels take the field with a point deficit and under two minutes to play. They thwart Grinelda by changing plays amongst themselves after leaving the huddle. Kelly scores a touchdown, and Kris recovers the kick-off after Sabrina convinces Grinelda that she is going to attempt an onside kick.
Sabrina finally calls a pass play to Pokey, aware that she will run the wrong direction and be left open. She scores a touchdown with no time remaining, and Amy kicks the winning extra point and gains the approval of her gruff father. Betsy Harper, a girl who lives on the beach near Kris's house, approaches her in a panic. She hints that she has information about a crime, but refuses to elaborate and runs off. Despite Bosley's objections, Charlie agrees to Kris's request that they postpone a lucrative case and try to help Betsy.
Kelly and Kris return to the beach, but find that Betsy has become the latest victim of a serial murderer known as the "sandcastle killer. Francona, Charlie's former partner on the force, who is extremely bitter over Charlie's success. Kris and Kelly talk with Melissa Rossiter, the president of the makeup company that employed Betsy, who sometimes gave her a place to stay.
They are surprised to learn that Melissa is engaged to employee Larry Fallon, as a lifeguard had told Kelly that Fallon had recently been involved with Betsy. While working the hamburger stand, Bosley spots Gerson, a man who had upset Betsy by spying on her through binoculars. Kris and beach security guard Dave Christopher trail Gerson to the Santa Monica pier and look through his van. Sabrina gets a job at the cosmetics firm in order to get close to Larry, and finds that he is not a suspect in the murders. She learns that Melissa is married to Dave, who hopes to get a large piece of her company in the divorce settlement.
Gerson attacks Kris at her beach house, but Sabrina and Kelly arrive to help. Dave shows up conveniently and hauls Gerson into jail. The next day, Lt. Francona smugly warns Kris that Gerson made bail. Sabrina notes the victims' physical resemblance to Melissa and suspects that Dave plans to kill her and take her fortune; he arranged the other murders so that her death would appear to be the work of a serial killer. Melissa believes her theory is crazy, as Dave has just agreed to grant the divorce. Melissa meets Dave at the vacant pier amusement park, where she finds that Gerson is dead.
Dave gloats that he will murder Melissa; then tells everyone that he captured the "sandcastle killer," but killed him in a struggle. The Angels emerge and pursue him. He falls into the water after Bosley shoots him, but Sabrina dives in and saves him. Country singer Amy Waters abruptly leaves a concert after suffering a nervous breakdown. She rides around town in a cab for a while, but stops to call her father. She tells him that she wants to come home, and adds that she has some information for the police. When Amy arrives at her father's place, two acquaintances grab her and inject her with heroin, killing her.
Charlie finds Amy's overdose suspicious and asks the Angels to investigate. Kris poses as a country music reporter and asks the cab driver, Lenny, to show her all of the stops that Amy made on the night of her death. Kelly and Sabrina follow in their cars and check out each of the locations. Kelly confronts Amy's guitarist boyfriend, who beat her up after she ordered him to leave the apartment for which she paid rent.
The men who killed Amy murder her boyfriend, and then begin following Kelly. Sabrina confronts a mobster named Cooperman and accuses him of forcibly taking over the rights to Amy's songwriting publishing company. His henchman follows Sabrina to an apartment building and shoots at her. The building is the residence of John Donegar, Amy's manager.
He admits that he used his power of attorney to sell the publishing company without permission under coercion , and agrees to turn himself in so that the police will protect him from Cooperman. Kelly ditches the guy following her, and then has Sabrina trail him. She follows him to a laundromat, where he and his friend remove a soap machine. When Lenny overhears Kris talking with Bosley on the phone, he pulls a gun on her. Bosley notes a discrepancy in the mileage of the cab trip and realizes that Lenny purposely left a stop out of his log.
Kelly and Sabrina follow the killers to their rendezvous with Lenny, and bail out Kris. After subduing the men, they discover that the soap machine is filled with packets of cocaine. They were involved in an elaborate drug-dealing scheme, and Amy had threatened to blow the whistle. They killed her boyfriend because he was another of their customers and knew too much. Toy manufacturer Leland Swinnerton a.
Mother Goose seeks the Angels' help after someone begins sabotaging his company as part of a takeover attempt. The Angels suspect an inside job, so Sabrina goes to the factory as a wealthy businessman's daughter hoping to learn the toy business. Gordon Roclair, a brilliant designer who often clashes with Leland because the boss discourages his fascination with "horror toys," suspects that Sabrina is trying to arrange a takeover.
He tells her that the business will soon fail. A wire-tapper breaks into the factory and is found mysteriously shot to death in the design room. She reveals that Larry was working for Tony Phelan, a mobster who wants to purchase the toy company for use as a front. Kris flies onto Tony's property in a hang glider and wins his approval. Kelly approaches Larry's replacement, Jack Orwell, and convinces him to go into a partnership.
They record Sabrina arranging to sell Leland's new designs to Gordon. Tony calls Gordon over to the house and orders him to get the plans and sell them to him. Kris eavesdrops and learns that Larry was killed by a realistic toy cannon designed by Gordon, who had rigged it with the hopes of shooting Leland.
Jack kidnaps Kelly after Donna sells her out and gives away her identity. Kelly runs a red light to attract the attention of the police, and gets pulled over. Jack throws the gun out the window and tries to refute Kelly's kidnapping claim; but Bosley approaches with the discarded weapon. After Tony obtains the plans from Sabrina, Kris dressed as a giant doll pulls a switch to make it appear that he double-crossed Tony. Sabrina, Kelly and Bosley approach and suggest that he give himself up, but he refuses.
He tries to escape the furious Tony and his associate by dashing into the design room, forgetting that he had rigged his cannon in another attempt to kill Leland. He passes out; unaware that Kris had plugged the cannon with her gum. Leland gives the Angels dolls of themselves to thank them for saving his business.
A woman who runs a building that is mainly populated by hookers seeks Charlie's help after two of her tenants are murdered. The Angels move into the building, while Bosley grudgingly takes a job as the maintenance man. In the period of which I've been speaking, whatever my surprise at my analyst's observation, I had a somewhat diminished stake in maintaining the presumably fecund misery from which, in my view, he insisted on rescuing me.
Luckily, or so I presently believe, I was protected from my asserted wish to shore up suffering, to stabilize it, by the intensity of my suffering at that time. I had, too, this recent memory: I began analysis imperiled not by happiness but by despair; in the years that was most acute, I was wholly silent, on the page and in the world.
Set aside, for the moment, natural speculation regarding the talent of the artist, of the restless, demanding, insatiable soul, for actually attracting and sustaining serenity. Assume, for the moment, that some parenthesis of well-being does, from time to time, open, even in the lives of people of this type. Think, for now, only of the meticulous resistance to that state, which perhaps some of you have felt already. As in the moment when love ceases to be narrative, ceases to be dramatic capitulation, and the single next thing appears to be sterility, a vista of suburbs.
As though the suburbs, as though the mutations of love in time, could only be sterile. Curiously, once the question is posed, once the whole issue of the relation of unhappiness to the making of art comes under scrutiny, the sources of this connection grow clear. They derive, I think, from the original set of impulses and rewards that draw individual minds to this vocation. Most artists, most writers certainly, are drawn to the creative act by its capacity to promote catharsis and, through catharsis, affirm a faltering sense of power.
Pre-existing anguish, in being given form, is externalized; in being externalized, it is transformed. Transformed, as opposed to neutralized; it gives rise to its extreme opposite. What results, for the artist or nascent artist, is euphoria. Not only are anxiety and tension temporarily relieved-something comes into being to which the self bonds with a kind of desperate ardor. Unfortunately, the learned dynamics of catharsis, the conversion via writing of despair to elation, will not sustain a creative gift any more than the animating rages of youth can be mechanically prolonged.
Equally unfortunately, the more effi. In art, obviously, but also in the increasingly ritualized process leading to art. And ultimately an odd shadow of dependency or addiction creeps in. Suffering gradually becomes the presumed first condition of elation or triumph; the more efficiently catharsis works, the more likely it is that an artist is being created, a person, that is, whose sense of power and worth depends primarily on these surrogates, these objects it has created.
This dependency is my subject, and, beyond it, a certain practical speculation as to the usefulness, to an artist, of happiness, in whatever form it may happen to present itself. By which term I mean not euphoria which is in any case familiar to people of this type, a state of grace like falling in love, and, like falling in love, an intoxication -not euphoria, but that strange country I glimpsed in my analyst's office, happiness defined as well-being.
The artist, that person whose sense of self absolutely depends on continued creation, begins to connect his survival as a powerful, or in any case, viable being to despair; despair, however damaging, however threatening, however eroding of the physical self, cannot damage what is perceived as being truly essential: the ability to make art.
Quite the reverse: this it preserves and sustains. The real threat, according to this reasoning, is happiness which, by removing active unrest, sabotages creative life, which proceeds from an accumulated misery that demands cathartic release. The dependency on dissatisfaction, the courting of it by the artist-this is less a Faustian compact than a destructive, or at least limiting, hope.
Destructive not in the obvious sense, in that it places at risk or undermines the whole world of relationship, or physical soundness, or social function, but destructive in exactly those terms by which the self experiences its deepest sense of authentic being: what is threatened with destruction in this system is the artist, who was born, long before, not only of will but of its hopeless and powerless opposite, out of lack of control. At the heart of this dilemma, the tacit rejection of happiness, is the problem of control, which is, first, the problem of vulnerability.
It is the latter that attaches to happiness, to any form of having. Like material wealth, emotional or spiritual wealth stands to be lost: better the security of having nothing than the anxiety of well-being, which can only diminish. Moreover, the willed renunciation of well-being acts as a kind of protection: no one, the artist reasons, gets everything. So renunciation. And whatever its size, it is likely to be perceived, with some regularity, as precarious. The unfamiliar unnerves; in this system, misery and despair tend to produce an odd repose-they are at least known; they generate no obsession with subtraction, since they are that state to which subtraction ultimately descends.
When nothing exists that can be taken away, a secret power asserts itself, a sense of control that well-being systematically threatens or erodes. An early form of the pattern will seem, I believe, familiar. Put simply: once the addiction is established, despair becomes safety, and the artist begins to attempt to control or limit the ways in which he is influenced, trying to replicate indefinitely those circumstances or states of mind believed to be favorable to the making of art.
This puts the matter, perhaps, too optimistically, makes choice seem to exist. Whereas the artist is, more likely, a being who has found a marginally viable existence which he goes on to frantically defend. His frenzy is natural, a function of the conviction that the alternative to present modes is not different modes but nothing, the abyss. This cleaving to pattern can coexist with apparently expansive or experimental behaviors, since what is being cleaved to is an edge, that is, precariousness.
Only those experiences or behaviors characteristic of what we can loosely call normalcy or serenity are rnled out. And this comes to be a rnling against the unknown in its most radical form, a ruling made, oddly enough, in the name of risk. Over time, the true danger, the trne sabotaging routine domestic space becomes that edge to which panic roots the creative being. The words by which this edge is described affirm its glamorous shakiness; in fact, it has become wholly conservative space.
I have seen this particular timidity in my own nature; I have watched it and heard it in my students. It fuels those questions about the future in which multiple desires or leanings figure: is it dangerous for a writer to be an academic? Will medicine or law or business destroy my gift? And, particularly among women,, should I marry? Should I have children? And although no one can guarantee that the married doctor with children will also write enduring poetry, or that the passionate adolescent who finally permits himself maturity and pleasure will evolve into a deeper thinker, the person who, through cautious clinging to the known, the ostensibly safe, arrests or constrains his native fascination with medicine or desire for family is diminishing the possibility of his making original art.
Meaning art unique to a specific and profoundly lived experience. Only such art attains the force and durability of paradigm. Whereas the "cparadigmatic". Behind the choice of despair as opposed to the accident of despair, as opposed, also, to the tragic vision, which is another matter -behind this choice is the unarticulated assumption that the life most conducive to art is entirely empty of anything interesting enough to distract from writing or satisfying enough to replace the need to write.
But the earlier, the formative despair, the galvanizing memorable despair of adolescence, is not replicated through willful perpetuations and imitations. And the sadder form of these questions about the future is not question but statement, the asserted decision to turn from a natural bent lest the gift be damaged. This is the mathematics of insurance which insulates against the more painful perception of injustice.
The need to write, or make art, gives rise to the wish to keep alive and affirm only the creative being and suppress or constrain all satellite selves. And as the only emotion held to be entirely safe to that being is unhappiness, the only congenial conditions turmoil and retreat, the only activity held to be free of environmental contamination and harmful distraction is the reading of great literature. But once literature is sought for these reasons, it changes. Whatever it was once,, infinite and necessary air, it now becomes restriction, less that air than the conditioned air of a sealed room.
That is, it is being valued for what it is not; it is being used to screen out impurity. Or, to use another figure, it becomes something like steamed vegetables, safe because they contain nothing known to cause harm. To read for these reasons, to read to stay safe, is to undermine the essential capacity and service of literature. Those gifts become accessible again when less elevated pleasures are accommodated. Pleasures like cooking and bad movies, pleasures like the indefensible television's. I believe these pleasures also nourish though in mysterious ways: they relax the soul.
They are the little worlds in which the spirit is not tested. The difficulty is that the artist cannot take pride in what they nourish because pride, in him, is so utterly connected to the creative act, and because his imagination concerning that act is limited by fear to a kind of m agical system, rife with taboos and forbidden gestures. And, to people of this type, what is not a source of pride is, de facto, a source of shame. Let me urge now the utility of happiness. First: understand that happiness or well-being does not automatically produce a poetry or prose.
What is far more likely, certainly in the artist whose vision is tragic, is that some measure of well-being strengthens him sufficiently to enable the deepest excavations. The spirit, fortified, can afford to go more profoundly, more resourcefully, into its materials, being less imperiled. But principally I wish to argue for well-being as a means of increasing openness to diversity and, by extension, a means by which the artist increases his range or, possibly, locates a fundamental subject. Dependency on despair acts to limit the subjects with which the mind contends or engages to those subjects available at the time the rituals of catharsis were discovered.
In my own experience, periods of despair resemble one another, even to the sense that each seems, at the moment and despite its antecedents, the true platonic desolation, the terminus, the authentic nadir. Whereas happiness surprises in both its advent and its causes: it releases information. What unhappiness tends to perpetuate is an isolating and, usually, limiting fixation on the self; except in the very rarest cases, this is bound to be an aesthetic limitation.
Whereas well-being, in paying homage to its sources and causes, seeks out the world, a place likely to be more varied than the self, particularly than the artist self, so long protected from dubious influence. In periods of well-being, the world of external object and event enters perception. Focus moves outward as well as inward. I believe my analyst was correct in his remark. The world, whether zealously monitored or allowed a looser hand-the world will indeed provide sorrow enough. The intensity and frequency and type of that sorrow depend to a painful extent on luck, which is called luck because it cannot be controlled or lured or annexed.
We can't do anything about whatever luck decides to do with us. We can, however, refuse the narrowness of that determined unhappiness the will insists on. Occasionally something will give pleasure, will actually charm or divert or entertain, will, to use that terrifying word, disarm. Insofar as our fearful, compulsive, rigid natures allow, I think we should welcome what follows, since for natures of this kind, there is no embrace until one has been disarmed. The moment when the twenty-six year-old Sylvia meets a fellow poet, Adrienne Rich, whose work she has been following with admiration.
The year is , a rainy evening just after Ted Hughes's reading at Radcliffe College. Plath, ever watchful of competitors, homes in, deftly sketching Rich for her purposes-she is "round," with black shining hair, black eyes, an "honest, forthright" manner and a red "tulip-like" umbrella.
Then the coup de grace: Plath, from behind her spy's veil of cocktail decorum, judges Rich a trifle "opinionated. Here they are, of course, two as-yet-unveiled literary colossae, sizing each other up through the post-reading chat. But what is bizarre about the meeting, glimpsing it from the future, is the nearcomical aura of tamped-down power in the room-that is to say, in the room of Plath's inhibited prose. The heady breeze of things to come riffles those glimmering, hesitant observations. A forthright little Adrienne Rich and a shy courteous Plath.
Side by side for a few moments, smiling. Do we think we know them in this little grey interlude? Better than they know themselves? I had forgotten that Plath and Rich were such contemporaries. Adrienne Rich was born in , Sylvia Plath in I'd somehow thought of Plath as part of an earlier generation of poets, when in fact at the time of their meeting, Rich was decidedly her senior, not just in age, but in accomplishment. Plath's poems were printed in magazines; it would not be until that she signed a contract for The Colossus, her first book of poems.
The Literary Establishment had patted them on the head, or not. Plath had managed some too-obvious imitations of Roethke; her book manuscript, recently submitted to the Yale Younger Poets Prize, had lost "by a whisper," according to Dudley Fitts then editor of the Series , due to its "lack of technical finish," just as Rich's A Change of World had been cheerfully condescended to by W. Auden who'd selected her work for the prize who praised her poems in the book's introduction as: "neatly and modestly dressed, [they] speak quietly but do not mumble, respect their elders Wives and future mothers, sipping bourbon or sherry, discussing "The Thought-Fox"-when just "a whisper" below the surface of their late-twenties sangfroid, the rapids where we later watched them rising, cresting swirled over their lives.
The background: a dying decade, the Fifties, that methodicallymortared brick edifice, mortgaged repression. Up on the roof each poet's doppelginger is poised, on tiptoe. This is the precipice from which each will leap into She or the third person "I" , into the dramatic persona of Adrienne Rich or Sylvia Plath, each name henceforth undifferentiated from the poet's individual life. But on that rainy night, neither Plath's nor Rich's identity as a woman was a matter of literary urgency, a matter to be addressed directly in poetry.
The passionate vindication of women's lot that would seize the imagination of the reading public, the high voltage wired in the infrastructures of their poems, had not yet been activated. In , Rich would publish Snapshots of a Daughter-in-Law and not long after, Plath's posthumous Ariel would begin to appear in the bookstores. Plath's journal entry inadvertently reminds us that not too long hence an evolved image of the "woman poet" would begin to take shape in consciousness. One could say that the day Rich and Plath met was the day the phrase "woman poet" kicked in the womb.
Red tulip umbrellas aside, these were not poet-ingenues. But, again, I am "reading into" the moment, I am inventing what I absolutely believe to be the truth. Woman poet-the term might appear, on the face of it, condescending, nevertheless it came to exist in the s and '70s as less a descrip. Gazing at Plath's "snapshot"': two remarkable twentieth-century poets tugging on their dress gloves, smiling, you smile yourself. You know that each is going to have it out with history, as Rich said later about Dickinson, "on her own premises.
Prior to this era, the categories were set well apart. Of course there was the tOber-frau-ish "poetess," a dread diminutive with an arched eyebrow over every syllable. But there were always women who wrote poetry. Some major voices, some not. There were also wives, mistresses, girlfriends, secretaries.
Sometimes women poets got mixed up with a few of the above. How to tell them apart? There used to be a "black book" certain poets male would share with each other before out-of-town readings. Names and phone numbers of young ladies in Poughkeepsie or Duluth who were guaranteed by previous trial and documented experimentation to be impressed enough by a bit of offhand enjambment to morph into pulsing dithyrambs and cheerfully succumb. What if one of these Black Book entries wrote poetry? How would she be classified? A red-hot footnote or a poetess? Or both? The distinction, "woman poet," was meant to do more than just provide an instant rejoinder-replacement for two polite epithets: poetess and phone book muse.
It was meant to bear witness to a truth. It was meant to complement Muriel Rukeyser's famous lines, if just one woman told the truth about her life, the world would split open. The aforementioned "black book" summed up the sexual politics of the Fifties. Cocktails and hushed conversation after the reading and all the little poetesses in a row. A discreet phone number for later in the evening.
A world, orderly, predictable. But soon, very soon, the world did indeed split open. Carolyn Kizer, unintentionally exhibiting the extreme stress placed on that pre-split world, recently published Great Poems by Women. She took pains as she states in her introduction not to include any poems about "romance and domesticity.
Her anthology begins with a woman writing anonymously in the fifteenth century, then she orchestrates a choir of voices rising to the twentieth. Women, she says, have expressed a loathing of war and killing more frequently than their male counterparts and have also written many poems about the loneliness of the task of writing.
The question of self, for a woman poet not to mention a queen's problems in this regard! The anthology bears witness to this "dislocation" of self through five centuries of poetry by women, a far cry from the more familiar and passive complaints of the "feminine psyche"--cloaked in the forbearance of the Madonna or chattering at length, drowned in domestic detail: the child, the kitchen, the marriage. It is clear that male mockery of, or indifference to, these often anguished but ordinary circumstances of women's lives removed the possibility of "respectable" topoi, and the kind of ready pathos granted to heroic verse or father-son poems.
Is Carolyn Kizer joining in the mockery? Not at all. Clearly, what Kizer wishes to avoid, as "the other experience" is at last allowed a chorus of voices, is the further imposition of "approved subjects. And what is a woman's self? When ancient "Ephelia" cries, for example, "My soul is Masculine," it does not seem to me that she wishes to be male, rather that she wishes mightily to express the soul of Ephelia.
Again and again this sentiment appears as a longing for the validation of a past, a tradition. And not surprisingly, the voice is often wounded or angry. I willingly accept Cassandra's fate To speak the truth, although believed too late. It's necessary to bear in mind that these poets were as Kizer points out almost without exception, members of the upper classes. These "titled dames" kept servants who provided the time necessary for writing.
Later, says Kizer, when the aristocratic ladies gave up on literature, or gave up on circulating it, writing was taken over by "spinsters, who predominate, from the Brontes right down to Marianne Moore. Tinker, tailor, spy. One notices the difference, as we say, in emphasis. It appears that to write freely one needs relief from exacting circumstance-one needs independence and an understanding of what exactly silence implies.
One might infer, then, that in order to write poetry a woman needs an unmarried self, a "spinster" self. Besides a room of one's own and a little sugarbowl. Anne Killigrew's longing to "speak the truth" is echoed through the centuries-though this longing is altogether distinct from the "truth and honor" code of men.
The inclination to bear witness seems aligned with the missing self. By the time we arrive at Adrienne Rich and Sylvia Plath, the woman poet's tradition remains no tradition. The desire for an historical self and the desire for a "truth-telling self' or "real self' merge into a single drama, or a single dramatic voice. In Rich's case, the dramatic personae that began to fill her pages seemed especially to young poets like me, reading her avidly irrefutably, necessarily her.
Scores of male critics reviled her in intemperate prosewhile women read her passionately, changing their lives on a line from. I can vouch for it: the voice speaking from her poems changed me, gave me courage as a young poet. When I arrived in New York City in , 1 joined Radical Feminist consciousness-raising groups, but I could not express my own sense of struggle. I eventually sought out women in prison, because their isolation and extremity reflected a dislocation I felt in my own life and writing. It struck me that the women in prison were living lives capable of providing instruction and I went into the prisons without knowing exactly what that meant.
I set up a writing program for inmates at the Women's House of Detention on Riker's Island, then expanded the program called Art Without Walls, nee Free Space to other prisons, recruited writer-friends and began to teach writing workshops. I fervently wished that from this most "4silent" population, strong voices would emerge.
I was twenty-four years old, too young to understand the source of my own sense of women as "outlaws," my romantic regard for women who lived outside the law: family, church, politics. I felt that women were natural anarchists, so I frequented a setting where, I hoped, all abstractions about women and their behavior would become passionately, relievedly literal.
I would encounter women whose lives had been acts of defiance, women unafraid. In my passion for extremity, I wanted the poem itself to change Rich, "Transcendental Etude" There was a breakthrough that thrilled me: the humble job of editing a poem began to reflect the emergence of female identity. Rich comments on "'The Tourist and the Town": The pronouns in the third part of the poem were originally masculine. But the tourist was a woman, myself, and I never saw her as anything else. In , when the poem was written, some notion of "0universality"' prevailed which made the feminine pronoun suspect, "Cpersonal.
An act as small yet symbolic as altering the pronouns in a poem restored it to that "0other universality," the unrecognized referent, She. A She who was also an 1"I' The self in women's poetry, by that altered pronoun, had become immediate and historical. And, unlike previous centuries, its immediacy and historicism rose from ordinary women. Nothing seemed to be separating who she was from a new past and a future. No more spinsters and spies. Well, she's long about her coming, who must be more merciless to herself than history.
Her mind full to the wind, I see her plunge breasted and glancing through the currents, taking the light upon her at least as beautiful as any boy or helicopter. The "she" of Ariel, on the other hand-fiery, dark, death-obsessed, explosively self-destructive-was conflated with Plath's personal desperation. This was an alternative vision of a future that liberated the suffering consciousness from its painful constraints but destroyed the physical self in the process. Plath captured the collective imagination with her challenge to an unjust past.
Rich too summoned history and held it to account, but simultaneously beamed it forward in time; Rich offered the possibility of turning, transformed, from the ruins of the past and in true Sixties and post-Wordsworthian style dreamed of a common language, a relocation of feminism, outside the "phallo-centered, written-out" vulgate. Plath's vision or the vision of Ariel occurred at the bloody intersection of the personal and historical-and Plath, like a well-trained terrorist, blew herself up with the corrupt installation.
So we have the two stances: I am bombarded yet I stand I have been standing all my life in the direct path of a battery of signals the most accurately-transmitted most untranslatable language in the universe. Rich, "Planetarium". Plath, "Ariel" What did these passages convey to a young woman poet? Two statements. Two shapes of longing, one shape projecting its own arc like a missile and the second a tower, Mrs.
Ramsay's lighthouse beacon, the longed-for horizon, unflinching. The two positions appealed to me. Rich's stood for bold, unintimidated word-power, courage of conviction; Plath's for fearless harrowing insight, Houdini-like escapes from the conventional idiom. More significantly, both poets gave speech to women's silence-and Rich's language embodied women's power to act, women's new and unintimidated anger and though this can only be glimpsed over time and I couldn't see it then her language also revealed her fierce uncompromising Shelleyean spirit as ultimately capable of renewal, reconsideration, forgiveness.
Plath turned feelings of personal impotence into inverse power, destructive ecstasy and she possessed, by nature, a manner of expression that while infinitely transcendent, kept a grim eyeball on the transgressor. Plath was unforgiving, a virtuoso debt-collector. I rehearsed these two eloquent shapes, admiring, in my imagination and catalogued them as emergent "selves. Apart from the compelling poetry, the implacability of each shape syntactically and politically and yes, as a conventional "masculine" shape now re-limned revealed something wonderful and ominous about the future.
But then, I had always been seduced by an idea of "fate" in poetry, as in life. I watched Rich stand firm, weathering the assault of criticism, Plath ejecting from the poem's argument like a pilot from a cockpit, catapulting headlong into her own explosion-and I was edified. I burrowed in my journal and found a couple of "prophecies" I now saw fulfilled: Yet I am now and then haunted by some semi-mystic very profound life of a woman, which shall all be told on one occasion; and time shall be utterly obliterated; future shall somehow blossom out of the past.
Virginia Woolf. Rainer Maria Rilke Certainly Ted Hughes understood what was in the air, the emerging shapes of longing: A real self, as we know, is a rare thing. The direct speech of a real self is rarer still When a real self finds language, and manages to speak, it is surely a dazzling event-as Ariel was. But Ariel's self, it turned out, was to a significant degree an invention of editing. Hughes changed Plath's original manuscript order by adding and dropping poems, altering sequence, thereby reinforcing certain themes so dramatically that what remains of Ariel is an astonishing, aggressive work: a suicide note to the world.
As the critic Marjorie Perloff has previously established, this was not the book Plath had intended to publish. Melinda Patton, a graduate student at USC, recently described Plath's original order as an "epic journey. They taste the Spring. The point is that Plath and her suicide-persona became one. Clearly, she herself chose to end her life. But did she intend that her book a book she dedicated to her children be read as evidence of self-destruction?
We will never know. The "Russian roulette-playing" Plath with, as Lowell had it, "six cartridges in the cylinder" , that reckless "self' cheering for its own annihilation, the desperado we all rode behind, sprang fully-armed from the head of Ted Hughes. In her momentous essay, "When We Dead Awaken," Rich refuses the "traditional" view of the imagination or male appropriation of its contexts in what reads like a chilling indictment: " And the idea of an unvarying self-truth, once a pyschological fiction, became an unassailable tenet of a redeemable, demonstrable past. I was in grade school in , the year Plath and Rich met for the first time, on that rainy night at Radcliffe.
I didn't encounter Plath until I was in graduate school in I remember my poetry teacher, Kathleen Fraser, reading "Daddy" aloud-and the effect of those brutal hypnotic epithets, incantatory but explosive: a poem of flung grenades. Who was this woman?
Where did she get the nerve to write like that? The late afternoon sun streaming through the window lit up Kathleen Fraser's waist-length auburn hair as she sat on a high stool in front of the classroom reading the poems. She looked, I remember, luminous, back-lit, as the harsh syllables fell from her lips.
The Ariel poems: I didn't just read them-I breathed them in, they ran in my blood. I was a timid, uncertain poet, a girl bruised in the way young women in their early twenties, trying to live independently, are inevitably bruised by circumstance. They have discovered that the world is not exactly welcoming them into its "pre-race" paddock, into the fraternal chambers where the networks get woven, political contacts settled on a handshake.
Was I bitter? No, rather I was wary. I stepped carefully. It was the last year of the Sixties and women without men could still fall into a black hole and disappear forever. I did not see, for all my burgeoning feminism, how women could ever step free of men's power. Nevertheless, I routinely thought in terms of this conflict: I found this exhilarating. A violent chord reverberated inside me. I wanted to hail women as outlaws of poetry-and for me, Plath and Rich filled the bill. If Plath was a literary Jeanne d'Arc, riding headstrong, burning, whipping her mount, straight into the jaws of death, then Adrienne Rich was Antigone, an equally fierce, equally unintimidated voice-an authority above conventional law.
Her line about Marie Curie, that "her wounds came from the same source as her power," still thrills me in its stark rightness. I was grateful to her, I am still grateful, that she had the courage to stand up to Creon, to hurl his words back at him. I never found her excessive. Rather, her outspoken voice told me that women. Here was a poet training the searchlight beam of "the female gaze" on the world, engaging the male gaze and spilling over on the surrounding ruins.
I recall that Rich was widely attacked by critics for a poem called "Rape" in which she illustrated like a police artist sketching a suspect the claustrophobic all-surrounding sense of threat felt by a raped woman giving testimony in a police precinct about her ordeal; giving language, in the process, to women's darkest suspicion of male "authority. Statistics bear out Rich's portrait of female distrust, yet this illustration was thought of as hyperbolic, malicious. Rich revealed that there are divisions in male and female assumptions about a shared reality; her revelations moved women to insight, anger, and the will to change.
Yet what gradually emerged after the collective "internalization" of poems like "Rape" and others, was a model of poetic discourse based roughly on the act of testimony. A voice testifying to mistreatment, for example, could offer itself as substitution in itself for imaginative knowledge in a poem. This poetic approach quickly became popular as a kind of verbal emergency, the post-trauma voice repeating its harrowing experience as for a "transcript. Whereas Rich wished to demonstrate a sensibility, the poems that followed wished to be that sensibility.
That a poem evolves from a popular consciousness has no special significance in and of itself, it happens all the time. Nevertheless, though it is commonplace to suggest that the attractions of unadorned exhortative speech are many-it is only criticism, in its applications, that provides the architecture of the interpretation of that consciousness. In this sense, criticism is like a funhouse mirror, reflecting and distorting at once. Thus, a "second wave," which was a combined force of expressive and critical solidarity, hit the long expanse of shore covered with the footprints of Plath and Rich.
Boland remembers the cold, the "frost smoking" on the windowsill of her garden flat. When she thinks of Plath she sees her by herself with two babies under three and she remembers the quality of that cold. Eavan Boland also believes that women need to re-connect to a past, inhabit a self, but first she asks that some re-thinking be done.
She has even "created a tradition"-if we read her poem "The Journey" as a genesis vision. In the poem, Sappho establishes a kind of matrilinear "line" of women poets, through Boland. I have brought you here so you will know forever the silences in which are our beginnings When I read this, it seemed to me that Boland had done something that Adrienne Rich had long discussed-she had established a connection, indeed a right of "succession" to a woman's past, even though the poem belied her efforts by its insistence on silence as a process of understanding.
The impulse is not theoretical; Boland directs herself as a character in the poem's drama. She points to the poem's gainsaying, the poem's own subversion of Sappho's message, then lets the poem stand as its own object. It is important that the poem settle in its place "outside the story," in the margins of the Sixth Book, for there it begins to glow with new power.
The "legacy" of the tradition refuses to be a "history" or to bear witness to any "new" past. She isolates the same crucial "moments" in metaphor that Rich excavates then rejects as poisoned by tradition. But where Rich dreams of a neo-proto-language, Boland wants to re-enter. In this fervor, she defies most poststructuralist tradition as well, since woman becomes the real subject, not an object of regard.
Further, her intent, unlike that of the deconstructionists, is not to show us that all texts subvert their author's intentions, but that women poets can quite deliberately subvert the textual assumptions of the dominant tradition, re-shape them or honor the inevitable silence within them. For my own part, I had discovered that few women had interpreted Rich as I did: i.
The desert crossed by Rich was now an overpopulated frontier town loud with voices, and whereas Rich's voice opened a new shape, these other voices often seemed to make the world smaller. Instead of naming and re-imagining the familiar, the familiar constituted an ongoing grievance. In her book Object Lessons, she sees herself caught between the "heresy of romanticism" and the "new feminist angers. We have had, Boland feels, enough rhetoric of ownership. The strength of "the expressive mind" has made feminist argument till now.
The spirit in which Carolyn Kizer dismisses the "domestic" would not elicit approval from Boland, but she would understand it. What she herself prefers is a quiet coup in the world we take for granted, the "sensory world which inflected the mortality of the body. Boland's "act of rescue" is a technique, not a stance. It too wishes to alter the shape of longing, but not by creating, as Michel Foucault says, "absences" that must be filled.
Women would not remain preoccupied with unnaming, dismantling the "master's narratives. Female characters have been described as static, fixed entities in oral literatures, and structuralists and their heirs, the semioticians, often generalize from oral texts to describe women as objects, things to be exchanged, markers of place both geographically and textually.
Women as objects. The object is herself. How to spring women from this prison? How to move this object, this self? By authenticating lives? Simply by re-telling women's stories as history? This is the crucial choice, and Boland's desire to "subjectify" the object differs crucially from the elevation of circumstantial detail. A poem I believe is an act or an action ; a poem is forever moving through space.
To me, it is a grave misrepresentation to substitute stasis for this animation. In this "inert" category sits the self-referential speaker who does not move beyond self-acknowledgement, the subject matter that limits itself to "documentable" experience. The irony is that the two poets we know so "intimately" are rarely personally revealing. A poem can seem to embody a "biographical" self, when in fact it has none. Ted Hughes says Plath's poetry is "devoid of circumstantial biographical detail" and he is correct.
Rich's poems also lack ongoing "personal facts. In Plath's case, Hughes speculates somewhat disingenuously given his editing of Ariel that "that lack" has given rise to the "fantasies" of Plath's readers. Despite the transparency of his position, Hughes may have unintentionally touched on a useful critical insight. To project "autobiography" is to possess the subject, to "own" it, to recruit it for a cause. Since Wordsworth introduced the ego into poetry, we have labored to understand exactly what autobiography is and why it has such power to persuade us.
I believe autobiography is fiction like any other narrative. One apparently arguable difference from fiction is in the intensity of the moral discourse resident in many life stories, particularly lives of suffering. Still, the power of this discourse is in no way compromised or jeopardized by the inevitable selection process that attends all "telling.
On the other hand, if its power to persuade is based on the insistence on a moral tautology "all victims are innocent and good" it manipulates the reader and provides catharsis without understanding. The difference in Rich's "story of the self' and Plath's for that matter is that they are not based on parable-like narratives and they admit that there is an extenuating world. The movement in the poems is not toward self-justification or self-enclosure , but toward insight, movement out of the self. For alas, the inescapabable condition of autobiography is justification.
What other dangers lie in the illusion and undeniable persuasiveness of the truth-telling self? As Louise Gliick observes, "But truth of this kind will not permit itself simply to be looked back on; it makes, when it is summoned, a kind of erosion, undermining the present with the past, substituting for the shifts and approximations and variety of anecdote the immutable fixity of fate and for curiosity regarding an unfolding future, absolute knowledge of that future. The assumption of this self fixes not only a "history," but the nature of anticipation and expectation.
A "stasis" as literal as that which is imposed by tradition on women is imposed on the imagination. Further, if the dominant tradition has persisted in "objectifying" women, surely the counter-impulse, that of over-subjectifying the self, is as grievous an error. When ambivalence toward the self is missing, as Gliick says, the written re-creation, no matter how artful, forfeits emotional authority. When Sylvia Plath pulls out all the stops in "Daddy"I have always been scared of you, With your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo.
And your neat mustache And your Aryan eye, bright blue. Every woman adores a Fascist, The boot in the face, the brute Brute heart of a brute like you. In fact, this crudely-expressed, purposefully-childish intent is emphatically part of the pathos and persona of the poem. Yet obvious as its effects are, they seem refined by comparison to the following-Sharon Olds's "The Takers": Hitler entered Paris the way my sister entered my room at night, sat astride me, squeezed me with her knees, held her thumbnails to the skin of my wrists and peed on me, knowing Mother would never believe my story.
It was very silent, her dim face above me gleaming in the shadows, the dark gold smell of her urine spreading through the room, its heat boiling on my legs, my small pelvis wet.
Seven Gothic Tales
The difference between "Daddy" and "The Takers" is the difference between a poem and testimony. Sharon Olds is an extremely talented poet, and like Plath's "Daddy," this does not represent her best work. The fact that it was written, however, at another moment in history than "Daddy" is obvious in every facet of its presentation.
Unlike "Daddy," the poem lacks any noticeable rhythmic pattern beyond the flat conversational tone of the speaker. As well, the poem has a "journalistic" feel; unlike Plath's poem, we are presented with a recounting of incontrovertible "facts," as distinct from a child's nightmarish, "real" imaginings. Time is the key element once again.
Beyond the unforgettable initial simile, in which the violation of the child's body is equated with historical aggression and, modestly, the celebration of the subjugation of "civilization" and beauty , the poem remains like reportage, essentially static. Plath shifts tones, as if mindful of her poem's. There is no such "layering" in Olds, rather a singleness of purpose that manifest itself in a stubborn plangency of tone.
How interesting then, given the solid weight of these effects, that "Daddy"' still seems the more shocking, indeed, the more intrinsically "true" poem. My belief is that the negotiation between differing "truths" of the self is dialectical, exhilarating and essential.
It is a profound act of subversion-something like Keats'Is C"negative capability. Language teaches us humility and anarchy, and simultaneously. Frank Bidart, a passionately ":Cautobiographical", poet, addresses some of these questions in the interview which ends In the Western Night. The notion of the poem as action, as he points out, is Aristotelian, tragedy as the imitation of an action.
But as any actor will confirm, those tears can come from anywhere: literal, empathetic or invented sorrow. The emotional authority, the emotional "truth" of those "tears" should be recognized as the a priori of the poem's action. But inseparable from the poet's need to create, to fabricate, to subvert. He describes a wonderful experiment performed by Keats: his search for "the true voice of feeling," as distinct from "the false beauty proceeding from Art. Keats found that he could not separate the two. Mainly because there was another kind of tradition already operating in prison: an.
Everyone came to know what everyone else's record or "rap sheet" contained, but no one talked openly about these things. In an environment where no one admitted guilt and the crime was not discussed, the idea of "telling all" was novel, even slightly abhorrent. And when after weeks of exhorting my students to draw on their lives for their "truth" they finally began, tentatively, to document biography in verse, I discovered that there was a direct relationship between gravity of offense and willingness to divulge one's history.
Quite naturally, writing about how one became a shoplifter or "booster" was a bit less painful than providing details of how a family member died at one's hand. Then one woman, a new arrival in the workshop, broke the ice. Patricia wrote an unforgettable poem about how the prison authorities had denied her the right to attend her baby daughter's funeral. Her twoyear-old girl had been hospitalized after a fall just prior to Patricia's arrest and had died during her first day in prison, the previous day. Patricia wrote a savage, bitter, uncompromising poem in classic English ballad meter that called for the reader to "witness" this injustice, this unyielding official refusal to allow a mother to hold her dead baby in her arms one last time.
She supported herself by whatever means were available to her. And it seems she'd been arrested as an "accessory" in an overwhelming number of cases, as I'd recently discovered, women "offenders" were companions to men who committed crimes of armed robbery, larceny, breaking and entering, i. She had been sent to prison to await sentencing while her baby died without her.
Patricia was inconsolable-and unforgiving. She read the poem aloud, weeping, then let the workshop members copy it so that it could be sent out "on the drum," passed hand to hand inside the institution. As their teacher, did I think this intemperate? I believed the poem was its own force. After eliciting "truth" from these women, how could I caution them against "publication" of truth? Though I must admit, my sense of any poem's persuasive power precluded its being taken seriously behind bars, where it seemed to me that daily suffering exceeded language.
I was taken aback by how many women wept at Pa. And beyond that initial shock, I never expected to see such regard duplicated in the minds of the prison authorities. I assumed that the guards would be indifferent to the expressive power of verse. Just how cynical I was about the influence of poetry was borne out by this reluctance to advise and caution. Yet I had always thought of myself as passionately, profoundly devoted to poetry-and its influence on the soul.
Nonetheless, the desperateness of Patricia's plight moved everyone and I went personally to plead with the warden to allow her to visit her daughter's grave. The warden shook her head. On my next visit to the prison, a few days later, I discovered that Patricia had been thrown into the "Bing" solitary confinement for an "attempt to incite a riot.
I expected to find her distraught, but she was filled with energy, she'd been scratching "poems" into the wall criss-crossed with graffiti from previous tenants using a bent spoon. She begged me to bring her Bing contraband-paper, a pen-so that she could write more. Her eyes were bright and fierce. She told me that she'd been "freed" by this experience, she felt more powerful than she ever had before in her life. I left that cell knowing with absolute clarity what had happened. I'd told my students to write the truth.
Now one of them had and had been censored, had suffered cruel and unusual punishment as a result of telling that truth. I remember thinking dazedly that poetry did make things happen. I went straight to the warden's office and stood before her, demanding that Patricia be released. I told her that she had acted precipitously, that the institution would never succeed in censoring the truth. I asked her to allow me to bear "responsibility" for what had happened; I'd even be willing to go to the Bing in Patricia's place or suffer whatever penalty they deemed appropriate.
If Patricia was not released, if the prison would not let me take on myself some of Patricia's punishment, then I would go to the press and publish an expos6 of this barbarous act of repression. I remember I used that word, "barbarous. Inside the file folder were coroner's photographs of a child who had been beaten to death. She said the child was Patricia's two-year-old daughter. The warden told me that it was the D.
The warden said that Patricia had used the poem and me to try and gain sympathy for herself, to get me to plead for a furlough. Once released, the warden said, she'd have disappeared. I handed the file back to her. I couldn't bear to look any longer at that tiny shattered body. But there was something else. Not even Patricia, she went on, realized how deeply the poem would affect the other women in prison, routinely separated from their children, some destined never to see them again. It is important to note here that the Women's Correctional Institution on Riker's Island was a detention facility, nicknamed The Women's House of Detention, as well as a prison for sentenced inmates.
A majority of the women were not convicted of any crime, they were awaiting sentencing, unable to afford bail. At that time, in the early s, it was possible and legal for a detention inmate to "fall off the calendar"- and end up waiting up to two years to stand trial. Since then, the laws have been changed and a detainee must appear before a judge within an allotted time.
Then, as now, a woman's children-if her relatives were unable or unfit to keep them-were routinely made wards of the state at the time of her arrest, before any court appearance. A woman might finally be judged innocent-and still have lost her family. Screaming the poem at the officers, louder and louder, gathering in groups to read the poem aloud-why?
Because the poem- said: women have no power, the State takes your children away from you, flings them into foster homes-you may never see your children again, even at death. They'd pushed up against the bars, calling out to the violators of their maternal rights. Give them back, motherfuckers, give them back. The emotional authority of Patricia's voice shook the foundations of the prison with more force than the planes taking off every twelve seconds from La Guardia Airport, just across the bay. Give her back, motherfucker, give her back.
I looked at the warden. She had the unthinkable photographs in front of her. But she was the State, all that my M arcuse- saturated brain had learned to distrust. Yet she had proof. Whatever the truth was, I was still responsible for Patricia's time in the Bing. And I was responsible, the warden agreed with me on this. But she would not release Patricia from. Why, I asked her, if she is guilty of standing by as someone killed her daughter- why is she still writing self-exonerating poems up there?
But I knew the answer even as I asked the question. Patricia was still following my assignment-telling the truth as she perceived it. The warden hoped that I had learned a lesson. My "punishment" was simply that I be allowed to go on teaching poetry at The Women's House. Which was, of course, intolerable. I wanted to run away and never come back. But now I had to return in a different capacity. An "offender" whose offense was treating lives and life stories, with the condescension that oversimpifies truth.
Each day Patricia spent in the Bing another three days, then she was arraigned and eventually sentenced and transferred would be on my conscience, along with my unwitting promotion of a situation that allowed the prison to freely use its formidable, unappealable powers of censorship and punishment. But what about my own version of this story? Certainly I have heightened some aspects, dimmed others. I do not.
In memory, the images shift in the warden's hand. What she is showing me, as I recall, is her truth, her reason for maintaining institutional order. The child's abused body exists here only as the object of other narratives, including the State's. It has no subject. And the child's voice is silenced forever. Could anyone presume to speak for her? Sappho's voice cautions from Boland's poem as we beg to witness: some things are beyond speech, beyond song, not beyond love. I know there are many ways to view this story. I was negligent and presumptuous; that's indisputable.
Some people may suspect that the warden was duplicitous, offering pictures of another inmate's child. Maybe Patricia wanted to get out to locate the pimp, to kill him. I don't know. I will never know, though later I heard from an appellate lawyer that Patricia had turned state's evidence against her co-defendant, the pimp. To deny the importance of that poem would be to deny the significance of art, for the rhetorical power of its language moved people to tears, caused them to stand up and demand justice from their jailers. Where are our children? This is a House of Detention, we've not yet been convicted of a crime and you rob us of our families?
Patricia had unwittingly written to a bigger truth. And this.
Melodrama in Contemporary Film and Television | SpringerLink
On the other hand, to accept the poem's veracity as an inherent component of its art would lead only to the "immutability," the stasis of prescription Gliick describes, and to self-justification, indefensible and ultimately impossible. Patricia, perhaps guilty of her daughter's death, perhaps not, chose to tell her story.
Her "real self' poem was the avenue to absolution. Instead of a woman who killed her child, she became a heroine, a courageous victim.