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JILL MANDRAKE

The poet and artist P.K. Page wrote Mexican Journal (Porcupine’s Quill) from 196 to 1963, while posted in Mexico with her husband, Ambassador W. Arthur Irwin. I picked up this book thinking I’d have nothing to relate to within its pages, but I was mistaken: I couldn’t put it back down. Then I read it again, and couldn’t put it down the second time, either. Page recorded riveting accounts of both her public- and private-life activities. She candidly described her first impressions of various dignitaries who visited Mexico in the early ’6s, including John and Jacqueline Kennedy: “Jackie got off the plane looking like a twelve-year-old girl back from school and a bit shy… She is better looking in photos than in life and he is perhaps the reverse.” Page also met a number of artists, mystics and other notables, including the multi-talented Leonora Carrington (as far as I can fathom, not related to the British artist Dora Carrington). Page wrote of an early meeting with her: “Have been helping in my spare moments with Leonora Carrington’s play. She wrote it when she was eighteen. I know little about it except that it is about a girl of eighteen who has been kept in her nursery all that time and who falls in love with her rocking horse. It is a tragedy.” Page had a rare talent for capturing someone’s essence with just a few sublime sentences. Besides the ability to portray her associates, and the spirit of the times, Page was adept at detailing states of mind. She sums up the despair of writer’s block with this entry: “Scraping the bottom of the barrel hurts when you’re the barrel.” And that is only Part One. In Part Two, Page writes extensively about the spiritual and mystic practices that she pursued during her stay in Mexico. It’s worth reading to encounter her distinct and, in some cases, transcendent observations.

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JILL MANDRAKE

Jill Mandrake writes strange but true stories and leads Sister DJ’s Radio Band, featuring rhythm and blues covers, post-vaudeville original tunes and occasional comedy bits. https://hido.bandcamp.com/album/the-neti-pot

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