Friday, October 16, 2009

Joan Tooker Hutton Landis

Joan Tooker Hutton [Landis] was born in Morristown, New Jersey on April 22, 1930 to Margret Foster Hutton and Louis Tooker Hutton.
Joan in Beirut, 1964

Joan Hutton

 Joan and Cousins: Joan writes, Jan. 5 2010: they are from Left to Right: Becky Foster [Lightfoot], little Dudley, Joanie holding Ben. Barbara Chalfin and Bruce (B.G.) Chalfin on the porch at Kahdena. Bobby and B.G. are the children of Aunt Eleanor (Mag's oldest sister) whom I called Aunt Nono. Bobby died a few years ago, B.G. was found around the time of the family reunion in Milton but is lost again. Maybe Kit can find him? Aunt Nono was Eleanor Pierrepont Foster Chalfin. She was married to Bruce Chalfin. Her children were Barbara Chalfin Powers and Bruce Galveston Chalfin. I have lists of all Barbara's children. Ben says this picture was probably taken in 1936, the year he was born.

Joan Tooker Hutton Landis
Written January 2010
Media, PA at 440 Osage Ln.

I was born on April 22, 1930 at Dr. Mills’ Hospital in Morristown, N.J. My first memories are of jumping my crib across the floor in an apartment on Washington St., of a small blanket I carried with me called my “rahrah”, and sitting down in a cold puddle in a blue snowsuit. Also, in New Paltz, being unfairly spanked by my father who thought I was running toward the road when I was only going to pick up a chestnut under the hedge. 99 Franklin St., where we lived from l934- l938, I remember vividly as an early heaven. We were often at Kahdena, my grandparents’ house, which remains as the imaginative center of my life in various ways, as the setting for novels, dreams, memories. (See its re-occurrence in my book of poems, That Blue Repair.) It was my palace with its many rooms, stained glass window, back stairs that led to a kitchen of warmth and good smells and a walk-in lilac grove where I spent many hours. I know we were often “poor” in t he 30’s but I never experienced poorness except through watching the tramps who would ask for food and work, and sit around their little fires in the woods nearby at night. I also remember being locked in our Ford car by my father while he went into a bar. I screamed myself hoarse for what seemed like hours. My first terror.
When I was eight, we moved to 3 Conklin Ave., Egbert Hill where I learned to play the piano (on loan), sled, climb trees, play complicated, made-up games and write stories. In l939 or 40, I inherited $10,000 from my Great Uncle Sam. The interest accruing from this allowed me to go to boarding school (All my diaries from this time are stored in a plastic box at 450 Osage.)
At 12, I went with mother to Florida where divorces were available. I remember the long train trip to Miami among many soldiers and the bright room I shared with mother in the house of Ms. George. The school there was very poor academically but the riding stable was a new center of excitement and I fell in love with Shamrock, a Morgan horse that I was allowed to feed, groom and ride. I detested the lawyer who kept pumping me about my father and as much as I disliked Lewis T. Hutton, I refused to testify against him.
Returning to Morristown, I went to high school, acted in some plays, refound my group of friends from George Washington School. During two weeks and then a month in the summer, I went to camp Mogisca where I wrote stories and plays that were put on for the whole camp. I told my cabin mates that I had six brothers and sisters and a twin. Mother helped me in this scam by writing letters to me from them. I loved the communal living and a strange sense of power which I felt and which I kept as a secret. People seemed to like me and depend on me although I did not know why. I tried not to be proud but humble and funny. My name at camp was first Gulliver, then Tommy.
(Photo: Joan with Beardsley: "This picture of Beardsley was taken at 3 Conklin Ave when I was about 13 c. 1943)
In October of 1944, I went to Stoneleigh-Prospect Hill School in Greenfield, Mass. I had been mysteriously rejected by Northfield (I thought it was because of my divorced parents) and chose SPH because of a horse pictured in its ad. It was not rigorous academically but I immediately loved it. I learned to ski, was praised for increasingly sentimental themes and stories, usually won the English prize and was President of my class in my senior year. I played Pitti Sing in The Mikado at Deerfield where Ralph Oatley, the Director, encouraged me to go into the theater. My name at school was Dusty.
Joan and Kit c.1944: Photo courtesy of Kit

Mother, during these years, had moved to Norfolk,Conn. to help Uncle Linc raise my cousins, Becky and Ben. We called the house we lived in Hillbottom Hovel. We were very aware that most of our friends and acquaintances were very rich and that we were very poor. Probably good for us. I began to smoke and drink cocktails with Linc and Mother.

I applied to only one college, Bennington, and was accepted with a big scholarship. I was a week late in arriving as I had a leading role in a play by Capek (“Androcles and the Lion?”) at the Mahopac Playhouse. (An actress had gotten ill at the last moment and a friend from SPH who was in the costume dept. had recommended me.) Bennington was, at last, the academic heaven I had always dreamed of. I soon realized that I did not want to major in drama, the Dept. was poor, but in English. Ben Belitt’s Language and Literature, Stanley Kunitz’ Poetry Workshop, Howard Nemerov’s Yeats and Eliot, and Proust, Mannn and Joyce, Franklin Ford’s Modern European History, Fred Burkhardt’s Methods of Science and Kenneth Burke’s Literary Criticism were all high points of my four years.

I fell madly in love with Bill Hudson from Williams, Tom Guinzberg (Photo on right is Tom Guinzberg who was an editor of the Paris Review) from Yale and a few others.

In the summer of 48, I drove to Mexico with Annsy Irwin, Marcy Tyler and Wendy Apple in a 1938 Studebaker called Puta. We stayed with Annsy’s mother, Peggy Regler and her step father, Gustav, and travelled to Cuerna Vaca, Tepotzlan and Acapulco where we met four guys on the beach, one for each of us. Mine was Tony Cobb, a married man on a trial separation from his wife. We danced in the moonlight and spooned and met again in Mexico city where we drank tequila and listened to the Mariachis. We four drove back via California to Philadelphia; one of the most glorious summers of a lifetime.

For non-resident term in the sophomore year, I worked for Bill Sudduth and Silva Mardiste, an Estonian displaced person brought to this country by Sudduth and taken in by Bennington. We went by bus and train to the south, giving lectures, getting publicity in the local newspapers and staying with friends of ours and of Bill’s. Our week in Austin, Texas was memorable for the chance to stay in a sorority house, be showered with clothes, cars, dates by those girls and be promised fifty scholarships for D.P’s. Silva was wonderful during the whole trip and in telling the dramatic story of her capture by Russians and then Nazis and her work in a slave labor camp.

During the summer of 50, I worked as the Girl in the Iron Lung, a traveling show that went to fairs, carnivals and boardwalks. When this was written up for the college newspaper, a group of girls accused me of dishonesty and asked me to resign as Chair of the Judicial Committee. I refused. There were many meetings and community meetings on the subject until finally, some of the faculty persuaded the girls to back off.

I wrote my senior thesis as a novella, The Girl in the Iron Lung, (It was later accepted by New Directions for publication but cut down by the poet Hayden Carruth and withdrawn by me as unworthy! Stupid woman.) During Non-Resident Term in my senior year, I worked for Mademoiselle magazine and lived with six Benningtonians in an apt. on 57th St. I worked with a woman named Ann Kirschbaum of whom more anon.’ I was also an alto in the Octet.

After graduation, I went to Europe with Annsy Irwin and Martha (Toot) Hornblower. We toured England, Scotland and Wales with a Yale friend of Annsy’s, returned to France (where Ann met Pierre Bourgois) had a fine stay in Villefranche at a beautiful villa belonging to a relative of Annsy’s and then went to Italy where we lived in a pensione for about $1.00 per day. When my money began to run out, I booked a ticket home on the S.S. Argentina which turned out to be an immigrant ship that went from Naples to Greece to Halifax to N.Y. I started out in steerage, got moved to the poop deck and finally to first class. The rumor was that I was having an affair with an officer who let me use his room and bath for showers, but that was untrue. I did have one (mild) with Rolando Zerlino, a nice guy emigrating to the U.S.

In New York, I worked for Macmillan in Direct Mail and lived with Mrs. Longfellow, grandmother of my friend, Kristin Curtis. On Feb. 14, l952, I went to a housewarming given by Annie Kirschbaum and her cousin, Mariana Amram. There, I met a callow blond named Kendall Landis. We talked for only a few minutes and found one another wholly uninteresting. Then, on May 14, I was late to a wedding reception for Pat Fitzsimmons and Danny Cardozo at the Fifth Ave. Hotel. I sat in one of the two empty seats at the reception and soon, that same Kendall Landis plumped down in the other one. “Are you still a banker?” I asked him with some disdain. We traded retorts and after the reception, he borrowed five dollars and took me to the San Remo for supper. That was the beginning of a long love affair that is still in medias res after 57 years. (Read engagement announcement) We married on February 14, 1953, at Millstream House, spent our honeymoon on Nassau and lived in a cold water flat at 18 Cornelia St. I worked for Grove Press for $25.00 per week and free books.

Kendall was soon assigned to Paris branch of National City Bank (now Citibank) where we lived at 18 Rue de Chazelles, an apartment we took over from Peter Matthiessen and Patsy Southgate, complete with car, phonograph and Martine Mansiot, a maid. We later moved to 9 Rue Brunel from which Christopher was born on August 14, l954, at the Clinique du Roule. We rubbed his lips with garlic so he would be strong and brave. He almost died of dehydration at five months but was saved by an American doctor, Neil Rogers, at the American Hospital. T.G.

Kendall was reassigned to Beirut on ten days notice. We were taken under the wings of David and Doris Dodge. We lived near Rue Hamra in Ras Beirut with a potato field in front. We loved it there and were unhappy to be reassigned to NYC after only a year. Kendall found and fixed up a wonderful apartment at 317 E. 10th St. Joshua Mead was born on May 14, l957. In l958, after several months of intensive Arabic lessons at Berlitz, we packed up again and took a freighter, via Genoa, to Beirut and from there flew to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. In spite of amoebas and heat, we had a fascinating time there. We helped start a theater where we acted in Separate Tables, Picnic, The Glass Menagerie and Born Yesterday. Ethan Edwards was born on a home leave in l960 at the horrible hospital in Torrington. Back to Jeddah until 1962 and then to Beirut again. I became involved with the American Repertory Theater and starred in Something Unspoken, Oh Dad, Poor Dad, The Boyfriend and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (see the review by Caresse Crosby.) My first publication of poetry was in the Transatlantic Review. We spent unforgettable summers in Ainab where we had a long visit from mother and from Ruth Landis too. Our last post was in Morocco where we took a trip from Casa Blanca to Marrakesh, to Zagora, through the Atlas, to Fez and Rabat and back to Casa.

In the U.S., Kendall left the Bank, we stayed with Mother in Falls Village and finally decided to take a year at Wesleyan while K. decided what to do next. (We had attended a two-week alumnae seminar at Bennington in l965 which made education a possible goal.) We rented a split-level ranch in Middletown and all went back to school. I took all of Richard Wilbur’s courses, Poetry Workshop, American Poetry and Milton, and began publishing poems in The New York Times, The Far Point, The Cardinal. An interview with Wilbur was published in the Transatlantic Review. Courses with George Kreeger were also excellent. I began my Master’s Thesis, The Strategies of Joy: Modes of Transcendence in Milton, Emerson and Dickinson.

From Middletown, we moved to Bennington where Kendall became Director of Development and I, having turned down the Directorship of Admissions, worked in that office, finished my thesis and helped fix up our first house on Walloomsac Rd. I resumed my friendship with former professor, Ben Belitt and did an interview with him which was published in Midway. In the fall of 1971, I taught at North Adams State College in North Adams, My colleagues there tried to dissuade me from teaching Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist, too hard, they felt, for the students. I did and they loved it. Being mostly Catholics, they understood it profoundly. I hated to leave that job and Bennington where we had just started to make good friends.

In Swarthmore, I decided to go to Bryn Mawr and work for a doctorate. Fortunately, I won a Danforth Fellowship which paid all my expenses. I finally wrote a dissertation on Shakespeare’s Symbolic Geography and graduated in ‘84. My paper on Hamlet was chosen to be presented at the conference in Cambridge that year. I also published reviews and articles on Ben Belitt, Louise Gluck and John Peck in Salmagundi. In 77, I was asked to teach a course in Shakespeare at the Curtis Institute of Music. So began a new career which lasted for 24 years. The curriculum grew, I became the first chair of the Liberal Arts and helped in the process of attaining certification for Middle States. During my final year I organized a national search for my replacement and interviewed many candidates. The unanimous choice of the committee and the students was Jeanne McGinn. Hurrah.

Other highlights of the Swarthmore years were roles in the Faculty plays, The Drunkard, The Man who Came to Dinner, and Anything Goes for which I learned to tap dance and belt out the songs of Reno Sweeney.

In l991, we bought the house on Osage Lane.

We went every summer to Pig in a Poke, our beloved house in Granville, Vt. Tracy Winn, David Outerbridge and I formed a writing group that still meets as often as possible during the summer months. In 2000, I attended a seminar in poetry at Skidmore taught by Frank Bidart. I returned in 2001, 2 and 4. This was an intense and thrilling experience and one that gave me the confidence to think of trying to publish a book. That finally happened in 2008, thanks to the enthusiasm and willingness to take a risk of Kathryn Schenkman, publisher of Penstroke Press in Rochester, Vt. That Blue Repair was the occasion for readings in Rochester and Philadelphia and Swarthmore College.

I have not written here about my three sons or daughters-in-law, or my six grandsons. Needless to say, they are the real highpoints of my life Now, thanks to Joshua’s blog and family tree, I have finally found my half-brother, Lewis T. Hutton III in Rockaway, N.J. And am cleaning out closets and boxes in an attempt to leave my affairs in some kind of order , which has a sepulchral tone not really felt as yet.

Joan Hutton Landis in 2008 in Vermont

She majored in English at Bennington College, where she studied poetry with Stanley Kunitz, Howard Nemerov, and Ben Belitt.

After working in publishing, she married Kendall Landis and lived in Paris, Jeddah, Beirut, and Casa Blanca. During those years she wrote and published poetry and was active in theater.

Returning to the States in 1967, with her husband and three sons, Landis studied poetry with Richard Wilbur at Wesleyan University, where she earned her masters degree. During that period her work was published in small journals, as well as in the Transatlantic Review and the New York Times.

Landis continued her education, earning a Ph.D. at Bryn Mawr. She was awarded a Danforth Graduate Fellowship for Women. Her articles on Shakespeare were published in Hamlet Studies, The Upstart Crow and the Shakespeare Quarterly, among others. Her reviews of the poetry of Louise Gluck, Ben Belitt, and John Peck appeared in Salmagundi.
In 1977 Landis began teaching at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, helping to form the core curriculum, initiating both poetry and fiction workshops and becoming the first Chair of the Liberal Arts Department. She participated in Frank Bidart’s poetry workshops at the New York Summer Writers’ Institute in Saratoga Springs, where she was encouraged to work on the manuscript that eventually became That Blue Repair.

Landis’s most recent poetry has appeared in Parnassus: Poetry in Review, The Gettysburg Review, Poetry and Salmagundi.

No comments:

Post a Comment