The Wordless – or Julia Callan-Thompson as high priestess of the aporetic

My mother Julia Callan-Thompson didn’t publish very much during her lifetime, but anyone who has read her diary and letters will know she was a natural when it came to putting pen to paper. What follow are a couple of pieces by my mother that appeared in issue one of an underground publication called Shoestring put together by Sonya Perry in Harlech, north Wales, crica 1974. Cutting to the quick, here’s my mother’s humorous essay from that Roneoed journal:
Hippies usually come from families which suffer from ‘status mal-integration’ – inter-ethnic or mobile families, or families whose economic and cultural status are not on a par. In such families, the children have difficulty in knowing what is to be their social role, and often have difficulty in adapting ‘normal’ sexual roles. Jewish people, girls for example, have an upbringing which prepares them for a world no longer in existence.
Hippie Society is attractive to such young people because:

  1. It emphasises tolerance and practices ‘mutual appreciation’ (!)
  2. Boys can enjoy quasi-homosexual relationships with impunity, e.g., ‘potheads’ – or affect an exaggerated ‘virility’.
  3. Boys are not required to seduce. They can treat a girl as a mother, while she can treat them as a child. Often the girls support the boys, while the boys cultivate the ‘feminine’ attributes of affectivity, self-expression, proneness to moods and… being ‘beautiful’.
  4. Mentally ‘abnormal’ phenomena are tolerated and even constitute a status symbol. Secondary anxiety is avoided, because these experiences can always be attributed to the drugs.
    One should not dismiss immediately this subculture, as Hippie Society can serve as a kind of civil hospital, and may save disturbed people from psychosis and homosexuality.
    I really like point 4, but I’m not sure about all the others… especially as point 2 and the final statement render the entire piece extremely ambiguous. My own position is, of course, that homosexuality and all other forms of consensual sexual expression are a groove sensation!
    Moving on, the poem my mother contributes to Shoestring 1 mirrors my own fascination with silence and the aporetic – and prefigures my recent blog strike by about 35 years!
    I shall proclaim
    a Wordless Day,
    Placing a
    loaf on my lips.
    There will be
    a festival of the wordless –
    songs without words will be sung,
    plays without words will be performed.
    Some new clouds will be proposed,
    filling up the skyline,
    Critics will be sworn to silence.
    All day we shall go
    In and out through each other’s eyes,
    In and out, in and out.
    Towards evening will come
    an easing of the mind.
    The singing of the mad
    will fall to a whisper.
    One wordless day a week –
    that should do it.
    And while you’re at it don’t forget to check – – you know it makes (no) sense!


Comment by fi on 2009-09-20 09:31:16 +0000

I will dig out that still frame of your mum looking bored out of her brains at that poetry torture event at the royal festival hall, maybe that inspired her poem!

Comment by marty thau on 2009-09-20 10:07:00 +0000

What is the world like that is no longer in existence that your mother believed Jewish girls were not prepared for?

Comment by Corona Smith on 2009-09-20 11:17:03 +0000

Lovely poem.
In and out, in and out!

Comment by fi on 2009-09-20 11:43:39 +0000

14 photos of JCT at Wholly Communion posted to FB

Comment by fi on 2009-09-20 11:45:47 +0000

No, 12, but they are alright
dont know who the other people are– please feel free to add tags

Comment by Old Rope on 2009-09-20 12:53:23 +0000

She’s got my bag with point number 3. Old Rope is nothing if not busy [cultivating] the ‘feminine’ attributes of affectivity, self-expression, proneness to moods and… being ‘beautiful’.”
Your oldest of ropes,
Old Rope

Comment by Frank The Freek! on 2009-09-20 17:32:31 +0000


Comment by mistertrippy on 2009-09-20 18:38:14 +0000

hey Marty, not sure what that world is at all, but I wonder if my mum was thinking of her own Catholic upbringing and substituted Jewish for some reason…
And Corona I agree with you, the poem is really nice, definitely the better piece….
Old Rope, I suspect my mum based point three on her own boyfriends… so maybe not as attractive to me as you!

Comment by eye sue on 2009-09-20 21:15:33 +0000

the world that we are prepared for is the world of the prophets, the world of the saints and the world of divinity – all of which are no longer this world – and this world and this word no longer can prepare us – when we take away the word from the world we are left with the begining – the begining of lettrism, the end of the age of divinity

Comment by The Silent Type on 2009-09-20 22:25:03 +0000


Comment by Alan Parry on 2009-09-21 00:28:02 +0000

How many issues were there of Shoestring?

Comment by Derek Meadows on 2009-09-21 01:33:59 +0000

The poem is too good to comment upon… I’m left speechless as well as wordless….

Comment by Bread Doll Fancier on 2009-09-21 04:58:20 +0000

a loaf on my lips

Comment by Dr. Ockermanns on 2009-09-21 08:46:57 +0000

…and a song in my heart.

Comment by Christopher Nosnibor on 2009-09-21 09:15:40 +0000

Days of wordlessness – like an oral art strike… genius!

Comment by Joseph Kessel on 2009-09-21 22:28:39 +0000

Comment by Tim on 2009-09-24 12:50:20 +0000

I liked the beginning part about hippies being from families that suffer from ‘status mal-integration’. About describes so many people that come into bohemia . . . she might have been a little harsh in other respects though. Or maybe not.
And yes, tis a lovely poem.

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