Sun 26 Jan 2014
Anne R. Dick, 87, of Point Reyes Station is extraordinary in many ways. Already this year she has published one book of poetry, Friends & Family/Point Reyes Poems.
The octogenarian author, meanwhile, is quick to credit her editor, Barbara Brauer of San Geronimo, with helping her “focus, clarify, and organize the poems.”
Currently in progress are two novels, the working title of one being Anne and the Twentieth Century or Gullible’s Travels, an Autobiography.
In addition, Anne has written two well-received books of nonfiction, Search for Philip K. Dick: 1928-1982 (published in 2009) and The Letters of My Grandfather Moses Perry Johnson: Written 1910-1928 (published in 2012).
Anne’s grandfather, she notes on the book cover, was “a successful St. Louis businessman [who in 1910] left his family behind to make a new life with a red-headed ‘Gibson Girl’ chanteuse in the Far West.” Johnson worked in a Washington lumber camp, was a paymaster of the Panama Pacific Exposition, and for awhile lived “in the far reaches of Yosemite.”
Anne and Philip K. Dick in Point Reyes Station in 1958. They married the following year.
Far better known, of course, is the subject of her other nonfiction book, science fiction writer Philip K. Dick. Anne, who was the third of his five wives, was married to him from 1959 to 1968.
Philip’s books received widespread recognition and won more than a dozen national and international literary awards for science fiction. Time magazine in 2005 ranked Philip’s novel Ubik one of the hundred greatest since 1923.
Hollywood turned 10 of his novels into movies, but paid him pittances. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? became Blade Runner starring Harrison Ford. The film grossed $28 million, but Philip (right) received a mere $1,250, the online magazine Wired reported awhile back.
In Search for Philip K. Dick, Anne writes that he told a neighbor his inability to contribute financially to their marriage ultimately caused him to resent her.
Philip was “a charming man and quite shy,” Anne told me Saturday. “He would listen too… He really was very brilliant.” However, Philip also experienced episodes of “paranoia,” she said. And he could be manipulative and controlling, she writes in her biography of him.
In An Odd Conversation with God from Penelope of the Mind, Anne remembers Philip as “that terrible, beloved, wonderful man whom I hated passionately and was mourning for every night in my bed (my empty bed).”
In 1974, six years after their divorce, Philip received sodium pentothal during a tooth extraction and subsequently was given Darvon.
Afterward he experienced weeks of hallucinations. The experience appears to have informed some of his later science fiction writing.
Anne acknowledges there are autobiographical echoes in many of her poems, and Families from Penelope of the Mind hints at what life was like with Philip:
Safety-danger, love-hate, loyalty-treachery
chains of commitment and rejection
power, power, power
the bondage of guilt
MONEY, not enough, too much
I only love you if you’re useful to me
if you don’t disturb me too much
if you become the person I want you to be
Earning a living was less of a frustration for Anne. While she and Philip were married, she started a successful jewelry-making business, appropriately named Anne R. Dick Jewelry. She ran the business in Point Reyes Station for 47 years before selling it in 2007. By then, however, she was also an innkeeper operating Seven Grey Foxes B&B at her home on Mesa Road.
While her writing is sometimes personal, Anne doesn’t hesitate to laugh at herself. Here’s a short poem from Penelope of the Mind. It’s titled Ageism or I Thought I Looked Great That Day:
I dress young, look good
blonde hair, good features, good skin
a trace of lipstick
a little eye shadow, mascara
I was walking down Cypress Road
when a man in a big shiny car
slowed down and drove alongside me
with a wink and a smirk
he crooked his index finger
can I give you a ride?
I walked over to his car window
to say no thanks, I prefer to walk
he blanched when I got close
and said, I’m sorry madam
and sped away
My personal favorite among Anne’s new books is Iliad Poems, perhaps because I’ve been fascinated by Greek and Roman mythology ever since I was a boy.
“I was sort of a latch-key little girl,” she told me. And much of her time alone was spent reading Bullfinch’s Mythology and similar works, a practice she continued as she grew older.
Anne’s knowledge of Greek, Roman, and even Norse mythology is impressive, and by drawing on it, she is able to describe the universal nature of her own experiences while remaining succinct.
You can see a bit of this in her poem My Personal Chaos.
A reminder before we begin: the original Iliad by Homer (who lived around 800 BC) is, of course, a long poem telling the story of the Trojan War. Back then, the Greeks thought of Eros as the god of love and of Dionysus as both the god of wine and of ecstasy, including frenzied rituals.
To Escape the strong forces of Fate
I crammed my being
into a small corner of my psyche
One day something burst
and let me out
The earth all around laughed
the mountain and its wild creatures joined in
“ha ha ha!”
My brain squirmed and squealed
twisted and turned
The childhood wound
I had brooded about so long
turned out to be a mirage
Now I gyrate in the whirlwinds of Eros
dance to the dissonances of Dionysus
While we talked Saturday, I noted that dancing comes up several times in her poetry and asked if she likes to dance. In 1947, Anne replied, she was a student at Washington University when she paid a brief visit to the University of Wisconsin, observed modern dance, and was captivated by it. She briefly considered becoming a professional dancer, but “it didn’t seem practical.”
Instead she took up horseback riding which, she remarked, is similar to dancing: “It uses the total body.” As a result of her fondness for horses, she coached horse-vaulting (gymnastics on horseback) for 10 years in Point Reyes Station.
Looking in on Anne Dick reading in the social area of her B&B.
Anne, who has written two science fiction novels herself, posited that in her riding she “was actually communicating with an alien” — and then laughingly added — “if you consider a horse an alien.”
Those wishing to order copies of Anne Dick’s books can contact the publisher, Point Reyes Cypress Press, at Box 459, Point Reyes Station, CA 94956. Or <www.pointreyescypresspress.com>.