The Last Time I Saw Anaïs Nin Alive
The last time I saw Anaïs was Saturday December 11, 1976, the day after I’d given a ninety-minute talk and slide presentation about my private press. Deena Metzger, the director then of the Writing Program of Feminist Studio Workshop at the Woman’s Building in Los Angeles, had invited me to appear on the December program coordinated by her and funded by a grant from the Literature Division of the National Endowment for the Arts, “In the Name of All Women.” Deena drove my friend and me up into the hills to meet Anaïs Nin and Rupert Pole. I felt as though we were headed to a golden temple.
Her house was an Eric Wright design, described in her Diary (1955-1966) and the spaciousness of it struck me immediately. A huge glass window-door opened onto a small pool. I noted a little goldfish mobile I’d sent with Barry Donald Jones, a gift which was dangling with other wind chimes. There was one clear glass Pisces fish that reflected the sunlight. Anaïs was lying in a chaise lounge. In spite of her frailty and extreme thinness because of the cancer and the myriad medical treatments, she was radiant in a flesh-toned Arabian dress that matched Rupert’s own caftan. A red bow was in her golden hair to match bright lips. This beautiful woman who would have been seventy-four on her next birthday didn’t look for a minute her age.
Her translucent Oriental complexion and sparkling eyes beamed like a young girl’s. She held my hand and called me “her daughter,” told me I “was just a girl the first time she met me” and that “now you’ve grown up and become a woman” I held back my tears through that brief hour as we sipped champagne and Anaïs reminisced, reminding us of Isak Dinesen’s penchant for oysters and champagne. She marveled that a nurse at her hospital had never heard of D. H. Lawrence, motioned to John Boyce’s drawings for Aphrodisiac hanging on her wall, and then nonchalantly pointed to the cover of her own erotica soon to be released as Delta of Venus.
Rupert then asked us to wait outside at the teahouse he was having built aws a special birthday present for Anaïs while he lifted her into his arms and carried her back to bed…I was glad when Anaïs said in her tiny French voice, “Some people tire me out, but not you. Not you.”…
Then she called for Deena and I heard her ask, “Am I dying?”
Deena later told us in the car that she couldn’t tell her, “Yes.” I believe we knew why. Perhaps Anaïs’s own words best describe Deena’s answer, “No.”
…”Music pours freely through me, the music by which I know the extent of my receptivity and response…I am blessed with continuous aliveness…” (same Diary)
by Rochelle Lynn Holt
excerpt from Recollections of Anaïs Nin edited by
Benjamin Franklin V (Ohio University Press, 1996)
Like amulet I wear her name—
Anaïs, the birther of Art,
where all Creation, life is reign
since we’re the players and the part
who move Kings & Queens with heart
so curiously tied to Mind
like wild stallion attached to cart
or an orange/tangerine its rind
as we love with thoughts so entwined
propelled by the motion of stars
who may or may not be unkind
blink/winking at us from afar
to celebrate our existence
with curious non-resistance.
by Rochelle Lynn Holt
unpublished poem from early twenties