Craft, voice and the fire

"We all know poetry isn’t a craft that you can just turn on and off. It has to strike fire somewhere, and truth, maybe unpleasant truth about yourself, may be the thing that does that." Robert Lowell, from a letter quoted in Setting the River on Fire: A Study of Genius, Mania, and Character (2017) by... Continue Reading →

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Axel’s Castle, a mirror and an encyclopaedia

When I was about fifteen, I found Edmund Wilson's Axel's Castle in a library. It was my introduction to literary modernism, and their progenitors, the French symbolists. Over time I would read most of the authors to whom Wilson was my accidental host: Yeats, Joyce, Proust, Valery, Eliot, Stein. In time, I would find other... Continue Reading →

Regaining time

The other evening, I pulled from the shelf the sixth and last volume of Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time, or to use the Scott-Moncrieff translation, still evocative across the Anglophone countries with their Shakespearean heritage, Remembrance of Things Past. This volume, Finding Time Again, in the awkward 2002 translation of Ian Patterson, or... Continue Reading →

A task: from Milosz to me

A short post. The miracle of literature: how words crafted for another voice, at another time, pierce the carapace of habit, strike at deep wounds, and reveal a way of being. From my reading last night: The Task (Czeslaw Milosz) In fear and trembling, I think I would fulfill my life Only if I brought... Continue Reading →

Reflections on 2017

The year is drawing to a close, and while it is yet weeks from New Year, the office christmas party season is in full swing, and my mind is turning to an upcoming holiday. I am approaching the end of my current assignment and am going into my annual leave without knowing what I will... Continue Reading →

On revenge

"All visible objects, man, are but as pasteboard masks. But in each event - in the living act, the undoubted deed - there, some unknown but still reasoning thing puts forth the mouldings of its features from behind the unreasoning mask. If man will strike, strike through the mask! How can the prisoner reach outside... Continue Reading →

Conrad’s darkness

"I have never been able to find in any man’s book or any man’s talk anything … to stand up for a moment against my deep-seated sense of fatality governing this man-inhabited world." Joseph Conrad, 1922, in correspondence with Bertrand Russell. A new biography of Joseph Conrad has come out. The Dawn Watch: Joseph Conrad in... Continue Reading →

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