She rearranges his voice into chords,
into a strange jazz she is willing to hear,
a form of organization that takes courage
and leaves her with what is only musical
for a time. The room builds up an energy,
not from the sound of him but from the
collapsing space, the walls pushing in
and her hoarse voice falling, clunking
onto the ground without her, her lips
chapping and the glue wearing thin;
he zigzags into her again but she isn’t
listening. She adores the black song
on her radio instead, the saxophone hip-
dancing onto the counter between them,
the babble of nuance moving through pipes
and valves, the rhythm of lopsided feeling.
She is listening to that, and to the halves
of herself binding together into the noise
of the room, and yes, she is willing to
hear his faraway words with her warrior
heart, willing to let him choose her
for his fantasy, to be his bottle of song,
his break from the bruised sunset he sees
from his window. She understands that
what has happened inside her is not
bitter or broken, but that the elastic
of her longing has grown dry and
there is music enough without him.

Lauren Camp

something fantastic

March 27, 2020

This was going to be a talk about fantasy. But I have not been feeling very fanciful lately, and could not decide what to say; so I have been going about picking people’s brains for ideas. “What about fantasy? Tell me something about fantasy.” And one friend of mine said, “All right, I’ll tell you something fantastic. Ten years ago, I went to the children’s room of the library of such-and-such a city, and asked for The Hobbit; and the librarian told me, “Oh, we keep that only in the adult collection; we don’t feel that escapism is good for children.

Ursula K Le Guin
Why Are Americans Afraid Of Dragons?

demands pronunciation

March 27, 2020

Truly fine poetry must be read aloud. A good poem does not allow itself to be read in a low voice or silently. If we can read it silently, it is not a valid poem: a poem demands pronunciation. Poetry always remembers that it was an oral art before it was a written art. It remembers that it was first song.

Jorge Luis Borges
The Divine Comedy
Trans. Eliot Weinberger

In the year 1885, when I was a schoolboy, we went for our summer holiday to a furnished house between Ventnor and Bonchurch on the Isle of Wight. St Boniface House was modest, possessing one of the most charming small gardens I ever saw.

Ghosts soon declared themselves. The manifestations were pronounced and various. My sisters were visited in the night by a figure walking in their room and, when it came between their beds, they fled shrieking.

A figure passed the housemaids in the corridor, cold hands were laid on hands lying outside the counterpane, bells rang without being pulled.

The village priest came with book and holy water, the spirits were effectually laid and we slept in peace.

Now I have read, in Mrs Stirling’s The Diaries of Dummer (1934), an account of similar manifestations at the same house in 1851. The old house has been pulled down, but I hope its garden still shelters the poor houseless shades that wander by night.

W.S.J.
Country Life, letters page 13th March 1937

At last the revenants became so troublesome the peasants abandoned the village and it fell solely into the possession of subtle and vindictive inhabitants who manifest their presences by shadows that fall almost imperceptibly awry, too many shadows, even at midday, shadows that have no source in anything visible; by the sound, sometimes, of sobbing in a derelict bedroom where a cracked mirror suspended from a wall does not reflect a presence; by a sense of unease that will afflict the traveller unwise enough to pause to drink from the fountain in the square that still gushes spring water from a faucet stuck in a stone lion’s mouth. A cat prowls in a weedy garden; he grins and spits, arches his back, bounces away from an intangible on four fear-stiffened legs. Now all shun the village below the chateau in which the beautiful somnambulist helplessly perpetuates her ancestral crimes.

Wearing an antique bridal gown, the beautiful queen of the vampires sits all alone in her dark, high house under the eyes of the portraits of her demented and atrocious ancestors, each one of whom, through her, projects a baleful posthumous existence; she counts out the Tarot cards, ceaselessly construing a constellation of possibilities as if the random fall of the cards on the red plush tablecloth before her could precipitate her from her chill, shuttered room into a country of perpetual summer and obliterate the perennial sadness of a girl who is both death and the maiden.

Her voice is filled with distant sonorities, like reverberations in a cave: now you are at the place of annihilation, now you are at the place of annihilation. And she is herself a cave full of echoes, she is a system of repetitions, she is a closed circuit.’ Can a bird sing only the song it knows or can it learn a new song?’ She draws her long, sharp fingernail across the bars of the cage in which her pet lark sings, striking a plangent twang like that of the plucked heartstrings of a woman of metal. Her hair falls down like tears.

The castle is mostly given over to ghostly occupants but she herself has her own suite of drawing room and bedroom. Closely barred shutters and heavy velvet curtains keep out every leak of natural light. There is a round table on a single leg covered with a red plush cloth on which she lays out her inevitable Tarot; this room is never more than faintly illuminated by a heavily shaded lamp on the mantelpiece and the dark red figured wallpaper is obscurely, distressingly patterned by the rain that drives in through the neglected roof and leaves behind it random areas of staining, ominous marks like those left on the sheets by dead lovers. Depredations of rot and fungus everywhere. The unlit chandelier is so heavy with dust the individual prisms no longer show any shapes; industrious spiders have woven canopies in the corners of this ornate and rotting place, have trapped the porcelain vases on the mantelpiece in soft grey nets. But the mistress of all this disintegration notices nothing.

Angela Carter
The Lady of the House of Love