December 21, 2019

Faeries, come take me out of this dull world, For I would ride with you upon the wind, Run on the top of the dishevelled tide, And dance upon the mountains like a flame.

W.B. Yeats
The Land of Heart’s Desire

Lovecraft had, if nothing else, the consolation of his conviction that the tradition in and about which he wrote was timeless. The creators of the imaginative tale and their audience might be small, but they would always be. As insignificant as he was in the cosmic scheme of things, Lovecraft was not, and would never be, alone. To use his words in “Notes on Writing Weird Fiction,” “There will always be a certain small percentage of persons who feel a burning curiosity about unknown outer space, and a burning desire to escape from the prison-house of the known and the real into those enchanted lands of incredible adventure and infinite possibilities which dreams open up to us, and which things like deep woods, fantastic urban towers, and flaming sunsets suggest.” And it is to that “certain small percentage of persons” – in short, to us, dear reader – that Lovecraft continues to speak today.

Amy H. Sturgis
Art in its most essential sense: H P Lovecraft and the Imaginative tale

sum of our dreams

September 13, 2018

sky trees and sea

Books are not only the arbitrary sum of our dreams, and our memory. They also give us the model of self-transcendence. Some people think of reading only as a kind of escape: an escape from the “real” everyday world to an imaginary world, the world of books. Books are much more. They are a way of being fully human.

I’m sorry to have to tell you that books are now considered an endangered species. By books, I also mean the conditions of reading that make possible literature and its soul effects. Soon, we are told, we will call up on “bookscreens” any “text” on demand, and will be able to change its appearance, ask questions of it, “interact” with it. When books become “texts” that we “interact” with according to criteria of utility, the written word will have become simply another aspect of our advertising-driven televisual reality. This is the glorious future being created, and promised to us, as something more “democratic.” Of course, it means nothing less than the death of inwardness – and of the book.

Susan Sontag
Letter to Borges


June 5, 2015


Last Sunday I drove miles to escape
my home built from bricks of debt,
from the job that stops it falling down.

Two hours later I reached Alfriston,
a place I would have loved as a child
when all I saw were surfaces.

I came to find some sort of peace
among half-timbered pubs,
the medieval church, the village green

but interiors were disappointing:
insipid piped music in the pub,
a chilling dampness in the church.

Only when I got back to Hayes
did I breathe easily
despite huge chimneys

industriously pushing steam
into the air: its whiteness
a foil to grey clouds above.

Ugliness is on display here,
the only beauty that of the silks
worn by Asian women who walk

their brilliance past empty shops,
smashed up bus shelters,
peeling art-deco factories.

The Downs dominate Alfriston:
here it’s ‘Nestlé’, ‘Tarmac’
and a scrap yard full of cars

and cafés full of chatter:
cheerful people, with no escape,
making the best of things.



January 16, 2015


For those behind bars
in asylums, in prisons,
lovers in exile, in soured marriages,
those unable to escape from wombs or coffins,
others in enclosed routines of offices,
those suffering in hospitals,
the anaesthetised,wheeled down
to their inescapable operating theatres,
all who become the inevitable nightmare walkers
over the sudden precipices of their dreams
trapped by a gunman, hostages
sentenced to appear before a firing squad,
and lastly some in a labyrinth of their own making,
those for whom the words
will never be written down:

Pray for them space, to breathe, to move
along the open road, going wherever they please,
or swimming with the tide under a kind sun,
the shore sandy, easy on the feet,
and for houses with friends always welcoming,
those of like minds whose delight
is in the surprise opening of a present
unwrapping the joy that was unexpected,
and those who asked very little from life
and got much more than they had bargained for,
and others, less simple, who knew the revelations
the sky and sun brought, and starlight and moonlight
in the brilliant reflections across the quiet sea
and the gentle wave music in the bay.
For all this, to come down from the hills
on an early morning with the vast fields
stretching away to the sea, to be running
into laughter with arms open wide,
your arms open too to enclose me
in a world without, at this moment,
an enclosure.