Is the beauty of the Whole really enhanced by our agony? And is the Whole really beautiful? And what is beauty? Throughout all his existence man has been striving to hear the music of the spheres, and has seemed to himself once and again to catch some phrase of it, or even a hint of the whole form of it. Yet he can never be sure that he has truly heard it, nor even that there is any such perfect music at all to be heard. Inevitably so, for if it exists, it is not for him in his littleness. But one thing is certain. Man himself, at the very least, is music, a brave theme that makes music also of its vast accompaniment, its matrix of storms and stars. Man himself in his degree is eternally a beauty in the eternal form of things. It is very good to have been man.   And so we may go forward together with laughter in our hearts,  and peace, thankful for the past, and for our own courage. For we shall make after all a fair conclusion to this brief music that is man.

Olaf Stapledon
Last and First Men

Homesick

January 11, 2020

When we love, when we tell ourselves we do,
we are pining for first love, somewhen,
before we thought of wanting it. When we rearrange
the room we end up living in, we are looking
for first light, the arrangement of light,
that time, before we knew to call it light.

Or talk of music, when we say
we cannot talk of it, but play again
C major, A flat minor, we are straining
for first sound, what we heard once,
then, in lost chords, wordless languages.

What country do we come from? This one?
The one where the sun burns
when we have night? The one
the moon chills; elsewhere, possible?

Why is our love imperfect,
music only echo of itself,
the light wrong?

We scratch in dust with sticks,
dying of homesickness
for when, where, what.

Carol Ann Duffy

an automatic process

October 8, 2019

A rhythm in each sentence, music almost, each syllable slotting neatly into place. It’s an automatic process. When I read out loud, I do not read but sing in my head. It’s natural, I associate any and every sentence to a tempo.

Night music

August 25, 2019

The music of the night lies not in the stars but in the darkness between them.

Chloe Aridjis
Asunder

the rush of rockets

August 6, 2019

The night was soft and persuasive. Overhead hung a summer sky furrowed with the rush of rockets; and from the east a late moon, pushing up beyond the lofty bend of the coast, sent across the bay a shaft of brightness which paled to ashes in the red glitter of the illuminated boats. Down the lantern-hung Promenade, snatches of band-music floated above the hum of the crowd and the soft tossing of boughs in dusky gardens; and between these gardens and the backs of the stands there flowed a stream of people in whom the vociferous carnival mood seemed tempered by the growing languor of the season.

Edith Wharton
The House of Mirth

Dancing to silence

July 12, 2019

And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.

Anon

  • Please note boys and girls, this quote is sourced to Friedrich Nietzsche all over the internet, but that is rubbish – poor old Nietzsche NEVER wrote or said this – nor anything like it! The TIMES newspaper in 1927 published this:

“They who dance are thought mad by those who hear not the music. The truth of the old proverb was never more surely borne out that it is just now.”

an intimacy going

April 6, 2019

Every work has a shape. I work in a lot of different kinds of forms and a lot of the poems are long. I’m aware of using musical forms. I’m quite influenced by the symphonic form, for example, the sonata form. But I feel it’s really necessary to make as much of the formal construction of it as I can obvious and at the same time there’s an intimacy going on that has to do with the use of the human voice and the fact that one is talking to others and there’s the possibility of having some sort of enormous performance thing happen, as if performing a play.

Alice Notley

Seeing the future: a conversation with Alice Notley

I want a poetry of knowledge and of thought, not of opinion – and not of belief, which is merely dead thought. Poetry is the musical density of being,  but sometimes it is silent, and sometimes that silence is musically still.

Robert Bringhurst
Pieces of Map, Pieces of Music

the rhyme changed my life

February 23, 2019

When I was 12, I wrote a poem that concluded in a very simple rhyme. The poem was nothing special but the rhyme changed my life. My parents were string quartet violinists; when I made that rhyme, I thought, This is my music…

I pretty much write all the time and don’t follow any particular routine or practice. I almost always write the first draft (or two or three) in longhand and move to a computer later; this is true for novels, as well as for poems. I write in spiral notebooks – grabbing whichever comes to hand, which means the same notebook may hold paragraphs from different stories and lines from various poems and a book review or essay. I would so love to be more systematic but I work on a lot of things at once and the result is, paper everywhere, with no way to organize it.

Writing in any form is a “journey of discovery”. Writing poetry is how I think, and learning what one thinks is terrifically exciting: That’s the journey, that’s the illumination. In any given poem, I want to make the idea of it as clear as possible -which is not to say an exposition but an unclouded vision.

I also have a great desire to include all kinds of things in my poetry; that is, to take on, in my poetry, different worlds, as in science, history, language, philosophy, visual art, music, religion, etc. I am interested in all these things, and it seems natural to me to want to write about them.

Kelly Cherry
Interview with Maureen Doallas for tweetspeak

Writing off the Subject

February 21, 2019

A poem can be said to have two subjects, the initiating or triggering subject, which starts the poem or “causes” the poem to be written, and the real or generated subject, which the poem comes to say or mean, and which is generated or discovered in the poem during the writing. That’s not quite right because it suggests that the poet recognizes the real subject. The poet may not be aware of what the real subject is but only have some instinctive feeling that the poem is done.

Young poets find it difficult to free themselves from the initiating subject. The poet puts down the title: “Autumn Rain.” He finds two or three good lines about Autumn Rain. Then things start to break down. He cannot find anything more to say about Autumn Rain so he starts making up things, he strains, he goes abstract, he starts telling us the meaning of what he has already said. The mistake he is making, of course, is that he feels obligated to go on talking about Autumn Rain, because that, he feels, is the subject. Well, it isn’t the subject. You don’t know what the subject is, and the moment you run out of things to say about Autumn Rain start talking about something else. In fact, it’s a good idea to talk about something else before you run out of things to say about Autumn Rain.

Don’t be afraid to jump ahead. There are a few people who become more interesting the longer they stay on a single subject. But most people are like me, I find. The longer they talk about one subject, the duller they get. Make the subject of the next sentence different from the subject of the sentence you just put down. Depend on rhythm, tonality, and the music of language to hold things together. It is impossible to write meaningless sequences. In a sense the next thing always belongs. In the world of imagination, all things belong. If you take that on faith, you may be foolish, but foolish like a trout.

Richard Hugo
Writing off the Subject
The Triggering Town