Delicious

July 21, 2017

Yet, it is true, poetry is delicious; the best prose is that which is most full of poetry.

Virginia Woolf
Montaigne
The Common Reader (series one)

Words

July 17, 2017

If you have the words, there’s always a chance that you’ll find the way.

Seamus Heaney
Stepping Stones: Interviews with Seamus Heaney

An artist

July 12, 2017

I think that the best thing for me as an artist is to be able to turn my back on a piece of work. What that means is that I put my best effort, my best intention and care into it. I see it as a raft that I’m sending down river, and I’m on shore, so I get to turn around and see what else I can make with my hands.

Ocean Vuong
Interviewed by David Winter for the Poetry Foundation

focus my craft

July 7, 2017

I really hated poetry for most of my life, so it is kind of interesting that I’m now a poet. I still don’t like a lot of poetry. I get bored easily, and I am not interested in reading poems about the woods or whatever. I don’t know what a pasture is. So, I think the way that I have tried to focus my craft is writing poems that feel relevant to me and my life and reflective of that.

Morgan Parker
Interview with Sydney Gore for Nylon

Poetry leads to the same place as all forms of eroticism – to the blending and fusion of separate objects. It leads us to eternity, it leads us to death, and through death to continuity. Poetry is eternity; the sun matched with the sea.

Georges Bataille
Eroticism: Death and Sensuality

contemporary poetry

June 17, 2017

In an Isis interview that marked the end of his tenure as Professor of Poetry at Oxford, Sir Geoffrey Hill was asked what he wanted from contemporary poetry. He began – and ended – with a negative. ‘I don’t want it to be a sort of simpering drizzle. I really do want there to be some sense of order battling anarchy within the very structure of a poem. I think one of the most dreadful sounds in all of modern culture is what I will call the poetry recital chortle, and most contemporary poems seem to me to be written in order to arouse the desire of the listener to chuckle appreciatively.’

Michael Schmidt
Order Battling Anarchy

It’s the last stanza, though, that makes Frost into a genius, both poetically but also in his insight into human character, storytelling and literature. The stanza is retrospective as the traveller/poet looks back on his decision – “ages and ages hence” – and comments how we create a life through the poetic fictions that we create about it to give it, and ourselves, meaning. The story that the poet will tell is that:

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

Notice the stuttering, repetitive “I” that Frost uses both to maintain the rhyme scheme (“I/by”) but also to suggest the traveller/poet’s uncertainty about who made the choice. The narrative drive is re-established with the penultimate line “I took the one less travelled by,” to conclude with a satisfying resolution that ties everything in a neat biographical lesson “And that has made all the difference.” But it has made no difference at all. The difference, the life, is created in the telling, something that Frost does, of course, masterfully.

David C. Ward
What Gives Robert Frost’s ”The Road Not Taken” Its Power?
Originally published on Smithsonian.com 10 August 2015

I read indiscriminately

June 13, 2017

I could for instance talk about my education, which critics say I have not got. And that is true enough but I do wish I had learned some other languages apart from English, BBC third program, and saloon. Then perhaps I could understand what some people mean when they say I have been influenced by Rimbaud. My education was the liberty I had to read whatever I cared to, I read indiscriminately and all the time with my eyes hanging out. I never could have dreamt there were such goings on, such duels and argy-bargies, such ice blast of words, such love and sense and terror and humbug such and so many blinding bright lights breaking across the just awaking wits – and splashing all over the pages as they can never quite do again after the first revelation. In a million bits and pieces, all of which were words, words, words. And each of which seemed alive forever in its own delight and glory and right.

It was then in my father’s brown study before homework, usually the first botched scribbling of gauche and gawky heart choked poems about black bloomered nymphs, the jussive grave, and the tall improbable love of the sardine packed sky – poems never to be shown to anyone except on pain of death. But I began to know one kind of writing from another – one kind of badness and one kind of goodness. I wrote endless imitations. though I never at the time of writing them thought them to be imitations but rather colossally original things unheard of like eggs laid by tigers. Imitations of whatever I happened to be galloping then; Thomas Brown, Robert Douglas Service, Stevenson, De Quincy, Eskimo Nell, Newbolt, Blake, Marlowe, the imagists, the boys own paper, Keats, Poe, Burns, Dostoevsky, Anon and Shakespeare. I tried my little trotters at every poetical form – how could I know the tricks of this trade unless I tried to do them myself, for the poets wouldn’t soar from the grave and show me how their poems were done by mirrors. And I couldn’t trust the critics then… Or now.

Dylan Thomas
A few words of a kind

Poetry remakes and prolongs language; every poetic language begins by being a secret language, that is, the creation of a personal universe, of a completely closed world. The purest poetic act seems to re-create language from an inner experience that … reveals the essence of things.

Mircea Eliade
Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy

Diary 23rd April

As Mel Gibson would probably say: “Freedom is what you do with what’s been done to you.”

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Question: ‘What is a magical diary?’

Answer: ‘Put simply, you keep a magical diary by setting your intentions down on paper, where they begin to take on power, weight, and material force, no longer vacuous desires volleying in the cavern of your mind. It’s as simple or as complex as that.

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To tread the Mystic Way you must learn to annihilate selfhood and to turn your attention from the multiplicity of the phenomenal world, with its classifying and image-making, its logical reasoning and discursive thinking, so as to attain that ‘simple seeing’ of which the mystics speak; for not until your eye has become single can your whole body be filled with light.

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It is only when all outward appearances are gone that there is left that one principle of life which exists independently of all external phenomena. It is the fire which burns in the eternal light, when the fuel is expended and the flame extinguished; for that fire is neither in the flame nor in the fuel, nor yet inside either of the two, but above, beneath, and everywhere…

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Remembering your lip
The ruby red I kiss;
Having not that to sip
My lips instead press this –