it tends toward a climax

August 11, 2019

Lovers’ reading of each other’s bodies (of that concentration of mind and body which lovers use to go to bed together) differs from the reading of written pages in that it is not linear. It starts at any point, skips, repeats itself, goes backward, insists, ramifies in simultaneous and divergent messages, converges again, has moments of irritation, turns the page, finds its place, gets lost. A direction can be recognized in it, a route to an end, since it tends toward a climax, and with this end in view it arranges rhythmic phases, metrical scansions, recurrence of motives. But is the climax really the end? Or is the race toward that end opposed by another drive which works in the opposite direction, swimming against moments, recovering time?

Italo Calvino
If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller

Sunday Morning

March 3, 2019

Down the road someone is practising scales,
The notes like little fishes vanish with a wink of tails,
Man’s heart expands to tinker with his car
For this is Sunday morning, Fate’s great bazaar;
Regard these means as ends, concentrate on this Now,

And you may grow to music or drive beyond Hindhead anyhow,
Take corners on two wheels until you go so fast
That you can clutch a fringe or two of the windy past,
That you can abstract this day and make it to the week of time
A small eternity, a sonnet self-contained in rhyme.

But listen, up the road, something gulps, the church spire
Open its eight bells out, skulls’ mouths which will not tire
To tell how there is no music or movement which secures
Escape from the weekday time. Which deadens and endures.

Louis Macneice


January 31, 2019

How marvellous books are, crossing worlds and centuries, defeating ignorance and, finally, cruel time itself.

Gore Vidal
Julian: A Novel

an erotic place

January 17, 2019

I have always felt that the world is an erotic place. As I walk through it my senses are reaching out. And I am drawn to all sorts of things. For me cities are enormous bodies of people’s desires. And as I search for my own desires within them, I slice into time, seeing the moment. That’s the kind of camera work I like.

Daido Moriyama
Interview with Tate gallery

kill the hour

December 31, 2018

Who has never killed an hour? Not casually or without thought, but carefully: a premeditated murder of minutes. The violence comes from a combination of giving up, not caring, and a resignation that getting past it is all you can hope to accomplish. So you kill the hour. You do not work, you do not read, you do not daydream. If you sleep it is not because you need to sleep. And when at last it is over, there is no evidence: no weapon, no blood, and no body. The only clue might be the shadows beneath your eyes or a terribly thin line near the corner of your mouth indicating something has been suffered, that in the privacy of your life you have lost something and the loss is too empty to share.

Mark Z. Danielewski
House of Leaves


October 27, 2018

Books to read

Today you can buy the Dialogues of Plato for less than you would spend on a fifth of whisky, or Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire for the price of a cheap shirt. You can buy a fair beginning of an education in any bookstore with a good stock of paperback books for less than you would spend on a week’s supply of gasoline.

Often I hear people say they do not have the time to read. That’s absolute nonsense. In one year during which I kept that kind of record, I read twenty-five books while waiting for people. In offices, applying for jobs, waiting to see a dentist, waiting in a restaurant for friends, many such places. I read on buses, trains and planes. If one really wants to learn, one has to decide what is important. Spending an evening on the town? Attending a ball game? Or learning something that can be with you your life long?

Byron’s Don Juan I read on an Arab dhow sailing north from Aden up the Red Sea to Port Tewfik on the Suez Canal. Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson I read while broke and on the beach in San Pedro. In Singapore, I came upon a copy of The Annals and Antiquities of Rajahstan by James Tod.

Louis L’Amour
The education of a wandering man


like a photograph of fog

October 24, 2018

a misty moon

Tuesday night around ten o’clock cloud drifted in off the coast. The moon became “ghostly” behind its gauzy curtains and the wind dropped away to nothing. The smell of woodsmoke and coalsmoke hung in the air and filled me with a kind of nostalgia for winters past. It was the kind of night that might last forever (or so I felt). Minutes the length of hours. The moon a pure crystal liquid to be drunk in a single, intoxicating draft –

And yet time is terribly two-faced, isn’t it? Ambiguous, certainly.

For example, on my desk is a BBC guide to the Proms for 2015. Three years ago now. I can remember getting it as if it were only yesterday. The time between then and now, is hardly anything at all to my mind. The older I get, the more I feel my life has been clicked to ‘fast forward’. Where does all the time go?

Time has become like a photograph of fog. Its corners are sucked into a vague lack of point, creating a void without horizon, without sky. And I’m lost somewhere in that fog –

The monotony of memory dances to the tune of time, of course. The girl, Claire, like all girls, was labyrinthine to fourteen year old me. She felt betrayed and wished to punish me because of Gillian. We stood isolated beyond the small boating lake. Abruptly, unexpectedly, she raised the hem of her dress –

I experienced, then and now, immediate arousal. Sight of her red pubic hair, the colour of sin, the colour of hellfire, made me feel swimmy-headed and weightless. She had on no undies. And there she stood. I could just make out the beginnings of her small sex tucked away in those firey curls.

‘I want you to know what you’ve lost,’ she said. ‘Take as good long look. This could have been yours. I’d have let you – ’

And with that she lowered the hem of her dress, turned and walked quickly away. We never, ever spoke again –


If Grief Were a Bird

Then I woke up in the still dark and the cold to the sound of the birds starting up in the trees long before dawn, and I lay there unable to sleep and I wondered, if grief were a bird, what would it be?

Susan Wood


October 16, 2018

We think we are here trying to kill time, but in reality time is slowly killing us.

No story is a straight line. The geometry of a human life is too imperfect and complex, too distorted by the laughter of time and the bewildering intricacies of fate to admit the straight line into its system of laws.

Pat Conroy
Beach Music

I remain no wiser

May 15, 2018


Although my ‘Unsent: New and Selected Poems’ stretches over thirty two years I remain no wiser as to how poems get themselves written. Since I began writing in my teens, nothing has so enthralled me as poetry; before my first attempts at writing, reading poetry had thrown a similar glamour over me, as it continues to do. Words are made of the breath of life, its essence, and they land on the page still breathing. That, I think, is the mystery and the surprise, for me, and then follows the hard work.

But what kind of hard work is involved? The whole process of editing and re-shaping and learning further meanings from that first draft is an addictive and deep pleasure for me. Seeking to keep the spontaneity alive is also an exciting challenge.

It takes a long time. Many of my poems are in various draft versions for years. Some poems prefer to develop at the speed of geological time, it seems! There is also the phenomenon of the now-and-again poem, as all poets know, which arrives as a free gift. It falls on to the open page through some kind magic and needs only the tiniest of tweaks. But these are rare and seldom occasions. I think perhaps that they only happen if the poet’s radar is switched on all the time.

Penelope Shuttle
On Writing Poetry