Musings on Place, Travel, Books, Literature, Poetry, Literary Criticism, Collecting, Media, Life and the Arts

Archive for June, 2006

June 29th, 2006 • Posted in Authors and Books

A long, quiet, undistracted Read

Photo from here

Focussing on these ‘problems’ of the book, as outlined in full below by Jeff Jarvis:

They’re frozen in time without means of being updated or corrected.
They have no link to related knowledge, debates, and sources.
They create, at best, a one-way relationship with a reader.
They try to teach readers but don’t teach authors.
They’re too damned long cause they have to be long enough to be books.
They limit how knowledge can be found cause they have to sit on a shelf There’s only one way to get to it.
They aren’t searchable. They aren’t linkable. They have no metadata. They carry no conversation.

I can’t help but think that these aren’t problems, or at least there are times when they aren’t.

Like when I don’t want to be distracted by hyperlinks and interactive discussion, when I simply want to sit quietly, at length, with the manuscript in my hands, and read it deeply, contemplate it, learn from and absorb it.

Once I’ve done this, then I can jump around looking for links and conversation with the short attention spanned.

June 29th, 2006 • Posted in Uncategorized

What’s with the Plethora of Pomegranates?

Photo from here

We all know about Hades gving Persephone a pomegranate or at least pomegranate seeds, the eating of which bound her to the underworld every winter, but what’s with this sudden flood of pomegranate juice into our grocery stores? We’re awash in it, at least here in Canada…

Who turned on the tap? And why now?

June 27th, 2006 • Posted in Authors and Books

Hero Returns to Duty

Charlie Rose photo from here

Sidelined since undergoing heart surgery in Paris in March, Charlie Rose returned recently to his nightly PBS talk show. He was joined first night back by friend, mentor and fellow broadcaster Bill Moyers, and his stunning, beautiful, elegant executive producer Yvette Vega, to talk about the ordeal.

You can watch the show here

Charlie epitomizes everything that is great in a television interviewer.

June 27th, 2006 • Posted in Authors and Books

The Book is Dead. Long live the Book

Image from here

And this too from Richard’s blog: Jeff Jarvis at the Buzz Machine writing really, really well on books (in the face of what Northrop Frye said about them being the most technologically efficient machine that man has ever invented):

"They are frozen in time without the means of being updated and corrected. They have no link to related knowledge, debates, and sources. They create, at best, a one-way relationship with a reader. They try to teach readers but don’t teach authors. They tend to be too damned long because they have to be long enough to be books. As David Weinberger taught me, they limit how knowledge can be found because they have to sit on a shelf under one address; there’s only one way to get to it. They are expensive to produce. They depend on scarce shelf space. They depend on blockbuster economics. They can’t afford to serve the real mass of niches. They are subject to gatekeepers’ whims. They aren’t searchable. They aren’t linkable. They have no metadata. They carry no conversation. They are thrown out when there’s no space for them anymore. Print is where words go to die. "

And on their future: "So long as we worship the book as the book with its present limitations, we can’t reinvent it and save the substance of it. "

And on the power and quality of other mediums: "But we still worship the book as the book — even though we sometimes want to listen to and watch and search and annotate books, when we can, instead… and even though a lot of books, even if they are books, are utter crap. Any episode of The Sopranos is better than half the best-sellers out there. Yet we dismiss TV as the lowest of our culture and we allow our government to burn TV shows but we’d never let them burn books. I’m going to start teaching this fall and I suspect I’ll be pressured into writing a book. I write every day right here and get to learn more than I can learn writing a book. But blogs are, I can tell you, even lower on the scale of academic respect than TV shows and graffiti."

June 27th, 2006 • Posted in Authors and Books

A Graphic Illustration of What’s coming to this Site

Richard Charkin is President and CEO of Macmillan Publishers Ltd. It has offices in 41 countries and operates in five different areas of publishing:

education publishing including English language teaching (ELT)
academic publishing including reference
science, technological and medical publishing
fiction and non-fiction book publishing
publishing services including distribution and production

The company was founded in 1843 by two Scottish brothers, Daniel and Alexander Macmillan. They started off publishing Charles Kingsley (1855), Thomas Hughes (1859), Francis Turner Palgrave (1861), Christina Rossetti (1862), Matthew Arnold (1865) and Lewis Carroll (1865). Tennyson joined the list in 1884, Thomas Hardy in 1886 and Rudyard Kipling in 1890.

He’s got an interesting blog (really interesting on April 15, 2006 :) ). Check this post out. It provides a lovely graphic illustration of ‘Publishing across the Digital Landscape’ and all the work I have cut out for myself .

June 27th, 2006 • Posted in Uncategorized

Erato, Why Read Poetry, and How to Get a Life

Filippino LIPPI, (b. cca. 1457, Prato, d. 1504, Firenze) painting from here

Erato the "Lovely" muse of lyric poetry and mime.

As for the rewards of reading poetry:

Epiphany and revelation don’t just bless the poet. Considered reading can also result in ‘new, improved’ ways of seeing and feeling, thinking and oh! behaving for the reader…just like watching ads can…so be careful…a better life doesn’t always mean buying stuff you don’t need…it means cluing in to what truly makes you happy, not what makes advertisers so…

Lyric poems are brief. They exclude, leaving readers to create and complete context. Fears of loss and abandonment can be stirred by the setting sun or a disappearing moon; fantasies of power and desirability by fierce land seascape; peace and joy by a primrose. It’s our experience that makes this so. This and the poets words.

Epiphanies, ‘ah ha’ s, may just arrive for the poet, at which point they scramble to record them (Paul Muldoon suggests, they arrive during the process of creation). For readers it usually takes a bit more work. But pleasure can definitely be had here.

Lyric poetry is often playful. Reading it has been compared to listening to jazz. Larkin wrote brilliantly on how poets play with underlying themes and cleverly return discordant lines to them.

The more we read words, the deeper becomes our understanding and enjoyment; the more we recognize clever and profound connections and riffs between and among different poems; the more we appreciate those experiences that mean the most to us.

In other words: reading poetry helps you to get a life.

June 27th, 2006 • Posted in Uncategorized

Why Write Poetry?

Muses from here

It’s often not a matter of choice. In many instances you can’t stop yourself. It’s an urge – visited upon you – to render communicable a feeling that is difficult to express, but that just wont go away – an urge for knowledge, peace, cathartic purging.

It’s a desire to capture pain or pleasure in a way that helps you better understand, escape or keep it. A motivation to communicate troubling or thrilling experience. To try to tell others your truth. To express in language what is bigger than language…that which has moved you extraordinarily, caused anguish or ecstacy…so you can know yourself better, diminish the pain or prolong the pleasure…but equally so you can share your wonder or awe or sadness or anger or joy with another human being…to prove to yourself that you are not alone, that you are not nothing, that you being on earth makes a difference, that you are contributing something, somehow.

Poetry is an effort to connect with others, with yourself and with the world and universe at large…to comprehend the incomprehensible…to add to an existing pool of knowledge or beauty.

It’s also about (yup, here we go again, and here, and here) getting laid.

Men are often motivated to impress women with words in hopes of convincing them of their worth, of conquering them…of being loved and cared for by them, of being noticed, acknowledged, recognized, revered and worshipped.

Poetry is born out of need.

Paul Muldoon once told me (here) that if a poem accomplishes what its author wants it to then it’s a success.

I suppose if enough others feel, or are moved or benefit in similar ways, then it assumes a status as good or great, which in turn exposes it to new ears and eyes.

June 26th, 2006 • Posted in Authors and Books

Why Larkin is Liberating

Photo from here

Relax. Now you don’t have to justify why you do or don’t like a poem, or a work of art, or a piece of music. ‘I know what I like, and I like it. I don’t know why, I just do,” is just fine.

Sure, knowing more about the author might help enrich your appreciation; and understanding the mileu in which he/she lived and worked, what came before and after might deepen your understanding, but “I just like it” is fine, and feeling bad, or guilty or stupid because some literary critic, or professor, argues you shouldn’t, is sad and silly and something you shouldn’t feel, regardless of how learned or well read that critic might be. The role of the critic is to inform and compare; to introduce you to work you might not otherwise have known about.

Philip Larkin, the admired British poet, who, I’m coming to realize, I like even more as a critic/commentator, says this much more eloquently in ‘The Pleasure Principal’ (Required Writing, Faber 1983): “But at bottom poetry, like all art, is inextricably bound up with giving pleasure, and if a poet loses his pleasure-seeking audience he has lost the only audience worth having, for which the dutiful mob that signs on every September is no substitute.”

He goes on to quote Samuel Butler: ‘I should like to like Schumann’s music better than I do; I dare say I could make myself like it better if I tried; but I do not like having to try to make myself like things; I like things that make me like them at once and no trying at all’ (Notebooks, 1919).

The conclusion I suppose, is that if you really do like something, you are much more motivated to join the ‘great conversation,’ to argue convincingly in its favour…not necessarily with the intent of winning others over, but simply to express and share your enthusiasm…or lack of it. Reading convincing apology can be entertaining and rewarding, but ultimately and legitimately, decisions about whether or not a work is good or bad reside with the reader, and the reader alone.

Reading Larkin is liberating.

June 26th, 2006 • Posted in Uncategorized

Larkin on Hardy and the Poetic Impulse

Emma Hardy’s image from here


She opened the door of the West to me,
With its loud sea-lashings,
And cliff-side clashings
Of waters rife with revelry.
She opened the door of Romance to me,
The door from a cell
I had known too well,
Too long, till then, and was fain to flee.
She opened the door of a Love to me,
That passed the wry
World-welters by
As far as the arching blue the lea.
She opens the door of the Past to me,
Its magic lights,
Its heavenly heights,
When forward little is to see!


Here, from ‘Mrs. Hardy’s Memories’ in Required Writing is Philip Larkin on the poetic impulse in Hardy, and perhaps also in poets in general:

“Not till his first wife had died could Hardy’s love poetry for her be written, and then it was mixed with a flood of regret and remorse for what he had lost. This kind of paradox is inseparable from poetic creation, and indeed from life altogether. At times it appears a sort of basic insecurity in human affection. At others it seems a flaw built deeply into the working of the emotions, creating an inevitable bias in life towards unhappiness.”

June 25th, 2006 • Posted in Uncategorized

The best writing is market driven

Photo from here

One of the things I admire most about Shakespeare is his entrepreneurial spirit. Philip Larkin suggests that this had a positive impact on the quality of his work, and that we may well kill the geese who lay golden eggs if we choke them with cream.

Shakespeare’s prosperous career was achieved "…by writing plays that pleased his audiences; and if we speculate what his plays would have been like if he hadn’t had to please them, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that they wouldn’t have been as good."

"Shakespeare’s plays…[had]…nothing to recommend them but their own power to interest and amuse…The basic danger in subsidizing poetry is that it does away with this struggle: the poet is paid to write, and the audience is paid to listen. Something vital goes out of their relation, and I am afraid that something vital goes out of poetry too. "

‘German playgoers enjoying Shakepeare’s plays without knowing who they were by, putting down their own money, and perhaps asking for it back if they were bored, because this does seem to me the healthiest relation that can exist between artist and audience."

From his speech accepting The Shakespeare Prize 1976, presented by the FVS Foundation of Hamburg, in Required Writing (Faber, 1983).

I buy into this thesis, however, Shakespeare’s Sonnets sit on a throne with the greatest poems ever written, and I’m not sure they were fired by this marketplace imperative.