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Archive for July 1st, 2009

July 1st, 2009 • Posted in Authors and Books

Rainer Maria Rilke’s Seven ‘Phallic’ Poems

I’m reading Christopher Hitchens’s Letters to a Young Contrarian. In it he mentions Rilke’s Seven ‘Phallic’ Poems which ‘openingly announce that fucking is its own justification.’ Here they are:
The Seven Phallic Poems
The rose-gatherer grasps suddenly
The full bud of his vitality,
And, at fright at the difference,
The gentle garden within her shrinks.
Summer, which you so suddenly are, you’re
Drawing my seed up into an abrupt tree.
(Inner spaciousness, feel in yourself the lee
Of night in which it is mature.)
Now to the firmament it rose and grew,
A mirror-image resembling a tree.
O fell it, that, having turned unerringly
In your womb, it knows the counter-haven anew,
In which it really towers and really races.
Daring landscape, such as an inner-seer
Beholds in a crystal ball. That innerness here
In which the being-outside of stars chases.
There dawns death which shines outside like night.
And there, joined with all futures,
Are all who once were, the finite,
Crowds crowded round crowds for sure,
As the angel intends it outright.
We close a circle by means of our gazes,
And in it the tangled tension fuses white.
Already your unwitting command raises
The column in my genital-woodsite.
Granted by you, the image of the god stands
At the gentle crossroads under my clothes;
My whole body is named after him. We both
Matter like a province in his magic lands.
Yet yours is to be grove and heaven around
The Hermean pillar. Yield. Thereby freedom
For the god along with his hounds,
Withrawn from the delightfully ravaged column.
You don’t know towers, with your diffidence.
Yet now you’ll become aware
Of a tower in that wonderful rare
Space in you. Hide your countenance.
You’ve erected it unsuspectingly,
By turn and glance and indirection,
And I, blissful one, am allowed entry.
Ah, how in there I am so tight.
Coax me to come forth to the summit:
So as to fling into your soft night,
With the soaring of a womb-dazzling rocket,
More feeling than I am quite.
How the too ample space has weakened you and me.
Superfluity recollects itself suddenly.
Now wormwood and absinthe trickle through silent
Sieves of kisses of bitter essence.
How much we are – from my body
A new tree raises its abundant crown
And mounts toward you: but what’s it to be
Without the summer which hovers in your womb.
Are you, am I, the one each so greatly delights?
Who can say, while we dwindle. Perhaps a column
Of rapture stands in the chamber room,
Sustains the vault, and more slowly subsides.
To what are we near? To death, or that display
Which is not yet? For what would be clay to clay
Had not the god feelingly formed the figure
Which grows between us. But understand for sure:
This is my body which is resurrected.
Now gently deliver it from the burning grave
Into that heaven which in you I crave:
That from it survival be boldly effected.
You young place of ascension deep.
You dark breeze of summery pollen.
When its thousand spirits romp madly all in
You, my stiff corpse again grows soft asleep.
How I called you. This is the mute call
Which within me has grown sweet awhile.
Now step after step into you I thrust all
And my semen climbs gladly like a child.
You primal peak of pleasure: suddenly well-nigh
Breathless it leaps to your inner ridge.
O surrender yourself to feeling its pilgrimage;
For you’ll be hurled down when it waves on high.
(R.M. Rilke, 1915. Translated by J.B. Leishman)



July 1st, 2009 • Posted in Authors and Books

Audio Interview with author Zoe Heller, by Nigel Beale.

This from Contemporary Writers: " Zoe Heller was born in London in 1965 and educated at Oxford University and Columbia University, New York.  She is a journalist who, after writing book reviews for various newspapers, became a feature writer for The Independent.  She wrote a weekly confessional column for the Sunday Times for four years, but now writes for the Daily Telegraph and earned the title ‘Columnist of the Year’ in 2002. She is the author of two novels: Everything You Know (2000), a dark comedy about misanthropic writer Willy Miller, and Notes on a Scandal (2003) which tells the story of an affair between a high school teacher and her student through the eyes of the teacher’s supposed friend, Barbara Covett. It was shortlisted for the 2003 Man Booker Prize for fiction, and was recently released as a feature film, starring Cate Blanchett and Dame Judi Dench."

We met recently in Ottawa to talk, ‘companionably’ about her latest novel The Believers.

Subscribe to Nigel Beale’s Biblio File Podcast here.

Please listen here:




July 1st, 2009 • Posted in Authors and Books

Who put the Magic in Realism?

Quoting this from the NYRB’s review of the current Garcia Marquez bio:

García Márquez popularized the style, but he was not its inventor, and One Hundred Years of Solitude would not have been possible without his hav- ing studied, at Carlos Fuentes’s urging, the works of an older generation of Spanish-American writers who were magic realism’s pioneers, among them Alejo Carpentier and Miguel Asturias.[3] It is remarkable that so little influence on his writing is credited to his Latin American precursors. This is partly because García Márquez himself has been reluctant to give them their due. At times he seems to enjoy casting himself as the magician who created a new Spanish-American literature out of thin air.

Scott Esposito encourages us to read Alejo Carpentier.

July 1st, 2009 • Posted in Authors and Books

Top 10 Goals – FIFA Confederations Cup 2009


Music? Che Guevara - Nathalie Cardone

July 1st, 2009 • Posted in Authors and Books, Literary Criticism

No-one advancing the development of Canadian literature?

A lament via Bookninja from This Magazine about the lack of evaluative book reviewing in this country:
…we subsidize CanLit with one hand and then give the CBC more than a billion dollars a year with the other. Why, why, why does the CBC pay people to review Hollywood films that will cost you $13 to see but refuse to tell you whether the $25-$40 books you subsidize are worth your time and money?

Lemon Hound adds this: " The reason Can Lit was so exciting "back in the day" is that people were making bold choices, big bold choices that they believed in, that they promoted and in doing so, created a dynamic literary world"

I’m reading about one of these people. Elaine Kalman Naves’s Robert Weaver (see reviews here, and here). Weaver was for decades, starting in the late 1940s [1948-85], responsible for programming literary content at the CBC. In 1954 he introduced Anthology to the network, ‘a sort of literary magazine of the air.’ It ran for more than 30 years, and goes down as one of the CBC’s most successful radio programs ever. As Kalman Naves puts it:
" Through his work at the CBC and Tamarak, Weaver helped jump-start the careers of Alice Munro, Mordecai Richler, Leonard Cohen, Timothy Findlay, Gwendolyn MacEwen, and many, many others. He also sustained the writing life of Brian Moore, Al Purdy, Margaret Laurence, Austin Clarke, Marian Engel, Norman Levine, Alistair MacLeod, and a host of others.

By establishing the CBC Literary Competition, Weaver reached out to a new generation of Canadian writers. The list of winners…Carol Shields, Michael Ondaatje, Bonnie Burnard, Robert Munsch, Frances Itani, Lorna Crozier, Katherine Govier, Shauna Singh Baldwin, Gail Anderson-Dargatz, and Janice Kulyk Keefer are some of the names that leap to mind."

The CBC in its chicken like scramble to attract and appeal to a younger ‘hipper’ audience is sounding more and more like all the other commercial crap on the air; in so doing it is abdicating an important role: nurturer of Canadian literary talent, or as Brian Moore put it in a letter to Weaver, [provider of] "encouragement at that vital stage when such help is – or seems – all important. " I am sure," Moore continues " I am only one of the swelling chorus of writers who are in your debt but, believe me, I have never forgotten those early days."