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April 18, 2007

Quote of the day

A day comes when we understand that tomorrow will be no different from today since of today will it be made.
~ Proust

May 19, 2006

Never Know ~ Jack Johnson

Revising for a poetry exam, but the only poetry speaking to me right now is Johnson's lyrics...

I heard this old story before
Where the people keep on killing for their metaphors
But don't leave much up to the imagination,
So I, wanna give this imagery back
But I know it just ain’t so easy like that
So I turn the page and read the story again
and again and again
It sure seems the same, with a different name
We're breaking and rebuilding and we're growing always guessing

Never knowing
We're shocking but we're nothing
We're just moments, we're Clever but we're clueless
We're just human, amusing and confusing
Were trying but where is this all leading?
We'll Never Know

It all happened so much faster than you could say disaster
Wanna take a time lapse and look at it backwards
Find the last one and maybe that’s just the answer that we're after
But after all we're just a bubble in a boiling pot
Just one breath in a chain of thought
We're moments just combusting
We feel certain but we'll never, never know
It sure seems the same, give it a different name
We're begging and we're needing
and we're trying and we're breathing

Never knowing
We're shocking but we're nothing
We're just moments, we're Clever but we're clueless
We're just human, amusing and confusing
We're helping, rebuilding and we're growing
Never Know

Knock, knock coming door to door
To tell ya that their metaphor is better than yours
And you can either sink or swim things are looking pretty grim
If you don’t believe in what they're spoon feeding
Its got no feeling so I read it again and again and again

It sure seems the same so many different names
Our hearts are strong our heads are weak
We'll always be competing

Never knowing
We're shocking but we're nothing
We're just moments, we're Clever but we're clueless
We're just human, amusing and confusing
But the truth is all we got is questions
We'll Never Know
Never Know
Never Know

April 15, 2006

Quote a day keeps the doctor away…

This quote will update itself every day to say something different…keep checking it out! Quotes

April 06, 2006

Derek Walcott

I cam across this poem of Walcott's and was compelled to share it:

Love After Love

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other's welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

March 26, 2006

W.B. Yeats

The poor fellow looks a little gormless in most of the photos I've found of him, but that's by no means a judgement of character!

from A General Introduction for my Work

This essay is personal compared to Pound's objective essay outlining his fundemental principles for anyone writing poetry. Nonetheless, there are moments which I thought worth relaying to you.

A poet writes always of his personal life, in his finest work out of its tragedy, whatever it be, remorse, lost love, or mere loneliness; he never speaks directly as to someone at the breakfast table, there is always phantasmagoria…He is part of his own phantasmagoria.

Yeats steeped himself in classical literature and was of the belief that literature should show the mark of the traditions that came before it. He was also a spiritual man and pursude various branches of mysticism throughout his life. This inevitable affected his writing and the following quote is an example of hoe he uses mystical influence to express his beliefs about the tradition of literature:

'When mind is lost in the light of the Self,' says the Prashna Upanishad, 'it dreams no more; still in the body it is lost in happiness.' 'A wise man seek in Self,' says the Chandogya Upanishad, 'those that are alive and those that are dead and gets what the world cannot give.' The world knows nothing because it has made nothing, we know everything because we have made everything.


I am a crowd. I am a lonely man. I am nothing.

The second quote is particularly resonant of mysticism. I recall a Sufi saying: 'One should be alone in the crowd.' It means to live a life of devotion to God among society, not in seclusion. Similarly, Yeats says that one should write new poetry in the context of literary tradition, not by introducing "originality" that is not connected to anything that has come before.

…romantic literature…had one quality I admired and admire: they were not separated or individual men; they spoke or tried to speak out of a people to a people; behind them stretched the generations.
I hated and still hate with an every drowing hatred the literature of the point of view. I wanted…to get back to Homer…I wanted to cry and all men cried, to laugh as all men laughed…
Style is almost unconscious. I know what I have tred to do, little what I have done.

This quote makes me hark back to my previous argument about criticism – how reliable is it that we take the words of critics for granted when even the author himself did not know exactly what it was that he had written? Sometimes critics seem to me to be more like psychoanalysts than literary analysts, deducing what the authors subconscious wrote rather than what the author was conscious of writing. Just a thought.

I tried to make the language of poetry coincide with that of passionate, normal speech. I wanted to write in whatever language comes most naturally when we soliloquise, as I do all day long, upon the events of our own lives or of any life where we can see ourselves for the moment…It was a long time before I had made a language to my liking.

With regards to the importance of form:

…all that is personal soon rots; it must be packed in ice or salt.
'Tragedy must be a joy to the man who dies.' …neither scholars nor the populace have sung or read anything generation after generation because of its pain. The maid of honour whose tragedy they sing must be lifted out of history with timeless pattern…imagination must dance, must be carried befond feeling into the aboriginal ice.
When I speak blank verse and analyse my feelings, I stand at a moment of history when instinct, its traditional songs and dances, its general agreement, is of the past. I have been cast up out of the whale's belly though I still remember the sound and sway that came from beyond its ribs…The contrapuntal structure of the verse combines the past and present.
What moves me and my hearer is a vivid speech that had no laws except that it must not exorcise the ghostly voice. I am awake and asleep, at my moment of revelation, self-possessed in self-surrender; there is no rhyme, no echo of the beaten drum, the dancing foot, that would overset my balance.

March 25, 2006

Strong Words

I've started to read Strong Words: Modern Poets on Modern Poetry for my Practice of Poetry exam, and I'm enjoying it. It instructs wisely, confirms and questions much of what I believe/think about poetry and the practice of writing it, and I've decided to blog up extracts of the essays that particularly speak to me.

So, I'll begin with Ezra Pound.
from A Retrospect

In this essay, Pound lays down his fundemental 'rules' for writing poetry. His definitive metaphor for the practice of poetry is music:

Don't imagine that the art of poetry is any simpler than the art of music, or that you can please the expert before you have spent at least as much effort on the art of verse as the average piano teacher spends on the art of music.

This sums up the undercurrent of this essay which is that, at the end of the day, writing a poem is hard work and should not be taken lightly; everyone knows that to play music like a virtuoso one must practice hard, learn the musical directions so that one can play the music at the right pace, at the right dynamic, and create suitable musical mood. To write well requires the same amount of dedication and rehearsal:

Let the neophyte know assonance and alliteration, rhyme immediate and delayed, simple and polyphonic, as a musician would expect to know harmony and counterpoint and all the minutiae of his craft.

His three main principles for writing the poetry of vers libre are outlined at the beginning of the essay:

1. Direct treatment of the "thing" whether subjective or objective.
2. To use absolutely no word that does not contribute to the presentation.
3. As regarding rhythm: to compose in the sequence of the musical phrase, not in sequence of a metronome.

On criticism:

Criticism is not a circumscription or a set of prohibitions. It provides fixed points of departure. It may startle a dull reader into alertness.

I do not agree with a tradition of criticism that defines the interpretation of a particular poem, that sets in stone the poem's meaning and nuances, that seems to be an 'effort to explain away ambiguity, to reduce the poem to statement like any other' (SW, 12). However, the purpose of criticism as outlined by Pound above justifies its necessity for me. He also warns: 'Pay no attention to the criticism of men who have never themselves written a notable work.' How many of the critics we read and whose words we take for granted have ever written a significant work which is not the criticism of someone else's work?

I was struck by his wonderfully succinct description of what 'an image' is:

An 'Image' is that which presents an intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time…It is the presentation of such a 'complex' instantaneously which gives the sens of sudden liberation; that sense of freedom from time limits and space limits; that sense of sudden growth, which we experience in the presence of the greatest works of art.

These are the statements of his that I though particularly resonant:

Do not retell in mediocre verse what has already been done in good prose.
What the expert is tired of today the public will be tired of tomorrow.
Use either no ornament or good ornament.
When Shakespeare talk of the 'Dawn in russet mantle clad' he presents something which the painter does not present. There is in this line of his nothing that one can call description; he presents.
The scientist does not expect to be acclaimed as a great scientist until he had discovered something. He begins by learning what has been discovered already. He goes from this point onward.
A rhyme must have in it some slight element of surprise if it is to give pleasure.
That part of your poetry which strikes upon the imaginitive eye of the reader will lose nothing by translation into a foreign tongue; that which appeals to the ear can reach only those who take it in the orginal.

This is why I'm finding translating Persian poetry hard. A lot of the beauty is in the way the words sound, and also the word play which can hardly ever be translated with the same nuances.

If you are using a symmetrical form, don't put in what you want to say and then fill up the remaining vacuums with slush…Don't mess up the perception of one sense by trying to define it in terms of another. This is usually only the result of begin too lazy to find the exact word.
I believe that the proper and perfect symbol is the natural object, that if a man use "symbols" he must so use them that their symbolic function does not obtrude; so that a sense, and the poetic quality of a passage, is not lost to those who do not understand the symbol as such, to whom, for instance, a hawk is a hawk.
I think there is a "fluid" and well as a "solid" content, that some poems may have form as a tree has form, some as water poured into a vase.
It is tremendously important that great poetry be written, it makes not a jot of difference who writes it.
No good poetry is ever written in a manner 20 years old, for to write in such a manner shows conclusively that the writer thinks from book, convention and cliche, and not from life.

Yeats' influence on poetry has been to make it a 'speech without inversions'.

20th century poetry…will, I think, move against poppycock, it will be harder and saner…'nearer the bone'...its force will lie in its truth, its interpretive power…At least for myself, I want it so, austere, direct, free from emotional slither.

And finally a little comic relief:

I believe in everyone writing poetry who wants to; most do. I believe in every man knowing enough music to play 'God bless our home' on the harmonium, but I do not believe in every man giving concerts and printing his sin.

March 22, 2006

Idealism and honesty

And so it is with these idealists – it is always the case. Up to the last they adorn the man with peacock-feathers, to the last they hold to the good, and, although they have a forboding of the reverse of the medal, they put away their thoughts, and will shut out the reality with both hands, until in the end the idealised man mocks and laughs at them and shows himself as her really is.

~ Fyodor Dostoyevsky Crime and Punishment

Honesty, especially with yourself as well as others, is harder to live by than most think. Don't put away your forboding thoughts, deal with them as they arrive. Otherwise you'll end up like this:

January 10, 2006


The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit

Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.

December 31, 2005

Happy New Year

Happy New Year All! Wishing you good health and success in the year to come…I hope all your wishes come true.

We have been reading Rumi fortunes at our gathering so I have snuck away from the celebrations to record mine before I forget it:

A swan beats its wings with joy; "Rain pour on! God has lifted my soul from the water"

I feel positive inside about what this year will bring. All I have to do is spread my wings and start flapping…

December 28, 2005

Birds Without Wings

3 out of 5 stars

A historic novel which considers the fall of the Ottoman empire from various persepctives. It begins in the village of Iskibance and captures the rustic life of the rural peoples, their beliefs and traditions, and particularly the inter-religious relationship of the Christans and Muslims that lived along side each other before the forced mass rehabilitation that came at the beginning of the 20th century. The picturesque village life is pieced together by De Bernieres' 3rd person narrative and the first person voices of various characters looking back on the time that De Berniers writes about, recounting the events in a past tense, relying on their memory and emotional anecdotes to give life to the story. At the centre of the village's narrative it the story of Pilothei, the village beauty who, as hinted from the start, is in some way doomed.
De Bernieres then provides the military and political perspective of the Ottoman wars through the character of Mustafa Kemal, a determined revolutionary general who works his way into a position of crucial importance in the wars. De Bernieres uses Kemal's life story as a springboard for the statistics of horrendous genocides that occured and are forgotten today. Genocides that were as devistating to the muslims as the holocaust was to the jews, carried out on the basis of religious belief, but are barely acknowledged today.
The result is a novel which invites the reader to develop an emotional relationship with the inhabitants of Iskibance, accepting their religious harmony, a relationship which is then heartbroken by the devistation of war and the destruction of Iskibance as a result.
The novel gives a fairly comprehensive introduction to the later stages of the Ottoman Empire and how life changed with the wars and the reformation of the Middle East after the Empire's destruction. It is a great read, a bit slow to work through, but a beautiful work that would especially appeal to historic novel lovers, or anyone with an interest in the history of the Middle East.

This isn't a comprehensive review because what I really intended to do was post my favourite quotes from the book. De Bernieres writes with such eloquence and some of his politically charged paragraphs are wonderfully poetic. Here are some of my favourite bits which I remembered to make note of:

…history is finally nothing but a sorry edifice contructed from flesh in the name of great ideas

This next quote is in reference to the Russian Christian massacres of hunderds of thousands of Muslims in Eastern Europe. Could be the start of an interesting debate…feel free to comment:

Christians throughout history, took no notice of the key parable of Jesus Christ himself which taught that you should love your neighbour as yourself…This has never made any difference to Christians since the primary epiphenomena of any religious foundation are the production and flourishment of hypocrisy, megalomania and psycholpathy, and the first casulaty of a religious establishment are the intentions of its founder…
…they played abstractly at backgammon, that game which mirrors life by being composed half of calculation and half of luck…

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