Sunday, September 24, 2017


The Life of The Poet Workshop with Leonard Gontarek – Fall 2017

Thursdays, 5:30 – 7 PM. $72 for four classes.

The Fall Workshop will meet four times: September 28October 5, 12, 19.

Note – New Location: 4221 Osage Avenue, Philadelphia.

Discussion of contemporary and international poetry, and participants’
work. Weekly assignments. Improve your poetic skills. Gain a fuller
understanding of poetry in our world. Find balance, support and time
to write. Keep your spirit up. For poets at any level.

Please contact Leonard Gontarek with interest:,
215.808.9507 – Independent workshops and manuscript editing available.

While there’s no guarantee you’ll become the next Robert Frost, with the guidance of award-winning, prolific poet Leonard Gontarek, it’s at least a possibility. Encouraging students to explore as many avenues as possible and remove themselves from their work, he’ll help you find—then strengthen—your style and voice.

                                Philadelphia Weekly, Nicole Finkbiner

Have taken several sessions of The Self and Place in Poetry and leave each class in a good place. Leonard is patient and direct. With deft skill and compassionate humor he helps us find the purest parts of our poems.

                                 Kathryn Giedgowd

Leonard Gontarek is the author of six books of poems, including, Take Your Hand
Out of My Pocket, Shiva and He Looked Beyond My Faults and Saw My Needs.

He coordinates Poetry In Common, Peace/Works, Philly Poetry Day, The
Philadelphia Poetry Festival, and hosts The Green Line Reading & Interview Series.

Since 2006, he has conducted 1000 poetry workshops in venues including,
Musehouse, The Kelly Writers House, The Moonstone Arts Center,
Free Library of Philadelphia, University City Arts League, Philadelphia
Arts in Education Partnership, and a weekly Saturday workshop from his
home in West Philadelphia. He has been Mad Poet-in-Residence since 2008.

He has received Poetry fellowships from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts,
the Mudfish Poetry Prize, the Philadelphia Writers Conference Community Service
Award, was a Literary Death Match Champion. His poem, 37 Photos From The Bridge,
a Poetry winner for the Big Bridges MotionPoems project in 2015, was the basis
for the award-winning film by Lori Ersolmaz.

Leonard Poem here:

Leonard Poem here:

Leonard Poem here:

Leonard reading Promise:

Take Your Hand Out Of My Pocket, Shiva, by Leonard Gontarek.

Available from:

Small Press Distribution

Hanging Loose Press

“This is a book of human hungers so exact in its recognitions it leaves a reader stricken with a sense not just of how detailed our desires are, but how rare it is to have them articulated in ways yet unspoken. 'In my poor country, we poured sugar/ on everything to not notice our hunger,' Leonard Gontarek writes, but where that coat of sweetening fails, this poet stays to record what is still needed, what is still hungry, what is still so very, and beautifully, human.”

—Katie Ford, author of Blood Lyrics and Colosseum

“With its spare language, dry wit, and unnerving honesty, Gontarek's latest book delivers a sucker punch of solitude and desire. Here is a voice that offers no simple solutions to the whirl of the universe, but instead stands next to you and points out the small essential thing you forgot to notice. Deliberate, bare, and infused with a searing humor, these poems hiss and bloom at the same time.”

—Ada Limón, author of Bright Dead Things and Sharks in the River
Attachments area

In case you wondered …

… What Should Have Happened In Hillary Clinton's Useless Book | HuffPost. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

… as her die-hard defenders proclaimed, Clinton can write a book if she wants, and nobody gets to stop her. They’re not wrong. She has every right to write a book about the election. But not this book. Nobody should ever be allowed to write a book like this.

For the season …

… Autumn by Hölderlin |. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Tracking the decline …

 “Humiliating”: Inside the Latest Controversy to Roil The New York Times | Vanity Fair.

Didn’t the Times just layoff a bunch of copyeditors?

Good …

… Clergy and Lay Scholars Issue Filial Correction of Pope Francis.

I am not a fan of the current Pope.

Something to think on …

To be kind is more important than to be right. Many times, what people need is not a brilliant mind that speaks but a special heart that listens.
— F. Scott Fitzgerald, born on this date in 1896

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Listen to this …

Artful writing …

 Tales of Ratiocination: The Somnambulist by Jonathan Barnes.

Genres have to do with the subjects that sre being written about. Any book in any genre can also be a work of art, sometimes high art.

Time with a poet …

 Brodsky Among Us: “I cannot say that I enjoyed writing this book, it was torn out of me.” | The Book Haven.

A matter of taste …

 Reading the Writing on His Walls - WSJ.
One thing that’s clear is that the collection, like President Bush’s top-four list, reflects its owner’s taste, not that of a high-priced art consultant. Rather than “buying signatures” or hewing to the dictates of fashion, Mr. Albee collected artists who were respected but comparatively little known to the public at large. His top-dollar pieces include a pair of nudes by Milton Avery, who is greatly admired by connoisseurs but has never been popular. Instead of Jackson Pollock, he chose a painting by Lee Krasner, Pollock’s wife. He also owned three pieces each by Sidney Gordin, John McLaughlin, Richard Stankiewicz and Pavel Tchelitchew —none of them art-world matinée idols—and when he did buy works by famous artists like Marc Chagall or Wassily Kandinsky, they were stylistically uncharacteristic of the rest of their output.

In case you wondered …

 What Makes for a Winning Life? | Bill Peschel.

Tonight, two millenia ago …

 First Known When Lost: Asleep.

Sounds like a good idea …

 Teaching Brevity: A Little Bit of Brevity by My Side | BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

The writer's life...

The sound of summer …

… Zealotry of Guerin: Cicada (Ruth Diamond-Guerin), Sonnet #370.

Blogging note …

I have errands to run today. So I won't be blogging again until later on.

Appointment announced …

… Alice Oswald named BBC Radio 4 Poet-in-Residence | The Bookseller. (Hat tip, G.E. Reutter.)

Growing up with Deano …

… Paul Davis On Crime: Dean Martin's Daughter Reflects On Father's Music Legacy, Funny Encounters And Rumors.

A contemporary Virgil …

… Of Arms and the Man - WSJ. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The late Robert Fagles praised Virgil’s “unequalled blend of grandeur and accessibility.” Mr. Ferry’s poem has stateliness often encased in easy 21st-century diction. This helps make his Virgil our contemporary. His “Aeneid” is readable, even page-turning. Virgil’s impulit becomes “bashes,” and vestem, “shirt.” During the fall of Troy, Panthus tells Aeneas “the Trojans are finished.” Even grammar turns easygoing: “But who is that who from afar we see?” Words like “guesthouse” and “waggled” appear. Turnus accuses Drances of “talking away with your famous windbag blather.” Tarchon rallies his troops: “What are you so afraid of, you so-called soldiers, / You no-good, hang-back, half-ass Etruscans?” At the end Jupiter shuts Juno up once and for all: “I forbid you to try anymore. Enough is enough.” And when Aeneas defeats Turnus he tells him: “Now get it together, the time has come.”

Chorus of geese …

… Canary - Current Issue. (Hat tip, G. E. Reutter.)

And the winner is …

… Vietnamese refugee Ocean Vuong wins 2017 Forward Prize for Poetry. (Hat tip, G.E. Reutter.)

Something to think on …

I have always held the old-fashioned opinion that the primary object of work of fiction should be to tell a story.
— Wilkie Collins, who died on this date in 1889

Friday, September 22, 2017

Hmm …

… Does the Right Really Think a Sombrero is just a “Straw Hat”? | New Republic. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I know Lionel Shriver. She will be amused to learn that she is now regarded as right-wing. But when did libertarianism become exclusively right-wing? I consider myself a libertarian. What all libertarians have in common is a suspicion of authority and the state. There are, after all, libertarian socialists (who I think have much in common with Chesterton's and Belloc's Distributism). Putting all that aside, though, how is it right-wing to object to the nonsense about cultural appropriation? Was it cultural appropriation for Denzel Washington to be cast as Don Pedro in Kenneth Branagh's film of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing? I don't think so. Just good acting. Cultures grow by cross-pollinating. They die by in-breeding.

In memoriam …

… Husband's elegy for Jenny Diski wins Forward prize for best single poem | Books | The Guardian. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Blogging note …

I must be out and about. I will resume blogging later on.

Today is Native American Day …

… Poetry Room: Simon Ortiz, Native American poet. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)


… A Master List of 1,300 Free Courses From Top Universities: 45,000 Hours of Audio/Video Lectures | Open Culture. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

In praise of imperfection …

… Essay Daily: Take One Daily and Call Me Every Morning: ADVENT 12/1, Phillip Lopate on A Little-Known Gem by Max Beerbohm. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

He starts by zeroing in on Goethe’s vanity. “Goethe has more than once been described as ‘the perfect man’…. But a man whose career was glorious without intermission, decade after decade, must sorely try our patience.” He enumerates: “he was never injudicious, never lazy, always in the best form—and always in love with some lady or another just so much as was good for the development of his art, but never more than that by a tittle.” Of course this is unfair, but the irreverence is tonic.

Listen in ….

… Christian Today - Peter Hitchens of the Mail on Sunday,... (Hat tip, Dave Lull,)

Prophetic fiction …

Before we go further, it’s worth noting how fully this novel, which is set mostly in the two decades after World War II, anticipates the daily purge that is the internet, its mille-feuille layers of outrage and heartbreak.
In it, Elkin (1930-1995) considers how the telephone can make “every home in America its own potential broadcasting station, and every American his own potential star.” Everyone is his own cognitive hacker, his own potential phone phreak.

Hemingway in short …

 Paul Davis On Crime: My Washington Times Review Of 'The Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway, The Hemingway Library Edition'.

Something to think on …

Fiction stretches our sensibilities and our understanding, as mere information never can.
— Fay Weldon, born on this date in 1931

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Hmm …

… Dress like Beckett | What we can learn from writer's clothes.

Bad idea to dress like somebody else. Dress like yourself.

Another masterwork …

Giving all …

… Time’s Eunuch - The Catholic Thing. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)


… USAJOBS - Job Announcement.

This came in an email. So I thought I'd just in case someone is interested.

Anniversary …

… Cutter Streeby on Twitter: "Happy birthday to Kay Ryan, who is seventy-two today. Read her Art of Poetry interview". (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

For your listening pleasure …

Debut …

… Tales of Ratiocination: The Limehouse Text by Will Thomas (Touchstone, 2006).

The poet as saint …

 Poet Robert Lax found what he needed in the circus - The Buffalo News. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

One slight correction: It was John the Evangelist, not John of the Cross who lived on Patmos and the Book of Revelation.

Retrospective …

… Half-light: Collected Poems 1965–2016 - The Barnes & Noble Review. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

A more predictably chronological walk through the decades might have highlighted the way in which Bidart’s work has evolved with experience; this more inventive sequence invites a different sort of insight. It’s true that the poems from the ’60s and ’70s, composed before Bidart found his full voice, are more straightforward, more conventional. Some, like “Herbert White” and the excellent “Ellen West,” are persona poems; others are memoir pieces written under the influence of Robert Lowell’s Life Studies. Yet what this ordering makes apparent is the remarkable consistency and unity of Bidart’s work over time. 

Classic review …

… C. S. Lewis' 1937 Review of The Hobbit | Literary Hub. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Talking to God …

… "Flannery's confession," a poem by Angela Alaimo O'Donnell. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The catechism defines prayer as the lifting up of the mind and heart to God (at the catechism we had in first grade did). Anyway, when I do that, I usually try to keep quiet. 


… Informal Inquiries: Blogging note -- moving to new address.

Something to think on …

We must not allow the clock and the calendar to blind us to the fact that each moment of life is a miracle and mystery.
— H. G. Wells, born on this date in 1866

Wednesday, September 20, 2017


… About | NY Art Book Fair Presented By Printed Matter. (Hat tip, dave Lull.)

Here's challenge …

 Informal Inquiries: Twenty-four pre-Christian era books.

I doubt if can name all of them, and I am sure I haven't read all of them. I've read Herodotus, a good deal of Plato and Aristotle, Homer of course, Caesar's Gallic Wars, Seneca's letters (though Seneca lived into the Christian era), the Upanishads and the Tao te Ching (if the latter two count), Thucydides (I think), Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, and Aristophanes. Others that come to mind — Plutarch, Tacitus, and Marcus Aurelius, for instance — are not pre-Christian.

Logic for living …

… Remembering Lotfi Zadeh, the Inventor of Fuzzy Logic | The New Yorker. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Zadeh, who died earlier this month, at the age of ninety-six, had modest hopes for his paper; he figured that the main reason it had been accepted was because the author was a member of Information and Control’s editorial board. Gradually, though, his innovation found a following, particularly in the East. In the nineteen-eighties, engineers in Sendai, Japan, incorporated fuzzy logic into the design of the city’s new subway, using it to program the system’s famously smooth starts and stops. A catalogue of fuzzy consumer electronics followed—cameras, washers and dryers, vehicle transmissions and anti-skid braking systems, air-conditioners and thermostats, rice cookers, vacuum cleaners, and unmanned helicopters.

Editor par excellence …

… Informal Inquiries: Maxwell Perkins -- Editor as Handmaiden.

Something I happened upon …


Why read Van Wyck Brooks? Because he wrote beautifully.

Masterwork …

Full disclosure, as they say: Harold is a friend of mine. His works have just been uploaded to YouTube and I intend to link to them one at a time. I think they are well worth hearing.

The winter of his discontent …

… Martin Amis: ‘I miss the English’ | Books | The Guardian. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

If America is, for Amis, an easier place in which to grow old – fewer critics, for a start – he retains an expectation that he and his wife will move home one day. “I miss the English,” he says. “I miss Londoners. I miss the wit. Americans, they’re very, well, de Tocqueville saw this coming in about 1850 – he said, it’s a marvellous thing, American democracy, but don’t they know how it’s going to end up? It’s going to be so mushy that no one will dare say anything for fear of offending someone else. That’s why Americans aren’t as witty as Brits, because humour is about giving a little bit of offence. It’s an assertion of intellectual superiority. Americans are just as friendly and tolerant as Londoners, but they flinch from mocking someone’s background or education.”
There is much in what he says.

Action, adventure, and Hemingway …

… Paul Davis On Crime: My Washington Times Review Of Nelson DeMille's 'The Cuban Affair'.

Grand old man …

… A Soul in Wonder.(Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Longley is not a poet to be read lazily. His poetry is as crafted as a hand-weaving or hand-carving, full of love, skill, hard work and vision. It is mindful of the alchemist’s motto, “Tria sunt necessaria: videlicet patientia, mora et aptitudo instrumentorum” (Three things are necessary: patience, soul and a way with the tools). Longley has all these, together with a classical education, an ear for music and a love and knowledge of the natural sciences. Therefore, his work demands attention of the reader, demands engagement with the voice of the poems and an appreciation of the craft involved in producing the finished poem, which may have scientific themes and words, Latin references, family resonances or even the statement of deeply-felt love and friendship for colleagues, past and present. Hence the usefulness of the poet’s own perception of his four great themes – love, war and death, nature and the art of poetry.

Something to think on …

I think in order to move forward into the future, you need to know where you've been.
— Charles Williams, born on this date in 1886

In case you wondered...

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Tonight …



THE PRIZE: Poetry Books Valued at $50



Tuesday, September 19, 2017, 7 PM

(Please note the address, there are
  other Green Line Café locations.)

     This Event Is Free

Cassie MacDonald has been Hearthkeeper of Brigid's House in Waterfront South Camden since 2008, where she practices radical hospitality and hosts writers, artists and musicians with wide-open creative space and loving encouragement.  From here, she launched the Poetry Liberation Front, whose Guerrilla Poets paint poems on abandoned places in the neighborhood.  She is also Coordinator of Camden FireWorks, a collective of artist studios, gallery and teaching space and the future home of the FireHouse Press, in the emerging artist district known as SoBro.  Her latest chapbook of poems, Use Your Words, is currently looking for a home.

Rafi Lev has over 25 years experience in multicultural education, cross-cultural communication, interfaith dialog, leadership training, youth mentorship and intergroup relations. For six years he performed with Full Circle Theatre’s intergenerational improve troupe and has been trained in Comedy Sportz, PlayBack Theatre and Theater of the Oppressed. He was a founding 3 year member of Center City Poets and has been published in Moonstone Arts “Poetry Ink”, “The Fox Chase Review” and “ In Barcelona”. His favorite forms include haiku and tanka and he is an avid aficionado of the daily jumble. His community building efforts have ranged from volunteering with Fellowship Farm, Asian Arts initiative, Norris Square Neighborhood Project, Operation Understanding, Broad Street Ministries, Raices Culturales Latinoamericanas, the Arts and Spirituality Center and Mighty Writers. Originally from the Midwest and a lifelong linguist, he has lived and studied in South America and the Middle East, as well as worked and traveled extensively in Africa, Asia and Europe. Rafi is rumored to have one of the largest refrigerator magnet collections in the Delaware Valley. Most days, he is still searching for that elusive perfect Muse.

Hmm …

… Uncensored John Simon: Who Killed Poetry? (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I suppose that the answer to the question posed in the title is "John Ashbery." But while the post makes plain that Simon does not like Ashbery's poetry, and even doubts that it is poetry, he never actually gets around to demonstrating that Ashbery somehow killed poetry.

For what it's worth, here is the only review I ever wrote of Ashbery's work. I seem to have gleaned some meaning — and some pleasure  — from it.

But the science was settled!

A group of prominent scientists on Monday created a potential whiplash moment for climate policy, suggesting that humanity could have considerably more time than previously thought to avoid a “dangerous” level of global warming.

Good to know …

… Philly Loves Poetry: Local poetry reviews on Vimeo.

A deft sonnet …

… Informal Inquiries: "Into My Own" by Robert Frost.

Hear, hear …

 Camille Paglia's Teaching | Mark Bauerlein | First Things. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Paglia believes there is a causal connection between young Americans’ ignorance of history and their dim view of present conditions. At a conference in Oxford, Paglia stated again, in response  to a student who criticized her and others for telling youths not to be so sensitive and snowflaky, “There is much too much focus on the present.” Thanks to the (presumed) sensitivity of modern youth, Paglia says, students have not had a “realistic introduction to the barbarities of human history . . . . Ancient history must be taught . . . . I believe in introducing young people to the disasters of history.” Without that background, she implies, our only standard of appraising current circumstances is current circumstances plus a few utopian dreams. We have so much material prosperity, they think, so why don’t we have more perfect people to enjoy it?

Something to think on …

The philosopher does not seek to understand the world — that is the business of the scientist — but he asks himself how is it that there is a world to understand? How is it that this world is intelligible to human beings and that there is an intelligent being to know it in its intelligibility?
— Étienne Gilson, who died on this date in 1978

What "culture" is about …

… Cultural appropriation | J. C. on the ethics of borrowing. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Culture, from Latin cultura "a cultivating, agriculture," figuratively "care, culture, an honoring."

Dave also reminds me of an earlier post on this subject.

In case you wondered …

… 2017 Nobel Peace Prize Odds To Win|

Monday, September 18, 2017

Check this out …

… Cli-Fi.Net -- the world's largest online 'Cli-Fi' portal for Cli-Fi: Cli-fi is the ‘best way to explore climate change,’ says literary critic.

Sharpshooter …

… Paul Davis On Crime: My Q&A With Robert O'Neill, The Navy SEAL Who Shot And Killed Osama Bin Laden, America's Enemy Number One.

Once upon a time …

 When Chicago Was the Real Literary Capital of the United States | Literary Hub. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Good to hear …

… Marsha Mercer column: Not dead yet, poetry due for comeback | THEIR OPINION | (Hat tip, G.E. Reutter.)

Picking up the beat

… Poetry of Carl Sandburg takes musical cue in jazz drummer's CD. (Hat tip, G. E. Reutter.)

On the job …

… New U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith reports for duty. (Hat tips, Rus Bowden and G. E. Reutter.)

In case you wondered …

… Cli-Fi.Net -- the world's largest online 'Cli-Fi' portal for Cli-Fi: "What can we do about climate change?" is a question best left to cli-fi novelists and film directors, not so-called PhD "experts" who are just pissing in the wind - an OpEd.

Something to think on …

Kindness is in our power, even when fondness is not.
— Samuel Johnson, born on this date in 1709

The ghost of uncertainty …

… The New World of William Carlos Williams. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
… when he was preparing his last book for the press, Leibowitz writes, Williams grew so anguished that he “tore the manuscript to pieces and dumped them in the trash.” His wife had to fish out the fragments and mail them to his publisher, James Laughlin of New Directions, “who put them together like a jigsaw puzzle.”

Sunday, September 17, 2017

A satisfying rightness …

… Let Us Watch Richard Wilbur: A Biographical Study by Robert Bagg and Mary Bagg | Quarterly Conversation. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Part of the problem for any biographers of a poet like Wilbur is the essential goodness and conventionality of their subject’s life. In the Army, he was neither hero nor coward. He did his job. He is a Christian. He was married to the same woman, Charlee, for sixty-five years, until her death in 2007, and had four apparently normal children. There is no evidence of marital infidelity, spousal abuse, or other scandal. The Baggs tells us the couple rather naively misused prescription drugs with alcohol in the 1980s, and successfully underwent treatment. That’s about the most shocking thing they have to report. Compare that to the lives of Berryman and Crane.

Big Sky, MT 9-16-17

Good idea …

… Stop dissecting a poem as if it were a dead frog. (Hat tip, G. E. Reutter.)

Sound advice …

… Reading Poetry Can Instantly Boost Your Happiness, Says Deepak Chopra | Reader's Digest. (Hat tip, G. E. Reutter.)

Honoring a feast day …

 Hildegard of Bingen: A Sonnet | Malcolm Guite. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

See also:

Jeannette Jones: “A Theological Interpretation of ‘Viriditas’ in Hildegard of Bingen and Gregory the Great.”

Mens sana in corpore sano …

… 104-Year Old Japanese Doctor Recommends These 14 Healthy Pieces of Advice. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I love the typo in the first line.

Hmm …

… Thirty Years, by John P. Marquand (1954) - The Neglected Books Page. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

In his introduction to the book, Clifton Fadiman calls Marquand “the best novelist of social comedy now [1954] at work in our country” and predicts that he will be considered the American Thackeray of the 20th century. Fadiman attributes Marquand’s success to his being “at once outsider and insider.” From the distance of over a half century later, I think it’s become clear that Marquand was far more insider than outsider. And despite recent attempts to prop up the place of rich East Cost white men as its pinnacle, it’s probably also safe to conclude that the role of Boston and New York clubmen in the American Establishment mostly of historical and anthropological interest today.
But could not one say the same of Thackeray's drawing rooms?  Good novels actually provide worthwhile insight into how people — presumably people much like ourselves — actually lived in circumstances that happen superficially to differ from our own.  Marquand's novels might provide needed insight into today's Ivy Leaguers (see H. M. Pulham, Esq.).

Inquirer reviews, sort of …

There are two reviews in the paper this Sunday, but I can only find one online. Maybe somebody should buy those who staff a subscription to the paper.

Anyway, here's the one review that is online: Jesmyn Ward goes to front of the choir with 'Sing, Unburied, Sing'.

There's also this: Stephen Greenblatt goes back, back to the beginning with 'The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve'.

Something to think on …

We cannot live in a world that is not our own, in a world that is interpreted for us by others. An interpreted world is not a home. Part of the terror is to take back our own listening, to use our own voice, to see our own light.
— Hildegard von Bingen, who died on this date in 1179

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Tracking the inanity …

Grief born of love …

… The Poetry of Death | The New Yorker. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

In the weeks after her funeral, I drove four times a day to her grave. I read novels only if they exercised rage and misery—“No Country for Old Men,” not “The Ambassadors.” I took pleasure only in disaster: Oklahoma City, an airplane crash in New York with everyone killed. My days were misery, except for an hour in the morning, when I revised the wailing and whining I had drafted beside her hospital bed. Today I realize that these death poems had already begun to bring my language back to life. One morning I looked out of the window at her garden. Her peonies, basketball-sized, stood tall and still unopened late in May, with weeds starting from the black earth around them. I began the poem that, by autumn, became “Weeds and Peonies.”

A man among books …

… Clifton Fadiman Didn’t Mind Being Called Schoolmasterish | Humanities. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Introducing his 1957 essay collection, Any Number Can Play, he was eerily prescient about our e-mail-and-text-addled, Twitterpated age. “Now there is a tendency to absorb the instantaneously received idea, mentally file it, and proceed to the next message transmitted by the tireless mass-communicators,” he wrote. “With so many signals crowding in upon us, there is no time, and soon no inclination, to arrange them in order of importance, reflect upon them, and take proper action. Eventually the alert reception of the signal suffices.”

A timely reminder …

… Why Elie Wiesel’s ‘Night’ Still Matters So Much To Me – The Forward. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Many of us have been struck by the fact that it took Elie 10 years to prepare himself to put into words the horrors of what had been done to him and to his family and to his people. A whole 10 years before he could begin to write. And when he did so, in the spring of 1955, this wise old man who had been to hell and back was just 26 years old. What must it have been like for this man, in his Paris lodgings, to rouse the demons — to hear once again what he called the “silent cries”? “While I had many things to say,” he would later write, “I did not have the words to say them….. How was one to rehabilitate and transform words betrayed and perverted by the enemy? Hunger — thirst — fear — transport — selection — fire — chimney… I would pause at every sentence, and start over and over again. I would conjure up other verbs, other images, other silent cries. It still was not right.” He reimmersed himself in that period, into the darkness of night. The approach that came most naturally to him was blunt and unsparing. What he bore witness to — and thus relived — were the horrors inflicted upon him, but also his own most searing moments of dehumanization, when he could not bring himself to help the person whose companionship had helped keep him alive in Auschwitz and later, on the death march — his father. As he eventually wrote, “He had called out to me and I had not answered.”

Digging deeper …

… Essayism is ultimately about how literature can make a difference. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

What truly comes across in this book is that the essay may well be a sally against the subject, but what is tried, in the final reckoning, are the authors themselves. And, of course, found wanting, in both senses of the word. 
Dave sends along this also, by John Banville — Essayism review: Its own kind of self-made masterpiece.

Post bumped.

The chosen past …

… Zealotry of Guerin: Carpet of Memory (Klee), Sonnet #369.

In case you wondered …

… How Typewriters Changed Everything | JSTOR Daily. (Hat tip, Dan Bloom.)

Something to think on …

The view which regards man as a well, a reservoir full of possibilities, I call the romantic; the one which regards him as a very finite and fixed creature, I call the classical.
— T. E. Hulme, born on this date in 1883

Friday, September 15, 2017

This says it all …

… Informal Inquiries: The final poem by Basho.

The king of comedy …

… Jack Benny’s Comic Program | commentary. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Therein lay Benny’s triumph: He won total acceptance from the American public and did so by embodying a Jewish stereotype from which the sting of prejudice had been leached. Far from being a self-hating whipping boy for anti-Semites, he turned himself into WASP America’s Jewish uncle, preposterous yet lovable.

Hmm …

… Amazon redacts one-star reviews of Hillary Clinton's What Happened | Books | The Guardian. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

The book’s publisher at Simon & Schuster, Jonathan Karp, told the Associated Press: “It seems highly unlikely that approximately 1,500 people read Hillary Clinton’s book overnight and came to the stark conclusion that it is either brilliant or awful.”
Then we ought to be suspicious of both. I wonder how many other books Amazon has done this for.

Inside story …

… The Complete Works of Evelyn Waugh Vol 30: Personal Writings 1903-1921: Precocious Waughs by Alexander Waugh and Alan Bell - review | London Evening Standard. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Re-reading these diaries to write A Little Learning, Waugh wrote, but did not publish, this paragraph, now included in the notes of the new edition and quoted by Alexander Waugh in his introduction: “If what I wrote was a true account of myself, I was [cold-hearted, supercilious arrogant and callous] conceited, heartless & cautiously malevolent. I should like to believe that even in this private journal I was [showing off] dissembling a more generous nature; that I absurdly thought cynicism and cruelty the marks of maturity. I pray it may be so. But the evidence is there, in sentence after sentence, on page after page, of consistent caddishness.” 

In case you wondered …

… Paul Davis On Crime: John le Carre: Why I Brought Back Guillam, Smiley And The Cold War.

Anniversary …

… Informal Inquiries: Light the candles on Agatha's birthday cake.

Investigating more than crime …

… Ross Macdonald, True Detective | New Republic. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Whereas Hammett’s Sam Spade and Chandler’s Philip Marlowe stride through worlds that exist as their own spotlit stages, the new-type detective looks outward, tries to locate flickers of meaning in the vast gloom around him. These are stories where the detective doesn’t just discover what happened to a missing person. He reveals what makes a person feel lost—the perverse and tawdry elements that define people as castoffs in a skewed American landscape.

Ordained sleuth …

… Informal Inquiries: Stained Glass.

September Poetry at North of Oxford …

… 2 Poems by Dongho Cha.

… 2 Poems by John Timpane.

 Bikini Wax, an Inquiry Into Heteronormativity by Jeremy Freedman.

… Revelstoke Mountain, 5am by Julia Wakefield.