TonyH reads in 2012
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Hello 2012 and a new Club Read. Last year's thread is here and previous years filed on my recently updated profile page.
Current active reading:
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
John Keats by Robert Gittings
Keats's Poetry and Prose selected/edited by J. Cox (Norton Critical edition)
Paul Celan: Selections by Paul Celan, edited by Pierre Joris
Tolstoy and the Novel by John Bayley
On Poetry by Glyn Maxwell
Horse Latitudes by Paul Muldoon -- began this again, its going to have to wait on soem of the immediately above, I don't especially enjoy the tone.
Completed in 2012:
1. New Islands by Maria Louisa Bombal
2. Firesprung by Kathleen Kenny
3. Keening with Spittal Tongues by Kathleen Kenny
4. The Life and works of W. B. Yeats by John Kavanagh (audiobook)
5. Abba Abba by Anthony Burgess
6. The Magic Lantern by Ingmar Bergman
7. The Tree House by Kathleen Jamie
8. Of Mutability by Jo Shapcott
9. Nil Nil by Don Paterson
10. Anna Karenina By Leo Tolstoy trans. Pevear and Volokhonsky
11. i tulips by Mario Petrucci
12. The Hoop by John Burnside
13. Common Knowledge by John Burnside
14. Resurrection by Leo Tolstoy 10/9/12.
15. Hadji Murat by Leo Tolstoy
16. The Tempest by William Shakespeare (The Oxford Shakespeare)
17. Common Knowledge by John Burnside (reread, I think my second reread)
18. Feast Days by John Burnside
19. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (finished on Christmas Day)
20. The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayam trans. Edward Fitzgerald (first edition)
21. One Hundred Best Books by John Cowper Powys
Tony - good to see you have a thread up and running in 2012.
I do think I need to get to Keats. You mentioned silence,and silence in nature in your comments on him in your 2011 thread. Interesting thoughts in themselves. I remember Peter Ackroyd reviewed a book some years ago on (I think) the history of noise and silence through the ages. I have since tried to track down what book it was, but to no avail. Such things are very interesting in my estimation.
Mantel is an interesting person, increasingly in my thoughts, although I have not read any of her books as yet. I will be intertested to see how Wolf Hall turns out for you.
Hello Zeno - if I ever hear of such a book on silence (and noise) I will try to remember to let you know. It sounds fascinating. I'm interested in experiencing such silences. Maybe a whole slew of things has led to this, awareness of how I distract myself with radio, music, the news so much of the time instead of simply sit, and I have long known this, Pascal of course, but not just distract myself but divert myself from getting to places which Keats for one hints at, that are got to by dwelling in such silence and being with yourself - and places I need to get at to write. I do know better, my MA was influenced by Moustakas' heuristic research idea (informed itself by M. Polanyi amongst others) and maybe its just a need to have that sort of life again after exploration of a different sort, that these other superficial distractions are not satisfying -- and also given my work, so cognitive in many ways, and stressful, so maybe more of this is my own therapy for me, how to take care of myself and taking that care more seriously. Also a wish for long walks.
I started watching a film about Mantel on the bbc a few months ago, in part it put me off and I turned it off. But a class I cannot attend is looking at Wolf Hall and also Bolt and Shakespeare/Fletcher's Henry VIII so I picked Wolf Hall off the shelf and it caught me. In many ways it is riveting. I am half way through, eased off to look at other things this week but not putting it down altogether. At first how it starts sort of attunes you to him and also the period in a way which I wondered if it was too smooth, a manipulation almost. But it didn't put me off. Its strange reading some of the small observation in the midst of such good research it seems of the time and thinking, but yes that's a total invention (isn't it?), but then that brings up all sorts of questions as to what is history fact and what fiction. And his character is fascinating, but then lots of questions of how true is this character and what is it that makes 'him' as presented so fascinating to a 21st century reader. Anyhow interesting questions and it has me gripped and appreciatign her more and more as it goes.
Wolf Hall is well liked in this group. I found it fascinating with great attention to detail, but that detail did not get in the way of the events because so much of the novel is conversational in style.
Yes conversational in style, and that makes me wonder, like it's charming us -- and like his character charms us -- that just gives me questions about what we are getting from having this person presented to us in this way. Having said that I do not distrust what she is saying nor dislike it, I just wonder what's going on and I am also, being just half way through, wondering what it is going to tell me as he helps some things happen that we know are going to happen...i am wondering if this intimacy may be exactly there to place us very close to a lot of things that are difficult.
Ok, so getting away from my half formed ideas about Wolf Hall until I finish it, tempting as it is.
Earlier this week I finished New Islands a short collection of short stories by Maria Louisa Bombal. I came across one of the 'The tree' in a class and enjoyed it very much, but then later got stuck in the first and longest short story 'the Final Mist' -- but this week reread all from the start and had no such getting stuck nonsense. They are excellent short stories each of them (the collection being made up of 'Braids', 'the Unknown' and 'New Islands' also). This collection has a short preface by one Jorge Luis Borges who was an admirer and (I understand) also a former house/flat mate and was high in his praise.
I bought the collection because of 'the Tree' and find it a wonderful short story about a woman who is a little different, seen to be foolish, about her marriage, about what she understands and about how we can be deflected from acting on what we have to by peace of mind. A very interesting short story.
'The final mist' was the next one I read and that first time got stuck in. I think I tend to read in an empathic way (who doesn't), but soemthign about how I read this got me stuck as I was frusrtared and not in the right place for the inertia in the story, In a sense in restarting this short story I empahsised the 'as if' quality of empathy that Rogers would have, I observed her more as something different more than try to follow her thoughts, and strangely understood her better for that distance, maybe think of it as a reminder of boundaries and a recognition of her being very different. She is someone very unqiue, or very diffrent to the norms I am used to - a woman in Argentina (I think) in a marriage to a landowner, her horizons would be vastly different anyway, but then there are specifics about her, we're not told how she became married to this man she has known since childhood within a year of him becoming a widower, she is very passive in her relationship, her sense of self seems quite different...and then there is what happens...and what does not happen...which make it fascinating, painful, frustrating to read - and again wonderfully well realised and written, a very convincing character for all this strangeness (or maybe not so strange at all -- maybe just a voice I am not so familiar with, or maybe I am hearing how many a woman has felt in a new way for me -- though they may not have had quite the experience this lady has).
'Braids' is an entertaining tale that links a womans long hair to earthly powers it seems. 'The Unknown' a fun tale of a moral sort that from the dedication seems to have been written for a child. 'New Islands' another strange tale which though it involves stuckness again is a little more lively than 'the final mist' and different in its own way from the earlier tales.
Altogether I very much enjoyed this second crack at this book - I love 'the tree' anyway though, worth it just for the picture of her room -- which can lead a person to think about their own places.
The great thing about the varied short story reading I have done is how it has introduced me to many writers I have long heard of but had not sampled previously - and also an interesting trip around the globe.
Two things I read yesterday - Seamus Heaney's introduction to a Wordsworth Selected poems which I will want to dive into when my Keats reading is done and an article by John Burnside who won the T. S. Eliot prize this week on how the hyena is his favourite totem animal and how he'd like to be one at least for a day or was it night at some time, which reminded me of Keats' Chameleon poet but in a unique way relating this to how daily life can be now. Both very stimulating.
Other stimulating things done this weeek - I saw Modern Times on the big screen which was great. I've been listening to the Kronos Quartet on the radio and on youtube.
I also read two volumes of poetry yesterday by Kathleen Kenny. They were Firesprung and Keening with Spittal Tongues. It was so good to read a local poet with poems about places I know. Both were highly readable and I read them quickly and need to go back to reread more than I have already. She has a very immediate sense in touch with the senses, poems very much out of observation. Unsurprisingly fire is a theme in the first and how we miss it from our otherwise heated houses and flats and rooms. And interesting poems about her childhood and her own parenthood. And then Keening with Spittal Tongues - which may be two collections merged. I'm not sure. The longer part, Keening, is about family locally and in Ireland, and her mother's childhood and early adulthood and her own and visits to Ireland and the mountaine of Mourne and again is vivid. The later part comes more up to date dealing with the recent past and her mum's late years. (Spittal Tongues is a place but I love the way she's used it in the title and maybe they were never separate pieces - for some reason the library copy I have has no publication dates etc at the start.) When I reread maybe I'll have more to say - I also cannot now decide which excerpts to include - a strong sense of making sense of her world also from these poems and of the importance of the personal.
Edit -- thinking about this I think I have said these were vivid, but also intense and very enjoyable.
And today I find this article on Leonard Cohen, though I am not sure I agree with how they have chosen "greatest" albums at the end, how can they leave out Ten New Songs or Various Positions. But nice article in other ways.
You seem to have been busy with some very interesting things, TonyH! I hope to read Keats later this year, and have enjoyed Cohen's music since I was introduced to him about 5 years ago. I know that Ten News Songs divided people, but I liked it. Looking forward to the new album.
Thanks for the link to the Cohen article. I really enjoyed that. (And I really need to get his new album.)
That's a nice article on Leonard Cohen. I have been listening to him for over 40 years and he has made some great great music. I will probably get his new album, I have everything else. His poetry too is worth checking out.
cool, thread readers and Cohen fans. You're welcome and hope you pop back soon. I have a Cohen novel to read sometime and a couple of friends really into his poetry, I really should have a look sometime.
If and when you do, I will be interested to hear what you think of it. I haven't read any of his writing myself, although Beautiful Losers has been sitting on my wishlist for ages and ages.
Again I have not been here for a while.
But I have been reading and exploring -- I was signposted to these two sites - Arduity: clarifying difficult poetry and Bebrowed's blog which is the blog of the guy that set them up. The first promises to be a nice resource when I come to more difficult poetry -- the second I find a very generous sharing of thinking about difficult poems. Not that I have read much difficult poetry really, but I liked this and reading him on Celan helped me to think about him and led to a post in response that has been really good for me and led me to purchase some Celan at last and read more by him and about him.
I've also been reading some Laura Riding Jackson -- and the selection I got came with her introduction that talked about why she gave up poetry, very interesting. I find her poetry interesting, some excellent, so far and also, as others have noted maybe predicts in a way her turn away from it...something about her language and the questions she asks. I might ask many of the same but it doesn't lead me to reject poetry as she did, not yet. Now it may be that's because I lack rigour, I am sure many may argue that, I suppose my feeling is that I would not because of some flexibility and not expecting all my answers from langauge -- or at least they are seeds that I want to explore in my response to her, hopefully over the course of much contemplation.
I have been derelict when it comes to Wolf Hall. Also the Somerset Maugham and also Keats (sadly). my work is cognitive, can be stressful, keeps me in the literal, as do soem other factors - issues I want to work on because at the moment I just want to dive into poetry.
Tony, Good to see you back posting. Thank you also for those two excellent links in post 15. I have been exploring them with great interest. I loved what Bebrowed's blog said about Edmund Spenser's Faerie Queen
Very kind to post those links for us. I get lazy reading poetry myself, and sometimes I need a little help. Thanks.
Hi Bas and Judy glad the links were enjoyed. I have not read him on Spenser yet (I have not read Spenser) but am looking forward to reading him on Marvell who I like very much on my limited reading of.
Not read much this week -- some more Celan which is excellent -- wonderign how far I will be able to follow him after breathturn, I do in some ways, but last poem read was Stretto, 3 readings so far and much not understood yet, but some is ok.
On a lighter note I have spotted this thread has a message 0 and a message 2 but no message 1 -- if you have seen it anywhere please send it home.
I've been very busy with work and also writing courses and a course on film (European directors in Hollywood, very interesting). I have been reading a wee bit of poetry, Celan slowly, some Kathleen Jamie (and went to see her read which was excellent in Durham) and a little more Riding (I am a bit unsure of her, I kind of like her, but its something about her method a lot of it seeming to rest in saying things differently, which is fine, I just feel a bit thick sometimes following her, but then much of the time I do like it and its not all like that but I do have a sense of someone sat on high watchign others climb towards her). I've probably read others but cannot think of them right now. I still mean to read the last 150 pages of Wolf Hall, am on holiday for a week soon maybe then. And also wish to get back to my Keats studies which would definitely benefit from being on holiday.
But am prompted to post today by an unexpected experience. I have been doing some walking locally in a bid to make up for sad neglect of exercise and I have been listening to audiobooks sometimes as I do, one on Buddhism and several on poetry or of poetry. One is a Naxos life of W. B. Yeats with lots of readings of his poems. I like it, I do sometimes manage to tune it right out so today I put it on again from the middle and finished it all over again whilst I walked. So what - well the next track was a Ted Hughes poem...somehow some way I have catalogued them in itunes means all my ted hughes poems from a kosher cd of him mean his poems are individual tracks on my ipod. This Hughes poem was The Lovepet - a poem I like -- I like Hughes a lot. But having just listened to Yeats it changed my view of Hughes, yet when I come to say how it's nothing I did not already know about differences between them, but I was very surprised how I felt about Hughes was suddenly so different, he whom I like very much seemed limited, and limited in ways that I have always seen as strengths. This is nothing new reading anthologies or going from book to book, but its never happened so powerfully to me that I remember, I don't listen to many audiobooks even of poetry to have such juxtapositions. I kind of want to read something by Hughes to restore my view, but then also don't feel like listening to him at the same time. Maybe I just need to let the feeling pass.
edit -- or maybe I just drank the wrong wine with my lunch, ord the wrong dessert.
That's a very interesting observation of the two poets. I will try to remember to compare them myself and see how they strike me. Yeats, of course, I love. Hughes is not so familiar.
I saw John Huston's adaptation of James Joyce's short story The Dead the other day - a wonderful film, very faithful to the story but with a few things added - one of which is a recitation of a poem translated by Lady Gregory, as it was recited I was wondering if it was Yeats, I liked it a lot and it can be seen here as Guardian poem of the week - Donal Og .
Thank you for sharing that Tony. It's a wonderful poem and so helpful to have Rumen's commentary.
I attended a course on Dorothy Wordsworth and her brother over the past week which was great, very interesting to read her journal entries alongside some of his poems. One that we looked at was I wandered lonely as a cloud and I had an idea about it that I didn't get to discuss fully, so I thought I'd give LT a go to see what others think.
Firstly, some interesting things about it - the walk they saw the daffodils on Dorothy made an intersting journal entry about (15 April 1802) with some of her usual precision of detail which in some ways is very different from her brother's poem, which is fine and but just interesting. Secondly he didn't write the first draft of the poem until two years later, which accords with what the final stanza says of course. Finally when he did write it it had three stanzas but her later made some changes (golden comes in instead of dancing and jocund for laughing for example). Anyway, thats by the by, here is my idea -- forgive me if it is basic, it just didn't really get mentioned yesterday, but I am not sure I have heard it before, in looking at the poems again I am not sure how much evidence I have for it, but here goes - the first line 'I wandered lonely as a cloud'...often cited with humour, back of hand to forehead almost by people at large as a typical example of someone being 'poety' if you will. But here is the thing, and this is where I wonder if it is obvious, I wondered if he was beign ironic about himself, taking the mick out of himself for being out on a walk, he knew with others though the poem does not say so, and yet removed, musing as he is has it in another poem (A Night Piece), being poety, possibly in a dead end and then here is that experience which as he says later in the poem he "cannot but be gay" about later and which even later goes on to be an important symbolisation for him -- maybe I over read, but I wondered if that is part of the what the poem is about, yes a coming to awareness of nature and life, but also partly of doing so from being lost in himself in a way particular to him, and he knows it -- and then when I say that I wonder if this is obvious and so am interested in what others think, and also I suppose I do not have solid evidence and he would be jumping straight in with it and not explaining it at all, maybe you'd have to know him or to hear him recite it to have an idea -- maybe others that know him better would think it not the sort of thing he'd do. It depends on how you listen to the first line, sincerity or a touch of playfulness, but it makes a huge difference to the line. So, maybe this is in all 101 William Wordsworth books which I have not read, but I am interested what others think. For good measure let me add the two versions of the poem below:
'I wandered lonely as a Cloud'
I wandered lonely as a Cloud
That floats on high o'er Vales and Hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd
A host of dancing Daffodils;
Along the Lake, beneath the trees,
Ten thousand dancing in the breeze.
The waves beside them danced, but they
Outdid the sparkling waves in glee: -
A Poet could not but be gay
In such a laughing company:
I gazed - and gazed - but little thouht
What wealth the shew to me had brought:
For oft when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood.
The flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude,
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the Daffodils.
(William Wordsworth, March 1804)
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed--and gazed--but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
( I have 1806-07 and published 1807)
Thinking about it my point seems obvious, it may be part of what it's all about. But then I know how seriously Wordsworth took the idea of wandering and of being passive and receptive to nature, so maybe any humour at himself would be limited. or maybe he could both be serious and playful about himself at the same time. Its a speculation that adds to the poem to me -- having written it down I tend to see the lines again just sincerely, but then just an edge of wondering I could see this both as being high high minded or as having a bit of humour at himself who finds he cannot but be gay in theri presence at the tiem and of course later.
Ok, I'm really unsure about sharing this -- but I do just wonder what others think, here goes.
#25 - thanks Linda, I have to confess I have not read all of Rumen's introduction yet, you prompt me on.
Interesting idea Tony, but Wordsworth has never struck me as being particularly playful in his poetry and I can't believe that self mockery was his intention. But the two lines:
A poet could could not but be gay
In such a jocund company
adds some credence to your ideas
Wordsworth tended to get be more serious as he got older and his revisions tended to cut out his more frivolous youthful writings.
Yes bas, I agree. Maybe I should separate out the speculations about what he meant (the history or biography or psychology of Wordsworth) from what I can now read in the poem and I like that I can see it both ways and if anything wondering about such humour (have I just taken inside all the jesting about that line I have ever heard?), wondering about it also leads me to freshly seeing it as serious too.
he had an interesting relationship to his early work later in life and I am influenced by Keats' view of him, I'm sure ill be thinking about how he changed with age for a long time.
I've been listening to some audiobooks since the New Year, I have a backlog from audible to listen to and finally got round to suspending the account as I just was not keeping up. But then started taking some regular walks and have done some listening there. Partly I feel a purist and wonder about counting them, on the other hand why not. They are (three as yet unfinished):
A History of English Poetry by Peter Whitfield, a Naxos audiobook, read by Derek Jacobi. I've learned a lot from this, though still not completed it, been a while since I listened to it though, I'm at the end of the C18th so still have the romantics to look forward to. It's given more shape and depth to my overview, though I am disappointed Akenside did not get a mention so far and really, the reason i put it down is a comment he makes on Marvell that he doesn't succeeed again as he does with 'His coy Mistress', perhaps he is more careful in his qualification, but as I have taken it I saw the comment as nonsense as I love the Horatian Ode and the little more I know. So this comment gnawed at me and I pout the book to one side at the moment lest he infect me with other bad judegments - the things about the audiobook is finding this reference again, I did listen to it twice and it just surprises me. each to his own though.
The Buddha's Noble Eight fold path by Urgyen Sangharaskhita (Naxos) - interesting introduction, a step beyond the introductiosn to Buddhism I have read elsewhere in some ways in terms of depth. Also unfinished.
I've started Ruin the Sacred Truths: poetry and belief from the Bible to the present by Harold Bloom - heavy! but enjoyable - the first part is on the J writer of the Bible and has me wanting to go back to the Old Testament. It's given me a sort of idea of how the Old Testament God was almost a certain voice within, an authentic voice - Bloom does not say this I think but it's an idea I took as I listened and want to think more on. the second part was on Homer and i think has just gone over my head basically, an idea of a different psychology/view of people, but I need to listen again to understand better. He became think with references I do not know and that was hard on the ear. Have the rest to work through.
4. I finished, twice in fact, The Life and Works of W. B. Yeats by John Kavanagh (Naxos) -- seemed a fair enough biography though I can't remember him mentioning Ezra Pound working as his secretary which I was listening out for, but the best thing about the book was it has about 60 poems read aloud which I thoroughly enjoyed, great listening whilst I walked.
5. Abba Abba by Anthony Burgess - interesting fictional account of Keats' last days in Rome where Burgess suggests he meets the Roman dialect poet Belli (in reality I understand unlikley). As usual with Burgess it's interesting. I found Keats' death written movingly. It's an excuse to examine the world view and poetics of the two. Belli was new to me, the second part of the book has Burgess' translations of some of his poems on the bible which I found thoroughly enjoyable, sonnets of course - abba abba being the rhyme scheme of the petrarchan sonnet, as well as Christ's aramaic plea to the father -- they are irrevenerent and humorous some cleverer than others, I liked them. Linking the two parts is a story of the character that brings Keats and Belli together and his descendents that come to the translator of Belli that seems to be a fictional version of Burgess (John Joachim Wilson, Burgess = John Anthony Burgess Wilson?). I'm not entirely sure where he is going if he is referring Abba Abba to a father -- and in fact I have also learned that Abba Abba is the inscription on the plaque in front of his remains -- what occurs to me in the novel is that he has some thoughts about an eternal sonnet and eternal or perfect abba out there that both poets recognise in their own way and is a point of meetign between them, perhaps this is a father in some way, some recognition of reality, even for Keats whose atheism is a strong theme. I don't know enough about Burgess or his belief and suspect I'd need to read it again to go any further, but I also quite like leaving the idea open.
I have never thought of listening to poetry criticism/history on an audio player. Sounds like a good idea.
Just now catching up with your thread - actually I started a few days ago but got lost in the difficult poetry links. Abba abba sounds fascinating, and I think I'm going to try to find a copy of Ruin the Sacred Truths.
I have been greatly enjoying your poetry-related reviews and discussion, Tony. I am becoming increasingly more interested in poetry, but don't have the depth of understanding of the actual craft that I would like. You have inspired me to pursue this further. I do find, however, that I much prefer reading poems for myself than having them read to me, so I will probably skip the audiobook idea.
Dan, I have got no further with Ruin the Sacred Truths (edit - a lie I listened to him on Shakespeare, which was over my head apart from moments of inspiration), but I have thought quite a bit about what he says about the J writer. The difficult poetry links also get my time, especially about Celan.
Linda, its good to think you're inspired, makes my day. I can understand that about not wanting to listen to poems read to me at least where it's depending on the reader. I find listening to poems essential though, I read aloud and also record myself reading aloud, I find it essential to writing them too. I have some understandings I think about poetry, but a lot to learn (and do not think I really have any basis to tell anyone else what to think)....but then I think our natural reactions may be our deepest understandings, if we can tune into them. At the moment I wonder quite a bit what a poem is...I looked back over those I have written and it occurred to me they were a conversation on exactly that, what is a poem. I am not sure I ever want an answer or will ever trust one that argues it is complete.
Tony, you might check out the thread in the 75 group where Rosalita is tutored by Cynara on Shakespeare's sonnets, one sonnet at a time. I'm finding it very enjoyable. The link to the first thread is http://www.librarything.com/topic/134269
hi ffortsa, thanks for the thought - the link didn't work btw but I found it. I've read the sonnets, wasn't planning to again right now (have far too much to read, far too little time to do it too, as you'll see from my completed list). I looked at the first few posts, it wasn't quite where I am at or wanting to be, helpful as I am sure it may be.
Oops - sorry the link didn't work. I'm not quite up to speed on my HTML, so I'm glad you found it without me.
6. The Magic Lantern by Ingmar Bergman. To catch up a bit. I really enjoyed this autobiography. I enjoy his films, and have at least ten on my hard drive to watch some time, but it takes me a while to summon up the courage to go there. This book really starts to make sense of his interests in the films, makes sense to me of how he saw the world, he seemed to experience relationship dynamics very powerfully, his mother and father and family and he ends with an excerpt from a diary that seems to make a lot of sense as to how this was. Sense I say, I'm not sure I like that word, emotional sense perhaps, the glimmer of something, I wonder what he'd think of the word sense. And it's called The Magic Lantern, but I found there is at least as much about his theatre work as about the films, and fascintaing it is too. He begins a chapter on a late production of Strindberg's A Dream Play with a wonderful piece of writing on keeping his emotional distance at rehearsal, how careful he was to do this. A little later he writes of Stravinsky speaking similarly of conducting, but then I think witnessing Stravinsky totally disregarding this. And it seemed to me his beautiful theory of emotional distance may well have been firmly tongue in cheek, especially given what he'd written of his relationship dynamics, setting fire to his brothers bed comes to mind, I'd have to check now if his brother was in it, I have a feeling he was, oh yes and trying to kill his sister as an infant at one point, so he said anyway. Of course it's the memory of an adult, but even if a symbolisation, speaks of powerful experience of relationships. I'll look out for anyone writing of their experience of working with him. Anyway, a wonderful autobiography, well worth my read in how it humanised his film interests to me, explained them in that they came from this person who saw the world in ways the book suggests, not simply someone on some dry intellectual exploration, but rooted.
7. Recently I read The Tree House by Kathleen Jamie and have also for some time been reading from her Mr and mrs Scotland are Dead since discovering her through her poem Skeins o' Geese, which I recommend. All of it very enjoyable, and am rereading all the time.
8. I've also read Of Mutability by Jo Shapcott which did not pull me in as immediately but which started to click with me about a third of the way through and I thoroughly enjoyed and again will be rereading.
I started Nil Nil by Don Paterson as I loved Rain, but having read these two ladies I'm not after going further at the moment.
I'm working my way though Paul Celan: Selections which is edited and large parts translated by Pierre Joris whose approach I think I enjoy, I don't speak German. I also have Hamburger's translated selected, when I know them (the poems) better I may compare more. Anyway, this was more up my street after Shapcott and whilst I had been stuck in the Breath Turn poems I started them fresh and worked through, I'd found them a leap in indecipherability, maybe I was still trying to understand too much but I mostly let go of this, one, on Word Accretions, did have a sense for me, but mostly I just let them wash over me, an experience. I am daunted by him, how much pain he knew, so I am cautious of going further, a conversation online suggests the later poems are about bearing the unbearable, so maybe it is only right to be very cautious. I find his difficulty though not some willful cleverness but one that seems to have coherence, a language or languages that an appropriate heart-key as much as mind-key may open up, but which I cannot know, perhaps just as well. (This also cross posted on the poetry thread where I started it.)
I didn't say much about my recent read of The Tree House by Kathleen Jamie. Yes, I enjoyed it. I've read it several times now. I really got into liberating my love of poetry through studying counselling. Jamie strikes me as having a similar outlook in her poetic sensibility (I also saw her read and talk earlier this year, which is partly where I get this from) -- she seems to write about her own poetic moments of experience, or that's the impression I get. And I have a lot of time for this, it's where I tend to write from if I try to write poetry. And I like it. To some extent it reminds me of Mary Oliver, who I also like -- but very much her own person, her own poet. She seems to be capturing almost shamanistic moments of connection, of poetic recognition. But at the same time I'm aware of possibly wanting more --- more he says! -- I feel quite bad about it, I admit. I never want to lose track of my path to poetry that followed, follows, similar lines, maybe....and especially to have respect for anyone capturing their sense of the world in poetry, especially being brave enough to share it with the world. It's just that having read this I wanted variety I suppose, other dimensions of approach. A bit like my listening to Ted Hughes having listened to some Yeats (see above), I guess its a wish for other approaches, other realisations, different senses of play. Maybe I do her a great disservice - And I do like this collection very much, hardly a poem that I don't like and when she writes in Scots she is wonderful, though I may need a translation, Speirin is a wonderful poem, it stuck out to me. This question may also be one I am asking myself in my own writing -- her approach can use really quite plain language which can have its own power, perhaps can seem to hide her craft, perhaps its just her muse is not one of showy linguistic fireworks, and I like that usually, but maybe I am hankering after some of those fireworks to read and to write, and also to finding different turns in writing. Having said all that I really like this collection and her work I have read, maybe this is just her way to be true to her muse and as I say may be less about the book and more a comment on my own poetic explorations at present. I wonder if I find her language more playful in Scots. I can see I am going to have to reread to think yet more about all this. of the poems in English I guess my two favourites were Basking Shark and Rhododendrons. I think of her very highly, i hope my musings connected to how I feel at the moment having read her don't offend and I think she is really too good for me to be fitting her into this supposed box. try her, you won't be disappointed for all my musings. And I think of Wordsworth advocating everyday language, so that should fettle me.
It's very interesting to read your response to Jamie. I'm not sure whether you are fettled or not, but I do now love the word 'fettle' in this context. It's a new word for me.
Thanks Dan. It's a common Geordie expression, or was, "that'll fettle yer" or variants.
It may be true Zeno but I refuse to explain it - does anyone explain they are Basque or Provencal or Florentine or Scouse? There are lots of reasons people can know of us.
Totally gobsmacked by your review of The Tree House. It left me in fine fettle.
Seriously, I am ashamed to admit I had not heard of this poet, but will now look for her. I have been inspired by your reviews and those of some other Club Read people to spend time with poetry, not to just read it. This looks like a good place to start.
Dan, dinna fash yersel' o'er Tony an' zeno. Just get a copy of the book and read it aloud to get a sense of the language.:)
I do feel guilty, very very guilty.
Her sensibility seems one to cherish even amongst my reaction.
Great to hear Club Read is inspiring poetry reading and rereading and to play a part.
You didn't come by your name by chance I think. Thanks for your post SassyL.
Sorry, that last bit sounds a bit Patronising SassyLassy.
A while ago I refreshed my profile and added a link to some of my poems, I told one librarythinger that had heard of them before, but didn't tell anyone and think I generated no traffic, so in an outrageous act of self publicity I include the link here too, for anyone that's interested - some of my poems @ survivors poetry - there's no cost involved except possibly to your tastebuds if they do not hit the spot.
Oooh, thanks for posting your link. I will take a look when time permits.
Hope you enjoy Dan, they are a variable bunch but I like them (mostly), one not even a poem really just doggrel.
Nothing completed to post about, but I have not been idle.
I'm about two hundred pages in to Pevear and Volokhonsky's translation of Anna Karenina, and thoroughly enjoying it, though they are starting to feel the consequences I suppose, I just finished the chapter with the horse race and of course what she tells him just before that. It's wonderful writing of course, previously I had read some short stories by Tolstoy and Sebastopol sketches and Confession and the Gospel in Brief, this of course though is exceptional (as they were too, what am I saying). This book's awareness of the parts of the emotional processes of these people is so impressive -- yet at times I am wondering if due to it being a novel it touches them more briefly than may be realistic, for example Anna counselling her sister-in-law's grief, she does witness this well near the book's start but after one conversation some reconciliation is possible, though Anna herself seems to wonder about this with wry humour, may be a comment on Dolly too.
But more than anything I have a feeling of therapy from this book -- the free expression of emotion especially near the start between characters, and where this is not free the insight of the author to make understanding clear...as I write I think of Kitty's father who would seem to know her illness best yet cannot make a remedy happen....but also, as mentioned before, Anna and Dolly talking....yet I guess there are moments when even though emotions are expressed communciation is confounded, Levin's initial proposal, yet for all communciation being confounded what is happening so apparent to so many, and again shown to the reader. I don't know quite where I am going with that. I guess coming back to Dolly and Anna's conversation really and wondering what the power would be of people being able to talk to each other like that - and so back to a feeling of therapy from reading this, of emotions understood. It chimes for me with Tolstoy's wish to educate. I wonder how influential this book has been on western divorce laws.
For all its realism it is also highly dramatic, the situation with which it starts seems so perfectly dramatic and illustrative. After Anna and Vronsky act on their feelings we have her emotional response and at that moment we switch back to Levin and we are shown his countryside, his view of it and, for me the reader, it seemed to offer some consolation from the emotional space Anna had just found herself in, again I was aware of this turn in the drama, yet it is not one I quibble with in the slightest if it is deliberate.
Getting into Hedgehog and Fox territory I think, whatever it is Tolstoy plans to say, the realness of his characters, well what can I say, if you've read it you know, if not it's what people say, it really is.
I started John Bayley's Tolstoy and the novel but am just a chapter in and also plan other secondary reading.
I also attended a course on Byron in which we looked at Childe Harold and also the first canto of Don Juan, both of which I have to find time to read more fully. I enjoyed his quicksilver ways from what I have read so far and his explorations.
I hoped to finish Wolf Hall before the Tolstoy and made a bit of progress, even began to like it a bit more throughly in these last hundred pages, probably have about seventy left. I go hot and cold over it, probably basically over him -- but also how he is represented to us I think, but its hard to put my finger on what it is about that and sometimes I am not bothered by it. I saw Germaine Greer talking about it on television too and her dislike over it, or was it the sequel, chimed a bit for me, can't remember the detail of what she said though, I think it was partly as a historian the way it is presented for her. I wouldn't have wanted to read the sequel but the more recent pages I read made me more likely to, a bit.
A course on Tolstoy's later novels Dan, Anna Karenina, Resurrection and Hadji Murat. Good to hear from you.
Some time ago I read and have reread both Of Mutability by Jo Shapcott and Nil Nil by Don Paterson. I didn't really post about them, I enjoyed both and both grew on me as I read on and as I reread. Now it's a while since I read them and I struggle to speak of details - my memory can be shocking. One thing I do remember thinking, and maybe this is influenced by knowledge, Nil Nil was Paterson's first book of poems and something about it at times did seem more a young man's book of poetry than what was my introduction to him, Rain (no touchstone!). I had an impression that maybe he was trying less in some way with Rain to be something, really I should read the two side by side and check if this initial impression remains -- but Nil Nil I did enjoy in many places, the long poems with quotes from Aussemain who I am interested to read now. Of Mutability I remember as warmer and definitely need to reread again before even trying to say, except what comes to mind are the poems about trees that I really liked, but the others too, a book that left me with a nice feeling.
10. I've also worked my way through Anna Karenina -- well I say worked but it was a labour of love, though when I missed two weeks of class and had 400 odd pages to read for a week, that was a bit of work. I loved the Pevear and Volokhonsky translation - but hear others think Rosemary Edmonds was more poetic so it'd be nice to try that sometime. I hesitate to try to say anything about it - a wonderful book of empathy, for whatever Tolstoy may have been trying to say his realisation of the characters goes beyond, I think. his wonderful interpersonal awareness - I think John Bayley said something about scenes being as if described by a precocious child and I like that, they have such a freshness. To read what happens to Anna also amazing to see someone able to present such a state of mind, very accurate from my experience. And I like Levin's story - I like the book of Ecclesiastes, something about his journey reminds me of that for some reason. It's easy to see Levin as representative of Tolstoy, yet it occurs to me that all the parts of this book may (must) have some root in him also, maybe this is what finds his humanity and compassion for them makes them more than any reduction of them. It's a book I do not want to waste words on, the stations of the breath to misuse some Dylan Thomas, simply a wonderful book, awful in some of what it shows and wonderful -- and I think for me also therapeutic to read somehow. I know as I have read it I have started to reconnect to areas of my life I have neglected, his final theme maybe working its way into my psyche before I had completed it.
Tony I like your comments on Tolstoy - his wonderful interpersonal awareness, - a nice phrase.
Wonderful comments; I now have to check Ecclesiastes. I've read both translations (the Edmonds one twice) at wildly different times of my life, but I think the P and V translation does far more justice to Levin, who to me is one of the outstanding characters in fiction.
I love Tolstoy's appreciation of the Russian landscape, and nature, too.
Thanks Zeno, rebecca and SassyLassy. Good to hear from you. I'll look forward to reading the other translation. I should reread Ecclesiastes too - I read it around about the time I read Tolstoy's Confession which may be part of the reminder, he had quite a crisis, had the curtain pulls taken from the bedroom at night in case he got up and hung himself, so maybe it reminds me of the time I read that as Levin does something similar -- but more than that a sense of acceptance and of meaning I think, but I should reread Ecclesiastes (oh and also farming images I seem to remember). He is good at landscape rebecca, I get a sense its not just about describing it, he puts a person and their experience of it into it, so it's like you are walking or riding along with them, when I read Sebastopol Sketches long ago that was a feeling I got right away.
I just completed i tulips by Mario Petrucci for which I can nae find a touchstone. This is a selection from 400 poems of what is an ongoing sequence called i tulips. This selection was divided into three parts. I loved it for the most part -- a beautiful lyrical modernism I think. I started it when I was on holiday, relaxed and unstressed and its lucidity was a joy to read, the first part I remember now largely for love poetry. I have to admit I lost it a little in the shorter second part which moved to Greece, though I love Greece and at times I had glimpses of that lucidity again bringing images of the Aegean to me to pine for in our rainy season. But I really started to tune in again in the third part, especially as he writes of tinnitus (which I do not suffer) and then about grief, again tender and lyrical. I suspect my losing track is simply my own fault and I will go back to see if I can follow better. But a really beautiful book, with many a moment to remember -- and having said that maybe I should give some examples, I always hesitate to quote copyrighted material, but if I just give you some tasters, though it is hard as his style is not to punctuate for the most part, and I love the lucid gush of many, ooo in fact let me link to some, the first on this page is in fact the first, "let us" I was going to quote from, from i tulips, there are others from some of his other works Mario Petrucci poems there too. And why take my word for it here's a review from New Poetry Review blog complete with another I could have quoted from "a half hour after". This breaking up of words the reviewer mentions I noticed too, yes it can be clever, I also found it could irritate me, especially when it is just to move one letter, but I just accepted it as his style and something possibly mysteriously modernist (now I need to find out if that is true and it is a modernist style). But I also like the inventiveness of these double meanings as that reviewer also hints. Never heard of this New Poetry Review before, it just showed up on my search, will have to read to find if I like his style, but it's useful for the quote. But to finish if I actually quote one, could be any one of many, but:
"what happens between
breaths when you
sleep is neither
you nor you
do darker & deeper
than night they find
at the turn
the balanced in
-stant when prow
hangs & world
. . . "
(apologies to the author -- I tried to put some double spaces in as he has them but it seems lost in the post formatting -- I'll work on it further asap)
Excellent review of i tulips and great links to more of Mario Petrucci's essays and poems. A name new to me but I enjoyed what I read, tremendously witty stuff.
aha thanks Mr D - I've had a busy time and had not added my copy, I have now...we shall see if that helps.
and thanks bas, yes witty and engaging. I've also corrected the link to the review blog I mentioned.
#63 - yes, terrific review of i tulips (and touchstone now successful). I'll check out the links as I have time. Enjoyed your comments on Anna K too.
ETA - Love the Chernobyl poems on his (terribly designed) webpage.
Thanks Dan and have sorted my touchstones out. I noticed his web page design too -- but hopefully some interesting things there too, some essays that caught my eye, as well as those other poems. I wonder if tulips is an ongoing thing still.
I have just finished The Hoop by John Burnside. I read it very quickly just this week in a few sittings. I have loved it. A writing workshop I was in looked at a later poem by him earlier this year, then I also read this article by him, which I liked a lot 'The hyena is my favourite – my totem – animal' and somewhere I got this idea to read him in the order he's published (this is his first) but I kept putting him off as I hadn't finished the Patterson above and the first poem in this is about Mandelstam at Voronezh, which I was cautious about having only read Mandelstam's selected and feeling a mixture of desire and guilt I am not totally familar with his Voronezh work. But this of course was just my own stuckness and this has been a fantastic read, there may be Mandelstam references in that poem I need to know better but I could still read the poem. I must plough through, no not plough, feel my way through his others now and hope they are so enjoyable and connect to me like this has -- he's connected more than the Paterson above which I think was also a first work, he feels more natural, at least at this point (and I liked the Paterson).
So, what's it about -- well its lyrical, it's about childhood and growing up I think (and returning), probably amongst other things, personal things and places and senses. Maybe I should not say too much before I have dwelt on it and reread and checked things out -- but it has enthused me. Part of me thinks I may as well give up writing now as he's doing it so much better, but maybe it is more real to remember how as I read he kicked off a slew of my own ideas and lines that I hope I can capture a fraction of. The book is divided into two parts The hoop and Green. I have seen people talk of him as an ecological writer and he may be that, but I took this green to mean more, perhaps youth and perhaps a sense of living, the aliveness of things, of good things, I was reading some Hopkins recently and maybe this is coming from him and me thinking about him, but a sense of the green almost as an inscape/instress thing. But I don't want to be reductive or labelling of him, I just enjoyed poem after poem immensely and in their cumulative effect (there are two called Green). I have searched the web and cannot find examples published to link to, so here are some parts of poems (a few, there were so many I really liked but really need to be put here whole but I won't do that (e.g. the myth of Narcisuss, Taking Sheila to the zoology museum):
Memory, you should have known,
is a double agent:
on of those gaberdine
people in films, a smiling
Harry Lime. It leads you
through scalars and cosines
to the murmur of cuckoo clocks.
It leads you
into a sewer. . . . "
The childhood pride that I had names for things
and carried signs beneath my fingernails
and in my shoes; the quiet of the woods
draped around me at the kitchen door
when I came home, reluctantly, to bed.
the knowledge of an undergrowth, and codes
I never learned,
the confidence of hidden animals
. . . "
"Looking glass winter
The hedge is straighter there, expressed as snow,
bright rooves and turning lanes
measured and sure. We are content to see
the stillness deepen, and the slow
wheel of pigeons is the more controlled
for being silent. This could be a world
of perfect balance: each quicksilver line
. . . "
I could go on.
Another gushing post from me. This book was published in 1988, my life may begin to make sense if only I had read this then instead of showing up so late at the party, and picking up what I have missed. Some of you may need patience. Though then again it makes me wonder if anyone ever feels they have not arrived late to contemporary poetry?
Better to arrive late than not at all. I think I have come across poems by Burnside in literary magazines and those are intriguing examples you have copied.
Tony - I'm pathetically late. Interestingly enough I just started an early book by a poet I plan on tracing, published in 1987. The poet is Enid Shomer.
Loved the Burnside excerpts, and intrigued by your praise of him.
Hi Bas and Dan, sorry for my late reply. Yes Bas I really recommend Burnside and have already worked my way through his second volume too and come pay day we shall see about volume 3.
Dan - i will look Shomer up, I promise.
So, since my last post I have completed Tolstoy's Resurrection and Hadji Murat as well as John Burnside's Common Knowledge. I should post slowly and thoughtfully on each of them later. I think I need to reread the Burnside as it was sometime in August I read it now (and have his third volume to read now my Tolstoy course is drawing to a close). I'm not sure I can resist making a few comments. I wrote an essay on Anna Karenina, or really a 4000 word draft, my tutor liked it, really mostly a personal response, now have to read some secondary literature if I am going to develop it. I also want to read some biography of Tolstoy, you'll see from post one that I did start Bayley's book, and I guess will look at Bartlett and Wilson...other recommenadations welcomed (I do have a long list of other secondary lit). I am intrigued by how much the end of Anna Karenina seems linked to his crisis. I have read his A Confession previously. But I am interested how far perhaps the answer he gave for Levin provoked questions for him that his later life tried to answer.
I liked Resurrection very much - novel or tract I just don't know, in showing his lesson he can't help be the novelist he was I think. I like to think of it (at the moment) as both novel and something of a tract. And I have a lot of sympathy for where he was coming from in any teaching he was trying to give. Two hundred or more vivid, often brief characters, sometimes seem almost to be a Protean struggle with forms in response to the environment until we encounter his simple man, whom I loved, some extreme practical nominalist saying things that others just will not see.
Overall, reading Tolstoy this summer has felt healing to me. Engaging with his lofty human awareness, yet never in ways that seem anything but engaging never intimidating. On another site someone posted a quote from Berlin (I see now not just on Tolstoy he says in making the quote)
"To be able to do this well seems to me to be a gift akin to that of some novelists, that which makes such writers as, for example, Tolstoy or Proust convey a sense of direct acquaintance with the texture of life; not just the sense of a chaotic flow of experience, but a highly developed discrimination of what matters from the rest, whether from the point of view of the writer or that of the character he describes. Above all this is an acute sense of what fits with what, what springs from what, what leads to what; how things seem to vary to different observers, what the effect of such experience upon them may be; what the result is likely to be in a concrete situation of the interplay of human beings and impersonal forces – geographical or biological or psychological or whatever they may be. It is a sense for what is qualitative rather than quantitative, for what is specific rather than general; it is a species of direct acquaintances, as distinct from a capacity for description or calculation or inference; it is what is variously called natural wisdom, imaginative understanding, insight, perceptiveness, and, more misleadingly, intuition (which dangerously suggests some almost magical faculty), as opposed to the markedly different virtues – very great as these are – of theoretical knowledge or learning, erudition, powers of reasoning and generalisation, intellectual genius."
And it's hard not to agree - but then it occurrred to me, these different virtues do not seem so different to me for Tolstoy, his general for example, his theory seems always rooted in the particular qualities, in the human (a great theme of Resurrection how we start to lose humanity when we focus on systems or theory or institutions first).
And when I say healing, it's not really so much what is said in content or his themes maybe, though maybe it is partly those, it is how he does it, the process of reading this man's thoughts and being in dialogue with them (and his observation of humans), it wakes something in me, a possibility of speaking to such a person, a possibility there is such a person, such a considered, feeling, understanding view. I begin to wonder if this is some inner echo almost it occurs to me touching something like the inner seed/possibility of enlightenment (like the possibility of being a Buddha that a Buddhist might say is present for all), response of something in me, some possibilty of being reacting to something/someone showing wisdom, both of which I struggle to name and perhaps should not try to set in stone with a name, for derision by sophisticates or cynics or for fear of seeming to be claiming something that should not be claimed, or simply deadening a process that is defined by its liveliness by trying to set it - a response not so much to the particular books, but to his voice and way of writing -- maybe I am waxing lyrical, enthusiastic, but I hope not.
Your thoughts on Tolstoy show just what a powerful writer he was, to leave such lasting impressions and to be the cause of so much productive thinking. Healing isn't a word I wouldn't have thought of in connection with reading him, but it fits beautifully.
Tanks Barry, Sassy and Zeno.
I re-wrote that final paragraph for fear of sounding like I was claiming insight into Bodhisattva-ness and in a way I wish I had not, it was more poetic before.
I mean to get passed my minor quibble Zeno and read Berlin on Tolstoy.
Tony - enjoyed your commentary. I'm wondering you meant for the "healing" to be associated with Levin. That fits, I think, but not sure it's what you meant.
It's not quite what I meant. It's an interesting question. I certainly experience reading of Levin as healing in some ways, I think of the change of scene from Anna and Vronsky having consumated their affair to Levin in the country...I found that healing. In general Levin's path too I found quite healing and the sort of places he starts to get to. But for me where he ends has some questions, he's a rich landowner living in comfort, that gives me questions about his spiritual path for example. I think I mentioned above that I wonder if such questions gave Tolstoy questions. Another may be that the epigraph of the book seems to judge Anna and I read that that is how Tolstoy meant it, yet Levin is a man for whom forgiveness was something he was aware of no matter what he had done, something he wished for quite early in the book and mentioned an old favourtie prayer of his about this. So the good life he seems to get to seems maybe not quite that good, he seems to judge Anna himself, he certainly does nothing to help her really. These are two themes Tolstoy started to follow through on in his life and in his writing (forgiveness and the ability to judge others and land ownership) -- I wonder if he almost imagined a comfortable ending for Levin, one of spirituality and living a good life yet without pursuing these questions, who may not hope for such a life....what I wonder, and here I tread carefully as I do not know and want to leanr about this, is whether having invoked this it troubled Tolstoy as not being the whole truth in a way and hence was part of what prompted him to follow his thinking to other conclusions. So in this sense where Levin gets to i see a a point in his process, for me it is not as healign as some other answers.
Where Levin can also be healing is in his process, how he approaches things and starts to move as a person, how he is. And beyond that I find reading Tolstoy healing in how he is, how he approaches people and describes them - and this includes others in Anna Karenina, in fact I wonder if it includes all of the others in it...his ability to recognise the human in them all, and no matter his purpose to breathe life into them and I guess sometimes even at odds with what may have been some purposes. It's his humanity in showing this and his way with words in doing it - it's a communication from Tolstoy to the reader, on many levels, the facts of the story, of Tolstoy's own view of the world (Sartre said 'the ontology of the novelist becomes apparent in the novel' I think), a psychodynamic theorist may say that the subconscious of the writer may communbciate to the subconscious of the reader (I think! am not a psychodynamic theory person really)...and this gets to what I was trying to say above, it reminded me it is possible to have such a view of others, I find it similar to the idea of learning of Buddha could chime with that possibility of enlightement in me, he shows a way of being and understanding of such a high level that I think I find it healing to engage with.
Hope that explains better. More could be said and I am afraid some may look and think I am naive or hyperbolic. Some read the same books as me this year and did not find the conclusion of Rsurrection say to be profound as I found it, different things for different people, or even the same people at different times. But as I say it's not just his conclusions, it's his approach.
edit -- it occurs to me I may prefer to say he communciates from his heart to my own.
Very interesting answer, certainly my question was rewarded. I follow. I read this a while ago now, so the book is not all that clear anymore. What you say about Levin, about his conclusion actually not ideal, as instead leaving him with fundamental problems, and of Tolstoy then seeming to follow this through in his own (questionable) way, is very interesting. Certainly Levin was an exploration, not a moralistic parable of sorts. What you say about Tolstoy's approach to character, the relevant information is lost to my memory. I seem to remember his characters being humorous, sometimes outstandingly so (exceptions are Anna, Vronsky, and Anna's husband) , but I don't recall clearly his full approach.
Another gap. But I have been busy - busy reading and just busy busy; busy busy busy in fact, no, busy busy busy busy, no, busy...
But today I finished my read of The Tempest, love it of course, maybe I will save saying things until I can conjure up some magic words. And what more can be said really. I read the Oxford Shakespeare. A conversation with a friend who worked his way through all of Shakespeare one year led me to realise a while ago that I think I prefer reading the Oxford, much as I love Arden, I get through the Oxford faster. Maybe I will go back to Arden, should I ever become more scholarly about it all. But this play, my goodness.
I plan to read Tolstoy on Shakespeare, you may know he didn't rate him as a dramatist apparently. I'll look forward to reading his argument, there must be something to it, sometimes Shakespeare annoys me with some of the diversions and the cross dressing (how can I complain about that!) and role reversal, some of the little things that he sets up that have to play out, but usually when I think about them and get through them and especially if I see them played I don't mind so much. He also seems to have his own particular drama, not to mention language that seems to open up possibilities, not simply follow standard paths to standard conclusions. I suppose such musings may have nothing to do with Tolstoy's view, will have to read him.
I have read some other things....attended a class on Dorothy and William Wordsworth which was wonderful, looking at her journals and his poems and how they relate, focussed on some whose birth was in 1802, Beggars, Alice Fell, one of the To a Butterfly poems, My Heart Leaps When I Behold, To the Cuckoo and working up to Resolution and Independence and the immortality Ode. Was a wonderful course with someone very well versed in both William and Dorothy, really brought this all more to life for me.
Am also attending a class on Buddhist metaphysics, very enjoyable. Read a tiny part of Lakkhana Panha on the distinguishing of ethical qualities and part of Pancavaggi Sutta: Five brethren (Anatta-Lakkhana Sutta). Great stuff, really nice class with interesting participants.
I'm sure I've read other things, can't think of them now. Have not got any further with secondary Tolstoy literature, maybe when the classes come to an end, though no sign of that for now. I'm most interested to read Steiner, Berlin, D. H. Lawrence and Nabokov on Tolstoy.
Edit - forgot to say I have also been Baron von Kindled, could not resist his paperwhiteness and given i am running out of space for books. Have now downloaded a load of free classics (including Tolstoy on Shakespeare) but am a bit scared of them lest they be duff versions.
Sounds like some awesome classes. I'm also curious on Tolstoy's take on Shakespeare. Hoping you post on that later. My under-experienced impression of Shakespeare is that his focus was more on the presentation of story than the story itself...i.e. on making the language wonderful. Maybe Shakespeare does get deeper and I simply haven't caught it?? Anyway, wondering if he was too shallow for the deeper Tolstoy. ??
Hi Dan. I have started to read this a little now and it is interesting, he uses King Lear as an example and starts by criticising a discussion of legitimacy when it starts between two characters, as being in a way simply staged so that he can have people say what they say - I can see a point to what Tolstoy says, but then I also think how he stages it is the point. I don't agree with you that Shakespeare is simply providing a vehicle for language - I think he was excellent at understanding situations and grasped the absoluteness of some very extreme things that are rarer to me in my present setting (thankfully) (maybe less rare in some parts of the world)...I think how he stages things really opens them up to understand the dynamics of the experience of being in such situations. But I don't think he cared for conventional story telling (my lack of experience may show up there), I think I learn a lot not just from the words but from the situations he creates and then of course he allows people to express themselves in them. I am reading the Tolstoy, and am not at all far in, and am very interested to wonder if Tolstoy just doesn't see this thing I think I see, and if not why not. This may very much be about the difference between how the novelist Tolstoy thinks and how the playwright thinks, I also wonder if it is about a difference in their ontology - Tolstoy of course had his commitment to a certain ethical stance, Shakespeare is not so easy to pin down and seems to revel in Keats' negative capability.
On a slight tangent I mentioned cross dressing above. Of course in Shakespeare's plays all of that happens by female characters (I think, you may correct me) posing as men (temporarily) and I sometimes wonder why this is and never a male character posing as a female. Sometimes I think that that may be taboo -- yet it has a tradition, would have to check where that stood in Shakespeare's time. But then I was thinking the actors in Shakespeare's time were all men or boys playing the female roles. So effectively when you watched a Shakespeare play the normality that asserts itself at the end is of a boy in the female role. Now I know that's not what the story tells you, we suspend dispbelief and this is Portia etc. However at some level in viewing the drama that is what you see, I'm not sure that it means anything, in effect he does not have to dramatise men posing as women as it is the norm on the stage - Maybe. I do wonder all sorts I will never know.
Work has entered a new level of challenge. But this weekend has been a beauty, had a long walk on my favourite beach after a frutiful visit to the poetry library. Came away with two volumes of Brodsky, remembering how I enjoyed tomcat writing on him, though I have a bit of a feeling really he needs time for me to devote to him, or maybe this is just the start of a process of getting to know, relax enjoy it, let it flow Tony. Have not connected to any of the poems yet, did enjoy the elegy for Robert Lowell, maybe I connected to that, cautious as Lowell I also hardly know.
But in browsing the shelves I came across a volume called Slow Time: 100 poems to take you there edited by Niall MacMonagle. Slow time always interests me -- especially when work is so frantic, stress. To the point I consider leaving, as that is not what I value, what seems important - and for me getting to a slow place is important in the work, so it's kind of expected when under stress, an ability to be with the slowness. Anyway -- all reasons this got my attention - I often ignore anthologies. So I looked inside and was impressed and took it and have got more impressed ever since - have ordered my own copy. Unexpectedly browsing through it before my walk I read a few poems, but the one that did it was by Paul Muldoon, who I think you can see above I was not wholly impressed by in reading Horse Latitudes - but this poem "Hedgehog" was a cracker and wherther slow time or not connected to where I was, none of that hip cleverness I thought I saw in what else I read so far -- you can read it here - it hit the spot or where I was. Later I read the poem "Gift" by Czeslaw Milosz, which I have heard before but also seemed a gift on my own perfect blue day, some moments admist heavy weather. Then later I also came upon a Borges poem as poem of the week at the TLS, I don't know his poems at all, but this one connected, a cracker, To one No Longer Young by Jorge Luis Borges . A trilogy of poems that helped, their goal was not slow time (and Borges is not in the anhtology as far as I know) but their helping helped me find it and some things that come with it. I like this anthology, often I dislike anthologies - but will not gulp this down but savour it in moderation.
Then today I started A lie about my father by John Burnside - have finished the first part or chapter - fantastic, I am loving his poetry, need to be cautious of what I say in praise, it speaks of such difficulty, but it speaks so well of it - between this and yesterday a reminder of what I find important, a need to seek it and let it be there despite all...not answers, but a faith in a process to work towards them, feel towards them.
Something else to be grateful for - Seamus Heaney celebrates the life of Czeslaw Milosz.
Enjoyed Hedgehog! I've read that Brodsky's English language poems were not successful. I haven't read any of this poetry, but I have read some of his essays on poetry and they are fantastic.
I'm not finding enough time to read and write, have been very busy doing things, amazing how that takes up time and how it seems as I get older doing things takes up more time, whereas I am sure I used to do more but in less time and still had time to sort of dwell, experience, feel alive. Maybe I am doing the wrong things or just doing things the wrong way.
I have had three days off due to a cold/flu...was so tired last two days I didn't read anything, but today I must be feeling a bit better and I reread Common Knowledge by John Burnside and got it much much better this time -- I liked it before, but reading it all together in one sitting kind of helped me put it together in a way I probably can't really say, in fact I don't want to try to say and that may be in keeping with it, for its not quite saying of things yet it also does say but is not adamant. The section of prose on Annunciation is amazing, I loved that. Also in a different way the section on suburbs. Perhaps time off and a cold helped me get into a better mental space with it, or a space more in tune with it's rhythm, which makes me look up:
"To the end, a lifetime of schedules
conspires against us,
till winter is only ourselves
completing a sequence of brilliant journeys
again and again. Not that the end
is anything more than December
. . . "
And it is a cold and bleak December here today too, for the last several days.
I've made a bit more progress with his first memoir which I am really liking. I also started reading Orlando by Virginia Woolfe, which I am loving, though have not picked it up for a while now, maybe I should, have always been cautious to read this, bought the film too but will watch it when I have read it, cautious like with a fortune teller whilst also distanced at the same time, Woolfe I sometimes imagine as distant and cold but what I read of her is not at all, but poetic and alive, not sure where my bad image of her comes from. Though I never got far yet with To the Lighthouse, that may be part of it.
The night before my cold hit I did another poetry reading, how enjoyable to hear others and to read yourself to a room, how connected it can feel, on top of other busyness and an alternative xmas get together just before and ample food to get feverish on.
I wish I could help bas, but I made myself feel it too.
I finished Feast Days by John Burnside but want to think about it a bit before posting, or maybe best not to say anything it has such depth.
Merry Christmas one and all -- and if anyone does not celebrate it I wish you a happy few days too.
I wrote the following about Burnside on the 16th and didn't post it, partly as I wanted to think about it and partly due to the happenings in the states. I haven't reread the poems but this seems to speak for what do think of them, they were great -- insteda of depth i might now highlight that they speak of moments in a process of feeling and thinking, moments of aliveness often forgotten and (for me) hard to access and bring back to such life. But there was great depth, I should reread.
"I'm reading Burnside's collections in the order they were published - so today I read Feast Days. This was also wonderful. there was a section of prose i think that i will have to reread as i didn't really follow it. But many many of the poems were just wonderful -- and it's hard to write about, they speak from a depth of awareness that a superficial and quick review cannot capture, to really appreciate it in my writing I suspect feels almost a step too far for me -- or at least one that could only be taken after much consideration, yet i also value spontaneity and maybe I should not be so precious. The poems again and again speak of moments of awareness of a richness and a fullness and an understanding that it is hard to simply call to mind, bring to my awareness and write about myself - i would not want to seem a pale imitation of him, yet also feel it is just difficult to bring these moments to the page, to suggest them as he does, again and again. And maybe I am being too certain in saying what he does, there is a delicious exactness about him yet also an uncertainty. Maybe I best shut up and just give a few quotes:
from - Winter Holidays:
". . .
till we turn to the nearly blue
of night on the glass,
or stand out in the garden looking up
at circles of counted stars
and feel ourselves a little strange again,
neutrals in the mystery of presence."
i don't know it also feels wrong to quote him and just in extracts so I'll stop that. he evokes presence and moments in our process whilst we are present, moments that pass and get overlooked for sake of the destinations we think we get to a little later. There is also a depth to this that is unsettling and painful I found, it opens up possible hurt -- and I am sure he wrote of loss for example. It's probably also awareness of horror, today, too."
A Christmas Carol - I've meant to reread this for the last few Christmas's and finally did so this year, I don't think I have done so since I was eleven and we read it at school. A wonderful book, as everyone knows. Transformative, infectious in it's spirit. Beautifully written. So relevant still, to me at least. I'm reminded how strange I used to find it as a child that people use the epithet of Scrooge they way they do, when Scrooge should be remembered for his outcome it seems to me, which never seems part of how people use that label. Has me eager to get back into some Dickens.
The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayam trans. Edward Fitzgerald - I've read parts of this but I don't think I had ever read it right through - also read Fitzgerald's introduction to the first and fifth editions first. I really enjoyed it, though as I read his introduction I wondered if I would for the view he was ascribing to Khayam, something about it reminded me of Housman (see previous threads for my reaction to him, not good). But I loved it and so have started to research the disputes as to translations and accuracy and can foresee much enjoyable thought on these Rubaiyats, but shall try to remember his perspective lest I ever get to embroiled in academic interpretation, perhaps over a glass of wine (the issue of the wine alone has me curious). I also went back to The Rings of Saturn to reread Sebald's discussion of Fitzgerald. It made me start to think, having read the Dickens how these two heights of Victorian literature are so undermining of so much we associate with what is Victorian, progress, industry, business, in favour of human values. Interesting. Not sure what it means. Also made me think of values today. I guess the world never changes.
One Hundred Best books by John Cowper Powys - downloaded a load of freebies on Amazon and found this, haven't read any JCP before but know how highly some hold him so was intrigued. An interesting introduction and then selection - introduced some names I had not come across. Published in 1916, I think, I guess some trends came along (modernism) that shifted fashions -- but still interesting perspective and comments from a very human and wholly defended subjective view - he never suggests you must read these, in fact that would be anathema I think to him, and the whole idea of improving yourself by reading he enjoyably tears into, but he does stimulate curiosity and tempt me to want to have read myself into such wonders and clarity.
Intrigued by your enthusiasm for John Burnside. I have not read any of his collections but have read a few of his poems published in various literary magazines.
Careful with John Cowper Powys, i believe he can be a touch addictive. I read Porius a couple of years ago and learned that you have to spend some time with him. I will re-read Porius soon, but need to think carefully before tackling another of his books.
I'm having a breather from Burnside, have his next two lined up. Need to reread the last, not sure I've entirely digested it.
I'm intrigued by your reaction to JCP Barry, it just sounds a good thing to react so, but see your caution, can you say more, or can I go back through your threads to see why this need for caution. I don't have any plan to read him soon though, or much room for big books just now.
I don't think JCP can be taken lightly. It needs time to soak up the language. I read Porius as part of a group read and those that stayed with the book found it a wonderful reading experience. It was one of the few books that I have read but not reviewed, because I felt to do it justice I needed to re-read it.
here is the link to the Porius reviews, note especially tomcatmurr's extended review. http://www.librarything.com/work/779498
Sorry Barry, I forgot I had not replied - thanks for those links, I started to read tomcatmurr's review but will leave it further until if and when I read the book, looked very interesting (both Porius and his review) and I liked what he was saying about historical fiction. I'd need some serious time to set aside to engage with Porius I think -- and have so many unfinished reading projects anyway, I wouldn't want to add another mighty tome to that at present.
A very enjoyable year of reading, not a huge haul, but I scaled much of Mount Tolstoy, no, Mount Count Tolstoy. And am scrambling down Burnside still. No sign of completing Wolf Hall, which is fine by me at the mo. Still feel I'm hot for the Celan, Keats and Maxwell though. And have secondary reading still to do if I am every to academicise my Tolstoy essay, want to really focus on what writers say of him Lawrence, Nabokov, Berlin...I may have said this before, strewth I cannot remember the content of one hundred posts no idea how the rest of you cope with your hundreds.
My attempt at coolness and surfing of the wave of togetherness finishing a book or article brings me occasionally in 2013 - My Reading groove 2013 - I'm not going to say dig it again, or I may be digging msyelf into a corner to mix a metaphor, no make that a g&t.