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TonyH reading groove 2013, dig in, dig it?

Club Read 2013

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Edited: Jan 12, 2014, 11:52am Top

Hello club readers, thanks again for continuing this group, giving somewhere to share my musings and hear what some of you think in response, a great thing. Resolutions for this year's thread, don't stress it tone, the route to the less traversed places is not just through focus but also flexibility, not stagnant seriousness and yes another res. more sociability, hope to take part in the wider group more... an art I think, I often read others reviews but can only think of mundane responses so don't bother.

Again a word of warning about my posts I haven't said for a year or two, I don't claim them as reviews, they are my personal response to what strikes me in my reading.... you may find them pedestrian or limited or wrong or marginal, I'll try to explain my self, but there is always a danger they reflect my lostness alone.

Last year's journal is Here . Or see my profile for the collected journals.

Completed 2013:

1. The Overhaul by Kathleen Jamie (Kindle ed.)
2. Paul Celan: Selections by Paul Celan edited and with an introduction by Pierre Joris
3. Findings by Kathleen Jamie (Kindle ed.)
4. Lost Goddesses of Early Greece by Charlene Spretnak
5. On Poetry by Glyn Maxwell
6. The Moomins and the Great Flood by Tove Jansson
7. The Sea-Gull by Anton Chekhov (Kindle ed.)
8. The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin
9. Stag's Leap by Sharon Olds (Kindle ed.)
10. Now All Roads lead to France: The last years of Edward Thomas by Matthew Hollis (Kindle ed.)
11. The Annotated Collected Poems by Edward Thomas edited by Edna Longley and Michael Longley (Kindle ed.)
12. The Myth of the Twin by John Burnside
13. 2nd: The Second Collection by Andrew Waterhouse
14. Swimming in the Flood by John Burnside (Kindle ed.)
15. Death of a Naturalist by Seamus Heaney (Kindle ed.)
16. Door into the Dark by Seamus Heaney
17. Grayson Perry: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Girl by Wendy Jones
18. Wintering Out by Seamus Heaney
19. The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes by Janet Malcolm (Kindle ed.)
20. The Burial at Thebes: a version of Sophocles' Antigone translated by Seamus Heaney (Kindle ed.)
21. North by Seamus Heaney
22. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
23. Anabasis by St. - John Perse
24. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (Kindle ed.)
25. Knitting Time by Colin Hambrook
26. Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas
27. The House of Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne (Kindle ed.)
28. Hawthorne by Henry James (Kindle ed.)
29. Gauguin 1848-1903 The primitive sophisticate by Ingo F. Walther

Jan 6, 2013, 4:23am Top

That's a reflective, philosophical start Tony.

What I like about your posts is that they reflect your immediate, inner thoughts.

And your posts on my thread are never mundane, you always add something interesting.

Jan 6, 2013, 5:58am Top

Thanks Zeno -- I must be self censoring my mundanity quite well then :)

Thanks for your positivity - Happy New Year to you and look forward to a productive year of posting.

I saw your comment on Jung and the unconscious of Germany and the Nazis -- made me think of Willhelm Reich, think I have mentioned him to you before (so did nto say it there again), you may already know him? the Mass Psychology of Fascism, long time since I looked at it but I remember liking it and in general enjoyed reading on Psychohistory for a course once.

Jan 7, 2013, 6:21am Top

I might pinch your intro for next year.

Jan 7, 2013, 12:53pm Top

pinch away :) but feel free to put into effect also anytime.

Jan 7, 2013, 2:42pm Top

now, I had a reading plan for this New Year, but another forum I belong to (not on librarything) is doing a group read of Gravity's Rainbow, I am not sure I can resist a reread. But can I justify it? I haven;t read mason nd Diuxon or Against the Day or Inherent Vice or V come to that yet -- and I have heard rumours of a new book soon. this could throw me into reading confusion for weeks, i could just stall, or else get very very tired -- nah, stuff it, I give it a go and its energy should keep me going. But progress will slow on many other fronts, curses.

Jan 8, 2013, 9:12am Top

Well, darn it, now I can't write anything mundane here...hmm, too late, I think. Anyway, your 2012 summary and intro here gave me some entertainment, and mundane to say or not, I imagine I'll enjoy your thread again this year. Cheers.

Jan 8, 2013, 10:02am Top

I have heard rumours of a new book soon...
really????? great!!!!!!!

Inherent Vice is a quick read, and worthwhile. one of his best, I think.

Jan 8, 2013, 11:13am Top

Pynchon rumours - Bleeding Edge

Edited: Jan 8, 2013, 6:15pm Top

I should not seem judgemental of the quotidian, I should embrace it, to block it brings sterility (word of the week), embrace it, snog it, well, be with it, taste it feel it, laud it, nurture it, praise it, transform it into what it is and go with it to a place that does not judge it, hugs it and lets it move, let it be, let it breathe....let me breathe so I do not make that judgement, let me experience the mundane sublime, each moment for what it is, real, being.

Look what the holidays did to me.

Thanks Dan, you are very welcome here,and welcome to say what you will.

I did restart GR, am only a few sections in so far though, and about 100 pages behind the group read. But loving it second time round. It's curious how he writes so lucidly of the moment but then he has the view of knowing the ending, the view of thw war of the films and books of the twenty five years since it...gives reading it a curious quality. Anyway, love it.

I find even when Pynchon is short I need to be in the right frame of mind, I have IV and M&D and AtD but have not felt ready for them, I'll bear it in mind about IV. I heard that title too, am checking Amazon regularly to pre-order.

Thank you posters all -- I am somewhat disappointed in myself that i didn't manage to riff on 'pinch' and Pynch in posts 5 & 6. That may however be a relief to some.

Edited: May 18, 2013, 10:42am Top

1. The Overhaul by Kathleen Jamie

I loved this collection. We know I loved The Tree House last year, well until I kind of rebelled and criticised a sort of lack of playfulness - but that's not correct, she is plenty playful, and definitely in this most recent collection. Possibly there is a kind of consideredness to her poems that doesn't just riff along, but I am wondering if even that is true -- there is a certain dimension to her work -- and it is a dimension I love, which I wondered if she could sort of change gear with. I think she does here - the title poem here might even have a sort of Pynchonesque quality to it's description, empathy(?) for a boat on dry land, it's a lovely poem. They are all lovely poems, a gut reaction is it's a more consistent collection than The Tree House. It's just great. She won the Costa recently for it and I think she is also shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot prize - I really hope she gets it (I haven't read the others, but I love this collection -- and it is a collection that coheres so well to a main theme suggested by the title). The poem 'Hawk and Shadow' is simply wonderful, a poem for all time really, a truly wonderful poem that takes you places, a game with self. I won't talk about them all, and am biased in my selection as I've just been to a reading group at the city library talking about soem of them. That experience has reinforced my high impression of this collection. I still have to translate fully the three Scots poems, I have wondered if she is even better when she writes in Scots, maybe that is best for me not to judge as a non speaker, I've been impressed by those poems, but that may also be the enjoyment of learning words and reading in this different language. Her subject often seems the natural world, but it is also others and it also seems to me she has a theme of recognition of humanity and connection to herself and others - to soem extent she writes about a lifespark perhaps, her inspiration, moments that click -- i found reading it inspirational, enlivening. At times she seems plain spoken (that may be part of that playfulness I wonder about), but it is far from being plain spoken and when she does seem to be that then she never fails to deliver that she gets somewhere through it and delivers in the whole or at the end of the poem, and they withstand analysis so well (not that I want to do that really, it kills things), but there is a coherence to them, like cut open their stick of rock and you have the same themes written through, the same consistency. Just a wonderful collection.

Jan 8, 2013, 8:35pm Top

Enjoyed you enthusiasm for the Kathleen Jamie collection. I have read some of her stuff in various anthologies and often wonder how some of her Scottish poems sound.

I have posted her Skeins o Geese on the poetry thread http://www.librarything.com/topic/147556

Jan 9, 2013, 4:54am Top

That review has me grinning like an idiot. The Overhaul has just gone straight to the top of the must-read list.

Baswood, thanks for posting that wonderful poem on the poetry thread.

Jan 9, 2013, 4:00pm Top

Thanks Barry and Annalise :) Skeins o Geese was the first of hers I discovered through a glowing write up and publication as a TLS poem of the week on their website. Thanks for posting it again Barry, it is wonderful, i read your post at work and it made it through the cares of the day bit like it says

". . . A word
struck lik a gong
afore I wis born."


Edited: Jan 19, 2013, 5:08pm Top

oooo - I look back and see I didn't respond Annalisse, I certainly meant to. Got so overwhelmed by gongs struck before I was born I missed the here and now, apologies. Hope you enjoy the collection and very glad if I communicated my enthusiasm.

(still have to go back to the Scots poems)

Edited: May 18, 2013, 10:29am Top

2. Paul Celan: Selections by Paul Celan edited and with an introduction by Pierre Joris

About time too you may say -- yet I think, if you do, that you may not say it really (read on). I think I started this on last year's thread, having messed about a bit reading Celan here and there for a while. I know I have been stuck for a year, not wanting to go back to it (unable to), somewhere I think in the Threadsuns poems it was. I had gone great guns to then, was getting some sort of sense beyond sense, was getting something from them, but then it was like I started to try too hard to wrestle something from them and it was getting harder and harder and whilst I thought I was going with his turn, he out turned me and I was rigid not flexible and not getting what I thought I was right to be looking for. Then last weekend I thought I'd give him a go and it clicked and I went with the flow, not understanding but drinking perhaps, wonderful poems -- some frankly still have me lost, some are slightly ajar and some are just beautiful (and I can't claim to understand them either, who could)....and it gained from going with the momentum, from reading on. (Sorry I keep repeating myself.)

Yet now I must start where I meant to - it feels quite innappropriate to be talking of Celan on a thread named as mine is, for obvious reasons. I can't change that.

This is a lovely volume - some poems translated by Joris and some by others. I have Hamburger's Selected too, which has the original German (I don't speak German). I am reading his introduction. but Joris was where it started really for me and reading an essay he had online about translating Todtnauberg. I will return to these poems time and again -- yet I suppose also cautiously at times. This is a certain sort of poetry, from a Shoah survivor and mental ill-health survivor, I hesitate to say modernist, it seems to go beyond, a seeking for a way to speak after such, and in the tongue of the perpetrators and also as Joris poiunts out the killers of his mother (and father). That is his true difficulty as Hamburger points out in his introduction. Aside from that he is communicating and when it clicks, wow. I can only wonder what it is like in German.

Joris' introduction was good for me. The volume also includes two pieces of prose 'Conversation in the Mountains' and 'The Meridian'. This last his speech on receiving the Georg Buchner prize, a statement of intent, of poetics and it was wonderful. It also includes several letters and several short pieces on Celan that were excellent (by Derrida, E. M. Ciorran and three others). (Get me getting all reviewer like.)

At first sight he seems a different type of poet to Jamie - he is not explicit, does not explain himself straightforwardly, he suggests. Yet he's also communciating connection as I suggested she does. It is explicit in that it is all there if you look right -- that's my guess (again I am aware I am reading translations). I need to reread, and wish to read all the collections, it may be unfair and it may also be as I am more familar with him now, but I think I may prefer the later work or connected to it more later on, maybe it is the mental health aspect.

It's given me food for thought -- I wrote a very Celan influenced poem afterwards, again he had enlivened me, but it's part of a conversation, maybe not where I'll stay. Now I just need to keep an eye on collections available on Amazon and their prices, disappointing.

Jan 20, 2013, 4:08pm Top

If you read my thread from last year you may remember I read some Tolstoy. This resulted in me writing on Anna Karenina, my reactions really, as with this thread. I said I'd try to make it more academic but have not been able to face it yet - the task or given other commitments. But I think I can start to see a way -- I need to do a fair bit of secondary reading (done very little so far) and I need to reread AK (big commitment), but I feel like doing this, though am also wary this type of writing may sap creative energies and outlook. I'm hoping to finish around Easter. The rewrite itself is forboding.

So, I thought I might write a little bit about this process here, trying not to make it egocentric. I journal about reading and ideas and it usually helps essays, maybe be a bit like that -- but with the emphasis on being about the secondary reading.

I said last year I want to pay attention on other authors comments. But have lined up Isaiah Berlin first on Tolsoy and the enlightenment. Started it yesterday but had to stop, but was interesting so far especially as a defence of Tolstoy's thinking, which apparently many people denigrate, or did. I like his thinking.

I want to read more of John Bayley's book and have several others to look at. I have Nabokov's lecture to read.

This isn't about looking for help - it's not for a degree or anything, it was an adult education class, not even sure it would get a mark the draft so far did not. it is my attemot to develop my thoughts and to write in this style - I haven't done that for a literatire essay for a long time. I'd post the essay so far, but am unsure of that for several reasons but also partly as I don't want my thoughts affected too much by others. But comments on my comments as I read would be fine -- if I am really with it and not overrun by all I have to do it'd be nice to post on the parts of AK as I complete. Not quite a process blog, but maybe a bit like that. It may also help me face the task -- if this post disappears you will know where I am with it.

Jan 20, 2013, 4:18pm Top

Process is always interesting. Paying attention to it creates a better finished product. I always like to see how people arrived at their conclusions and will look forward to your AK reading. I reread this two years ago in a newer translation and was very happy that I did.

Jan 21, 2013, 4:56am Top

Tony, a seminal moment in how I view the world came through reading a Berlin essay on Tolstoy. It claimed Tolstoy shared the worldview of the peasant (and of all 'archaics') that any attempt to tinker with fate, to 'improve' things was doomed to failure. The ways of the universe are too unknowable and man/woman is too small a cog to be able to influence it. Furthermore, wherever they do try to meddle and 'improve' it ultimately ends in pain and suffering for the many.

(I've maybe conflated some of Berlin's and my own subsequent thinking in the above...)

I worry that this is a very small 'c' conservative outlook.

Edited: Jan 21, 2013, 1:53pm Top

I've only read the Pevear and Volokhonsky translation SassyLassy and will stick with it at this stage I think, it woyldl be te,pting for me to try Rosemary Edmonds version and I think I have one, but I don't want to confuse myself (all too easily done). I think you're right about process (but maybe not procress, which I typed orginally, as for processed procress, well enough said).

Zeno, that sounds very like the 'Tolstoy and the Enlightenment' essay I started. I read a bit more last night. He says that emotionally he fitted right in with slavophils and the more conservative, but intellectually he did not agree with them at all. This was interesting, I had kind of picked up some of that direction, but not so clearly perhaps, from my course and discussion and also from what I read of Bayleys book Tolstoy and the novel, where the point I got was really how far he did not agree with western political models and believed himself more free that a 'free' person (then man) in Britain say. So, this builds on that. A very free thinker who Berlin sees as unique a la few others, Pascal and Rousseau (especially Rousseau so far) get a nod in on this, I prefer Pascal. Maybe I should not say too much until I have finished his essay. OOO though there was one other very interesting thing - he did not believe in Original Sin (capitals needed? will think on that), this I had not picked up as such even from reading his Confession or Gospel in Brief, it is of course of great importance in thinking about Anna, how she seems to change and what she does, and I suppose regarding what his view may be on tragedy, how he'd understand that, which is very relevant to my essay. I suppose at the same time this may then place responsibility on both the individual and on those around them/society. I wonder what he thought of Karma, I saw a quote at the start of one book about how he had a western intellectuals mind (can't remember the exact phrase) but "the soul of an Indian Buddhist". Also very interesting comments by Berlin on a journal Tolstoy wrote about his time educating 'peasants' on his estate. Excuse me anyone who thinks I am just regurgitating the best bits. I'll no say more until I've finished Berlin's essay.

I should probably be reading and not sitting here typing with a cuppa.

Jan 21, 2013, 1:56pm Top

The mind of a western intellectual and soul of a Buddhist? Sounds like Murr.

Jan 21, 2013, 3:21pm Top

P&V was the newer translation and it was excellent. I'm glad that's the one you're reading. The first time I read it, it was the older Rosemary Edmonds.

Interesting about original sin in a man whom I took to be quite religious.

Jan 21, 2013, 6:58pm Top

I reread AK in the P-V translation several years ago, after having first read it as a teenager in whatever translation was available in the late 60s. I love P-V as translators (and I also like their notes) but, beyond that, reading AK in my 50s gave me a completely different perspective on the book (and on Anna herself) from the one I had as a teenager.

Jan 23, 2013, 5:49am Top

>21 zenomax: :)

interesting reading your evolving thoughts on
AK, Tony. You are in good hands with Berlin and Bayley.

You should also check out Berlin's essay on Tolstoy's relationship to de Maistre, which informs the theory of history outlined in W&P. Different novel I know, but still relevant to AK, I think.

Have you read George Steiner? he also writes really well on Tolstoy.

Edited: Jan 23, 2013, 5:01pm Top

>22 SassyLassy: - I guess there is religious, or maybe spiritual, and then the doctrines of organised religion. I should know this really, hmm no I do know this it's just been a long day - his Gospels in Brief really go agaiunst the idea of a sort of supernatural power, they make things much more human and it does fit with this, just a view of human nature. But I see how it is unexpected, even though I knew of his humanising view I had not, to my memory, formulated that he may think this -- though it is a view I am used to in some approaches, so it is not as strange to me as it may have been say 15 years ago, so I didn't think about it so much. He is a fascinating person. I have 'what I believe' to read. Oh and want to read 'what is art', kind of relevant to the essay. I heard some people find Rosemary Edmonds more poetic SassyLassy, so I am very tempted to read her this time.

>23 rebeccanyc: - Rebecca makes perfect sense to me to have perspective change like that, hopefully the development of a fine wine.

>21 zenomax: & 24 - gadzooks it is Murr of course (as far as I can see and withput wanting to label him) and quite a few (billion?) others I think. I am happy with Berlin and Bayley at the moment, I have a selection of other essays together with the Berlin in a collection of critical essays by Ralph E. Matlaw. I also have Edward wasiolek's book Tolstoy's Major Fiction. All a starting point, have others already ear marked. I have found out where to find D. H. lawrence's comments that intrigue me (in a 'I am likely to disagree with them but will enjoy the process' kind of way (already do on what he saw as Tolstoy being dishonest about Anna and Levin)). I also have a copy of Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky by George Steiner - I loved what I read of this several years ago and have kept meaning to come back to it, I like him on the little I have read around and about. I may look into other things he has written, good tip Murr, I was forgetting him for a minute. God knows when I can get into this with current workload and also have a writing deadline for next week which will take up all my time not already committted, maybe after that I will get going again. The other Berlin I have heard of many times, and in a past life studying history too, I put it aside for now (twas in me mitts on Saturday) but will explore given your recommendation as to it's relevance. I have good reading lists from the course last summer too. As I say am especially interested in other writer's comments on Tolstoy.

By happenstance, not that i was searching at all, I just saw this trailer for Snowstorm, "story of Leo Tolstoy" wasn't impressed by the voice over, did not understand it really but quite enjoyed what i read about the movie here . Needless (?) to say half my confiusion was that i first saw it as a story of Leo Tolstoy and onbly later saw the homonymous bit. Still that voice over remains a mystery to me.

Edited: Jan 26, 2013, 12:57pm Top

God I get wordy and less fun when I am busy through the week and time is short. Apologies.

I haven't finished anything for a couple of weeks. Car has been snowed in this week though so have had time to read on the metro and made more progress with Hidden in Plain Sight which I happened upon for 77p I think on Baron von Kindle by Dr Andrew Thomas and could read on my mobile -- I haven't read science for a long time but this grabbed me with the promise of unification of relativity and quantum theories, Quite a Big Thing, and I'm thoroughly enjoying it. A long time since I did some physics, but the way he writes explains this very well to lay people I think and it's kind of a philosophical book really. He argues for a change of paradigm in searching for unification, that what is needed is a thinking through from fundamental principles, logically...and so far this thinking through is enjoyable, makes sense so far as I can tell and explains a few things. Am on the section on time at present which is very interesting (and I say at the moment, of course as other time is just as equal inthe space-time block I also have not started it yet, am just starting and have finished it etc etc.) -- who was it said that poets shoudl read philosophy and philosophers poetry? Heidegger? It's good to be reading a different sort of thing. Hopefully loosens up some of that stodgy seriousness (and hopefully not thoughtlessness) that was developing above.

I've also been listing to the audiobook of the seven Habits of highly effective people which is just the sort of book I usually avoid but was recommended to me mainly for the examples - but again it's been very intersting for those examples and also for the thoughts it has prompted me to have about Person centred theories (Carl Rogers) and thinking about theories of the self again too. It's been very enjoyable. i think I may need to see some of it in print though...but may never have looked except for listenign to this engaging audiobook. I need theprint for my memeory as I get lost at times as to which heading we are under.

Got to be careful though I do not get totally diverted -- and need to restart Anna K. But it doesn't feel like avoidance this stuff, I started it before I set myself the essay task.

Feb 10, 2013, 4:11pm Top

I finsihed the Berlin, but essay progress was halted by my deadline and other things,and wrote some poems. Got to kick start myself. but its been a good diversion, well used.

I've also been flirting with several books -- Edward Thomas's collected, Hollis's biography of Thomas now all roads lead to France, Isaac Rosenberg's poems. Also started Findings by Kathleen Jamie, wonderful, enjoyed her Orkney trip so far...well written but well observed, well felt, time spent with a poet it felt, vivid and vivid as lived vividly.

Am doing a day long course on Coleridge next week, so have read Christabel and Frost at Midnight and My lime-bower prison, reread Kubla Khan and need to reread the Ancient Mariner - and want to try to read the other conversation poems. I love the two I read -- getting more of a picture of the man, wondering if the prison was simply lime bower, but sublime when he speaks, connects.

Also been listening to lots of music - especially Jacqueline du Pre's Elgar Cello concerto with Barbirolli. I discovered spotify -- great way to try things before buying, if i ever need to again. it also suggested Jenny Lewis to me and I have listened to Pretty Bird (a lot). I'm drifting --oh also saw a very nice Icelandic film called Noi Albinoi, beautiful photography, story, great performances. I have drifted.

Feb 10, 2013, 4:39pm Top

I'll be interested in your thoughts on Edward Thomas. I have the Hollis biography in my sights.

I have a weakness for the English pastoral and Thomas is the epitome of this movement (is it a movement or state of mind? Not sure?). Bringing out nature as an almost living, sentient being.

Feb 10, 2013, 11:40pm Top

Hi Tony, I have started reading Gravity's Rainbow; for the first time - I am so confused!

Feb 11, 2013, 12:51pm Top

#28 - I'm very new to Thomas, so have much to read and time needed to dwell. I have enjyed the first few pages of the Hollis biography a lot, starting with a very interesting bookshop opening.

Pastoral and English pastoral does me too, involvement in nature huge and when involved then yes we have a relationship to it and something lives, I like that. I am sadly very badly read of this really and need to read more. I did read a very good poem on the TLS website this week by Yannis Ritsos called Greekness which speaks of that landscape, another I love...yet with love also respect and fear in some ways.

On a slight tangent I get very struck how people recongise thigns liek this and then we act as though they are not there, and forget them. Myself too -- I once forgot just about everythign I believed in.

#29 -- confused sounds a normal reaction. I suggest you go with the flow with this one, even if it means puttingit down for a very long time before going back to it. it took me 7 months to read and I had loads of time to do so and the thinking space to as well. Also be aware it deals with soem very strong subjects at times, I found it a huge emotional rollercoaster that at times I was ot sure I wished to be on. I'm not sure if I said above but i had to drop out of the group re-read I was doing, just did not have the time, loved how far i got to with it. you hve reminded me I want to reread the Kenosha kid section, something to love (well aside from other people, but to love that writing too, that connection and playfulness). good luck -- let me know if it woudl help to knwo were to find the group read I mentioned -- not on librarything, but happy to signpost you.

Feb 14, 2013, 10:43pm Top

Tony and Zeno, you might want to try the Penguin Book of English Pastoral Verse. It's chronologically organised and has an excellent introduction and notes. I refer to it constantly.

I will be interested to hear your thoughts on Coleridge after your course, Tony. I picked up in Chiang Mai The Road to Xanadu, a study of Coleridge's imagination, which looks fantastic but have not read yet. There is also an excellent essay on C by James Wood, in The Irresponsible Self. An intriguing and fascinating figure, plagued his whole life by constipation. Yes.

And for Coleridge Lovers everywhere:

Coleridge received the Person from Porlock
And ever after called him a curse,
Then why did he hurry to let him in?
He could have hid in the house.

It was not right of Coleridge in fact it was wrong
(But often we all do wrong)
As the truth is I think he was already stuck
With Kubla Khan.

He was weeping and wailing: I am finished, finished,
I shall never write another word of it,
When along comes the Person from Porlock
And takes the blame for it.

It was not right, it was wrong,
But often we all do wrong.


May we inquire the name of the Person from Porlock?
Why, Porson, didn’t you know?
He lived at the bottom of Porlock Hill
So had a long way to go,

He wasn’t much in the social sense
Though his grandmother was a Warlock,
One of the Rutlandshire ones I fancy
And nothing to do with Porlock,

And he lived at the bottom of the hill as I said
And had a cat named Flo,
And had a cat named Flo.

I long for the Person from Porlock
To bring my thoughts to an end,
I am becoming impatient to see him
I think of him as a friend,

Often I look out of the window
Often I run to the gate
I think, He will come this evening,
I think it is rather late.

I am hungry to be interrupted
For ever and ever amen
O Person from Porlock come quickly
And bring my thoughts to an end.


I felicitate the people who have a Person from Porlock
To break up everything and throw it away
Because then there will be nothing to keep them
And they need not stay.


Why do they grumble so much?
He comes like a benison
They should be glad he has not forgotten them
They might have had to go on.


These thoughts are depressing I know. They are depressing,
I wish I was more cheerful, it is more pleasant,
Also it is a duty, we should smile as well as submitting
To the purpose of One Above who is experimenting
With various mixtures of human character which goes best,
All is interesting for him it is exciting, but not for us.
There I go again. Smile, smile, and get some work to do
Then you will be practically unconscious without positively having to go.

Stevie Smith

Edited: Feb 17, 2013, 6:02pm Top

Thanks Tomcat, I have heard some of this poem before I think but not read it - is this all of it or are there ellipses at the astrices?

I just read of The Road to Xanadu by Prof Livingstone Lowes in Kathleen Raine's introduction to Coleridge: Poems and prose (selected by her) and a very good introduction it is too and right there with the class yesterday and discussion there, an excellent class I found it -- I burst with things to say and have to contain myself sometimes, not often enough for some I suspect, but it is far superior to mingle with the learning than to sit back, far more satisfying, I know from years of having sat back, no matter how high I thought I went, it was all by myself at times. I digress, but that's on topic perhaps.

We talked about:

The Eolian Harp
This Lime tree-bower my prison
Frost at Midnight
The Nightingale
Kubla Khan
The Ancyent Mariner
and the first version of Dejection an ode

and of course we talked of a lot else. I had some familiarity with them and had prepared well for the class, by reading most of these (not Dejection). We didn't get time to discuss Christabel which was a pity, I had not read it before preparing for the class and was interested to learn more about it and discuss as it reminded me so much of Keats (will be checking e.g. if it influenced The Eve of St Agnes).

Stevie Smith's take was interesting. We were discussing how little Coleridge ever finished and Kathleen Raine does too, when he has opened up vast horizons. Her poem gives me a sense of horizons unchanging.

I did not get to mention his constipation but I am sure it affected my thinking. But we did speak of how he (and Wordsworth) were interested in how people become stuck and unstuck, need we investigate Wordsworth's toilet too?
But more seriously I like that about stickiness and see the lime tree bower prison as perhaps a bower and also psychological, characterological etc. I like it very much -- those poems have a sort of optimism, a sort of faith underlying his view of nature, a faith in nature. Yet we know nature has other sides, danger too and of course that begins to come in. I wondered if the hopefulness, the oasis of that possibility was something that already fought a certain albatrossness about him - I shall be thinking about that as I read him and of him more. And of course we get that other view of nature in Kubla Khan and the Ancyent Mariner, a fullness of vision that is so vivid to our reason (straight from his (and in his sense)) the power is unfathomable (zeno must/would love this stuff), vivid and alive (engaged with things, with a vital force) I think are two things that most strike me. He shares with you, you with him. My beginning with him is finishing, but I hope will always continue.

My comments are superficial, obvious to anyone that has read him (I hope) and I am sure not original, but his affect on me is original. I am sure I could write several views of the ancient mariner already, at times mutually contradictory yet all true, what a poem. We read it along with his 1817 gloss and someone remarked how D. H. Lawrence had said to 'trust the text not the writer' and they said 'as if what the writer has to say is somewhow something second rate that comes after the text', and this almost reduced me to giggles, it's so true. My reaction noted by me also, unusual for me, perhaps connected to the fountain of emotions he throws up. Though soem of the gloss I did like. and I was not giggling at Coleridge but at me and at some idea of writing I think.(edit - no not some idea, but some experience of writing.)

That's a nice tip of a book on the pastoral - I may be a bit more familiar more than I have said. I may also have succesfully avoided this as a subject in which I could get stuck, but I suspect such a fear was a delusion when faced with reality....you may know the delusion 'I will not read about that so that I am not infected by those thougths if I come to write about it', wrong in so many ways, not least as if connectign with reality myself any writing would only gain from other visions....i suspect less connected attempts by myself though may always fear the shade though.

Feb 18, 2013, 7:06pm Top

Enjoyed reading your thoughts on the Coleridge class.

I wonder how much he wrote while sitting on the toilet

Feb 18, 2013, 7:31pm Top

Coleridge's constipation was a side effect of his opium addiction. It was very serioous. Do not joke about this painful topic.

Tony, it's the whole poem., one of my favourites.

Feb 19, 2013, 9:37am Top

>33 baswood: Erik Erikson said the same thing about The Ninety-Five Theses in Young Man Luther. I've been suspicious of both Erikson and Luther since reading that book:)

Mar 2, 2013, 10:56am Top

Barry, initially I misread sitting. Most amusing.

But it is serious I agree tomcat, I feel for him. It is hard Sassy not to see a link between constitution and contribution. But when Coleridge was in the flow as it were his, ahem, stuff, is so good. I don't know Luther's actual writing, but don't have the impression it was so free. It all makes me think it so cruel for Coleridge to have hit such heights and of course, and now I am only talking poetically, he was stuck (he believed Wordsworth was the real poet)....and yes I see that he and Wordsworth were interested in the process of being stuck and then getting moving again, I think of Coleridge's own theory, linked to an occasion he got stuck on a lakeland mountain, I think he went to sleep and when he awoke he found his way down, so he never stopped believing in the possibility of unstuckness, his belief was in life finding a way. Of course we also read the Dejection ode (first version the letter) and that circusmstance was one that would never change for him, his marriage, his true love -- so he seems to have had it on several fronts, love, drug use (with the further affect on constitution) but a sense that the lyricism it may have helped caused the stream (at least of poetry) to flow less strong at times, and then maybe also a propensity, the issues of his childhood....and how can I talk that have not hit such summits, maybe that's just it they are summits, few dwell on summits. I want to read more of his life, not that that will help me knw anything and I am wary of my own comments as neat and not the man, I start making a portrait of him from a few partially known facts. i also think that for one to have hit such heights he cannto not have hit them, experienecd them and so I look forward to reading his prose and suspect there will be wisdom there as high as his poetry, in fcat as a person it may be he saw this, knew it, had moved beyond -- I sometimes think of poetry as a symptom of illness in a way, of not beign satisfied in life, it may be there are great poets whose life is their poetry not words. i want to read him all very much. But then at the moment that is true of many and much and my selections I must make an art of and yet also no art to keep them fresh.

Mar 2, 2013, 11:00am Top

tomcat -- the Stevie Smith is a very different voice, it's one I am cautious of for some reason, it may simply be the difference between the glass half full and half empty, or how existnetialism may seems depressing sometimes and liberating at others, and one I am very cautious of flipping my own feelings about.

Edited: May 18, 2013, 10:31am Top

3. Findings by Kathleen Jamie

Generous prose - writing, sharing her times and thoughts on travels and nature and life. Time well spent by her and with her, with an artist, rich and true time. I look forward to reading Sightlines which I also have and must make the decision whether to splurge all at once like a kid with an Easter egg haul or save it, savour it dry. I think I am more of a splurger at the moment, I hope it does not upset my regularity.

Oh so what's the writing about - its about travels in Scotland to the wilds and in the city and about events in her life and observations of people and nature and it doesn't try too hard to hammer you over the head with anything, it notices.

In a sense it chimes with something else I have just read - Goethe's "The Experiment as Mediator of Object and Subject" (which I read from here). I loved this such good sense -- as Heisenberg said it may have lost the argument in science but I hold it valid for a personal approach, maybe for an approach that may help science maintain a human scale, for a poetic approach, maybe it chimes with a Buddhist approach. Anyway I did not find Jamie struggled to make it all fit a big overview, she did draw pattersn and showed them, but she observed and shared. Looks an interesting website too. Goethe is another to want to read. I find this essay beautiful.

Mar 2, 2013, 5:20pm Top

I hope it does not upset my regularity. too much TonyH.

As a regular reader I am enjoying your posts.

Mar 2, 2013, 6:27pm Top

Yes, it was too much. low. the light banter could become a weight.

Mar 2, 2013, 7:09pm Top

Hi Tony - I read Tolstoy (AK) for the first time last year and have a developing interest in him and in Russian history. I enjoyed reading your thread and will be following it. Great thread!


Edited: Mar 2, 2013, 7:25pm Top

But thanks Bas :) and Merrikay, glad to hear from you (edit - will check your thread tomrrow) -- you could check out my thread from last year for my Tolstoy reading. I am meaning to reread AK, must start, 20 sides a day, I can do it. Have doen a bit more secondary reading, just a smidge, but have ideas, will post after a bit of thought.

Mar 3, 2013, 10:24am Top

I was called back to Now all roads lead to France today to discover in it's pages that today was Edward Thomas's birthday, 3 March.

It's an engaging read though I am only 10% of the way in (the joys of Kindles), but of course a poet discovering he is a poet and the scene he sets, fascinating. I don't know much of his poetry yet and have an annotated collected to work into when i get to where he starte to write 'em.

Edited: May 18, 2013, 10:36am Top

Lost Goddesses of Early Greece by Charlene Spretnak - came across this in a second hand shop the other day and it called to me for numerous complicated reasons I won't try to pull together right now. Read it in a sitting, a nice basic primer about the Goddesses and their roots before the Olympian gods were installed, with a short introduction and a brief introduction to the myths included with a more academic bent before a sort of synthesis of each myth. Also nicely illustrated and could be nice for children (edit older children?) . It was written in the 70's in response to little being available that was not dominated by the male view of the Olympian gods. I enjoyed it and it telling this side's view of the older worship -- made me pull out the white goddess, though I struggle with it and maybe it's male perspective and it resulted in an exchange with a friend that has had me ordering some other works on the goddess/es by women. It also led me to pull out women who run with wolves which I'm enjoying, gives lots of food for thought.

On Poetry by Glyn Maxwell - Finally went back to this and completed it. I like it, a sensitive approach to poetry and going about writing it. A poet's approach. Part of me in reading it sometimes felt it pointless, as I grow to have the suspicion that poets all grow to have their own unique view of this sort of thing (better defined the better the poet is? though maybe never complete?) --- but this is best not at what it tells me but how it tells me which opens up what in my own eyes -- and that is highest praise.
I had an exchange with tomcat in a spell the book lay fallow for me -- and so let me say a bit more clearly what Maxwell was saying about prosody. First I should say he very much encourages appreciation of form, of it's discipline - some of the best passages made sense to me of the experience of writing to a form, of how it may stop me saying simply what I would say next in order to have a more complex interaction with language and myself and say something that may not have been the first thing that came to my mind. Maxwell is a poet and a writer of verse for performance -- whilst he begins his chapter on Pulse, saying he does not teach prosody and pointing out that iambs, dactyls, spondees, trochees etc. are Greek words relating to the Greek language his explanation lacks no depth , he points a helpful working way forward, for me anyway, on my way to my own views and makes a strong case for writing in form, for the affect of form and meter - he is no philistine preaching ignorance, just the opposite - I hope that may make better sense tomcat and think you may find his sensibility of interest.

In other reading I was led to read Nabokov's short story 'Signs and Symbols' - with an intersting definition of a form of madness that curiously to me left out humans from interpretation of its signs and symbols. And which ends interestingly -- having presented us with a load of signs and symbols, am I right or wrong to take that ending how I may. I think it may be a matter of alienating myself from the living world if I do just see the reading of such signs as madness, yet I do not know and I know I would be wary of making such readings to certain mental health professionals. And I don't know enough about Nabokov to be sure how he means it, I sometimes have a clinical sense of him, could it be he is diagnosing me and my wish to read the symbols? Forgive me if those are the words of a Nabokov neophyte, I hope to learn more of him.

I'm half way through now all roads lead to france and am finding it wonderful, good reading. If it seemed to leave out something about Thomas earlier then I think this becomes more apparent as I read more, works itself out in the bigger/longer view of him. Was wonderful to read of he and Frost. Fascinating (and on their poetics). Am also making my way through his poems - have not been making such fast progress in the last week or so though.

I saw the film Australia last night and enjoyed it. It caused me to reach for The songlines which I've had for sometime and am thoroughly enjoying now, such an engaging book why did I make no progress previously? Yet maybe it makes sense it speaks to me when I'm thinking of goddesses and symbols and the living world.

Mar 24, 2013, 7:20pm Top

Enjoyed reading your post #44. On Poetry by Glynn Maxwell sounds interesting

Mar 25, 2013, 10:38am Top

Enjoy Songlines, flawed, but still terrific. I found your comments on and in response to Maxwell (and Murr?) quite interesting and thought-provoking. And anything on lost goddesses ought to be fascinating...no?

Mar 26, 2013, 6:26pm Top

Thanks Bas -- Maxwell is interesting. not sure I have captured all I could say. i read him in 2 parts really, a lot last August and then a gap until the last week or two I completed. he really sahred a sesnibility and one that is very much for an understanding of form and use of it, not willy nilly free verse, and the book is written generously sharing his point of view, showing at least as much as telling.

I'm enjoying The Songlines Dan, I thought his style may have been different, but he's very approachable. I read most of Patrick Leigh Fermor in my twienties, discoeverd him when makign atrip to the Mani, and l knew Chatwin was a fan, more they were friends I believe, I'm a fan too, but this is very much his own voice and not as dense as PLF can be. They just left the guy who couldn't watch them leave.
It was Murr I was alluding to - we exchanged, on a thread, possibly his own, on Maxwell and his uncertainty about the greek words I mention above - but it was a polite and friendfly exchage, not meaning to make it seem anything else, I just knew I hadn't explained where Maxwell was coming from well, as I think he's far more in the area Murr would recognise than my hasty words perviously may have suggested.
Goddess/es fascinating to me yes intrinsically so to anyone with sense. Especially so to me at the moment.

Edited: Mar 31, 2013, 2:47pm Top

I meant to mention, as I know several people were planning to read Infinite Jest this year, I had given up on it, it made me too sad. But, the summer reading group/class I have been to for the last two years is reading it this year, so I hope to join them if I can switch my late working evening.

And hope a group read may help with the sadness.

Edited: May 18, 2013, 10:41am Top

The Moomins and the Great Flood - felt a need to acquaint myself with the Moomins, I made a great many reading choice mistakes as a kid. This was great and I look forward to reading the series. A year or two ago i purchased the phantom tollbooth which I did have the sense to read as a child and also mean to read Alice's adventures again, so maybe this will become a mini theme. Saw an intersting film about Tove Jansson recently which pushed me over the edge into action.

Mar 31, 2013, 2:59pm Top

The Sea-gull by Anton Chekhov - my first Chekhov, how enjoyable, how funny in a sad and dark way and how sad. I read the free kindle edition, can't even see who translated it (in case anyone can help), I know the early translations are sometimes criticised, but this impressed me so much anyway. And comes at an apposite point, a useful reminder, as maybe the tone of the start of this thread suggests is on my mind, about what is important and how it's possible to dive into labyrinths of effective isolation. But so funny, if only I had read it/seen it many years ago. Vital for writers to read? vital or modern people to read?
I'm going to see a production later this month I think and then this afternoon found out we have another production in May, so may to see both and compare and contrast.

Mar 31, 2013, 6:39pm Top

I enjoyed your enthusiasm for the Seagull. I will get to it one day.

Mar 31, 2013, 7:41pm Top

Downloaded Seagull. Haven't read Chekov. Think it's an ok place to start?

Edited: Apr 1, 2013, 7:09am Top

i think you'll enjoy when you do Barry.

It was a fine place I found to start (I also read about him and it on wiki) -- I know some people are cautious of early translations, I couldn't see who translated this, but I enjoyed it whoever it was, it may be there are translations I will prefer. A friend has reminded me to be cautious of Constance Garnett, as if I needed to be told after the trauma of the Brothers K. But I am not in the market for more books this month - when I am I have seen some more modern options I'll go for.

Btw - apologies, I usually avoid language such as "vital for writers to read? Vital for modern people to read" - I hate myself for it, you'd think I was writing a blurb or for a paper.

Apr 1, 2013, 7:20am Top

I've enjoyed the Chekhov short stories I've read, but have never read (or seen) his plays.

Apr 1, 2013, 1:39pm Top

It was about ten years ago that I was just about to read The Seagull...never did happen though.

Edited: Apr 20, 2013, 12:57pm Top

I've just started reading Twelfth Night -- am off to see it in the next couple of weeks. Its opening lines:

If music be the food of love, play on,
Give me excess of it, that surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken and so die.
That strain again, it had a dying fall.
O, it came o'er my ear like the sweet sound
That breathes upon a bank of violets,
Stealing and giving odour. Enough, no more,
'Tis not so sweet now as it was before.
(Music ceases)"

I sat in my car when I got home yesterday as we approached the end of this week of terrible things, from people rejoicing at a death (however much I feel Mrs T did things I hate in a way I hate) to the obvious horror of this week. Though I remember there is unreported horror every day in many places. A very busy week too work wise. I sat and didn't move as Radio Three had Ludovico Einaudi on and he played a piece called Underwood, and the light was gorgeous, the sky blue, I watched bees at the plants and sat where I never do and saw how the world moved at the front of our house in a way not seen so much since childhood (can it be?) when I needed no excuse to just loiter, instead of be doing things or else could I feel suspicious. I loiter elsewhere but not there really. And the music, I only know him from movies, but wonderful. So I especially enjoyed finding these lines come from this play, the next day.

Reading it too, The Oxford Shakespeare, the footnote on "Stealing and giving" says "i.e. taking the scent from some flowers, then bestowing it on others". I read this as upon other flowers, maybe not maybe that is to read their footnote wrong and it is just others (including people)? But the from some flowers and then others suggests other flowers to me. Yet I see who the odour is given to as the sniffer of the flowers if you see what I mean -- is this so obvious they haven't bothered to say it, I like this as it creates an inter relationship between the observer and observed, which also puts you there. Thought it may be worth mentioning to see what others think. I don't have the Arden or I'd compare - I like the Oxford, find them very readable.

I went to see the Seagull in the tiny Studio at our Theatre Royal - it was ok, good to see in reality, I liked much of it. Overall I didn't find it as subtle, it was of course more theatrical, as just reading it. I want to go and see another production soon.

I've also been to some concerts, Beethoven, Vasks, Prokofiev, Bartok all wonderful -- why for so long I did not do these things I don't know and explains a lot, I do know. Also some jazz -- a two part concert on Philip Larkin with some of his favourites and readings from him especially on Jazz which were great and it was very enjoyable, then a part with Christine Tobin and her settings of some of Yeats and I was not hopeful of this but I really warmed to it and bought the cd at the end. Even my liking for the Waterboys album did not get in the way, this is different perhaps more complex. At the end they had a discussion Ian Smith and Alan Shypton who organsied and were part of the first jazz band and Christine Tobin and Sean O'Brien. I haven't read Sean O'Brien. There were points made about the music fitting the metre and form, and I wondered if Sean O'brien was criticising Chritsine Tobin, he said "only a lunatic" would try to set Sailing to Byzanatium which she had, not my favourite but fine, and he also wondered if she was doing mimesis. I kind of agreed at the time about this standard poet's point about the importance of form and subtley of music with the form that is not reached as they were saying by many a free form sort of poet (how can I disagree, I aim to be able to do this myself). But a huge part of me would back track from the 'mmmm' I sounded when he said this as I believe just as much, if not more, in just letting creativity happen, not stifling it in form or hobbling it with guilt because it has to learn form slowly. Maybe I have misunderstood and maybe he would never do that and he was making a more subtle point, I don't know but it has been on my mind and it put me in a worse mood than the concert had.

Apr 20, 2013, 5:03pm Top

Thanks TonyH for reminding us of those wonderful opening lines from Twelfth Night. (you can put away the sackbuts now lads)

Interesting point about Sean O'Brien' possible criticism of Christine Tobin. I think it is fine to say that you don't think something works for you, but not so clever when a point is made that reveals a closed mind that believes it doesn't work for everybody.

Edited: Apr 21, 2013, 7:36am Top

Thanks Barry - I hope I am not misrepresenting him or reading too much into what I thought he was suggesting, he was totally polite and as I left the group were talking warmly with each other. Just wish I had had time to think through to a clear question before it ended - if I'd had the nerve to ask. Maybe he was nervous too, who knows -- te whole talk was a bit hurried as we knew the end of coming. I liked Christine Tobin's approach very much, the way she talked of it. It's just her reading or interpretation, I can still listen to the Waterboys and I can still hear my own, sometimes mixed with others -- that is something I had wondered about but its done me a service to show that is not threatened by such powerful interpretations, as long as they aren't foisted on you with the force of school. Maybe I should write to O'Brien to ask him, he's a poet of high standing, so he is undoutbetdly well versed in this and can put me right about what he was saying.

Edited: May 18, 2013, 10:38am Top

The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin

This book enthused me in many ways. It re-enthused me for travel writing. It was approachingly written, a communication from one person to others, his interests and his humanity brought the people he wrote of to life, made them engaging. I understand some are not always happy with his depiction of reality, I do not know those details and cannot comment. I think of how Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance or Lila were not necessarily based on things that happened as represented, I don’t have a problem with that, but then I am not one of the people depicted in the Songlines.

I don’t want to say too much about what it is all about, you can get that from many a review – I had an idea for years before reading the book. Yes Songlines are songs that record journeys of the people that people originally from Australia believe sang the world into being – they are extraordinary as a means of intercomunciation, as transmission of history and myth, as practical maps to get around with, as vehicles for tribal interrelationships and exchange, as a key to societies.

In his book Chatwin explains how he came to be something of a nomad (though we note he wrote when settled in this book anyway, on a stay in a camp) – driven by his sight to seek more open spaces and to give up his specialism in art. We join his travels with some wonderful people, get to meet and hear of some of these (his versions of them). We also learn of how native Australian people were treated, I wonder if it has changed. Through his travels he tell us of the Songlines. We come eventually to his own review of his notes on nomads compared to settled people. At this point I had a bit of a hiatus after a while – the notes are made up of short passages from notebooks kept over many years, they are dense, some are quotes some are of his experience it seems. My first reaction, which I think I processed whilst I stood away from the book for a week or two was that this reminded me of a problem I once had with a dissertation, there was so much to say he had given up trying to fit it to his own prose, he could only offer this selection, and of course I read he had previously written his own thesis on them but had destroyed it. I don’t think this is the case though – it dawned on me that this note format is wholly appropriate to this book, that these notes of his wanderings (geographical, literary, philosophical, mythological, theological, anthropological, evolutionary and more I am sure) wholly fit being so presented in a book such as this in this way – that in a way they are his own songline, for the journey he has made to the conclusions he has made, to the person he was. When I realised the book sang again after my stuckness. I do have some reservations, in that the notes do seem to be representative of his own working towards an answer, and presents some thoughts on that, some of which is beyond my knowledge to quibble with -- I am unsure of final answers, and the need for them, for certainty. However he does seem to have a humanist eye to me and so maybe I am overly harsh about that. I’m also not sure I don’t like these answers, I think I like many of them and wish many would take some leaves from their books. I'd like to take some leaves myself.

As to Chatwin himself, I don’t know him. I have read a few things about him and this seems problematic for some. I don’t want to label him in any way as he did not seem to label himself. I can see he was a man with a very fine eye and judgement. I get the impression he was such that he struggled himself to fit into conventional boxes and in the spirit of the book why should he. If this was his songline who or what did he sing up? I know he sang a world of possibility to me.

Knowing he was mentored in a way by Patrick Leigh Fermor I had feared he may be a very dense and scholarly writer, I loved Fermor’s writing a long time ago but sometimes he could be a struggle (I think of descriptions of architecture especially – or just great erudition about lots of things I am just ignorant of), but there was no need for me to fear Chatwin in this way. Yes the notes are dense, but I loved reading them and his thinking through of them and juxtapositons between them, allowing me to read my own theses into them, for all he seemed to be seeking one or suggesting one. So I hope to read In Patagonia which I understand some feel to be an even better book. This was a wonderful affirmation of a lot that sometimes the world seems to deny, a vitality that called to me and enriched me, and a validation of ways of being that are often ignored but in which such life may be had. In that it has a link to my recent readings about goddesses too, to earlier belief, to belief.

Apr 22, 2013, 5:51pm Top

Enjoyed reading your reaction to The Songlines I read it and enjoyed it a long time ago, it does have a special quality about it.

Apr 22, 2013, 6:55pm Top

I've had both The Songlines and In Patagonia on the TBR for years; your review makes me think of edging it up a little . . .

Apr 23, 2013, 9:27am Top

Wonderful review and interesting reflections on the need to step away.
I've read In Patagonia, but not The Songlines. I didn't know about the Patrick Leigh Fermor connection. That is someone I have failed to read along the way. I must correct that as I love travel writing.

Apr 23, 2013, 11:37am Top

Yes, Sassy, you must correct your lack of reading Patrick Leigh Fermor! I adore his books.

Edited: Apr 23, 2013, 12:52pm Top

Can't stop long, but thank you bas (as ever :) ), rebecca and Sassy. I may be wrong to use the word mentor, I don't mean it was a formal thing, I don't know a lot about it but maybe they were just friends. Chatwin's ashes I think were scattered near Fermor's house, near Kardamyli.

Apr 23, 2013, 12:57pm Top

Kardamyli is a lovely spot on the Mani peninsula of mainland Greece. I remember a lovely Taverna by the sea.

Apr 23, 2013, 3:36pm Top

I've not been to Kardamyli itself, but close, yes.

Apr 24, 2013, 1:46am Top

What a great review of The Songlines. It sounds so amazing. So did you then put your story to song? I keep wanting to try that to give me a little verse to sing throughout the day to remind me of how I want to live my life. Not hearing any melodies tho. Yet.

Apr 25, 2013, 3:37am Top

Thanks Merrikay. I need to learn to be more musical. I do write which does a few things for me.

Apr 30, 2013, 10:14pm Top

This was fun to catch up on, each post inspires much thought. Awesome to see your response to Songlines, a favorite of mine despite its flaws. I had assumed Chatwin had merely run out of time and the notes represented a surrender of sorts, that the nomad book had, in the end, partly defeated him...but I like them better as a song.

Assuming you are right about O'Brien, it could be read as strangling, but also as an effort to push Tobin and others further.

As for Twelve Night, I read it more plainly, as a comparison to a breeze that brings a scent from a flower (stealing) and carries to the nose (giving). This is about sound, so, in a way, it characterizes the movement of sound from musician to ears in the audience. By the time we hear it, the musician has lost it. But, even if I'm wrong, or dumbing it down, it's a wonderful opening.

Edited: May 2, 2013, 11:51am Top

I think Chatwin had a very keen eye for form and this form fitted for him, but I hardly know anything about him, it's my impression I should say. I think it gives it a wonderful turn that he put them together like that.

I keep thinking of writign to Sean O'Brien to see -- though with distance it is bothering me less. And then I imagine replies.

Your readign of Twelfth Night is very much my own -- I want to check what Arden say about this as maybe this is a modern reading and at that time it is just as Oxford suggest. It is a wonderful opening Unfortunately I have not had time to finsih the play -- but am going to see it tonight, exit stage right.

Thanks for your post, good to get after my busy mid-week.

Edited: May 18, 2013, 10:40am Top

9. Stag's Leap by Sharon Olds

I'm reluctant to say much about this -- she beat Kathleen Jamie (and others) to the T. S. Eliot prize, later heard them together on The Verb. I hoped Jamie would win it - but what is a prize, afterall. These poems are so raw at times, yet considered -- I'm wary of speaking as 1) a man 2) someone that has not been married yet alone married for 30 odd years to have that fall apart 3) as someone whose own relationship break ups tend to get avoided in thought rather than considered as possible (so far) poem material. For such intense emotion I am amazed she can recall process so clearly, but maybe she writes a journal, and persists at such times. And there is generosity in the poems, the title poem of recognition of a thing that was needed, and a tenderness to that. But as with the other Olds I have read I am well impressed but I have not connected personally so much, maybe more than I did the other collection I read, maybe it just doesn't connect to me that much. But this one I think I would reread sooner. I also want to go through to figure out more about the forms she uses, as I couldn't in those I tried this with, but this is also something I am developing, so it is doubtless me. I cannot deny she has a staggering precision and power when she hits a point and phrases it.

May 10, 2013, 8:06pm Top

Wow THAT is an interesting and intriguing review.

May 11, 2013, 6:45am Top

I read your reply and wondered if it is so much the review as the glimpse into my interaction with it that is intriguing, unmarried, breakups etc.

It caused me to think -- I have not spoken truly or wisely. I don't just avoid such things, and they would be possible poem material (with respect to the feelings of others as she has too -- though something I did not say made me wonder at times about someone wanting the last word, but I may be unfair to so wonder, and she is generous to him) -- I would need to keep a journal at such a time and something in my instinct makes that hard, no matter how much I believe in that process. But I am wrong to suggest I cannot look at these things, in all the circumstances they occurred, wronged and wronger, left and leaver. As I suspect most of us can (??). But there is a truth about not connecting to such intensity - I think of reading Ingmar Bergman's autobiography last year when I was so impressed, he was not being intellectual, he was making art of intense emotions he experiences - and maybe that is a good way to live, but tiring, exhausting, unpeaceful, dangerous (I think of Zeno's types and it seems the opposite of seeking security, or perhaps demanding it in a very different way). I think of Kierkegaard and wonder if any way is the right way.

May 11, 2013, 9:04am Top

Or maybe all ways are the right way...the full spectrum of possible human responses.

May 11, 2013, 11:09am Top

Perhaps you are pacing yourself?

May 11, 2013, 12:09pm Top

I like that pantheism zeno. There is The Way too and then Buddhism too, reactions to this. I have dabbled in many.

Pacing myself, possibly, time for a burst, possibly that great runners method, the fart leg.

Edited: May 18, 2013, 11:02am Top

Excuse my poor wit merrikay, taking it out of myself really.

You may have noticed I have entered the graphics age, thanks to a hot tip from Barry about using properties for the source of the picture, you would not believe what lengths I was having to go to to find the source previously. Or maybe you would. (is there any netiquette I wonder over whose photos you can link to or is everything up fro grabs on the net?)

(I like the repeated to. I will not edit.)

On the gender front mentioned on Merrikay's thread, I found this on a page for a band (I think a band, have not heard them, yet) called Mana Sama:

Yes. Not all the story but part that needs to be told.

In other news I've noticed myself that I have not been posting on my Tolstoy essay - not surprising as I have not advanced a jot. I still hope to but it is a matter of finding time and reading and work and other commitments are filling it up. But it was not just hot air, it may get finished. it may help if I don't say anything about it on here and save the energy for progress.

This is starting to seem like a regular journal -- get back to reading Tony.

May 18, 2013, 11:40am Top

Congrats on your new graphic skills.

Such an intriguing topic. The pic would have been perfect for teaching Bem's androcentrism. To prove the idea of androcentrism, I asked female students to come to school dressed in men's clothing, and men to come dressed in women's clothing and compare the responses they got from others. Of course the men would not do that.

By the way, clicked over to your poetry - stunning!

Edited: May 18, 2013, 12:14pm Top

ooo, well you have me grinning from ear to ear. I don't put all of them up there, but it's got some of my favourites. It's always good when someone enjoys them.

As to those men, well, they don't know what they are missing. Which is fine for them. I just hope there were none that would have joined in but could not, I think that can happen, would have to me for a long time for all my knowing better.

But thanks :)

May 18, 2013, 12:36pm Top

well there was one...........he was Samoan and we all loved him and of course that brought in the cultural dress piece so that was great. There was also a Native American who was intersexed and talked to the class about it and it was so wonderful to see people's eyes being opened. Especially mine cause I love genetics also. Still......a man just walked by with a small dog and I......well, just saying. I figure it's his wife's.

May 18, 2013, 1:05pm Top

I'm glad to hear of those two. But sorry to hear no one else at least tried. But if its not for a person then fine. But why not walk in another's shoes to see.

I'm guessing that dog walker didn't have an outfit to match then. I'm thinking Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde would be the look to go for, I have the hair already, must add chanel suit to shopping list, oh the pooch too.

May 18, 2013, 6:38pm Top

Don't worry about it just grab those pictures.

May 26, 2013, 4:18pm Top

#71 - You could post this on the review page. I have been working through Stag's Leap, although slowly and just a here and there. Despite only being in a twelve year relationship that has not broken up (goodness, and I hope never will), I haven't had problems relating...but sometimes I miss the poetry for the story, if that makes sense. Still, great stuff, and at least some of these are just wonderful.

May 28, 2013, 1:03pm Top

Thanks Dan. There are any wonderful moments I agree and poems. I think your comment makes sense, though always poetic, hard not to read and follow the story.

Jun 10, 2013, 4:15pm Top

10. Now all roads lead to France by Matthew Hollis (Kindle ed.)


11. The annotated Collected Poems By Edward Thomas edited by Edna Longley and Michael Longley (Kindle ed.)

Two wonderful books I will go back to.

I didn't know that much of Thomas really. Hollis's biography was a great introduction to him. Focussing on finding him in the months really just before he met Frost, then his meetings with Frost and the rest of his life of course and then their parting and his decision making over enlisting and his time in the army -- amidst all of which he discovers he's a poet. Reading of a great poet as ever was inspirational. We do not look at his earlier life in general, but it does become more knowable through reference back as the book progresses, at first as I read the book I felt there was a hole there but I feel that less now.

Strangely I found his depression difficult to have empathy for, that's not how I usually find it, though looking back on that now I find it easier, maybe, not easier as a depression but maybe it makes more sense. I think it was because he was writing in that time and had a family that I found it hard to see why he may be low -- although it's quite clear both those things seemed to be pressures upon him.

But most fascinating of all, here was a man that was a writer, a literary critic, a critic of poetry and a fine one - who would go on to be a great poet, yet he had no idea of himself as a poet for so long. That really interests me. I have my own ability at ignoring or not doing exactly those things that interest me most and which may be best for me, exactly suited to me. The book does not explain this lack of understanding of himself, though it shows it very well -- I can only wonder if it was simply that something was not recognised in a person who was humble about their ability to do this, the book suggests this. And of course the biography does show exactly how this was something that meeting Frost brought out -- though it is not that simple, Thomas did not write because Frost suggested it, but meeting Frost seems clearly to have validated Thomas in his thinking, but validated in other ways too, their friendship worked an ancient therapy -- along with other therapeutic elements. One of which was to start to write in verse form - the poetry may already have been there as Frost suggested amidst his prose (I have not read his prose), writing in verse allowed it to develop -- and again of fascination to me that with that the depression changes, seems to go into remission, again it seems to be about being who he is and being seen for who he is (maybe I go too far in my reading into, into neatness)...but it strikes me now for the first time in writing this that this may also be part of an explanation for his action in joining up when he did not have to, he had set foot on a path of being, to be or not to be, and once he had he followed it through. he was who he had to be, for himself as well as much else -- perhaps I must say, those are strong words, maybe they echo part of the comment of Frost and of himself that 'all roads lead to France'. The biography never said this baldly, I think, or maybe I just did not see some of the wood for the trees.

A biography I am sure I will go back to -- full of interesting comment from those that knew him and also of the times. I am new to him, there may be a lot else for me to realise. of course it also focuses on the time he was writing and so many of the poems play a large part in the biography - their context in his life is well explained. I tried to read them along with the biography but did not keep up, I was swept along by his story quicker than I could read the poems. And to some extent it gives the context for some of Frost's poems - and most importantly for 'The Road less travelled', the story of how this was connected to Thomas I was ignorant of. It undoubtedly added depth to my reading of Thomas.

This is where it links to the Annotated Collected Poems -- a wonderful book too, though with a proviso: I read it on the Kindle - the poems were fine, but there was no hyperlink to the notes, making going back and forth tiresome and the main reason why although I have read the poems I have far from read all the annotations, so I cheat slightly in adding the book here - I just wanted to wait no longer to post, having read the poems. I shall be buying the annotated collected poems again, but in hard copy, which is a pity, as such hyperlinking of text and notes would seem to be what the format is made for.

As to the poems - magical, simply magical. In his first few poems he was already writing so well. Of course as a critic of poetry and having spent a summer walking with Frost so he may, and a lifetime's preparation, maybe like a ripening fruit, but wonderful. What can I say. I am in awe - they take us so often to moments, moments that for me so often slip by, apprehended but for the life of me that I could never recreate (I fear), maybe he does not recreate but knows the tone and the process of writing took him back towards it, I do not know. He is a pastoral poet -- but not of a merry England, it has an ideal and ideals yes, but he keeps them real --- and the pastoral is also linked to the psychological, about which I find him hugely interesting, suggestive of so much, and within that a poet of Depression for sure, in many of his poems not only the obvious e.g. 'Melancholy' marvellous poem that it is -- and for both psychology and pastoral a view of reality, an apprehension of it that takes me to places I enjoy. And he does not miss writing of the war. And of love, of course, that is so important. And of memory and time. And of searching for something and encounters with it, or forms of it or not quite it and its loss. I don't want to say too much, what I have may be the first wave of my reaction, of at best a few readings of each poem, I don't want to simplify him or to say less of him that really he deserves, it seems the proper response may be in verse, but in verse that could compare with him; to have any chance at that will take much more digestion. He deserves a lifetime of contemplation.

I'm never sure where copyright stands with putting poems up -- and I tend to side on the side of the authors in this for some reason - I was going to post a link to a site that carries the poems, but that would seem to be against the spirit of my first feeling, and I shall trust instead in your ability to find them online if you don't have them and know them already. I have many favourites amongst them that I hope to get to know better -- and by reading through all the notes, in time. He's a writer that also makes me think again of going back to learning by heart and of writing him out for myself.

Jun 10, 2013, 4:40pm Top

Tony, excellent thoughts on Thomas. I have much the same feeling about him as yourself.

His love of and intuitive understanding of nature is I think his greatest strength. It is also what sets him out as unique I think.

You can download some of his work, including his work as a nature writer and critic, for free or almost free due to copyright running out.

Jun 10, 2013, 5:00pm Top

I really enjoyed reading about your thoughts on Edward Thomas, a poet I am not very familiar with, having only come across the odd poem in various collections.

Jun 10, 2013, 7:52pm Top

Somebody quoted from The Annotated Collected Poems on LibraryThing a long time ago, and it has been on my BN.COM wishlist since October, 2011. I haven't bought it because it is fairly expensive and because I do not read poetry easily. Now I find that it is not, at least for the moment, available from them. You have made me want it sooner rather than later.


Jun 10, 2013, 9:13pm Top

Mr. Durick - Do you not want a used copy or even a new paperback? Cause I sure see lots of them available.

Jun 10, 2013, 9:43pm Top

I can dig around for one, or it may come back available new from Barny Noble. I have a coupon to use before I go to bed on BN.COM that I might have put towards it.


Jun 11, 2013, 12:08am Top

90 - Thanks. I was curious because it seems like I see a lot of people saying a book isn't available when I see lots of used copies online. I wondered if I was missing something. Although I have to admit that shopping at dealoz.com or somewhere similar kind of takes some of the fun out of shopping for books. It depends on how long I'm willing to wait whether I buy online or look awhile.

Jun 12, 2013, 5:36pm Top

Zeno, well put about his intuitive love of nature. I am not sure that is in itself unique, but in the form it took and expression it took through him yes it was of course unique and quite special, if I understand your comment correctly, that's how I'd put it.

Yes, I mean to get some of his prose work. On the Icknield way and the book about spring and others.

Bas, he is well worth getting to know -- and reading the collected sounds grand, but unfortunately due to his short time writing poems, so sadly ended, there are sadly fewer than we may have liked.

Robert, again this may be a reason to read him -- his way with words was very conversational, he has some more difficult constructions at times, but mostly he is very transparent I think, and the gain from reading him I find huge. Given the hyperlink problem I advise buying a hard copy, wherever you find one. I shall be buying a hard copy.

As to current reading I have restarted Infinite Jest for this summer's reading group. Read 78 sides (plus notes) so far and remember it all more or less. I got just over a third of the way through once, when I stopped not long after the game of Eschaton, which had made me laugh out loud, cos I then had a reaction of sadness. Reading it was not a pleasant thing, I'm hoping more maturity and the group/class context help.
Lots of thoughts so far - not sure where to put them, there is an infinite jest group I think (I may be a member), but not sure I have time to catch up on their postings before making my own. We mentioned it in class in relation to Gravity's Rainbow and it strikes me that that book moves via empathy towards connection, literally with the rocket. Infinite Jest strikes me as full of detail and a kind of empathy and a sort of attachment to others and things and then wham it hits you with emptiness, that we are all infinitely separate as well -- I am hoping if I do not connect/attach so desperately to it that this may be less of a hammering to myself. It seems that for all the empathy though people are always infinitely distant in IJ. There seems something lacking for them and a need to replace emptiness with diversion (like obviously) (I'm thinking of Pascal and empty rooms now). Also the book kind of lulls you into accepting a reality and then ramps up what you accept to like the silly scale of that version of reality which is then being acted upon, quite melodramatic, and then the events made true by the actions - I am not sure if I dislike this for its lack of reality or in fact for its reality. I also note how his style, an easy hipness and ability to speak about something has an attraction, you may notice these sentences wandering towards DFW-esqueness, yet I think that easiness with the subject, any subject is something it teaches me to avoid -- no I wonder this, it may be if I ever read the final two thirds that he teaches me a lot more than that. Oh I have posted some of my thoughts here, best place for them.
One final thought, I am even more struck how so much of this read given what happened to DFW. That also I find very difficult.

I'm also halfway through an adult reread of The Phantom Tollbooth, which is very good, partly remembered from childhood and some parts quite deeply engrained maybe in my thinking but in fact I had forgotten them. In some ways I am struck that he's quite hard core for a kid to read, the ideas really very reduced, a bit mathematical in purity.

You may notice no posts on the Tolstoy essay front -- I remain stuck, hardly read the secondary literature I would like to. I have thought through a response to some feedback the tutor made to my points, with a kind of analysis of Anna, very valid it is too, but not the whole story. Guess I need to ask if there is point me working it up further. I'd like to, just never seem to find the time to finish this secondary reading. Very sadly the excellent Centre for Lifelong Learning through whom I have accessed my literature and film and writing courses, mostly, is to shut - it was a dream system, for a monthly fee I could go to all the classes I wished, like paying for one course and getting to go to any. There will be new courses, to the extent my budget will meet them.

I'm fighting the desire to buy Infinite Jest for the Kindle - which seems made for it, easy access right to the correct note you need, and given my liking for reading on my back book in the air much less biceps building.

Jun 12, 2013, 6:50pm Top

I just ordered The Annotated Collected Poems from The Book Depository. I think that it was less from them than it was from Barny Noble when he still had it.

I don't think it would be a very big trial to catch up with the Infinite Jester's. I posed a few questions there about the book that I suppose I should eventually address. I think that it is very easy to make too much of the book, but I am equally convinced that it bears reading.

Are the Tolstoy essays you mention about him or by him?


Edited: Jun 15, 2013, 5:59am Top

Depends how much free time you think I have how much of a trial it would be. will look in -- I definitely did not have time the other day to look at it before posting my thoughts.

I don't think I am making too much of it.

I wrote an essay on Tolstoy, my thoughts and reaction on Anna Karenina, my aim was to academise it with proper tgextual and secondary references and balance. So it would involve reading essays on him too. See above and also last years thread when I did my Tolstoy reading. In an ideal world, as it was on Anna Karenina I'd also reread that, as the draft was done when it was much fresher in my mind.

I was toying with the idea about following my progress through posts, if you read up.

Jul 21, 2013, 2:12pm Top

12. The Myth of the Twin by John Burnside and 13. 2nd:The Second Collection by Andrew Waterhouse

Two books of contemporary poetry.

John Burnside I am trying to read in the order his books were published, and am hoping the Wikipedia bibliography is reliable. The last I read of him was Feast Dayswhich after the first two collections I read I found far harder to digest -partly subject matter and partly reading three of his collections in quick succession (and see above or my previous threads). It was still amazing, perhaps I found it darker, not sure how though, just harder. This collection The Myth of the Twin I found more like the first two I read. Don't get me wrong, it can still be difficult, it still has this awareness of something spiritual something at the corner of the eye, angels and more. Maybe I was just ready for a dose of Burnside again. I find him hard to write about - yes I read this a few weeks ago and should really scan through again to be reminded -- but there is something in his method I don't think I need to remind myself of - he uses language and does so very precisely, and yet part of what I get from him alludes maybe to things that cannot be said...its a bit like that feeling of sitting and watching the sea and is variation inducing a deep connection to yourself and the world, he opens the world up in this way. I read him and should have a notebook at hand for the ideas that are born as I do.

Ok so now I have turned and scanned through and OI won't even start to list the poems that in some ways stagger me, just too many of them. And for all I love them they are also often it seems really very personal poems of family and childhood and life. I was also reading his first memoir late last year and put that aside also, maybe I will come back to it - also beautifully written. I haven't read any of his novels, a friend warned me I may find some darkness in one I shall have to find out. There was something else to this book, something beyond darkness, or despite it or a respite and also a widening of perspective from a life to others to some appreciation of human's place from other perspectives, of his own place from other's perspectives and also poems abut a working out of his place, either with family and sometimes through connection to the local and to dialect and Gaelic. I liked this collection very much. I should ramble on about it less and reread and really learn more.

Andrew Waterhouse's 2nd: The Second Collection was sadly posthumous. A huge loss to poetry and to my region I think. It's sometime since I read his first 'In' which I remember enjoying but would also need to refresh myself about very much. I remember most a quick mind and sometimes humorous approach which as someone writing a bit of poetry I often learned from. This collection was also excellent. I'm overdue reading it but it was perfect this afternoon - partly as many poems relate to the Lindisfarne Gospels, and Lindisfarne, and the gospels are making a visit to their (rightful?) home in Durham at the moment and of course I am hoping to go to see them. For those that don't know, you can read about them here: Wikipedia on The Lindisfarne Gospels.

He could be very serious and also playful and funny and also serious whilst being playful and funny. He also had a knack for great detail, as Sean O'Brien says in the blurb on the back of mine "His world, as it were, has nothing ordinary in it . . . ". This was a collection I was glad to read. Though I very much want to know what came next in the final poem, which leaves you with a cliff hanger almost, maybe one he'd never have resolved, its just left there, he knew, she knew, we don't need to yet wonder.

Jul 21, 2013, 5:17pm Top

Enjoying reading about your forays into John Burnside.

Jul 22, 2013, 12:52pm Top

Thanks Barry :)

Edited: Jul 31, 2013, 2:31pm Top

14. Swimming in the Flood by John Burnside (Kindle ed.)

More Burnside splurge and in a way I am swimming in the flood of what I have read by him. I wonder if I read this too fast. His themes recur, some in slightly different or more specific guises, an interest in some unhappy deaths I think in this book, deaths of children at the hand of abuse or accident stood out. But it was very much Burnside's voice inhabiting and showing. I liked it a lot. But I have a feeling really I need to read back through the volumes I have read, a bit of an urge too, maybe I don't need to really, it would be an academics exercise, but to have a better idea of development, write some sharper notes on each volume. And also to mark better my favourites and see how they may compare. But then it's also nice to go with this, I'm not drowning in this, as one of his swimmers may, but drift with this new iteration of his themes and some slightly new forms and then just go with what came next, that may be cool, a sort of playful enjoyment. It'll be a while before I read more, I have run out of Burnside for now, though I'll probably go to his memoir again. I want to reread this one and maybe the last too, first. Some wonderful poems in this, really connected, and words that take you to moments of connection - loved the poem about the girl in hospital and how it ends about how her experiences fit her like a garment that cannot be understood...I should quote it for you (for me), lazy of me...oh go on then, I can kindle from the pc here:

" . . .
Her artwork pools and seeps into the desk;
she lets it bleed, watching the colours run,
then walks to the open door to taste the air,
her memory a shroud of names and fears
that someone unravels and gives her, from time to time,
bewildering, but still a perfect fit,
a garment of presence whose purpose she cannot fathom."

Burnside, John (2011-11-30). Swimming In The Flood (Cape Poetry) (Kindle Locations 620-626). Jonathan Cape Ltd. Kindle Edition.

though now I feel bad for just quoting the ending, for all its power the full poem should be read to get to there. But I wouldn't copy the whole poem in, copyright etc.

edit - Now I have posted it it feels even less fair to single that part out and again this wish to get an overview, a gasp for air. As I read him, and having started his memoir it is easy to fall into seeing elements of autobiography, to wonder this, but parts of this volume were harder for me to fit as such, parts did seem to fit what I do and do not know. I find it fascinating a poet going back into the same and similar territory sometimes and coming up with new and slightly familiar things in a new way as well as the just plain new. Not sure what this is saying, maybe it says more of me. But maybe a sense of let go of just to explore, not weigh self down with ideas of truth, that's for him maybe, but some sense of playfulness, for all the seriousness of so many poems, or of exploration and great richness to that.

I think I feel bad for quoting him - I think it's ok to quote partially and with the reference, but partly wonder if it is inappropriate. Happy to delete if anyone feels so, may do when I have thought more about it.

Jul 28, 2013, 4:57pm Top

Keep quoting TonyH

Jul 28, 2013, 10:43pm Top

Tony, I agree, quote away.

Are the copyright issues so clear cut? You aren't posting for profit, but to inform us about the author, for the author's benefit. I might argue it is actually for educational purposes, in which case you would be in the clear to post a few. As for the ethics, they seem to me be on the side of posting.

Jul 29, 2013, 3:01pm Top

Thanks for putting my ton up Barry and Dan. And for the interest in the quotes.

I suppose it is correct that I can make the quotes. I just had a feeling I was using his words to enhance my lack of them, my half baked reaction that really isn't doing justice to the seriousness he deserves, he and his subjects and themes. I'm still thinking about it -- but hearing it is it seems helpful for others helps.

Aug 4, 2013, 3:49pm Top

Death of a Naturalist by Seamus Heaney (Kindle ed.)

His first collection, in case you don’t know, and fantastic as such, such a high standard to set. A partial reread for me. I did try once in my twenties and I’m ashamed to say I did not get it like I did this time, my reaction was a bit of a ‘so what’ for example to the poem ‘Digging’, a ludicrous reaction from me and the reason I love it now is something I had just as such access to then really, except its validation was being snuffed out – it’s not the more prosaic sense that seemed to govern me then of what it says, it’s how it says it, the quality is in the feel, so it is just good to be in touch with such feeling now. And having done so I must say I have now had several days of Seamus envy, or would that be Heaney envy – something I read from this book of a young life with lessons well learned but still able to step out of that and apply them to personal life and lessons and creative originality, I suppose indirectly a sadness for my own sidetracks at such an age that could have left me a little blind to what I could see in front of my face then, to have just realised I already knew what was important.

But anyway, I enjoy them now – and another aspect of the envy was about his clarity, thanks to those lessons and also in his application – I’m embracing form and meter more at present, have been doing so for some time and he turns out poem after poem here that are lessons to me, lessons of the highest sort that go beyond the technique to dance with originality, and something I picked up strongly from it, his emotional maturity or maybe even his own seeking for it, or acceptance of it. The first poem reflects on his own writing as digging and the closing lines of the final poem again embrace what he does through rhyme. In the poem ‘Twice shy’ he speaks seemingly of a fledgling romance, I am not sure yet, I do not know enough if that it is his future wife, a development we also follow, but these lines about emotional maturity in relationship struck me, and clearly also as they may apply to writing:

“ . . .

A vacuum of need
Collapsed each hunting heart
But tremulously we held
As hawk and prey apart,
Preserved classic decorum,
Deployed our talk with art.

Our juvenilia
Had taught us both to wait,
Not to publish feeling
And regret it all too late –
Mushroom loves already
Had puffed and burst in hate.

So, chary and excited
As a thrush linked on a hawk,
We thrilled to the March twilight
With nervous childish talk:
Still waters running deep
Along the embankment walk.“

Heaney, Seamus (2009-02-19). Death of a Naturalist (Kindle Locations 745-763). Faber and Faber. Kindle Edition.

The middle verse clearly speaks to me, from a writer publishing his first collection, a comment on juvenilia and the benefit of guarding those feelings, of waiting. But I placed it in the context of the verses before and after, as he then uses it as a metaphor for this relationship. It hits me especially as I am slowly working towards publishing a pamphlet, having not published except through the internet. Also as after experimenting with writing in meter more and more in the last year or so I find myself more and more drawn to embracing form, more appreciation of classicism. This is a big step for me – in many ways this is not new to me, for all my poor Latin at school I did learn quite a bit about meter, and in English classes. Yet I was woefully unpracticed at it for myself, and it was not part of how I started to write – and I still very much value that creative spark that does not need to be formalised (and also want to be careful I of not formalise myself into loss of originality maybe, or art perhaps). So it’s a surprise to me to be so open to it now – and embracing what it may give me, a coastline to the sea of creativity.

This may be by the by for a review though. I’m now going to work through Heaney in order of publication I hope. I’ve already reread much of this collection again and will do so many times I am sure. It is full of wonderful poems that yes invite learning, but more importantly step beyond that into a dialogue with life, a sharing of life, of creativity, of pain and of happier times and any envy has dissipated, it calls me to focus though, on what is important to me and what is possible.

Aug 4, 2013, 5:32pm Top

I enjoyed reading about your enthusiasm and respect for Seamus Heaney and good luck with your own publications. Getting to grips with metre as you are doing sounds like hard work.

From the extract that you have posted the thing that struck me was the reference to Ted Hughes. The use of the hawk which was a powerful symbol in Hughes hands but in the third stanza Heaney says "As a thrush linked on a hawk".

Edited: Aug 5, 2013, 2:19pm Top

It's not such hard work as I may have thought previously - bursts of enthusiasm. It's helped as I say by having written quite a bit in metre in the last year.

I noticed the hawk imagery and I did think of Hughes. But I am not aware of a specific reference this is making. I decided he was just talking about hawks and using them in his own metaphor, in the relationship likening them to a hawk and a thrush. For some reason it runs in my mind that that tying of a smaller bird to a hawk is something that falconers do - I hope I am not inventing that and I cannot be certain of it, will have to research it a bit, as I cannot remember why except to guess it may stop them taking a longer flight. Is there a similar thing in Hughes that I've either forgotten or not read? I find it a very interesting metaphor for the relationship...but now on looking again I am wondering if they are both the thrushes, whilst before I wondered if he was hawk and it was interesting to the point of a bit of discomfort, maybe the relationship is the hawk to both of them, I like that better, fate.

Thanks again for your comment - you made me think about it more, I'd not have thought of them both as thrushes without that.

Edited: Aug 27, 2013, 1:12pm Top

Door into the Dark by Seamus Heaney

Hot on the heels of Death of a Naturalist, which gave me a huge burst of enthusiasm. I also loved this collection - it's not available on the Kindle, I wondered if it was not as popular as his other work, with him or with Faber for instance. And when I first started it I thought maybe he was deliberately trying to break the spell of Death of a Naturalist, rhyme schemes and form did not seem there, I still don't quite know what to make of the first two poems. But he then hit his stride again, wonderful at times. Though overall maybe it doesn't quite seem to have the direction, some sort of coherence that Death of a Naturalist had, I'm not sure it may be just as that was his first collection I have read in full. But some wonderful poems, if I start to list them I realise I'd like to list a lot of the book and begin to wonder at my criteria, how to pick x and not y. But The Forge; Thatcher; The Peninsula; Girls Bathing, Galway, 1965; Requiem for the Croppies, Rite of Spring; Undine; Night Drive; The Given Note, Plantation, Bogland -- oh why did I list them I am feeling bad at leaving some out. In listing them it occurred to me that part of what gave Death of a Naturalist direction, at least for me, was a sense of lessons, learned, of growing up, of becoming, of reaching out and of reaching - and of course it was his first collection and so it is natural if of course he has now reached somewhere for there to be some plateau in that direction with this collection, some plateau it is of course if you look at some of these poems.

A couple of years ago I was lucky to find a copy of Stepping Stones: interviews with Seamus Heaney in a second hand shop, by Dennis O'Driscoll, clearly well before I had read Heaney really but leafing through it is seemed such an interesting book, such an esteemed poet talking of poetry. I'm now very glad I picked it up. I'm going to read it alongside Heaney now - the first two chapters discuss his childhood, especially Mossbawn and his journey into poetry and then chapters loosely focussed around the collections. I'm finding it wonderful.
For example, if I think of how I found Death of a Naturalist some of that sense of direction that I feel, maybe something more than what I said above, but some of it and the clarity of those poems I think can give me a sort of teleological sense of Heaney as the great man, and I am sure he is, but maybe not in the way it could give me to sense, the interviews give a picture of his development and links to contemporaries and of his finding his way and yes working to the clarity of those poems, but how that was a process, this was not (just) a brilliant young person deciding to have at it and there it is, but someone that found there way towards it whilst with a lot of other people and on top of having loved poetry before and been engaged with it -- I hope that is making sense, I suppose the interviews on Death of a Naturalist, made me more realistic of him as a poet and person, not surprisingly he comes across as a humane and modest person, very engaged with what he's talking about, but grounded about it, yet able to fly in his understanding and expression. I'm part way into the chapter on Door into the Dark and hope to read his other collections in conjunction with the rest of the book.

What started me suddenly into Heaney? I've meant to read him better for some time - when on holiday a rainstorm led me to shelter in a nice bookshop and I came across his book of Oxford lectures The Redress of Poetry which again on page flipping seemed so juicy I had to dosh out for it, a holiday treat. I read the chapter on Larkin and Yeats and it really chimed with me, his respect for Larkin but I really got what he was saying about how maybe Yeats expressed something beyond. His manner again humane, grounded yet full of wit really got through and has led to this Heaney reading. I'll read more of the Redress of poetry as I know the poets mentioned better and the title essay. I suppose it's launched me into wanting to read him in order, like I am with Burnside, but I'm also wondering about these goals of reading all their work, it seems very proper, but as my mentor more or less suggested lately it may be possible from a snippet to have tasted the flavour of a poet, and I can move on, for a bit. I know when I was younger, with some novelists, I never wanted to read all their work with the thought it would not give me something new of theirs to read later in life (of course now I know I would have forgotten anyway, should have known it then as I managed to forget lots of details just in the time leading up to exams without rereading). I did get Heaney's next two collections already, had to draw a financial line and go to the library for them, and now I am not so sure of diving right into them now, feel full of him. Plus some very clever student has annotated them with their insights. But I do feel like sampling other poets am open to ideas - I have an order for some Celan in but I think the copies of a Joris translation are out, want to read more Mandelstam and other Russians, Ahkmatova, Pasternak. Sorry this could be a long list and a bit dull, we have these lists ourselves, I'll go get on with it whilst feeling with it.

Aug 11, 2013, 5:37pm Top

I am quite wrong to say "he hit his stride", it was his stride and I'm sure he was happy with it. It was entirely me that struggled to keep up, took some time to tune in.

Aug 12, 2013, 9:16am Top

>106 tonikat: That's a wonderful interpretation of that saying. I will keep it in mind when I find myself struggling with an author and waiting to "get it".

Aug 12, 2013, 6:04pm Top

I had not heard of The Redress of Poetry one to look out for.

Edited: Aug 13, 2013, 12:56pm Top

Thanks Sassy :) and yes who am I to quibble with what Seamus Heaney is saying.

Having said that I am reading a university library copy of his next collection Wintering Out and someone has added the most innane comments and supposed witticisms. It made me think how a poem should be written about the people that write in library books, specifically this person. I have to include an example now, from the poem 'The Wool Trade' (which starts with a quote from one Stephen Dedalus, 'How different are the words, "home", "Christ", "ale", ",master", on his lips and on mine' labelled by our comment artist as "Very deep!") but then, the poem goes:

"'The Wool trade' - the phrase
Rambled warm as a fleece"

comment - how can a fleece ramble?

or maybe they really are aiming at artistry, 'A New Song' begins:

"I met a girl form Derrygarve
And the name, a long potent musk,
Recalled the river's long swerve,
A kingfisher's blue bolt at dusk"

lines I loved, but commenter appends line 3 with "she was called Deirdre", so there is some intent to their tone. "Gifts of Rain" has a preceding comment about it being "almost as bad as Ted Hughes". They probably have a degree in English, or else they're a poet themselves (?), they illustrated the word sooty with a pencil drawing of the puppet. But they don't seem to have gone the distance with the book - leaving me the comments of another swattier sort who may annoy me as much by telling me their interpretation. Worst case scenario - they are the same person in comedic conflict.

Bas - It's definitely a book to look out for - I read the introduction and the title essay which comes to focus on George Herbert, who I have only read a little of and so had wondered if it would be helpful to read that essay yet, but it was fine and has me wanting to read him (Herbert) more. So I'll try the other essays about people I know less about, the least less known to me is Dylan Thomas, him next.

Aug 13, 2013, 5:33pm Top

I am always interested to see what people have written in books. It can be part of the fun of getting ex library or college books. Sorry that some of them annoy you TonyH

Edited: Aug 14, 2013, 3:42am Top

Annoyed a little, frustrated. This was a heckler. Words crossed out in text, lines inserted to lines, not just comment, deliberate attempt to spoil the reading. The other's comments were in the margin. Maybe I'm an old fuss pot.

Edited: Aug 30, 2013, 6:58am Top

So sad to read of the death of Seamus Heaney, just as I'm reading his words, so full of life, a huge loss and of course for his family.

Aug 30, 2013, 8:11am Top

Didn't know about this till your post, Tony. A great loss, to be sure.

Edited: Sep 2, 2013, 2:42pm Top

A great loss indeed Dewald. I was sorry to be the bearer of bad news, I was shocked as I was just diving in to him, too late again.

Edited: Sep 2, 2013, 3:35pm Top

Barry I hope my frustration was not annoyance to you. There was of course nothing for you to be sorry about. Maybe I was becoming a grumpy middle aged man, but really I don't think that's quite me, though some may be reading it into me.

I read on Dewald's thread and his interesting review of Kierkegaard's 'The sickness unto death' and then discussion that he paused before discussing religion here. I have to admit that although I know religion can be a minefield I thought hey, 'I'd not consider such a pause', but then as I type I think I'd have been aware of it if I had been posting, some kind of ingrained respect for others. Yet that is not how I think of this thread especially, I think of it as a place for me to work out some thoughts about what I have read -- and I warn people it is such. But maybe some things suggest I should not be so fast and loose about it, this and another thread suggest that. I think given what I do I try to act within quite a complex ethical framework, so it probably helps me in that I probably won't say too much to offend, wouldn't want to. But it might not help me in some respects that I come from a country where most of us feel we are able to speak freely. There are of course some obvious subjects of the last 12 years I wouldn't just let go about. Maybe there always have been such invisible boundaries - and it is a mistake not to respect them. Maybe my own I am seeing as personal ones, not relating to geopolitics but my manner in response, which enjoyed the freedoms of this year and self expression -- and maybe it is a natural and unavoidable consequence that such expression may always flirt with possible offence. I'm mindful of it. I didn't plan to post this - its just happened when I came to do otherwise. Maybe given some of what I am going to post about. But, I will be trying to leave it clear that I hope my posts are framed by Rogers' core conditions - the framework that includes empathy, congruence and unconditional positive regard, but which does not preclude myself from my own personal opinion and freedom to be me. Playfulness may be dangerous, my own judgements and reaction to what I read may lead me dangerously to judge what others say, I want to think about that.

(I'm not suggesting any lack of Respect in Dewald's post -- as I reread this now)

Edited: Sep 2, 2013, 5:24pm Top

17. Grayson Perry: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Girl by Wendy Jones

So, if you've read this thread it may be no surprise to hear I have a vested interest in this book in my own quite different way. It's a very interesting book - it explained without explaining, just telling the story, though he does have some theories that make sense for him (and her), about the meaning of his her, but I did not read them as being foisted onto anyone else really. But a fascinating person and story of how he got into art and how that developed - the story is a dual one that explores his development into art and as a person that could express his/her gender difference and of a young person's exploration of both. And before that a story of his childhood and importantly how his imagination was a world in which he could play as a young and older child through some very difficult times, how this supported him, gave him somewhere he needed -- I think I have a good imagination, but his seemed systematised and coherent in a way that supported him to a degree and an elaboration that just impressed the hell out of me, makes much play look like play at play maybe. Only later does the gender thread emerge for him/her. And the style of the book seems to suit this story, a patching together. But a well worked out patchwork, great care and acute perception goes into this story that really is the development of a way of being that allows and also importantly includes and interacts with others - he speaks at one point of how as this process of developing as an artist and a transgendered person progresses s/he starts to interact with the local wildlife (I think I remember the phrase) and this seemed such an important turn. And much of that story of becoming himself rang true to myself in my own becomings. I was glad to read it and see what is possible for him/her, a very positive book in many ways out of some difficulty.

Edit - I should say I describe it as him telling the story, because it is a book the author very skilfully put together from interviews with the artist.

Sep 3, 2013, 7:21pm Top

stay fast and loose TonyH. Do I detect a background in psychotherapy.

Sep 4, 2013, 5:08pm Top

Some background, though a long way from what I do these days. We'll see about fast and loose - do I sense your own jazz leanings there?

Edited: Oct 6, 2013, 11:15am Top

18. Wintering Out by Seamus Heaney

I feel new to getting Heaney (I am really), though I tend to believe things happen at certain times for a reason, whatever that may be. My first rush of enthusiasm may have been plateauing, or becoming simply more real, part of my world. But then amidst this we have lost him from this world, a shock to all, but a shock to me at this time in my reading process, just getting to know him whilst not knowing him at all. Many of the reactions that I have seen, heard or read show that such shock is far from unique and there seems a universal sense of loss of a humanity that was part of so many another's landscape.

His loss also makes me self conscious about my words, I hardly feel qualified amidst the outpouring of those that know better and have known longer. Again I have to preface my efforts as simply a personal reaction to my reading and as someone starting to learn about poetry.

I tried to write this reaction once already but the words were not there amidst all this, I'd also left it too long since my reading. I've read this book differently, I got through eighty per cent and put it down, later having to restart and read it all. I gained from this. But then left the writing too late, though that may also have been affected by what happened. I've now leafed through it again today to remind myself, as my thoughts were becoming pastiches of themselves. It feels fresher again. It's a book divided into two parts and I suppose it is the first part that really I focus on, though I am immediately being unfair, I like much of the second part very much. I think it's just that the first part has some sort of theme: it takes us back, takes us to his world, I hesitate to say Heaneyland as it's not an exclusive world but inclusive. It takes us back slowly to a world, to fine detail in that world, to remembering how to mix ourselves with the world and have it and us open to each other, it takes us back to language and makes it fresh (I read in Stepping Stones how he replied when asked if he saw himself as one who works 'from words' or 'towards them' (a distinction apparently of Dylan Thomas') that he saw himself as doing both). He speaks for the land and yet he allows it to speak and he speaks to it and with it and from it and by it and with it and as it and in it and on it and of it - maybe I press that case too far. Having read the first two collections this felt like a deepening somehow, no criticism of those first two (and my delays with this one make me wonder if I read Door into the Dark too quickly - I shall just have to enjoy it again).

He opens with the poem 'Fodder' and immediately shows us their pronunciation of this before showing "last summer's" treasure, starts to show us a world, his world. 'Bog oak' does this further and dreams of poetry. And the world pours forth in these poems of the first part - the language, the reality, the passing of it. It would be easy to, and maybe I can't avoid, stating the obvious to lovers of Heaney, if I start to speak of his use of language and introduction of non Irish folk to it. Something of the feel of this section is of someone that appreciates the qualities of a world very well and is generous enough to share that with strangers, if they have the ability to hear it. Sometimes I think poetry reminds me of my own process of valuing the world (not financially!), of attending and concluding and feeling and speaking and dreaming with it, of being. This section is so generous in this - I doubt there is a poem that does not show these attributes. It's not at all just warmth though and pastoral idyll, we have the view of the 'Servant Boy', the changing world of 'The Last Mummer', the reality of this place 'The Other Side' and the "tang of possibility" from the past in 'Linen Town'. And throughout this a tenderness and common humanity. And maybe opening to feeling that the fast world bypasses in getting to the oh so important places it gets to, its conclusions.

But two things especially spoke to me - his relationship to the land and the quality of language. I'd have to type out a lot of poems to show this thoroughly, yet even then it would be a short cut to it - a cheat -- I really recommend going out and reading this. I wonder if he himself would have seen the poems as a short cut to his own experience, and so to short cut a little can only give a flavour and may help you go on to accept his invitation to read. So, some selections

from 'Land'

I stepped it, perch by perch.
Unbraiding rushes and grass
I opened my right-of-way
through old-bottoms and sowed-out ground
and gathered stones off the ploughing
to raise a small cairn.
Cleaned out the drains, faced the hedges
and often got up at dawn
to walk the outlying fields.

I composed habits for those acres
so that my last look would be
neither gluttonous nor starved.
I was ready to go anywhere.

. . . "

from 'Gifts of Rain':

" . . .

The tawny guttural water
spells itself: Moyola
is its own score and consort,

bedding the locale
in the utterance,
reed music, an old chanter

breathing its mists
through vowels and history.
A swollen river,

a mating call of sound . . . "

I said the land spoke and if in doubt of a complex relationship of listening to and speaking with the land read 'Oracle'. There are other aspects, I won't spoil it listing more.

And his appreciation of language - could his valuing have been a revaluing and embracing for himself? Yes he looks at Irish but also at the flavour of words in another's mouth to the subject's ear, in 'The Wool Trade' which begins with a quote from one Stephen Dedalus. A reminder of the living quality of language, of how we value it ourselves perhaps and how that may be heard in our words, and I think here also seen in his written words.

This first section is of course also the first in which we meet 'The Tollund Man' -- and perhaps the revaluing is also present as he contemplates "old man-killing parishes".

The second section has poems I like very much, on weddings and summer homes, family life. A string of poems about women that has power. I loved the poems 'Good-Night' and its observation, 'May' and 'Dawn' but it is the poems of the first half that open up a world that I especially remember, that seem together somehow, unified by a vision of vision.

Edited: Oct 19, 2013, 10:13am Top

A few weeks away from posting, busy in a number of ways and in the last couple of weeks not even reading. A couple of updates to tidy up loose ends - I dropped out of my Infinite Jest reading group; I have huge admiration for this book but I do find it very sad and something about its tone I do not like at times, I won't say more I know it's well loved. Secondly I have been making zero Tolstoy essay progress, which frustrates me, despite the time saved on Infinite Jest, though this did help with Heaney, and summer. I still intend to finish it, one day.

Having started to get into Heaney, and as I now know a lot more of him and am more acquainted with his poetry there's a danger I will lose some of the tone of my immediate thoughts, I want to resist that. I have been asked to review one of his books now, so librarything journalling takes me somewhere, but I don't want to lose that quality for something more standard.

I've started another film course and thought I might start reacting to what I watch here, I find it very growthful to do so. Not sure how that would go down? (any opinion if anyone is out there?)

I'm several books behind writing up here, I like to avoid that as I like my reaction to be quite immediate and fresh. Bear with me as I will now try to catch up a little out of order, to catch that freshness I hope. The Janet Malcolm invites an academic essay too, so much to say, and the Heaney I have to reread now.

23. Anabasis by St.-John Perse (pseudonym of Alexis Leger).

A friend suggested this after reading something by me in which the past visits the present, the Levant the North East. I'd never heard of him I think. He only won the Nobel Prize. I part read it and put it aside until restarting today. I find it a strange and wonderful read, and still strange. I read the 1949 revised translation by T. S. Eliot. Interesting Eliot's prefaces which talk of reading it six times before putting together a sort of imaginary sense of the poem, however whilst I found Eliot's suggested schema of the divisions of the poem suggestive, overall I feel more mislead, his talk of a Conquerer didn't fit for me. I sensed exploration more and appreciation for human actions and movements. I find the prefaces included to Russian, German and Italian translations by Larbaud, Hofmannsthal and Ungaretti more helpful. Though I should not underestimate Eliot, and it seems to fit for me that he translate it, as for all its hallucinatory swamping of the senses (as Hofmannsthal suggests) there is a discipline and reserve to it (as Hoffmannsthal also suggests).
Anabasis as you may know is a march from the coast into the interior, a la Xenophon, though this has nothing to do with that March, at least literally. I read it as more the progression of a stranger following the progression of people, maybe a culture, a civilisation. It's redolent of the assumptions humans make to make sense of the world and make it make sense, put it and other humans in order. Whilst it does this and seems to heed culture it seems of no specific culture but instead some amalgam of the things humans tend to do, I may be wrong about that, there were aspects that seemed ancient (an Ass slain as an offering) but I read it much less specifically - I have picked up it may be about Central Asia, I suppose I got more of expansion into a very big space, uncharted. It's full of evocative and wonderful writing and also I confess a lot that I still need to get. I'm going to have to read and reread. Quite a few words to look up -- and also I want to follow it more closely in the facing French text of this edition. Maybe I will let it digest and read it more before saying more.

Edited: Nov 6, 2013, 5:59am Top

22. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

a reread for the first time since I was about eleven. A lovely book. Sometimes I find it a bit cognitive, but it is always dispelling this with down to earthness and humour and at the end it really comes together. And a reread helps to get me back into trying to practice so much of what it talks about, always approaching that, and only partly resisting hum-bugness, though he wasn't an altogether bad chap.

Edited: Oct 19, 2013, 10:15am Top

20. The Burial at Thebes: A version of Sophocles' Antigone translated by Seamus Heaney (Kindle ed.)

I'd never read Antigone before but I enjoyed this version very much - it speaks plainly yet with with wit and wisdom of a sorry state of affairs fallen into at Thebes. I believe this translation is partly an invitation to consider such matters in the modern day. King Creon in trying to act wisely seems to talk himself into something else, and Antigone reacts humanly, and also according to a code, more ancient I think.

Oct 6, 2013, 5:01pm Top

Nice to see you back TonyH and as usual some interesting thoughts on the books you have read.

Blog away here about your film watching, I am sure many of us will be interested.

Oct 6, 2013, 5:04pm Top

What Baswood said.

Been thinking about the poetry thread as I,ve been reading poetry of Margaret Randall and more importantly, what she has to say about the importance of poetry in her book To Change the World.

Oct 7, 2013, 7:20am Top

Always interesting to read your thoughts.

And I'm glad The Phantom Tollbooth, one of my childhood favorites, held up. I may dare to reread it too.

Oct 11, 2013, 6:26pm Top

Good to hear you three read this Barry, Merrikay, and Rebecca, thanks . I'll think about writing about films, wonder if I have time, but also enjoy and would like to think about them a bit more.

Your Randall link isn't right mk. But I looked it up on amazon and that looks like one interesting book but at fifteen squid for the kindle version it will be a while before I get it....hmmm must try the library.

Oct 12, 2013, 10:52pm Top

Who is Alexis Leger? Very intrigued by your comments. Loving your Heaney commentary. I would like to do the same, read his work in order, but I'm not up to the task yet. But I can admire your efforts, but sad about your timing.

Oct 15, 2013, 1:40pm Top


Tony - Doesn't this sound fascinating? I need to find out more about this idea. Wasn,t there a specific poetry thread where I should post this link? Not necessarilty even for people to go but just to know about it? You probably all know already.

Edited: Oct 16, 2013, 3:34am Top

Had a quick look merikay, it looks fascinating. I didn't know anything about it, sadly I'm at least 5000 miles away. There is a poetry thread

Dan that was just his real name, there is info on wiki about him, interesting, was a diplomat, worked in China at one time, very senior later. As you know we can only take on certain quests, have to draw a line somewhere.

Edited: Oct 18, 2013, 6:19pm Top

Le Mepris ("Contempt", d. Jean-Luc Godard, 1963)

This week my film group watched this and most people seemed to dislike it, felt it too intellectual, clever, unfeeling, too uncaring of audience, Godard playing with us. I disagree. A film about the relationship between Paul (Michel Piccoli) and Camille (Brigitte Bardot), he a writer offered the chance to rewrite a screenplay of the Odyssey directed by Fritz Lang (played by himself) by a Producer that Godard gets to show his own contempt for in the figure portrayed by Jack Palance.

The Producer wants the screenplay to reflect his belief Ulysses didn’t want to return to Penelope as she’d been unfaithful – and an idea is planted, later he offers Camille a lift to his mansion for a drink and Paul has to take a cab (Paul encourages her to take the lift, (tells her to?)), Paul is mysteriously an hour late, he wonders I think about her faithfulness in that time, she maybe about his as he arrives just before the producer’s secretary – yet open conversation about these concerns rarely happens, it’s built to at times. And we learn she no longer loves him, whereas the day before apparently she did – and of course we’d had the film’s opening in which Camille and Paul lie, she on her front and naked - apparently Godard’s producers wanted such shots and this was foisted on him – but Godard’s reaction to me is brilliant: they are shot first through a red filter, then a natural seeming filter and then a blue filter as Camille asks Paul if he loves various parts of her body, starting with her ankles, ending with her face – silly questions? The kind that may be asked intimately? Questions whose mood changes maybe with the filters from, playful wisdom to reality to something more dangerous; is she teasing him by asking about his love of her body and not of her self ?– does she have a clue this is how he thinks of her and not of her as a person, does she sense some contempt already (or know it, they are married) and before he starts to do things like use her to be close to the producer making her accept his lift? He assures her he does love her and completes this with some alliteration – "totally, tenderly, tragically", which she says goes for her too. I think this section gives us a way in to the whole film - later we see busts of Minerva and Poseidon with eyes coloured red and blue respectively, did those filters relate to the aspects of mood the gods may create – if so I find this Homeric, as when the gods seem to inhabit say Telemachus before his departure, they blow their way into defining the nature of the characters actions, colouring them – I won’t bore you trying to prove how Minerva and Poseidon relate to this point by point, but I think it is there – and that the spirit of the film, named Contempt, is suggested by this apparent lack in how he sees her, and tragic it may be. So this apparently intellectual film is coloured by emotion after all, it’s not spelled out, it’s played out.

If you see it I’d encourage you to see the version in French (and several other languages) and subtitled, tonight’s dubbed version changes things somewhat and does seek to spell things out more. Bardot I found terrific and that kittenish scene effectively allows her to play with her own image/status and beyond to this question of person-ness. There is a great long section shot as if in real time in their flat after their trip to the Producer’s and we see changing tones in their relationship and with some shock in one incident and they do address things openly at times and at times skirt things – a feature is that it is true to the complexity we may weave at such times onto something that is very plain.

Of course it is a film that suggests the contempt of capitalist society (one reason he takes the Producer’s cheque is to pay for their flat), and of contempt for it – also the contempt of that production method for film and the contempt between producers and directors (this one for sure). But at heart the contempt of this writer, Paul, for his wife, his lack of feeling for her as a person and her response in kind (she often seems much clearer than him about what is going on)– and perhaps for a certain barrier of understanding between them as man and woman when some sympathy has been threatened. I won’t spoil the end, but we have a film being directed and Ulysses gazes out to sea to see Ithaca, yet no Ithaca is in sight – modern Ulysses seems to have a different fate to that of his ancestor, and to have been complicit in it in a different way, I sensed in some way he’d written his own fate (and other’s) to gain not just money but status perhaps knowledge, and forces what happens to happen in a way, though he mewls his way through it inauthentically at times when faced by his “catastrophe”, lost in his own dream (he may seem to have clarity when looking at things as writing, less so when part of them?). A terrific film about the loss of what is most important, and how in its absence anything may be possible.

Oct 19, 2013, 8:01pm Top

Enjoyed your review of Le Mepris. I probably saw it a long long time ago. I think it is safe to say that Godard has always been considered as an intellectual director, but hey there is nothing wrong with that. A good choice for the film club.

Nov 9, 2013, 7:54am Top

Thanks Bas. Yes he's an intellectual - but I am not sure that does not mean there is an emotional whole to this film, I have a feeling that for him there is a clear and very lucid feeling and he can seem intellectual as he doesn't spell it out to us, he takes flight with it, like a difficult poem, we just need to find the key. I said something like this in my group and someone pointed out the complex personal wranglings in this film between the two leads, certainly at one point - but I see that less as intellectual as simply illustrative of what people do at times their relationships are in such straits - the actual content of what they think/say isn't that interesting to me, but of a piece.

Sorry -- I know you're not saying that Bas. Just some more of my thinking. He is intellectual but I don't think it means he isn't very in touch with something emotional.

Nov 9, 2013, 8:12am Top

26. Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas

Today happens to be Thomas' anniversary. We're also in the build up to next year's (I think?) centenary of his birth. Something has made me pick him up, I've made some progress into the Collected poems, especially those I don't know. And on a day off yesterday I had time to give a reading of Under Milk Wood a proper go. I know I have tried to read it before but don't think I ever finished it ( I seem to remember being flummoxed by all those voices early on instead of just going with it). I have definitely heard it before, but am not sure since childhood if I have ever been fully conscious for the whole thing (and must listen to my copy soon now as well). I love the language, his playfulness. It's a strange mix of tenderness and at times lack of tenderness in the characters, and yet some very tender indeed. I wonder where such a project would take us in exploring a community's thoughts today in the UK. It's so rich -- I take from it's end something complex, about the innocence of the characters, a forgiveness suggested of them through the observation, and by Mary Ann Sailors' and Reverend Jenkins' observation, and yet it is not a simple innocence, but the innocence of the characters as the people they are; with so much nature also in the poem I mean in a way as the animals they are. So it is a complicated innocence, an adult innocence. Suddenly it brings to mind the idea that perhaps God is most happy when his (her) children are at play. Yet having used that word play I am not sure about the borders of some of the characters play and where it may be something else. There is a darkness to it at times, yet as I say I get a suggestion of forgiveness for all that at its end, I don't know - something for me to think about.

Something I like about reading the poems is how rich they are for interpretation. I've read some alongside A reader's guide to Dylan Thomas which has explained much to me and much that would not have occurred to me - and yet I get a sense that the poems go beyond such explanations, and that is one reason they were written as they were, they suggest beyond simple explanation and are much richer for that. I'm not sure how much more I will read of the Reader's Guide.

Nov 9, 2013, 9:01am Top

mmm thanks Barry, very nice, very cool. I'm leaving the window open to replay if I come back and try to catch up on my backlog of posts.

Nov 9, 2013, 11:44am Top

19. The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes by Janet Malcolm

I read this in four days, finishing on first of September, so it is not as fresh as I would wish in writing this. The complexity it offers is one reason I have not attempted to write about it, to do it justice. Here goes. In fact it is a book I have tried twice before I think, I the mid nineties and again a bit later. At least for that first go I found it too powerful I think - maybe I just did not know enough of Plath and Hughes too. But I do remember discomfort in reading of her death and its affect.

However I relished this reading. Malcolm writes that she is falling into the camp that tends to side with Hughes rather than amongst those that may have tended to blame him. However, at first at least to me, it seemed she stepped beyond that into a clarification of the dynamics of the different points of view - Hughes', his sister's (a key player in the administration of the biographies, an defender of her brother) and several biographers. Maybe I should immediately correct myself, there is not so much of Plath, the silent woman -- or is my memory playing a trick on me now -- for it seems to me there is a lot about Plath, often in contrast to other's views. Of course whilst the other subjects have talked/written about what happened, Plath cannot (and partly of course also there is that her latter journal was destroyed by Hughes). I did not get Malcolm as opposed to Plath -- but as opposed to simplistic oppositions and dynamics between individuals yes. So, to me much of it rose above a faction to give an overview and a human one to look at the impact of such a loss and an explanation of reactions since.

I remember at the time I wanted to write something very detailed in response. Later in the book her position maybe does become more clear - and she is kind of transparent at least - she writes of how at the time of a conversation with a Plath biographer, Jacqueline Rose, that she may have felt they were arguing over Ted Hughes, competing for him, she only mentions this later when she says that feeling that this is what they did had gone for her. I found her subjectivity usually useful, though sometimes it seemed to sit strangely with that original image I had had of her care - for example she writes of Jacqueline Rose who had written "The Haunting of Sylvia Plath" - "In August, 1991 - her fur sleek and a few feathers still around her mouth - Rose wrote me a. . . " (Malcolm, Janet (2011-12-01). The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath And Ted Hughes (Kindle Location 2722) Granta Books. Kindle Edition). It's an interesting image - I think I found it out of keeping with her style up to then though -- I am wondering if I have gathered this book may originally have been serialised (?) and, maybe that accounts for a change of style? If anything it made me curious to read Rose's biography of Plath so I may judge better what I had hitherto taken as fairness by Malcolm (and she does move back into that more usual style later in assessing Rose's work). In fact now I read over the note I made in Kindle it is in this chapter on Rose's book that Malcolm is very hard on always having a subjective view (I agree) and e.g. "Writing cannot be done in a state of desirelessness" and how the writer must take sides and in delineating her own bias - perhaps she was conscious of whom she was writing, it felt a bit forced to me.

I'm not capturing the complexity of her arguments though, and they are too much to try and precis - I really recommend this book - it is full of insight into both Plath and Hughes and into humanity.

I was very grateful for these lines on writing which struck a chord with some of my thinking at that time:

"At the end of Borges’s story “The Aleph,” the narrator goes to the cellar of a house, where he has the experience of encountering everything in the world. He all at once sees all places from all angles: “I saw tigers, pistons, bison, tides, and armies; I saw all the ants on the planet…. I saw the circulation of my own dark blood.” Writer’s block derives from the mad ambition to enter that cellar; the fluent writer is content to stay in the close attic of partial expression, to say what is “running through his mind,” and to accept that it may not—cannot—be wholly true, to risk that it will be misunderstood."

Malcolm, Janet (2011-12-01). The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath And Ted Hughes (Kindle Locations 1055-1060). Granta Books. Kindle Edition.

Though, again later in the book, I still have not made up my mind on this:

"We must always take the novelist’s and the playwright’s and the poet’s word, just as we are almost always free to doubt the biographer’s or the autobiographer’s or the historian’s or the journalist’s. In imaginative literature we are constrained from considering alternative scenarios—there are none. This is the way it is. Only in nonfiction does the question of what happened and how people thought and felt remain open."

Malcolm, Janet (2011-12-01). The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath And Ted Hughes (Kindle Locations 2235-2238). Granta Books. Kindle Edition.

I see a point, a level on which this is true -- and I see how we must just accept the fiction, maybe that is at the deepest level and she is correct, but at another surely it is a part of fiction that it is unreliable - or is this simply a facile point? Its one to mull over, as I do I have an uneasy feeling I may just end up agreeing with her, of course and any unreliable narrator say is of course just that as we accept the truth of the author's version. But maybe she was just happy to write that interpretation knowing this writing in itself was also partial, and more mug me for seeking more?

I'm not sure what exactly inspired me to pick this up, I am sure she was mentioned on someone else's thread but cannot find that now. I also think this was relatively cheap on Kindle and I also got her book on Chekhov at the same time - e-reading can be so handy.

Nov 10, 2013, 5:54pm Top

Interesting thoughts on the Ted Hughes saga. A couple of years back I read Ted Hughes: The life of a Poet by Elaine Feinstein. Another author who knew Ted Hughes and in Feinstein's case she seemed to be a little in love with him. The Janet Malcolm book looks interesting, but I don't feel the need to read about it all over again.

Nov 10, 2013, 6:38pm Top

Interesting comments. I've liked other works by Janet Malcolm; I'm not sure I'm interested enough in Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath to read this, but I enjoyed reading your thoughts about it.

Edited: Nov 12, 2013, 12:41pm Top

I've read that Feinstein book Bas, quite enjoyed it - Malcolm's book is fantastic on the conflicts since Plath's death and redresses the balance towards Hughes a bit, explains his stance as a human being faced with such a loss, and I don't think entirely lets him off in for example burning her last journal, but understands what a difficult position he was in after her death and points out how others come along and have judged their private life. It comes with some really great psychological insights and I'm looking forward to reading her book on Chekhov. Sometimes I have enough of reading of TH and SP Rebecca, but love it when I get passed my latest caricature of them and discover them anew, they are always fresher than my clichés about them and I do find them both fascinating, I guess it's poetry though, we have established I think that I like it and cannot get enough at the mo.

Edited: Nov 24, 2013, 7:42am Top

24. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (Kindle ed.)

I'm a bit behind and these comments therefore get a bit less fresh, hopefully they can make up for that in consideration. I still have North by Seamus Heaney to add, but will have to reread it before commenting I think.

But, The Scarlet Letter - what a wonderful book. So unlike my prior image of it. For some reason that image was one of dourness but there is so much life in this book. I read it with his 1850 preface in which he declines to change a thing in the introductory The Customs House section which may have offended some he says - which to me read with a kind of nineteenth century zaniness, it made me think of Pynchon and Slothrop with this picture of New England. Now, I have read it with a reading group and we have gone on to the House of Seven Gables and I'm reading Henry James' biography of Hawthorne, and some in the group found it not zany, hard to get through and yes some of how he expresses himself is old fashioned, perhaps long winded, but his points to me are continually bright and this tone to me is zany and quicksilver which pulled me through it -- and this chapter situates him in a New England that is later than the Scarlet Letter story, yet links him to that, his discovery of the letter, the context of where that earlier society has developed to (clearly not to his satisfaction) - very interesting, and a very post modern approach to make his own stance clear before his work. I find him a delight -- and sense a theme in this and the house of seven gables in that he is so acute about people that are outsiders that I believe he knows something of that experience and I understand he may have experienced mental distress after one period in said customs house, so I see him as something of a survivor writer (survivor of mental health issues or their system of treatment), a theme that appeals to me and maybe also one that explains his stance towards those he makes some fun of (and he is honest enough also to recognise that it was beyond him to render those people, their life, in any other way).

But then we have Hester Prynne's story - I'll try to avoid spoilers. And yes it is a very difficult story, of her bearing of her letter. But full of life and empathy. Perhaps a story of a type most of us would fear, of being an outcast, labelled, one of her most private sins open for public knowledge and discussion, not to say judgement and hatred. And he examines this, how it may be borne, reacted to, lived with. And looks hard at the society that does that, of course if you know this story then at the end a very powerful mirror is held up to that society. I know as I read it I felt a powerful healing could happen if only a certain contact could be made between particular characters - and he gives this and I know that in our group one person spoke of it as being unputdownable after that as it wheels to denouement, and one which is so strong, can seem negative in some ways, not honeyed, but can still seem so positive in others and I think there is healing in it. And all the while uncanniness about this story that is not quite unnatural but wonderful and moments that stick in the memory, painted so vividly - the scaffold, the pearl, the injured party, by the brook, the shooting stars, after the sermon. We could wonder why Hester stayed, but she is clearly seeking some truth herself, some promise held out by the New World, and has some knowledge of something else that her judges do not have, of course - but of course she is also not clear about this truth much of the time, she gets lost in the labyrinths of judgement of the theology they live with, of the society they make up, a society living close to the brink of survival -- but I think part of the healing comes in her decision for connection with reality, to what was missing, and maybe in the lead up to deciding he had to make that happen. Just a wonderful story, well told.

Henry James' biography of him so far is fascinating - but I get the impression it is telling me as much of James and his predilection with sophistication -- but still wonderful to read his dance with someone he clearly admires so well. I've also read some of Hawthorne's Twice-Told Tales: Wakefield, Endicott and the red cross, Night-sketches - all excellent and again his tone so often so enjoyable, playful especially in the first and third of those latter. I'll look forward to the rest, an author to add to my favourites.

Nov 24, 2013, 2:52pm Top

What a wonderful analysis

Nov 24, 2013, 3:16pm Top

You make me want to reread The Scarlet Letter after suffering through it in school more than 40 years ago!

Nov 24, 2013, 5:50pm Top

I recently read Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter for my book club and felt like you that it was a wonderful reading experience. So atmospheric and so well written. It made me want to read some of his short stories which I hope to get around to soon.

I read the Norton Critical Edition of the book that contains essays of literary criticism and places the book in context. I was fascinated to learn that all of the incidental characters in the book actually existed and were thoroughly researched by Hawthorne. Only his four principle characters; Hester, Pearl, Dimmesdale and Chillingworth were fictional and of course the Custom House introduction was based on facts.

Nov 24, 2013, 5:55pm Top

>140 tonikat: Terrific review of The Scarlet Letter.

>142 rebeccanyc: Rebecca, I find my enjoyment of so many of the classics we had to read in school has improved with age.

Edited: Nov 25, 2013, 4:00pm Top

Thanks Merrikay :)

Rebecca - hope you enjoy it. Over here my school experience can still affect my thinking about Shakespeare, line by line analysis can make me feel brain numb. But I think I got off quite lightly as I enjoyed other things.

Bas -- I shall go in search of your review amongst your hundreds of posts. any clues as to which thread? I knew much was historically accurate, for example in Endicott and the red Cross -- but I enjoy him then making his "romances". Come to think of it thats's a bit Shakespeare like. I like Norton critical's but never seem to read all of them, which leaves me feeling a bit guilty (not unlike being unable to quote Shakespeare to order, not to mention remember the processes of the plays).

and thank you NanaCC.

Feedback to keep the mill grinding.

Nov 25, 2013, 3:44pm Top

Aha, my apologies Bas, I found your Scarlet letter review and remember reading it at the time now (long before I knew this course would be on Hawthorne - but I bet your review was at the back of my mind). I can't agree on reading The Customs House separately, I loved that section, each to their own (if I learn nothing else from the book!). The scarlet Letter itself is less zany, straighter, but to me still had a lightness at times in making the emotions of the characters immediate, a lightness that could sit strangely with his old fashioned style.

I hardly ever get to read something someone else has written about recently, that makes my day. That was one big A you had.

Edited: Dec 21, 2013, 11:00am Top

25. Knitting Time by Colin Hambrook

I was fortunate to read a pdf copy of this sent by the author, editor of DAO (Disability Arts Online), hence it is as yet unadded on Librarything. I will buy a copy so I had all the wonderful illustrations by Colin, integral to the book.

It's a volume of poetry that tell the story of the author and his mother - she a Jehovah's Witness cast out of their brethren as she loses a grip of reality (and so he too and his siblings shunned), his mother having offended by knocking on doors and saying she is God, and then her journey with her illness and treatment at the hands of doctors, and the author's own journey with this upbringing and his own mental health. It follows her decline and yet so much more else is present, the quality of their life it's context and amongst other family (his father not a Jehovah's Witness at all). There is a powerful essay on his mother's story that may serve to help the reader with the poems-- though the poems are very understandable, human and approachable and full of the flavour of their life in the general reality. After the essay then more on his own journey and then finally his own journey into having family and the meanings this brings. The illustrations are wonderful - the idea of knitting time comes from his mother's knitting of ways into other universes - and the illustrations in style often take a quality of having been knitted.

This is the poetry of someone that has lived through all of this and survived, but it is not simply poetry of personal expression. I believe very much in such therapeutic use of poetry or creative writing. But this is poetry that steps beyond to speak beyond the personal, whilst always that very personal is, to paraphrase, Carl Rogers what is most universal. It speaks powerfully of experience -- and experience that too often is not reported, not understood, not listened to except to judge. It is the voice of experiencers of things that is in many ways cast out and denied, shunned - perhaps from the start as it is not understood, and this collection seems to me to show this journey and then make another, back into making this explicable, back into showing humanity how inhumanly they treat people especially how inhumanly the medical profession can treat people, and how supposedly religious people may, just because they do not understand and demand we fit their paradigms.

You can visit Colin Hambrook's Knitting Time blog here and see some of the illustrations and read a few poems if you are interested.

Suddenly I am reminded of the inscription on Sylvia Plath's grave "Even amidst fierce flames the Golden Lotus can be planted." And can only think of how sad it is that by default we seem to act as though this is not so, that we need to be reminded of it - or even assume it does not happen until we are reminded of it, better to always act as though this is the case, surely.

Dec 21, 2013, 12:57pm Top

Nice thoughts TonyH

Edited: Dec 26, 2013, 1:04pm Top

21. North by Seamus Heaney

A delay to writing this so again I've had to reread it (no chore) and the chapter in Stepping Stones. He said he expected it to be criticised but it seems it received the opposite, for the most part. However he said however it was taken he had confidence in it.

It has struck me as different to the fore running collections, yet it's hard to say how, they also had themes running through them. It contains two beautiful dedicatory poems on the theme of family and Mossbawn and the second section contains personal poems again. Perhaps the difference is the step the first part makes more clearly, more consistently into Myth and history. There are poems in which he addresses Viking Ireland, and of course steps into themes archaeological with thoughts on bone carvings and skeletons and a trove on bodies found in bogs....themes that allow him to address obliquely what was his then context, The Troubles, and later in the book his then recent move to The Republic. There are also poems anthropomorphising the land, and also the maiden Ireland and masculine colonisation. To me now that is my least favourite part, maybe it would have been different then, it's not that it was unsubtle as colonialism isn't. The humanising of the land I kind of like, but maybe I'm just not quite in tune with this at the moment, I need to follow it closer.

The bone and bog poems are amazing. Often very hard emotionally, as we consider human sacrifice or primitive punishment. Somehow I wonder if this whole collection is too perfect for me, too clear like the "bleb of the icicle|", maybe too strong a theme and that theme too strong for little old me. The second part's conversational poems put him in his context and a historical time more specific and later also his wondering at a self imposed exile of sorts.

I don't dislike any of the poems, but there is an edge to them I still feel brittle boned to, or cold -- they really have that manner of bone carvings, and so precise. This may mean it really has succeeded in a serious way, and it may be there is no way I can alchemise such stuff into something I feel comfortable with, (what an idea). That can be good. It may also be, I have a slight feeling, that I have not bottomed the onion skins of his themes, that there is more... This may take time, it may also be some I never know having not known that time and place as part of it. I admire it, it has not thawed to me, it maintains secrets like a bog body maybe. It IS in a way I suspect I'll be having to think about for a long time.

Edited: Dec 30, 2013, 10:19am Top

I thought I might list films I have seen this last year or so on a quiet holiday afternoon, maybe I'll record them better next year as there must be more than this:

1. Australia, the Movie
2. Miss Congeniality and Miss Congeniality 2, fabulous darlings.
3. Mary and Max, also fab (projected bug screen)
4. The Devil Wears Prada - she certainly does
5. To the Wonder (cinema) yes I like Malick.
6. Beasts of the Southern Wild (cinema) - wonderful
7. Lola Montes
8. Ratcatcher (projected big screen) - amazing film, have Morvern Callar to watch on dvd
9. Sweet Sixteen (projected big screen), also amazing
10. My Summer of Love (projected, big screen) - I love this film
11. Brick Lane (projected, big screen)
12. Fish Tank (projected big screen) - awesome film, if I'd know British cinema was doing films like this last few I'd have been seeing these a lot sooner.
13. An Education (projected big screen)
14. Submarine (projected big screen)
15. Rachel Getting Married(projected big screen)
16. A Serious Man - blew me away
17. Irma Vep
18. The Magician (Bergman, one I had not seen, liked a lot, bit light for him)
19. Les Femmes de L'ombre / Female Agents - strange film based on true stories I seem to remember but fictionalised about allied agents in WW2, strange as it plays with glamour and genre it tries to subvert, but I am not entirely sure it was right to have the glamour in it at all and am unsure it does subvert the genre, has led me to think about this film quite a lot, and some moments that may be poetic, but as it kind of spoke a different grammar the people I saw it with mostly hated it and I'm not sure if its not just that it did this differently.
20. Noi Albinoi - what a gem of a film this is.
21. Ivan's Childhood - put female agents in its place. Horror.
22. Pan's Labyrinth (or more correctly from the Spanish, Labyrinth of fauns), not the first time I saw this but liked it much much better, got it, wonderful film.
23. Untouchable
24. The Seventh Seal - second time I saw it in cinema, I didn't laugh as much as I remember the first time, long time since I had watched it and it seemed so fresh.
25. A Soap - a Danish film about a woman that moves into the flat above a transgendered girl, found this really well acted and enjoyed this film, though less the ironic soap style structuring.
26. Wild Strawberries - cinema :) didn't end as I remembered, he didn't die.
27. The Great Beauty, cinema.
28. Jagten / The Hunt - really about a witch hunting type social phenomenon, found the way it developed thin.
29. Senna - excellent documentary
30. Howl's Moving Castle - the first anime I have sat through, loved it -- bought the original book I was so keen and will watch more studio ghibli, it seemed to have its heart is so the right place.
31. Paul - Le film.
32. Persona - first time in cinema for me, what a film / experience.
33. Amadeus - always makes me want to read his biography. this time had me thinking about how his music came from somewhere different than the soon to be romantic, I may be wrong about that, just a sense for example with the joyful music that he is tapping into another mode.
34. La Regle du jeu, projected on big screen
35. Les Quatres Cents Coups, projected onto a big screen, some times since I had seen this and never on such a big screen and fell in love with it again, big memory was of him on the fairground centrifuge ride, next to Truffaut and staring out, like being a piece of film in a zoetrope looking out, as is a theme of the film of it looking back at audiences, the audience.
36. Cleo de 5 a 7, projected onto big screen, I love this film, saw it last about fifteen years ago on a film course I had to drop out of and fell in love with it again and really mean to watch Agnes Varda's other films.
37. Le Mepris, projected onto a big screen - see post 130 - not necessarily the film I loved most in this French film course but one I wrote about and had time to write about - and yes definitely intellectual but with a very firm and lucid footing in emotions. Contempt seems so much of how so many people choose to deal with others socially, not just in intimate relationships, it has my attention.
38. Belle de jour, projected - not my first viewing but I liked it better than ever, wonderful film. mist watch more Bunuel too.
39. La tete en friche (My afternoons with Margueritte) - wonderful film, I can't find an English translation of the novel but I would like to read this.
40. The Ghoul, cinema - 30's British horror really, terrible script but I quite enjoyed it, reminded me what things used to be like, strange to think at the same time people such as Joyce or Proust say had written and someone presents such stereotypes, I suppose same as it ever was, ever will be.
41. If
42. The Aviators Wife, I missed Claire's Knee so opened my Rohmer box set, very nice, gentle. Also missed Breson's L'Argent which I want to see.
43. The Descendants
44. La Ceremonie, projected - I loved this, wonderful acting, very powerful, a film not just about the bourgeoisie but about a type of bourgeois attitude to able bodied/able mindness and to those who are not able in mind or body and at the end the family are so shown up and in many was have dis-enabled themselves in gaining their social status, such in interesting film, my first Chabrol I think and want to watch more.
45. Quai des Orfevres, cinema - I love this film, second time I saw it, made in 1946 yet with a clearly gay and wonderfully glamorous female character, I especially love the argument scene whilst the café orchestra rehearse, love the scene, love the music, I think the New Wave were hard on Clouzot I find things to love about him.
46. La Haine, projected - strong film, I liked the acting, in many ways I hardly dare speak.
47. Les Diaboliques, cinema
48. Amelie, projected - another film I love, to me it contains secrets to life.
49. La Salaire de la Peur (The Wages of Fear), cinema - loved it, the build up to the action, the action, the reaction, great cinema. Who presents such contexts now?
50. Morgan: A suitable case for treatment - strange but enjoyable film.
51. The Witches, found this excellent, and the ending ambivalent - what is he doing putting those stereo speakers together like that, you only get one direction from that guy is what I think. They are still on a polarity despite the outcome of the Sabbath.
52. Uncle Boonmee who can recall his past lives - I enjoyed this and its lack of explaining of what it showed, nice.

A film a week -- and yet I think I have missed a film course off the list (can't remember what it was) so I am really glad to see I manage more than that, there were others too, can't think now. I just feel guilty about it taking time from reading, but so many riches for me in this year's films.

Dec 29, 2013, 12:18pm Top

La Haine is one of my favorite movies. I saw it when it first came out in 1995 in a small French cinema when you could still smoke inside. I was ten years old and my mom was mad when she hear my grandmother had taken my brothers and I to see the movie. Since then I've seen the movie at least 20 times and I recommend it to so many. Glad to see someone else watching it.

Edited: Dec 29, 2013, 1:56pm Top

Thanks lilisin, it's a heck of a film and to see it at that time, age and in those circumstances sounds so very memorable.

Since posting I came across this article:


Sorry lilisin, memorable, I mean amazing, formative, foundational.

Dec 30, 2013, 4:37am Top

Great list of films. I thought I was the only person to have seen Irma Vep, which I thought was brilliant.

Edited: Dec 31, 2013, 3:16pm Top

27. The House of Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne

It's a few weeks since I read this now, so a bit less fresh in my memory. I thoroughly enjoyed it. A story tracing the story of this seven gabled house, I believe from the description one of those houses built in the very old style where the upper floors jutted out. Again the author places himself in the text saying he had long been fascinated by it. Again it is a romance not a novel in his view. Again it looks back to the early colony and the origins of the house and the happenings at that time of a land dispute about where it is built and the accusation that the original european owner is a wizard which allows the more powerful claimant to take possession - but at a cost perhaps to himself and posterity for his family due to a curse. Then we arrive several generations later and follow the fortunes and misfortunes of some of his heirs then - full of interesting ideas, the old lady whose countenance does not reflect her inner goodness, the shining young woman that helps her, the unfortunate and bad cousin the judge (whose badness so few seem to see) and the old lady's long lost incriminated brother and not forgetting her lodger, who I shall not say more of.

It has some lovely writing and description, it is in tune with the losses of the brother. It contains again some strange writing in a way, I think of the judge sitting in the chair and really is this satire or mockery, rightly so maybe, but a different sort of chapter and then the flight of old lady and brother and the conversation with the stranger on the train - so enjoyable. Maybe not all as powerful as The Scarlet Letter but wonderful writing at times - I should go back to it to make clearer examples but I don't have time right now and it is fading in my immediate memory. You'll notice I am forgetting names -- so I will not struggle in vain, I may come back and add more to say later.

Dec 31, 2013, 1:06pm Top

28. Hawthorne by Henry James

I finished this a bit later. A thoroughly enjoyable companion to reading Hawthorne - not quite a biography, more like a reaction to reading him. Clearly he was important to James. If I remember rightly he characterises him as the first great American writer, and foundational for James. It is interesting how he characterises him as such as therefore essentially provincial in his outlook, and strengths in that, I myself see huge strength in Hawthorne's outlook - but it seems to me that this view also is one that characterises James and his possible reaction to such an outlook, his seeking of a cosmopolitan view, and I do not agree it would have been wholly impossible for an American writer to have had such a view earlier -- maybe he knows better, but surely depending on background it was possible -- it is too neat. But this book is full of fine appreciation of a fine writer by another oh so fine writer and was wonderful t read and see James think on what he had read. Wonderful quotations including from Hawthorne's notebooks which really interest me. This was a very rewarding read - can be found free on Kindle - and writing about it reminds me I mean to finish Twice-Told Tales and want to read more Hawthorne.

Dec 31, 2013, 1:13pm Top

29. Gauguin 1848-1903, the primitive sophisticate by Ingo F. Walther

A basic introduction to Gauguin with lots of colour plates which is what I really enjoyed, the text was ok to read, reminded me of a lot I have learned in various places including the film documentary of about ten years ago by Waldemar Januzczack which I remember enjoying. I wonder what the Marquesas are like now, where is it possible to be a primitive sophisticate I also wonder.

Edited: Dec 31, 2013, 3:14pm Top

The close of a great year of reading for me. I was hoping to get through a few more by this point but have had a busy holiday with little reading done. Still I have managed a few more completions than recent years. Many thanks to all who have commented - I get an enormous amount out of posting my thoughts and getting other's responses, I'd only ever briefly kept a reading journal before I joined Librarything, this is one reason I found the link I added in #152 so relevant and enjoy so much seeing everyone else enjoy this process with their threads. Entirely unexpectedly this also led this year in my first three entries on Seamus Heaney being developed to be published elsewhere, something I would never have expected when I set out on my Librarything journalling.

My 2014 reading journal is here

Best wishes to all in 2014.

Group: Club Read 2013

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