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tonikat, knee deep in nougat, 2017

Club Read 2017

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Edited: Today, 7:23pm Top

Another year, another thread...a small change you may notice, shall see how it fits.

My 2016 thread is here (the nougat reference explained somewhere therein)

Don't think I can edit the thread titles down the years, but who would rewrite such.

I wish everyone here (and elsewhere of course) the best of the season and for a Happy 2017 -- and a peaceful one for everyone in the world, may we begin to see what we're doing and change, talk, understand ourselves and each other (and the planet) - the answers are all there to be read and also unread but in our faces, being, in front of our noses to be turned to, read in life, allowed with restraint, respect, together man and woman upped to, by facing, by talking together in common humanity, no matter differences in apparent creed - through the peaceful meeting of our true and wonderful cultures and respect for all humans.

I'm thinking of some other changes here - not sure anyone else gets anything from me just listing films and tv and theatre seen -- so may do that elsewhere and only list what I comment on from there.

I think I will also wait until my summary at the end of the year, all being well, to build my wall of book covers. We shall see. May make some other changes. I had half thought of making a private group for me and anyone that wanted to read my stuff as I am not sure it is everyone's cup of tea, and my style (even lack of it at times), but so it goes.

My 2017 reading:

~ The Thing in the Gap Stone Stile by Alice Oswald - Poetry, Kindle ed. (RMOT) Comments here
~ Loud Silence by Bill McKnight - Poetry Comments
~ Butcher's Dog, 1, poetry magazine
~ Field Work by Seamus Heaney - poetry, Kindle ed. (RMOT)
~ The Surrender by Scott Esposito - essays/memoir comments
~ Introducing Hegel: a graphic guide by Lloyd Spencer and Andrzej Krauze, Kindle ed. Comments here
~ The Other Voice by Octavio Paz - essays Comments
~ Great Expectations by Charles Dickens - novel, Kindle ed. Comments here
~ The Strength of Poetry by James Fenton - lectures/essays
~ I and Thou by Martin Buber trans Walter Kaufmann - philosophy/theology, Kindle ed. (RMOT)
~ The Tartar Steppe by Dino Buzzati trans. Stuart C. Hood - novel, Kindle ed. (RMOT)
~ Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll - novel, Kindle ed. Reread (RMOT)

other reading - articles, short stories, essays
- Peter Schlemiel by Adelbert von Chamisso
- Story of your Life by Ted Chiang
- essay - Celan/Heidegger: Translation at the Mountain of Death by Pierre Joris (http://wings.buffalo.edu/epc/authors/joris/todtnauberg.html) (reread)
- essay - William Wordsworth 1: 'A pure organic pleasure from the lines' by Christopher Ricks in The Force of Poetry
- essay - William Wordsworth 2: 'A sinking inward into ourselves from thought to thought', ibid.
- interview - https://www.filmcomment.com/article/jean-luc-godard-interview-nouvelle-vague-histoires-du-cinema-helas-pour-moi/
- review - https://www.poetryfoundation.org/features/articles/detail/101645? (30/3/17)
- interview - https://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/3137/malcolm-cowley-the-art-of-fiction-no-70-malcolm-cowley (30/3/17)
- interview - https://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/2192/octavio-paz-the-art-of-poetry-no-42-octavio-paz
- https://www.theguardian.com/film/2017/apr/11/michael-douglas-and-louise-fletcher-how-we-made-one-flew-over-the-cuckoos-nest-interview
- review - https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/apr/15/on-empson-by-michael-wood-review

Edited: Apr 19, 5:01am Top

current focus:

Dec 27, 2016, 2:51pm Top

I posted a bit about goals on the avid reader thread.

I have worked on some rules to keep my reading focussed - supposedly only focusing on two books at a time for one, though that is out the window at present with 10 I'm giving to my currently reading collection, partly that is also due to a number of books I read a little of each day. But I will try to work towards that focus, it may mean I focus on two in a week.

In other ways that general plan means I am also trying to focus on finishing books I have started (those I want to finish) and to read more from the heap on the shelves and in the kindle and more from the canon/s (whatever they are). But also very much to focus more on those authors I really want to read, those that I feel most for in ways that mean I want to read them properly - and make up for lost time and also fill in those gaps.

I'm thinking about a ratio of books to finish and from shelves to read before I allow myself a new book or to read something else.

But, as anyone that has ever followed one of my threads knows, I am not good at sticking to a plan for a year. Though my focus seems to be forming naturally at the moment - it may almost not need so much theory, it's what I want to read for goodness sake. But its also recognising that it must be done, whilst it can be.

I also broke down what I want to read by themes of topics, which is definitely another reason my focus goes as there are a lot of them.

But less chat tonikat, (toni or kat hmm...I can't decide, get both), more speed...lets get to it

Edited: Jan 2, 6:00pm Top

In the last few days I've tackled my block with the Tales of the German Imagination by reading Peter Schlemiel by Adelbert von Chamisso.


I'd got well stuck with this - I'm not sure I had got far in, but restarted it this time. First it's a novella really, and long for this book I think. Second the tone of voice I found very hard to take, possibly all too close yet at the same time strange and annoying. I could only read it a chapter at a time a lot of the time, but persevered, and of course there is some turn.

I've dimly heard such a story but had not read it and now find, as with other tales in this book, how influential it was and is. It fits with a lot I am interested in and see for example it was mentioned in The manticore - so much for my close reading, or maybe Robertson Davies explained enough. Clearly the idea of shadow side important from a Jungian perspective, and so fitting Davies' approach.

It's another I will think and rethink on, and wish I had read earlier, as with lots of these tales. They are a very good way at imparting wisdom and advice, would have been good to read as a teen.

I certainly seem to be visiting the nineteenth century a lot at the moment. von Chamisso was an aristocratic refugee of the Terror in France, which fits with my recent Dickens reading, and with where I am in Wordsworth's Prelude - not to mention all those influences noted on the wiki page above. Suddenly the nineteenth century is gaining colour again for me. It's so much more interesting than lots of the history I did.

I like that the original meaning of Schlemiel was friend of God and did notice how turning to God was somewhat absent in his situation.

In other nineteenth century related wanderings I watched To walk Invisible last night which I'd recorded from tv - the story of the Bronte sisters creativity and publication at the same time as the decline of their brother. It was really quite powerful and has enthused me to read them now.

I also looked at my priority reads and of about seventy only 8 were by women, so, enough said.

Jan 1, 9:09pm Top

Jan 2, 5:07am Top

thank you and a cockadoodledo to you too

Jan 2, 6:48pm Top

I am going to enjoy following your thread.

Jan 2, 6:57pm Top

I was a lurker on your thread last year. This year I hope to comment once in a while.

Jan 3, 6:09am Top

Welcome aboard both of you.

Deborah, I regret to say that there are threads I do not know - and sadly yours has been one of them, not now, I just caught up on your reviews last year, wow. And those quilts are gorgeous. Now to find you for this year.

Comments always welcome.

I read someone, fuzzy patters I'm sure, write somewhere how stress of work affects reading and that's definitely the case with me, or can be, in recent years - it may be a reason why I work to get focus these days, to make what I can of my reading. Having done all that things may change now anyway. I tend to feel like it's my fault, but it's not of course, I help people with stress, am good at that, so I should know, but then it can be hard to do it to yourself, even though I'm pretty good at that too.

Not now sure what prompts me to say that..talking to myself...are you...yes I'm talking to you...no...sorry...humour gene engaged now...or lack of humour gene maybe. Anyway been on leave, getting more reading done, interesting. Ah it may have been to go to explain why I have still not read everyone else's threads.

Jan 14, 6:58am Top

Loud Silence by Bill McKnight

Having posted I was reading two books I've managed to finish two others, neither on my currently reading list, ah, so it is.

I just heard of this book in the last week and of enthusiasm of others for it and as it so chimes with so many things for me I dived in and its a very quick read really, I've read it at least twice and thought about a few days too -- to use what I posted elsewhere to say more:

A brilliant book, I think. Bill McKnight's (with his editor) apparently simple, short poems clearly convey the complexity of the experience of such mental health issues. He shares his experience as a person to other people, difficult experience, hope, honestly. Anyone who has had such experience will know how hard it can be to be clear, or clear in a way that helps us. In doing so there is movement to this book, for me. First he reminds me of the experience of feeling in these ways, of how it feels to be treated by professionals, of the questions it gives a person of themselves, of the questions it gives others (and stigma), of the frustrations and hurdles faced. I got in touch with a felt sense of such difficult times reading this, of how lonely it can feel, of how unhelpful things can be even in the guise of help (often things such helpers fail to recognise or see the power of or do not mean in the way they are felt). But in recognising these things there a power of health, in speaking such feelings, and further as the book progresses clarities are reached, decisions are made, experience of being well is found - difficulty is taken on board, lived with, new approaches emerge, hope.

It is a book that made me laugh out loud and also sigh in recognition, it delighted me to read and recognise such things and to have had them said in such a gentle, witty, beautiful and wise way. I am sure this will help many who encounter such issues, whether as client or helper or friend or family member. That is enough tribute in itself.

Jan 14, 8:24am Top

>11 tonikat: Interesting to bring this book to our attention. had to google Bill McKnight to get some information about him.

Edited: Jan 17, 5:11am Top

hope you got the right Bill McKnight - I don't know him, though exchanged an email. It's a good book I think, but then I would. If those issues are not relevant people may not react so wildly, though it would give food for thought I think.

edit - doh, boy am I slow - did you go searching for poems Bas? His poems are so short that it's not easy to quote without the whole thing. I also didn't find any to link to - let me go look and see though.

Edited: Jan 22, 2:23pm Top

Letter from an unknown Woman, directed by Max Ophuls

I saw this film on Friday, I may have seen it when much younger, some seemed familiar, but I can't be sure.

A film told in flashback - a man arrives home late at night, left by friends he has only three hours before he is due to go and fight a duel. It is Vienna around 1900. His friends don't really expect him to go, nor does he.

However, the eponymous letter arrives and we have a story in flashback in three parts.

In the first he is moving to this apartment. A young neighbour, Lisa, is interested by his strange belongings, she's sixteeen and becomes more and more interested in him. He's a concert pianist. She, in the apartment below follows all his struggles to play and play well - the future promises much for him, he's already a success. She's very intrigued, there is a delightful scene of her swinging on a swing as he plays, I loved it just for the shot that swings from her point of view. There's teenage talk with a friend of a boy. She is more and more intrigued by this man - there is some transgression when she enters his flat (suddenly I thought of Blue Velvet) - but then what is there for her - she learns her widowed mother is to remarry, she is to move from Vienna to Linz. At the station, maybe amidst some truth of what is happening, hitting her, she breaks away and runs to his flat . . . they've not even spoken, she held a door for him once. . . but he is not in. She sits and waits and late he comes in, with a woman.

Next we find her in Linz and coming of age, courted. But she is able to say no to this man. She moves to Vienna, models clothes in a dress shop - there is a hint of prostitution there, but not her we are told, she is not like the others. Instead she stands outside the apartment until one day he notices her -- and dreams come true, a whirlwind romance. It's not altogether clear whether this is one night, a few days or maybe a week or two. She's shown in this as not saying much of herself to him, almost as though there is not much to her at all, at her most passive -- despite the daring things she has done. One day though he comes to find her in the shop and tell her he must leave, go on tour. She sees him off, he assures her he'll be back in two weeks, she comments in narration, her letter how he did not know himself.

The next episode is about nine years later - she has a child, his child. Yet she has married highly into society (apparently not a turn that was in the book). Yet one day they run across each other -- I will not spoil the denouement. She remains true. Aspects of each other collide, lostness in him apparent.

In seeing the film I was struck by the birth of her love, of it before she knew him. In a way I thought it was also redolent of her love for life, of that time and also of it versus the narrow social confines otherwise on offer. There may also be a reading of it in light of what I think was a shock for her of her mother remarrying, and again of narrow confines within that. Her pianist offers much else. Not least the music which she clearly loves - romantic music too. In a way I could see her as a bit of groupie, a rebel. I could also see her, in loving him through his practice, his struggle, as knowing him very very well though she did not know him at all.

However there was an element of this that looked like obsession too - it confused me. I even compared her to Humbert Humbert in Lolita - someone very stuck in a particular way to love, in a need for a certain love. Happily the scales have fallen from my eyes - in no small part as I read this:


But for other reasons too, I mean just take her at face value, a person in love and go with that -- I am happy that I'd still seen positives in Lisa'a love, and I can see some similarity in how she became fixed on love. But she is clearly open to life and change in love in ways Humbert Humbert is not, she does not harm anyone, she is not fixed in a certain requisite of love -- her love is a love of a being that may grow, if he will allow it.

But realising that I see the film not as one of obsessional love, but of true love (which of course has an obsessional side) and of her truth to love opens the film, opens me. She takes risks again an again for how she feels, that brings much good, bad, life, and she is true to it, to her love, to herself. I realise this is a film I will always love and relearn about true love from, and its truth buried within society and ways of being. The need to risk and a need to be open, and true.

In some ways this letter may be from any woman to any man, perhaps, about some potential danger and in so doing may wake us all, if we can let it.

Jan 27, 10:05am Top

Enjoyed your film review.

Edited: Feb 5, 8:53am Top

>15 baswood: thank you :)

The Thing in the Gap Stone Stile by Alice Oswald

This was Alice Oswald’s debut collection. It’s my debut with her, at least complete debut. I began Dart at some point but did not fall for it, then anyway. I’m not sure what brought me back to try this, not just her high reputation and articles wondering if she is our greatest poet, surely, I don’t remember now.

I read it through quite quickly but have been rereading slowly since. As ever I just want to explore my feelings and thoughts on what it does for me, this is not purport to be any more than that, personal reaction/s.

Thinking of Dart and her connection to nature it may be tempting to see her as a nature poet and not looking at some other things. True she writes of nature, but that’s far from all. Her poems in this collection start in a personal, intimate way. Often they seem to mark a journey to a connection to personal feeling, to being able to feel in the world, perhaps to contacting being. It’s a beautiful thing to follow, they seem to arrive at a clarity by means of clarities. It may be tempting to see this as individual, unpolitical — but it occurred to me that the reverse is true, that these poems reassert individual rights and freedoms, to breathe, to feel, to be and be connected to the natural. Simplicities so hidden, as they have been across the ages, but more thoroughly now it seems than ever.

I have done a search on google but have not found poems from this collection to share links to (I know my audience, Bas). I don’t like to quote poems in part and yet don't want to quote whole poems.

They are beautiful. Reading them slowly is a delight, opens me.

There is some social in some poems across a hedge with a neighbour. There are love poems too. She’s a sonneteer which interests me. On my first read my favourite poem was called ‘Poem’ (not a sonnet), it begins:

“You ask me why did I lie down
and when and never rose again.

I of the bluebells,
laid on a succulent mattress, frown.”

ahh no it doesn't work without the whole poem this quoting lark.

She makes very good lines and phrases that work like keys to unlock poems, to unlock me - she has her ideas and she has her flow, but she has taken care with them. There is a love in that, and respect for we who read her…not to mention for her subjects and herself. Maybe that seems a naive and obvious thing to say of a poet, I mean like obvs Toni this is what poets do, it's just she especially impresses me with it, precision in words yet no less poetry - he is an example, from ‘April’, how it ends:

“and us on bicycles — it was so fast
wheeling and trying we were lifted falling,
our blue-sky jackets filling up like vowels…
and now we float in the fair blow of springtime,
kingfishers, each astonishing the other
to be a feathered nerve, to take the crack
between the river’s excess and the sun’s.”

Very precise, first I like how the jackets fill up, but then this movement into being as kingfishers and all of that, and speaking so of exactly how they fly upstream. There’s a lovely poem about cycling a Roman Road soon after that too.
But I think a lot of how much care she has taken, part of that must be with her ideas, to know them and then care taken with the words, knowing them. I tend to gush - no Toni, really? But yes friends, I do…and sometimes they work and sometimes they seem to work but they are not so graceful, really, or is it grace, not so clear perhaps, or maybe clear to me and if you get my tone, not so classic or maybe if you don't get my tone not so discoverable as how that whole kingfisher segment is above, for itself. I don’t know, maybe she just has her voice and I have mine, her ears and I have my own. There is a kind of calmness maybe to it too, that I might miss in my own, in my busy life. Suddenly I remember being so impressed by Niall Campbell the other year when I saw him read, for exactly this, the presence he brought to that reading reminding me of my counselling values, and think of how that is challenged for me in my day to day. The two may find themselves, that silence/space and the words. Though still I think it is to be achieved, however happy in silence you are, to find that clarity with words, and about your own, your intimate thoughts, to gain distance on them and observe them I guess getting to know them again just as she observes other things, so carefully…that is a magic that happens, but often does not for me….but thinking it needs time to dwell on them and meet them, and clarify their problems, be clear on that and then see.

I’m drifting.

She has the sea in many of these poems. I loved her three Sea Sonnets in a row, and giving them all the same name, I like that and fitted her theme of how she saw the sea — I mean as something made up of water within water, sea connected, so good to have these three aspects. I wonder if there are more in her further work. She also has a lot of the moon and the moon reflected in the sea.

My favourite poem so far on this read though is “Ballad of a Shadow” especially for how it closes - again discovery of being.

I suppose by talking about her phrases as well there was an element a bit like Timothy Donnelly at times of argument turning through her poems. I liked that. I know that is something from elsewhere in English literature, I don’t know Donne well, but sonnet wise clearly Shakespeare did this, maybe more obviously or clearly stated. These are subtle and intimate arguments, some with a tone to an intimate or to herself. In her poem ‘Owl Village’ she has a verse:

“Half air, half village,
it murmurs, like the mind upon the brain”

That does remind me of Donnelly…though she came first I think…and it makes me think of Donne for some reason, though he I hardly know, so that may be rubbish of me to say, I shall have to read him to see.

But hey, maybe this clarity of hers is something that does just come to her too, not by secret arts of finding it or working on it, beyond being open. And mine, for what it is just comes to me too sometimes, and it’s just making more of those times that would be key, another argument for a rhythm in living that allows such. Her poem Mountains may be about such openness and finding what is there. The final poem of the first section of the collection, ‘Prayer’ also touches what she is doing, throwing the sun and moon as she says and thinking on her needs, quite wonderful.

The collection concludes with her long poem ‘ The Three wise men of Gotham who set out to catch the moon in a net’ which is based on an old story of how the citizens of Gotham managed to put off a King’s (expensive) visit - this brings together many of the themes, the moon, the sea, perhaps a folly in trying to catch being. On first read I didn’t get so much from this poem, or over-read, sought too many clever points, but on slower read just enjoyed it as story and yes points are there amidst the colours of the poem. The sky as a sea too and people adrift with their nets, throwing more than catching, perhaps.

It also occurs to me that perhaps there is a gender aspect to the collection, the humans in the boat being men. The theme of relationships at times. Perhaps even, though I need to think more on this, it just occurred to me, in giving voice to the thing in the gap in the stone stile. There could be more to this, i want to think on it, as am cautious in myself asserting this.

Feb 5, 8:24am Top

>17 tonikat: Lovely review, tonikat!

Feb 5, 10:40am Top

>17 tonikat:, >18 Linda92007: really compelling!

Feb 6, 5:52am Top

>18 Linda92007: , >19 ipsoivan: thank you both, put a smile on my face.

Feb 7, 1:58am Top

Nice review of Alice Oswald's poetry. There aren't that many reviews of poetry on Club Read any more.

Edited: Feb 7, 5:15am Top

>21 edwinbcn: Then let us cultivate them, but not mass produce. Thanks.

Edited: Feb 8, 6:23pm Top

Enjoyed your review and thoughts on the thing in the gap stone stile.

The section of the poem you quoted with the image of blue jackets filling up like kingfishers has a very arresting penultimate line: to be a feathered nerve to take the crack.... has all sorts of different associations.

Edited: Feb 14, 1:16pm Top

no argument there bas. Especially after my late waking up. Though you have missed a comma. I think I was reading her as sometimes highlighting another way of being, as poetic, as different at times and missed the most obvious. I suppose that in my quote I have missed any reference to the road and when I wrote my reaction I was very taken with the comparison between the road and river, and the picture she gave me of kingfishers flying upstream.

edit (14/2/17) - I'm not sure I am as confident of the associations you aver now bas, they may be there, but the comma is important and the focus is definitely on the last line, there may be something there as you seem to suggest, as allusion, and if I am understanding you rightly. I'm not sure how I would wax lyrical in those directions, in fact better not to, would not...and important for her method that she approaches this in such ways, for example with the title poem...I got an impression, if you think of the idea of figure and ground of her finding ways of allowing the ground to speak in a way whilst we have the figure, and that may be true in what you say. I was reading this naively as a way to approach Being, but clearly a huge aspect of that is gender. I'm not sure how much I took that for granted or was slightly out of focus about or merely as above. Something to stay with.

Feb 18, 12:35pm Top

The Surrender by Scott Esposito

Just finished this this morning – three essays following their acceptance of who they are. I'm cautious about pronouns and labels, especially the latter as is Scott I guess though they discuss several and also their lack of feeling for them or from them, crossdresser, transvestite, transgender.

A very interesting read – much I recognise even as its in its own slightly different tone, of course. Scott has a well known blog, reads keenly, moves in literary circles, is an author. So his thoughts maybe can chime especially with my own. I simply enjoyed the paragraphs of things read in several years in the final essay, much of which I wish i had read myself, but also helpful in that it was an amount I could grasp reading - I wonder if he read more and didn't mention it all, just the best (went for he as he's published as Scott, let's not overdo it Toni).

I am struck by how much of trans experience is about relationships to labels – I have these ideas myself already, but interesting to see how another experiences these and how hard it is to break out of trying to fit self to a definition, which seems to offer the answer to who we are whereby all may slip into place…but which may in fact totally distance us from our own process, our own feeling as ambiguous and before and beyond labels.

And this is not just true of trans, surely – and it may be one reason some people hate trans people as they throw into question the certainty or answers these labels give them.

Even in breaking from fitting self to the labels that allow hiding, it is hard to avoid yet other labels in seeking to find self and know what we are and be able to say that to others.

Again it occurs to me how essential a part of teaching the limits of knowledge and language are and to allow people to experience themselves and themselves in relation to such possibilities and their boundaries — how hard that is to show in our modern fast lives of answers.

This book especially interesting as presenting the process of such struggles and seekings, apparently honestly, a wonderful thing to share, very real. There is a great richness of experience to it, shared without tidying up for an accepted narrative and destination,. I could understand so much - how in explaining this part of yourself it may be so taboo or impossible that you doubt it even as you say it and so that opens ways that may allow yourself and others to deny it. Or how difficult it can be to simply cross the door step for the first time, or having gone out initially how it may be hard to get the key in the door due to shaking - for having left the house, not even been accosted in any way. Or what its like to wear nail polish for the first time and have it on even times you cannot wholly present as you'd like -- and what it is like when people notice it yet are nice. It would be great if the book helped even one other person in knowing they are not alone.

I totally get where the title is coming from and which Scott touches on towards the end of the book. I'm cautious of that label myself, I may prefer embrace or some other word. But don't doubt the validity of it and relevance of it to break out of the knots of denial of self -- and can see how important that was in Scott's process, I respect it for him. Maybe I should try a bit more surrendering too myself, without getting too Mills & Boon. But it is something that can help, I know that, not doubt yourself even as you are yourself, bor-ing.

It's also given me a need to watch some films by Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami, whom I've not seen before - especially Close-up which is central to the second essay.

A wonderful book, maybe not for everyone, maybe I am somewhere in its core audience, in sympathies not just of gender but of writing and reading. It seems to me it may also be one that may yet develop further iteration, I hope so.

Feb 19, 2:37pm Top

ok, so understand no rush to respond on that one, lets see this year so far have covered love going wrong, mental health, gender, and further, transgender...I'm still thinking about Heaney, but may he be safer ground, maybe not, the Troubles.

Feb 26, 5:55pm Top

It's good to see The Guardian still doing such reporting. I hope it survives the sleeper bot apocalypse!

Feb 26, 6:31pm Top

who knows

Mar 1, 3:25pm Top

That wasn't a very good reply to you Sassy...I meant I was at a bit of a loss for words.


I'm having a very fallow time with reading. The Surrender bucked a trend. It could be a bit annoying as I have more time to read than usual, even though I have lots of things to do I have a bit more time for it all. But no I'm almost at a standstill - read a few articles, read more Emily Dickinson - But the bio of Blake and Great Expectations are at a standstill. I'm at the start of part three of GE. In a way I don't know what is the matter with me. In a way I don't care I'm letting myself realise. I had two weeks at the end of January like this and found I started to write a bit myself as a result. I'm not particularly getting anything writing wise at the mo and unlike then also have no focus to prompt me, for now. I had to miss the group on later Heaney this week too due to a meeting. I have enjoyed seeing a couple of documentaries - one by Heaney that I find very rich called 'Something to write home about', I saved it when shown after he passed away, I find its effect powerful and find it very beautiful -- it reminded me of my own childhood, in a totally different experience sort of way. The other a documentary by Irish TV, also very good.

I can't remember such a period for me for a few years. My routine has been shaken up a bit. I like the word fallow for it. On the other hand part of it came with a kind of reassessment or different sense of reading - questioning the point a bit - did I just say that -- but yes I did. I guess reached more towards achieving some things and with reaching those goals that sense that hey, life didn't change that much -- and so much in the world so much more important. Myy own writing, important as it is to me, just more words amidst the noise. None of this in a depressed way especially - but a realistic way I think...is it in the preface to Wittgenstein's Tractatus he speaks of how little is achieved in achieving what he does. Well I'm sure I have not done anything like he, but a similar feeling - one I remember from achieving what I wanted with a qualification once. Fallow time and reassessment of perspective.

I think I've been working quite hard at my reading - that is probably at least a bit evident from my threads. I've not studied lit as lit really since the most basic level. Kind of surprised myself with getting into writing poetry and having done so maybe making up for lost time and feeling I need to have read more to be able to practice. But with it can go some sense of playfulness, maybe -- that's probably going too far. It's a mystery to me why I wasn't reading poetry more at a younger age, despite loving it. Maybe that explains why I do now. But I cannot force feed it. As I type this I also think hey why not just read some different things, but no, no appetite for others' language really or structure of thought. That reminds me I sometimes get a sense that in reading others their language and thinking starts to structure my own, and part of this gap was quite enjoying just putting my own more into neutral, to find their own gear...but when I first stop reading I can feel just that, in neutral, drifting for a few days.

Of course I did read Field Work and The Surrender -- and also got back to Dickinson, I probably read at least a hundred of her poems...its interesting working through the collected (I'm reading Johnson's 1955 reading volume) when you come upon a famous one, like 'oh here it is' but of course the sense that this is where it came in her own process not really correct at all. I'd not been able to read her at all in a very busy autumn - not for want of it, but as I felt so far away from the space I needed to really feel for her, I was too busy...or at least feel as I had in the summer. I started another biography of her too, but that has to go on hold, too many other priorities. I also did read some criticism of her, some of a collection of essays, some from pre Johnson/1955 but most from then until the early 60's. Some of that somewhat infuriating - prompted me to learn about Yvor Winters and read an interesting article about him.

The tone of commenting on others' work is so important - I keep rediscovering that, and practicing it poorly myself...or even this which may be unnecessary comment for many a reader here. I suppose as with last summer trying to find my way to my own rhythm - I'm tempted to read some of the research on 'Flow' but also think when I am feeling this way may be far better to feel my own way with my own...and exploring and trying to find ways to work towards following my own bliss, as Joseph Campbell argued - it occurred to me that may be an aspect of what in Christianity is called the Holy Spirit. Campbell took this himself from one part of an ancient teaching in sanskrit, I forget what it was in, it was one of three ideas, the one which he felt he had some understanding of and that he came to take as a motto.

I was reading Red Pine's commentary on The Heart Sutra too - but that also has gone on hold, though I have thought about the sutra a lot, its view of wisdom and its concluding mantra, which seems so valid in our knowledgable times. Maybe that explains some of this sense I have too - I hadn't thought of that. Oh.

I had a bit of a sense that I should be doing a lot more and achieving more completion in my reading, but don't have it that much anymore. This fallowness feels alright, suggests meadows.


(I decided it was ok to go on posting here as those articles above really only mention facebook.)

Edited: Mar 26, 8:10am Top

Introducing Hegel: a graphic guide by Lloyd Spencer and Andrzej Krauze, kindle ed.

I enjoy these guides sometimes, as a great overview. This was no disappointment.

I thought I would read some Hegel, I'm also about two thirds of the way through the amazing preface to his Phenomenology. I've long meant to and was prompted this time as I saw the film Arrival and then read the short story on which it was based - both wonderful, though aware of the film, whilst I love it of mixing styles a bit, maybe doing what Tarkovsky warned against in his book a bit. It prompted me for some reason in its talk of teleology and also as so many critics speak of Hegelian coming to presence in movies and I've always wanted to read more of this. Reading this reminded me of lectures and classes I had entirely forgotten which spoke of Hegel in some detail but I am sure I have not read the man himself, yet have also remembered how often in such classes I always thought I should, no doubt other areas demanded focus first, unfortunately.

This overview was a great reminder and of his importance. He is great on process, the whole of it and not just a teleological view - the process not complete until its end and then all of its parts, not just product - this resonates with my counselling and I'm trying to follow up on how far this influenced Carl Rogers, which I'm sure I have heard of but not (re)discovered reference to yet. Also his idea of the master/slave relationship, so influential and of the primitive, classical and romantic in art, but which I see maybe in other ideas. Reading more of him has also reopened the way to many more thinkers for me.

It's slow progress with the preface - I raced to where I am and then I think I've been digesting it for two weeks or so and no wish to go further. I will. Then maybe even more slowly move beyond that, partly due to having so many practical things to do at the moment.

I have read a bit more than I was, made a little progress on Blake and with Pip's expectations. But also various reading on Chinese poetry and especially Li Bai. Also a little other progress, Seamus Heaney and Emily Dickinson (I'm looking forward to the new film on her). I was drawn to try and write something today as I got an email it is my thinganniversary, I'd been looking forward to this but had quite forgotten, it put my change of focus recently into perspective as posting my thoughts and feelings on my reading in the last ten years has been A Very Good Thing for me.

Edited: Mar 26, 3:26pm Top

I have not kept up with films seen in general or in the course I am taking on romantic films, where love goes wrong. We have seen some amazing films on the course, two of which I missed. it has introduced me to Jaques Demy, Julio Medem and Wong Kar-Wai and further educated me to Max Ophuls, Bergman and Milos Forman. Last week we watched -

Lovers of the Arctic Circle d. Julio Medem

This was such a beautiful film, so moving. As the credits rolled my emotions just kept building, when they stopped I needed to step out for a moment, very unusual for me.

What can I say - an film I now Love. It seemed to me that it had some conceit, in a way that in some ways made me think of Amelie of explaining through apparent tangents why or maybe how things happen or come to -- and this for me then makes its ending exceptionally powerful and of another tone altogether to Amelie. In the process it never seemed short of wonderful and wholly made sense of these people, for me...and in so doing took a hammer to my frozen lake - opened the world, the universe, myself and so others, to me. Added all his films to my list to see asap, had missed these.

In the Mood for Love d. Wong Kar-Wai

And who'd have thought this week could compare -- and yet it did. Not surpassing, to compare in that way is nonsense. They are each their unique wholes. but this too is a film I now Love. I've watched it again already.

A film framed by quotations - are they poetry I wondered, are they famous Chinese poetry ,it is not credited, I think it more likely they are the writer/director's. A film partly influenced by an earlier 1948 Chinese masterpiece Springtime in a small town. As such it reminds me of Chinese poetry in a reexamination of those themes, as so much poetry does. Also the way it does so - surely one of the most poetic films I have ever seen...linear time challenged, the passing of time observed, the feeling of the time summoned, I guess.

The story? Two married couples have rooms next door to each other. A romance occurs -- and a relationship between those left. A relationship we never know for sure as to whether it is consumated - the film perhaps like classical Chinese drama or poetry assumes that Confucian impulse to be an example. Restrained passion. Many may think of Brief Encounter. I wondered of these two almost as written characters written into their roles, wife, husband and respecting their tradition whilst also exploring its limits their limits to change. Perhaps we see how far they may in the end. As such I think it also had wider redolence as to the passing of time in general and these particular times, the effect/affect of the Communist revolution (we are in Hong Kong), post war capitalism, a challenge perhaps to traditional themes that seem so much to frame the film for me. I also think it passes beyond the individual before our eyes. Beyond the particular through being so particular. Its ending for me wholly worked and gave a dizzying perspective, which tended to the eternal whilst remaining wholly bound to eternity of the discrete particular.

I - am - a - fan. It is aesthetically beautiful and obviously so in content but also in form and I feel has the deepest narrative and philosophical substance, whilst a poem only. I am grateful to have seen it. It is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen, beyond my words.

It helps.

Mar 26, 4:30pm Top

Haven't seen Lovers of the Arctic Circle, but In the Mood for Love is definitely one of the best films going. Maggie Cheung is amazing and the mood here is done so well. Tony Leung also does another excellent performance in Lust, Caution

Sounds like a fun course. May I recommend Love in the Time of Cholera from 2007 with Javier Bardem which I just saw? I was surprised it wasn't in Spanish given the cast, but it was well done.

What other films are on tap.

Edited: Mar 26, 6:10pm Top

Yes I should have mentioned both actors -- they are beautiful, wonderful and amazing in what they convey. As also is the look achieved for them, her dresses are amazing. I was thinking, I have a poet friend who has spoken to me of the need to inhabit content in poetry or drama...and here I had a very thorough sense that this film, and so all its parts, are thoroughly steeped in what is conveyed. Given that it was not shot in Hong Kong at all that is very interesting.

It is much fun. I have not read that Marquez and so have put off seeing the film, perhaps I should not.

Recent powerful films - I love Paterson, went to see it twice and it should arrive on dvd release tomorrow.

From this course I saw Smiles of a summer night again and loved it all the more. We watched Lola and I am now in love with Jaques Demy's films on that basis - another to work through. Then Marriage Italian Style d. Vittorio de Sica - was wonderful, highly strange in a modernist sort of way, Sophia Loren gorgeous and acting wonderfully...a film that is often dismissed as Italian romcom and lesser de Sica but seemed, whilst one that in a way makes itself hard to love, was at the same time important and probably influential (its ending made me wonder how far it may have influenced the not long after Taming of the Shrew (Taylor/Burton) (just me and the Italian mise en scene at the end?). Then we saw Loves of a Blonde which I'd never heard of but which was wonderful and must be hugely influential - Ken Loach for example was, and also I saw a big influence, especially in one sequence, on the recent film Ida which I also Love. So now have seen quite a bit of Forman. I then missed two films, Play it again Sam which I have never ever seen (!), I think, but have bought and also a film called Confidence from Hungary which would very much like to see now. Next week we conclude with a Mexican film (take that DT) called Blue Eyelids (as if I would) directed by Ernesto Contreras which must be good to round off one of these courses.

I'm not a lot more sure of love as a result - but maybe a few things to avoid, not least having too sure an idea what it is, perhaps or expecting it to go right. Marvellous course though.

Three non course films that have stood out - Black Mountain poets which I found funny and lyrical with a great Zen/poetry joke; Arrival as I said above, loved it but feel a bit guilty as it was not wholly Tarkovskian, no not that at all really, but mainstream that somehow also involved me very powerfully; Seymour: An Introduction d. Ethan Hawke, not Salinger but completely invigorating and heart helping, I have bought Seymour's book about playing the piano as a result, as though i don't, but hope to, it has a lot of stuff in it helpful to me the counsellor, the poet, the person.

Mar 28, 9:31am Top

sorry probably too much, an info splurge.

Edited: Mar 29, 11:44am Top

I was thinking about Tolstoy yesterday. The man who concluded that art was about the transmission of feeling between one person and another and at its highest the transmission of religious or spiritual feeling. And having concluded this how he then concluded that most of his own work did not match his own standards for what art should be - including War and Peace and Anna Karenina.

So, my thought was I usually think of this as meaning that they did not have a message as clearly as later work, that they did not clearly enough for him teach of the religious insight he later had. But then yesterday I thought about it sightly differently - I thought about it as a tone or feeling he may set for a piece, as poetry may do, and then explore that tone, transmitting it. I wondered if the very realism of those novels might have been part of what he disliked, that it may have diverted from the tone he wanted in showing other tones, and so for him losing clarity.

I'm sure this isn't a new idea, it seemed new to me. In a way I don't remember in detail what he says of his own work other than dismissing much of it apart from a few later pieces (in what is art anyway)...of course other work followed it which I had thought of, perhaps, in terms of singularity of message, but will now wonder about that tone.

This also gives me personal questions in our plural world and seems to me also part of the question of some division in the world, whereby some would insist on their prime important tone and how it must be sung, and others are diverse and exploring and busy with other aspects of their ear, eye and all.

I guess it means I must go back to What is art?

Edited: Mar 29, 3:44pm Top

More thoughts - I was thinking about my collection having posted on the questions for the avid reader thread - and thinking about my 'collections' and how I have tried to rediscover my priorities and what I really desire to read amongst what I have. I suddenly thought it has been like I have been mining and have a huge heap of excavated rock, some of it richer ore than others, at least for me. Something to think on. Get back to a book, or something Kat.

Edited: Apr 7, 6:07pm Top

I've been thinking about the tone of voice I post in - I think I come here a bit gushing at times..I do like to share enthusiasm and feeling, but don't want it to be habitual.

In CBT self help I've come across the idea for people feeling stressed to deliberately act calm and how this can actually help us be calm. I don't feel stressed but I had the interesting idea that the tone i use may be a way of trying to summon or find my way towards what it would have - playful lucidity perhaps, charm yet understanding. I don't know, maybe I do myself down and like with poems where writing mostly doesn't just come, or even the first lines, so no surprise to try and summon and work our way toward such things. But having thought this it makes me think again about what I would like to achieve and how.

I've written quite a bit about conveying feeling and this tone may be that typical way of doing so friendly, I hope, open, feeling based and trying to balance serious/playful and witty. It is influenced by deliberately trying not to write too academically or like some student essay or would be serious review...without hopefully losing seriousness. But to be real. I also write and post quite quickly which may also influence this - that tone may in fact be about trying to catch spontaneity too.

I don't want to navel gaze too much - so, stop - just something I am thinking about. I also think a lot about Nietzsche in The Birth of Tragedy when he moves from speaking of Ancient Greece to also speak of his own time and how he carried the same authority in how he spoke, when it occurred to me that that may not be quite appropriate. So, here, I wonder if I look for the tone I may have with things I have very much connected to, or maybe read around about more or even studied with others, when I may not have as much claim to speak as such -- which may even be a species of being a bit dumb, is it Socrates' view of what is stupid to pretend you know things you don't...something I've definitely done as an adult, as I got older, more than as a child...and something in a way I sometimes feel the world invites.

I don't always have as much time to think on this and what I do -- so habit does come into it if writing quickly.

I suppose not far behind in my thoughts might be thoughts of other writing and as ever poetry. I won't drone on about that -- but it does then also make me think about who I am writing for...I guess it may be I do so to some extent to the people that have interacted on my threads over the years, some sadly not about here these days...but I wonder if in being conversational and informal if tone changes, maybe that is obvious. There is always the danger of sticking to a tone that has succeeded...maybe mo so if writing less seriously (?). To be continued - more in action than in words, may try drafting and then sleeping on reviews, spontaneity still in them, but chance of revision...just spontaneity not immediately shared, which may be good, the discipline of not speaking when you want to.

Right - so in actual reading I've been reading essays in the Oxford lectures of Christopher Ricks and James Fenton - The Force of Poetry and The Strength of Poetry respectively. I find Ricks more technical and a lovely understander - what Auden said of him as a critic poets dream of is famous, and I can understand it. A friend signposted me to the essays on Wordsworth and I loved them both. Fenton's lectures also fascinating - less technical, but still fascinating - especially enjoyed him on Larkin and Auden. Lots of essays still to read, though can find that hard of poets I have not read, there are still some I have some awareness of.

Apr 7, 7:56pm Top

First off, I really want to have a look at Ricks and Fenton.

And secondly, as someone who has to do a lot of both formal and informal writing for work, I hear you on managing tone. I find that I often have to draft and revise my writing at work because I can't get the sound I want spontaneously. So, a kind of polishing goes into achieving the sound of spontaneity, but not real spontaneity.

On LibraryThing, I give myself (usually) permission to just write spontaneously, which may not come read as spontaneous as if I had revised.

Edited: Apr 8, 6:19am Top

I hope you enjoy those lectures, have a lot of faith you will.

Thank you for your words and experience. I write a lot at work, clinical notes and letters mostly - so this is different. I also don't get to talk about reading much, I'm not in my group these days. Did enjoy the few Heaney classes/groups I went to. But have also been developing as a writer, so I suppose this is an outlet to talkbooks (boy is it ever from confines) and write about them...so maybe, undeliberately, since I was first on LT for all my spontaneity I am also working on something in myself. Now, do I let that go a bit to just chat...nah, not entirely, but will be more careful with it - maybe more variety in approach and chat.

There is something in just reaching the summit of reading a book also that influences tone - a wish to share (hopefully) the exhilaration (hopefully) of the view...but am going to try and think on that a bit and my drive to.

spontaneously revised spontaneity,
unspontaneously devised spontaneity,
spontaneous combustion,
oh my!

permissions granted
unbound license ahoy
let's laugh me hearties,
when we can,
and turn the page
to snow

Apr 9, 9:09am Top

: )))

Apr 12, 6:41am Top

Of course, in time, the task is to respect new snow despite the mess we've had, the tracks, find a way to help them and on.

I just read Fenton's final chapter on Auden. Beautiful and Auden's poetry.

Can we help though? Find our humanity, cherish, nurture it in ourselves, all others?

But I came back to say no tone is perfect, cannot be, to self or others, none complete, none impervious to striking a wrong note for self or others in their tune. Remember this, try to hit notes with thought of others, remember this when that cannot be done. Remember we must play, for myself, others too for themselves, remember it of each other...and through it find where we are, have been, could go.

Edited: May 3, 7:55pm Top

April articles


posted to keep track - I had a very Joseph Campbell type day yesterday to which this is all very relevant after a week in which it was relevant...rewriting a myth, wondering about form, reconnecting to not knowing it but feeling connected to it.

http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/dickens/dickens4.html - Dickens and Religion/Christianity

http://www.the-tls.co.uk/articles/public/hunt-the-slipper/ - Roland Barthes on language (from 1971)

May articles




Edited: May 1, 3:44pm Top

Of course also aware of what I say in writing about others writing - its so easy to start getting lost in the truth/s I pursue and judging others by them -- or maybe seeming to even when not doing so -- so always want to remain provisional, write of my feeling, not start taking myself too seriously.

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (Kindle ed.)

A book I am glad to have eventually read, and sad I did not as a young person, as it gave exactly what I sought, perspective on paths taken, what counts.

A tale of young Pip, scared out of his wits and guilty and ashamed of it. Of his encounters with Miss Havisham and her young ward, who she's come to twist away from her own heart. Of Pip's fall into some Great Expectations and in that perhaps a parable of how people may fall...perhaps did fall in those times of class and opportunity...into wanting to make themselves into something they perhaps barely understood, but which meant so much, gentlemandom, so easily misunderstood...and especially so when so much is available to distract ourselves with, entertain, act the part, lose touch with heart...and how what is most important may effectively be undervalued in the glare of this other thing, amidst even those trying and aiming at that, giving it...and all the social and personal lostnesses in between.

We see Pip finally meet just what those expectations mean, reality, and in doing so losing everything - very nearly.
There is a turn towards the end, which I won't give away, but which I could wonder if it makes the actual ending all a dream, a false ending. Even as I see it also as not -- and that final ending, one which in its very end some quibble with, I found quite beautiful, wholly earned for any lightness on the female side, a story trusted in...and a welling up in the eyes as I think of its beauty. A triumph.

He is often described as sentimental - I can see that, but these are the sentiments of the desperate, those that know the value of what they choose, what they must hold onto. It seems to me that Pip finds what is most in his heart, what most needs to be done to live authentically, and finds this in a difficult way, with no further expectations beyond knowing his mistake and living in light of them daily.

I was thinking of Dickens as a very Christian writer -- and know this is not simply so, a very knowing relationship to organised religion there. But I was glad to find this, the quote from a letter he wrote therein which supports my feeling:


I am interested in his episodic writing and was also interested to learn that he listened to feedback from his public when he decided on plot turns. The feeling I have of him is he'd find his way back to showing some important aspect of life that goes beyond his words but in which they steep and beyond no matter what plot turn he took. I value what he shows very highly. His capturing of characters quite unforgettable and honest - for all modern psychobabbley insights and knowingness (amidst some that may label him sentimental) still of course such a rare talent, I think...or maybe I have been reading the wrong people. A book to be grateful for.

My copy included an essay on it by George Bernard Shaw - he has high praise but then seems not to get some of what I valued the book for, it led me to wonder if he was deliberately writing to be argued with so we argue ourselves to what is right, would that be didactic? Kind of socratic didactic? I have no idea, if so then a very generous thing to do, but on the other hand I think i largely just did not agree -- but I'm not going to reread him now in taking myself so seriously and launching into academic arguments, i can't even remember the exact things i disagreed with.

Now to decide on my next and when it may be a journey to embark upon.

May 2, 2:48am Top

>46 tonikat: Knowing GBS (but not having read that essay, AFAIK), I should think your guess is quite likely to be right. He was a great believer in tricking people into using their brains.

Dickens is someone we should certainly read when we're young, but it doesn't really matter if you haven't, because you're likely to get something quite different out of the books when you read them later in life. I was put off him as a child by the sentimentality of David Copperfield and didn't really come back to him until I read Bleak House in my student days (and of course thought "Wow - this guy can write!"). The real problem with Victorian fiction is the time investment, though. When I was 12 I would have thought nothing of tackling something the length of Little Dorrit on a 2 week library loan (with four or five other books), but these days...

Edited: May 2, 8:21am Top

>47 thorold: lol well he just annoyed me a bit. I don't like trickery like that (if that's what it was).

Yes I wish i had tried him more when young. He was definitely seen by my peers as well uncool...and surrounded by the trappings of progress I feel I ignored him. He is a time commitment, this is true, but feels well worth it at the mo.

edit - I did get a bit emotional there in my review - but I think the truth of a heart was tended to at the end, whether real a rebirth or realised in a dream (and a rebirth), which makes me think of Keats on the holiness of the heart, perhaps.

May 2, 7:47pm Top

>47 thorold:, >48 tonikat: I've moved in and out of reading Dickens. I enjoyed him as a teen. When I was in my impatient 20s and 30s, I tended to dismiss him until, like thorold, I read Bleak House. At first, Esther's cloying voice just about did me in, but with further development, I began to see why he is considered such a great novelist. I need to get back to him--it's been a few years, and a few decades since my epiphany.

May 3, 5:50am Top

>49 ipsoivan: "impatient 20s and 30s", so it's not just me. He's a great novelist - I'm seeing some of the criticism, for example lack of depth in his portrayals or of psychology, as perhaps even a sign of his greatness, something understood and chosen to be painted with another brush stroke, and in that an interesting respect, possibly, for others and boundaries, something very human in his way -- and no loss of vividness of the characters in that.

May 3, 8:30am Top

>50 tonikat: Yes, we can't really expect realism from him, which is where I failed as a reader in the past. I learned to just sit back and appreciate his stylized depictions. And I learned to live with his archness.

May 14, 3:53pm Top

^ he is wonderful.

I've been thinking that not giving us loads of interior psychology might be quite realistic in itself. His archness I need to think about, and read more to be able to do so.

May 16, 3:55pm Top

The Other Voice by Octavio Paz

It has reoccurred to me that one thing underlying my thoughts on style is also that, as a poet (of some kind, not everyone may agree) and as someone developing in lots of ways that I may stumble into trying to talk seriously or review when only partly credentialed in a way, or trying to appear that way, or falling into trying to when I should not -- and so maybe I stick a bit in writing about poetry read or poetics and some other things. So as always in my comments, discussing what strikes me, makes me feel and not intending any would magisterial pomposity.

This was first published in 1990, the year Octavio Paz was awarded the Nobel Prize. It's a collection of essays on modern poetry. It got my attention as I saw a remark by him somewhere about Emily Dickinson in comparison to Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz and I hoped there would be more on this therein (there was on Sor Juana but not really in comparison as I remember it). It's been some weeks since I read it - I will read it again to become more familiar with it.

It was helpful to read as it begins with a consideration of extended poems - long poems. These are something I am not well read of - even Homer or Milton, I've not even finished Wordsworth's prelude for all I am loving it. His tone has authority - he clearly has read them, read them well and has of course also written significant long poetry. Incidentally he makes a very interesting comment as to how the Anglophone critics had neglected Spanish speaking work. he also, I now understand, had written a book on Sor Juana - who now interests me, but perhaps this explains his bias to her, whom the remark I saw he thought more a first class thinker than Emily.

I won't try to summarise his arguments - they are written very accessibly, whilst also clearly engaged with the problems of writing and where it was at at the time he wrote (that first essay in fact came from the mid 70's). Curiously I now find it hard to really remember the structure of his argument - but his tone was very interesting. I remember feeling he sometimes wandered in his own directions and I remember thinking in one of his readings he missed something...oh dear, now I am going to have to get the book to clarify that...

ah yes, looking at the book again reminds me how interesting to me the themes he identified were, but also how some of his interest was just a bit different to mine, or how I'd seen it (not saying his is not the better). But one chapter is about the idea of 'the few and the many' -- which, take 'et pluribus unum' for example, is an idea that fascinates me. In discussing it and the men and women that read poems he quotes a Juan Ramon Jimenez dedication to a book - "To the immense minority" -- and I was a bit frustrated in his thinking on this that I did not see him consider that in the individual, perhaps psychologically, in our relation to ourselves - my poetic self can be an immense minority, I think...I mean it's vast, maybe the majority even, but seems minority in how far it is released or I am in touch with it, but once you do, well, that is well known to be different in scale, quality etc. This may be a pedants point - and maybe just mine in terms of where I was as I read...and he was just going other places with what he wrote.

Overall it was well worth reading, a lovely tone and interest throughout - I will read again and need to think on it all much more (read more long poems). Not least, and another reason I read it was as I had drafted my longest poem yet, and most successfully for me for something long(ish -- not in comparison to the poems he discusses). It is interesting too in terms of how it has dated and how it has not and also how whilst not dating in some way how what has happened may be slightly different to what he muses on as may have happened in the years after publication.

It ends -

"If human beings forget poetry, they will forget themselves. And return to original chaos."

this is both individually and socially and culturally of immense relevance of course. I forgot poetry once. I see its loss as significant in many ways far beyond me and nothing directly to do with me, in our fast, mediated world. Everyone has poetry in them, I believe, if they can learn to recognise what is their own, if they are not confused by what they learn of as poetry and if those that think they know, are culturally invested as knowing what poetry is, do not inhibit others to silence through the demands of their own aesthetic.

May 16, 4:09pm Top

>53 tonikat: Thanks - another very interesting review, and someone else I've felt vaguely guilty about not reading. Obviously I should. I've got The labyrinth of solitude on my TBR, but I feel more attracted by reading what he has to say about poetry...

May 16, 5:22pm Top

^ thank you - I want to read his poetry now, and a lot of the lots of poetry he referenced.

May 19, 9:10am Top

I've gone back to Tolstoy's Wise Thoughts for Every Day, as not having them may not have helped, it is good to have them when things are challenging and/or if you're not reading so much. Today, amidst all my concerns about reading on these threads, he says:

"If we could think independently, we could do without a lot of unnecessary reading. it is harmful to read too much. The greatest thinkers I've met amongst scholars were those who read the least.

If you read bad books, you cannot read too few; if you read good books, you cannot read too many. Bad books are like moral poison." (May 19)

Food for thought, and a good excuse for my lower numbers of books finished.

I'm reading small bits of a number of things, not so much of those foci I have at the top of the thread, alas. One book that is delighting me is Finding them gone: visiting China's poets of the past by Red Pine...following a thirty day pilgrimage to memorial halls and graves and containing a sample of poems he translates from each poet. I knew China loved poetry, but this has opened my eyes.

One book I have finished is:

The Strength of Poetry by James Fenton

I don't want to say too much about this book - his Oxford lectures. It is not as technical as Christopher Ricks' book but just as enjoyable. I've not read all the poets Seamus Heaney's book contains and so have not read all of his book, but here I think the only poet I had not read (as a main subject) was Marianne Moore and he's got me to buy a copy of her first collection.

Elizabeth Bishop comments in an essay on reading one summer, if I remember right, how important it is when reading poetry to also learn of the poet, of their context. These essays read as appreciations of poets and their circumstances - I find him generous towards them an well read of their work to at once show them as people and clarify their work, not stuck in the everyday view of them, seeing through to some of their dynamic and care and respecting their person-ness beyond rumour about them and beyond their own apparent words, greatly enjoyable.

I stalled in reading it when he spoke of Marianne Moore at first and quoting Germaine Greer on female poets lacking role models. However when I went back his take on Moore, Bishop and then Plath seemed very sensitive and makes the point that whilst Moore was cautious of feminism she was very involved in liberation of women, though may have preferred to see herself as a poet, not confined as a female poet. He moved to speak of Bishop and her experience of such tensions before concluding with a chapter on Plath that clarifies how she in her later generation and with her specific concerns so clearly needed to identify herself as poetess, whilst Moore and I think Bishop he'd argue would have been happy to be seen as poets.

It's a book I'll definitely reread and think on. having spoken of these female poets he moves on to consider D. H. Lawrence very interestingly and dynamics that informed him, which I was not entirely aware of, including some views on sexuality. Before a conclusion with three excellent chapters on Auden, whom i understand he knew, and again clarifying context and intent and point of view for Auden.

Earlier in the book he'd looked at Larkin (fascinating, especially about his father's views of Nazi's and an interesting analysis of a dynamic for Larkin) and also had looked at Heaney and Wilfred Owen and at some other aspects of poetry.

A fascinating book full of interesting comments and detail. Lots for me to think on and reread about, maybe as i read these poets.

May 19, 3:59pm Top

>46 tonikat: Just catching up here. I first read Great Expectations around age 9 and loved it. It is a book I have reread several times at about five year intervals and each time I get something different out of it. Over the years I have moved from the childhood terror of Magwitch, the teenage fascination with Estella and the abhorrence of Miss Havisham, into actually looking at the individual characters and developing a real appreciation of the more minor ones and the way they tie the story together.

All that is by way of saying keep reading it and others of his work in the years to come.

Edited: Today, 7:21am Top

>57 SassyLassy: great advice - I miss all those rereads and ways it was not a thread in my life before now, not in this full way.

edit - but good to know its been there for you, for others, that somehow seems in keeping with the spirit of the book.

Edited: May 20, 9:32am Top

Random thought - do you ever read a book and start to think something like 'hey this is another chalked off, another for the list, another for this year's total?'..cos when I do think something like that, unless it is like flying along or short short, I think that is the beginning of disengagement stuckness, barrenness...it's taking me out of I-thou with it and into I-it, it's undermining the whole experience with a good book, undermining the feeling, presence, freedom within it. I've stopped giving my list numbers, I think I did last year too...and have done that in the past on some past threads, though when time comes to be looking back it can then be harder/more work to get these numbers when you want to review, but I think it's part of this. Maybe its just my own madness, but chime away if it make any sense.

Something in me increasingly needs to commit more and more to I-thou not I-it...and that is ok, in fact that is best, it is only what it is all about, what I-thou, which is what all is all about...the rest is just counting and classifying.

Somehow this is related to having seen another screening of All About Eve last night -- as I feel Bette Davis' character is very I-thou (though often lost in that and in the I-it her success has generated), she is at least in touch with heart and whatever role she has there is always more of her -- whereas Eve is very I-it...she is not worshipping heart but chasing after an object, and so whilst some may read the title as a comment on women in general, I think I prefer to read it as a comment on this Eve and anyone making her mistake, as somehow this really is all there is about this Eve...though at the end I think she starts to get more reality. I also think the films self reference and apparent comment on superficiality of film somehow comments to draw attention to the unreality of such a clear cut case study, as this can never be all there is about Eve, or about any person, though yes the rest may be very hidden.

Edited: Yesterday, 2:50pm Top

I may be repeating myself but it also occurred to me that I let go of books sometimes when their grip is lost on me somewhat - emotional excitement about reading it, gone or going. I have definitely said before but it may also be not moving through some turn or knot in the book or in myself or in myself about reading the book. It just struck me today -- this week I am gripped by The Tartar Steppe and should finish it soon, having got stuck after chapter three sometime in the last year or so.

Last week I read I and Thou by Martin Buber translated by Walter Kaufmann. (Kindle ed.)

I really liked Kaufmann's translation and notes on translation - but have been stuck on his preface, the style did not sit well with me. He also does something Buber does not - he speaks of the possibility of It - It relationships (and others). This had occurred to me as I read but I noticed Buber did not speak of such relationships, but did instead speak of different aspects and ultimately wholenesses of the I. Maybe Kaufmann moves beyond this but it put me off and I must get back and complete his introduction. I'll add further comment on that as needed.

As to Buber's book - what can I say. Wonderful, a poetic book of the relationship between I and Thou...between each person and others and between each person and the divine. What a poetic book, I was highlighting passage after passage -- it really captures such times and such times in perspective when the relationship is lost too and we spend most of our time somehow related to its in the world (I - it, Buber's other mode), but knowing, partly with his help of this possibility of the Thou/s out there and for us to relate I - Thou, respecting ourselves and respecting the thou of others. A book to b grateful for and to return to. In a way he seemed quite against the idea of God inside us, as many mystics argue, and instead seemed to be suggesting a very hygienic relationship with others and the Other, and this was somehow refreshing and helpful and thought provoking. In that I - Thou relationship i think he'd also argue that we may be enfolded and experience this at our depths. His writing really transported me I felt, reminded me of this real experience and possibility that may give us such meaning

I read his dialogue with Carl Rogers a long time ago and would like to reread this, that was important to me. The story of Buber's questioning and thought stimulated by the traumatic loss of a friend is inspiring. This book seemed quite inspired to me. I also have his collection Between Man and Man and hope I can find time and energy to follow this stimulating reading up soon. A book of life, a book that may save life.

Group: Club Read 2017

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