30 April 2010

Two recent encounters with shadows

'I am writing only for my shadow, which is now stretched across the wall in the light of the lamp. I must make myself known to him'.
from The Blind Owl (1937)
Sadeq Hedayat

Mac with Shadows (1981)
Maggi Hambling
Southampton Art Gallery

15 April 2010

Two new favourites: Robert Frost and Edna St Vincent Millay

Quandary
by Robert Frost

Never have I been glad or sad
That there was such a thing as bad.
There had to be, I understood,
For there to have been any good.
It was by having been contrasted
That good and bad so long had lasted.
That's why discrimination reigns.
That's why we need a lot of brains
If only to discriminate
'Twixt what to love and what to hate.
To quote the oracle at Delphi,
Love thy neighbor as thyself, aye,
And hate him as thyself thou hatest.
There quandary is at its greatest.
We learned from the forbidden fruit
For brains there is no substitute.
'Unless it's sweetbreads, ' you suggest
With innuendo I detest.
You drive me to confess in ink:
Once I was fool enough to think
That brains and sweetbreads were the same,
Till I was caught and put to shame,
First by a butcher, then a cook,
Then by a scientific book.
But ' twas by making sweetbreads do
I passed with such a high I.Q.


The Penitent
by Edna St Vincent Millay

I had a little Sorrow,
Born of a little Sin,
I found a room all damp with gloom
And shut us all within;
And, "Little Sorrow, weep," said I,
"And, Little Sin, pray God to die,
And I upon the floor will lie
And think how bad I've been!"

Alas for pious planning—
It mattered not a whit!
As far as gloom went in that room,
The lamp might have been lit!
My little Sorrow would not weep,
My little Sin would go to sleep—
To save my soul I could not keep
My graceless mind on it!

So I got up in anger,
And took a book I had,
And put a ribbon on my hair
To please a passing lad,
And, "One thing there's no getting by—
I've been a wicked girl," said I:
"But if I can't be sorry, why,
I might as well be glad!"

13 April 2010

Roland Barthes



'It is under the pressure of History and Tradition that the possible modes of writing for a given writer are established; there is a History of Writing. But the History proposes - or imposes - new problematics of the literary language, writing still remains full of the recollection of previous usage, for language is never innocent: words have a second-order memory which mysteriously persists in the midst of new meanings. Writing is precisely this compromise between freedom and remembrance, it is this freedom which remembers and is free only in the gesture of choice, but is no longer so within duration...And written trace precipitates, as inside a chemical at first transparent, innocent and neutral, mere duration gradually reveals in suspension a whole past of increasing density, like a cryptogram.'

Writing Degree Zero (1953)
p17