Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Robes and Crowns


On writing: “we’re talking about the struggle to drag a thought over from the mush of the unconscious into some kind of grammar, syntax, human sense; every attempt means starting over with language. starting over with accuracy. i mean, every thought starts over, so every expression of a thought has to do the same. every accuracy has to be invented. . . . i feel i am blundering in concepts too fine for me.”

"The Inscrutable Brilliance of Anne Carson" in The New York Times

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In Ammons’s humanist revision, we must provide our own robes and crowns, conferring sanctity on ourselves without the help of divine grace.   The hymn’s shining river becomes the momentarily cooled glass within whose chinks and bubbles we conduct our lives.  In a typescript of the poem, Ammons crossed out the word “robe” and substituted “tam,” a playfully eccentric touch that tempers the Biblical solemnity of the original line.  As much as he loved the dignity and eloquence of the old hymns, Ammons often felt the need to set their language against other tones, some of them downright irreverent.  At times a jaunty tam suited him better than a pious crown. 

"Archie Ammons and the Poetry of Hymns" at the Best American Poetry Blog

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Samuel Johnson said, “It is certain that any wild wish or vain imagination never takes such firm possession of the mind, as when it is found empty and unoccupied.” He was speaking of melancholy, and how idleness and solitude feed it, undeniably and uncontrollably feed it. We all know this is true, and yet it is equally true that such a state will fund creativity; as artists we understand the vital necessity of wasting time, of loafing and doing nothing, and I was wondering what it is that causes the free and idle mind to go one way or the other—into obsessive melancholy or into creative fervor. What tips the scales, so to speak?

-Mary Ruefle's "Lectures I Will Never Give" at The Rumpus


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It was a sign, almost one hundred years ago, of the book beginning to achieve what most technology will never accomplish—the ability to disappear. Walk into the reading room of the New York Public Library and what do you see? Laptops. Books, like the tables and chairs, have receded into the backdrop of human life. This has nothing to do with the assertion that the book is counter-technology, but that the book is a technology so pervasive, so frequently iterated and innovated upon, so worn and polished by centuries of human contact, that it reaches the status of Nature.

"On the Business of Literature" from VQR

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