Walking the Brough of Birsay, Orkney

Here is an astonishing walk from mainland Orkney to that tidal island, the Brough of Birsay, and the Pictish, Viking and Christian monastic ruins there. Certainly there are longer and more exhausting walks, and perhaps there are more beautiful places to end up, but I’ve never had such a total experience, a combination of effort…

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A Gallery of Greeks & Romans

Talking with a friend about ancient Greece the other day reminded me of being in Athens back in 2007, and taking two days to wander through its National Archaeological Museum. The best part was all the faces, whether reliefs from numerous funeral stele, or the later busts of Roman emperors or other higher-ups. Nearly all…

3 People (Fiction)

(People is a collection of flash-fiction, usually 500-1000 words. Click here to find others as they are posted)    Hanna Verhoef Hanna Verhoef, 84. Suddenly awake in the still dark room, astonished by the lingering dream: Vienna during the war, warm milk, the small schoolroom. A boy whose name she didn’t remember, but one she…

“I respond more to revelation”: Hart Crane on Fire

Perhaps because he embodied that rarest of combinations—the energy and enthusiasm of youth, and actual genius—there are few writers better at articulating the fire of creation than Hart Crane. The following selection from his letters carries Crane from his early twenties to a few years before he died at thirty-two: here is is writing The…

William H. McNeill – History as Myth

Last Friday, the great historian William H. McNeill died. I still have surprisingly endearing memories of reading his A World History one winter, in the middle crowded New York City Wendy’s, surrounded by high school kids just done with their day, his narrative silencing every one and every thing. And this year during a brief…

A Bit of Late Yeats

For all those poets who feel guilty (or have been guilted) for not writing bad political poems—bad Brexit couplets, bad protest rants on racism, sexism, or Donald Trump poems that are as shitty as him—some advice from an aging Yeats is worth repeating:   Those Images What if I bade you leave The cavern of…