Reading 3 new poems: The Harvest of 1665, The Historian, Mr Cassian’s 54th Dream

On 8/26/20, a virtual book launch was held in London to celebrate three new titles published by Dempsey & Windle. As part of the reading I read the following poems: “The Harvest of 1665,” on the harvest following the plague of London in that year “The Historian,” on the execution of Sir Walter Raleigh “Mr […]

The Great Myths #67: The Origin of the Buffalo Dance (Blackfoot)

Read the other Great Myths here George Bird Grinnell’s classic account (from 1892) of the origin of the Blackfoot Buffalo Dance. It culminates with the buffalo freely offering themselves to the Blackfoot tribe, but only after teaching them the dance that will resurrect the buffalo herds: The people had built a great pis’kun [a buffalo […]

“Caedmon Comes to Singing” – new poem at Londongrip

Many thanks to Michael Bartholomew-Biggs, for publishing my poem “Caedmon Comes to Singing” in the new issue of Londongrip. Many will remember that Caedmon, who lived in seventh-century Northumbria, is credited with being one of the earliest English poets; I suppose we can all learn from his half-mythic example, of living most of his life […]

Seamus Heaney, from “Lightenings”

Seamus Heaney, from “Lightenings” Seamus Heaney often said that, from his experience as a poet, one’s creative life followed three phases: “the movement involves a pattern of getting started, keeping going and getting started again. Some books are a matter of keeping going; some—if you’re lucky—get you started again.” Heaney was without doubt that his […]

H. D., “Orchard”

H. D., “Orchard” I saw the first pearas it fell –the honey-seeking, golden-banded,the yellow swarmwas not more fleet than I,(spare us from loveliness)and I fell prostratecrying:you have flayed uswith your blossoms,spare us the beautyof fruit-trees. The honey-seekingpaused not,the air thundered their song,and I alone was prostrate. O rough-hewngod of the orchard,I bring you an offering […]

Amy Lowell, “Thompson’s Lunch Room—Grand Central Station”

Amy Lowell, “Thompson’s Lunch Room—Grand Central Station” STUDY IN WHITES Wax-white—Floor, ceiling, walls.Ivory shadowsOver the pavementPolished to cream surfacesBy constant sweeping.The big room is coloured like the petalsOf a great magnolia,And has a patinaOf flower bloomWhich makes it shine dimlyUnder the electric lamps.Chairs are ranged in rowsLike sepia seedsWaiting fulfilment.The chalk-white spot of a cook’s […]

Delmore Schwartz, “In the Naked Bed, in Plato’s Cave”

Delmore Schwartz, “In the Naked Bed, in Plato’s Cave” In the naked bed, in Plato’s cave, Reflected headlights slowly slid the wall, Carpenters hammered under the shaded window, Wind troubled the window curtains all night long, A fleet of trucks strained uphill, grinding, Their freights covered, as usual. The ceiling lightened again, the slanting diagram […]

Seamus Heaney, “The Strand at Lough Beg” (An Elegy from the Troubles)

Seamus Heaney, “The Strand at Lough Beg” In Memory of Colum McCartney All round this little island, on the strand Far down below there, where the breakers strive Grow the tall rushes from the oozy sand. – Dante, Purgatorio, I, 100-3 Leaving the white glow of filling stations And a few lonely streetlamps among fields […]

The Great Myths #58: The Love Story of Freyr & the Giantess Gerd (Norse)

Read the other Great Myths here [High said:]“There was someone called Gymir, and his wife Aurboda. She was of the race of mountain-giants. Gerd is their daughter, the most beautiful of all women. It happened one day that Freyr had gone into Hlidskialf and was looking over all worlds, and when he looked to the […]

The Great Myths #57: Loki’s Monstrous Children (Norse)

Read the other Great Myths here High continued: “And Loki had other offspring too. There was a giantess called Angrboda in Giantland. With her Loki had three children. One was Fenriswolf, the second Iormungand (i.e. the Midgard serpent), the third is Hel. And when the gods realized that these three siblings were being brought up […]

Genevieve Taggard, “To One Loved Wholly Within Wisdom”

Genevieve Taggard, “To One Loved Wholly Within Wisdom” Someone will reap you like a field, Pile your gathered plunder, Garner what you bring to yield, Turn your beauty under; In cruel usages, in such Sickle-cutting, heaping; Certain women toil too much, Wearing of their reaping; Someone else may winnow you; Someone else may plunder; I […]

Ted Hughes – “Crow’s Song about God”

Ted Hughes – “Crow’s Song about God” Somebody is sittingUnder the gatepost of heavenUnder the lintelOn which are written the words: “Forbidden to the living.”A knot of eyes, eyeholes, lifeless, in the life-shapeA rooty old oak-stump, aground in the oozeOf some putrid estuary,Snaggy with amputations,His fingernails broken and bitten,His hair vestigial and purposeless, his toenails […]

W. B. Yeats, “Meru”

W. B. Yeats, “Meru” Civilisation is hooped together, broughtUnder a rule, under the semblance of peaceBy manifold illusion; but man’s life is thought,And he, despite his terror, cannot ceaseRavening through century after century,Ravening, raging, and uprooting that he may comeInto the desolation of reality:Egypt and Greece, good-bye, and good-bye, Rome!Hermits upon Mount Meru or Everest,Caverned […]

Translating Kafka’s Life: An Interview with Shelley Frisch

I have posted about my love for Franz Kafka’s work many times in these pages. Today I’m lucky enough to talk with Shelley Frisch about translating Reiner Stach’s three-volume biography of Kafka into English. Frisch holds a Ph.D. in German literature from Princeton University, taught at Columbia University and Haverford College, where she served as […]

The Unfinished Kafka

Reiner Stach, in the middle entry of his three volume biography of Franz Kafka, writes, “Anyone who studies bibliographies today will envy Kafka’s earliest readers, who knew very little about his life and could enjoy his work as literature and not as an accumulation of autobiographical codes.” (186) Stach’s biography (and its beautiful translation into […]

Heaney on Writing

Here’s Seamus Heaney talking about writing, from Dennis O’Driscoll’s book-length interview with him, Stepping Stones: On Inspiration On the week in May 1969 when he wrote “about forty poems”: It was a visitation, an onset, and as such, powerfully confirming. This you felt, was “it.” You had been initiated into the order of the inspired. […]

The Popular Press in 1918 was Garbage Too

From Oswald Spengler’s Decline of the West, published just over a century ago. Our bad relationship with information and disinformation didn’t start with cable news or Twitter: … Man does not speak to man; the press and its associate, the electrical news-service, keep the waking-consciousness of whole peoples and continents under a deafening drum-fire of […]

Angela Merici & the Education of Women & Girls in the early 1500s

from Thomas Cahill: They were a group of well-born Lombardian ladies, led by Angela Merici, who came together to educate poor girls in the northern Italian city of Brescia. So far as I can ascertain, no one had ever thought to do this before them. In the same period, Anabaptist communities in Germany, Switzerland, and […]

Picasso & Sex

from John Richardson’s biography of Picasso: When questioned much later about his earliest sexual experience, Picasso claimed that his sex life had started very early on: “Yes,” he says smiling, with a sparkle in his eye, “I was still quite small”—and he indicated a diminutive height wit his hand. “Obviously I didn’t wait for the […]

Walking on Two Feet: The Evolution of Bipedalism

from Steven Mithen’s The Prehistory of the Mind: The evolution of bipedalism had begun by 3.5 million years ago. Evidence for this is found in the anatomy of A. afarensis, and, more dramatically, by the line of australopithecine footprints preserved at Laetoli in Tanzania. The most likely selective pressure causing the evolution of bipedalism was […]

Jews & Muslims on Pilgrimage Together in the 1300s

From Mark Cohen’s Under Crescent & Cross: The Jews in the Middle Ages: An aspect of Jewish-gentile sociability under Islam that seems to lack a counterpart in the Jewish-Christian world is the world of shared popular religious practices… particularly in the joint worship of saints. Here, interdenominational religiosity has its basis in the fact that […]

Vermeer’s Window on the Left, Vermeer’s Late Afternoon Light

As I’ve written elsewhere: “Except for his earliest work, there were no grand subjects in Vermeer, and very little else but a room and a window; tiled floor and tapestries and carpeted tables; maps and light and exactitude; liquid, lace, poured milk, lute strings and the weighing of pearls; the reproduction by brush and color […]

Primo Levi’s Hardest Thoughts on the Holocaust

From Primo Levi’s 1986 book, The Drowned and the Saved, remembering the concentration camps: On Levi’s own—and others’—guilt at having survived the concentration camps: At a distance of years one can today definitely affirm that the history of the Lagers [from Konzentrationslager, concentration camp] has been written almost exclusively by those who, like myself, never […]

Salvador Dali - Archeological Reminiscence of Millet's Angelus (1935)

Images: The Painting Salvador Dali Couldn’t Get Away From

The way I heard it, Salvador Dali saw a reproduction of Millet’s Angelus in his classroom during childhood, and it became one of his great personal images: Jean-Francois Millet – The Angelus (1857-1859) Salvador Dali – Archeological Reminiscence of Millet’s Angelus (1935) Salvador Dali – Atavism of Twilight (1933-1934) Salvador Dali – Gala and The […]

The Great Myths #56: The Early History of Yggdrasil (Norse)

Read the other Great Myths here Then spoke Gangleri:  “Where is the chief center or holy place of the gods?”       High replied: “It is at the ash Yggdrasil. There the gods must hold their courts each day.”       Then spoke Gangleri: “What is there to tell about that place?”       Then said Just-as-high: “The […]