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Heaney Comes to Poetry

Here are some of Seamus Heaney’s memories of reading, writing, and poetry, from earliest schooldays to university, all taken from Dennis O’Driscoll’s wonderful book-length interview with him,  Stepping Stones. Yes, my memory of learning to read goes back to my first days in Anahorish School, the charts for the letters, the big-lettered reading books. But I don’t think I showed […]

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Yeats & Lady Gregory

(photo from the LG/WBY Heritage Trail) In the single-volume Autobiographies of W. B. Yeats, which collects all of Yeats’s autobiographical writings from throughout his life, the great Irish poet mentions the memoirs of one John O’Leary. O’Leary was apparently taking his good old time at it, writing “passages for his memoirs upon postcards and odd scraps of paper, taking immense […]

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Classic Joyce

Too much to choose from, but here’s some classic bits from James Joyce that are always worth keeping in mind: On Writing: “Don’t you think there is a certain resemblance between the mystery of the Mass and what I am trying to do? I mean that I am trying in my poems to give people some kind of intellectual pleasure […]

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Hart Crane to His Father

In early January, 1924, the poet Hart Crane, twenty-four and basically broke, received a letter from his father offering to hire him into the family business. To a friend, Crane wrote, “Along comes a letter from my father this morning offering me a position with him as travelling salesman! This is unacceptable, of course, even though I now can’t complete […]

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Jung’s Great Dream

Jung traveled with Freud and others to America in late September, 1909, and on the boat returning to Europe, he had a dream. Whatever you make of Jung’s overarching theories and scholarship, it always seems better to think of him more as a poet or mystic, and so his strength seems to lie in descriptions of intense inner experiences, and […]

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T. S. Eliot’s Sacred Wood

Here is a favorite bit from a youthful T. S. Eliot (he’s just turned thirty but that’s young to me now): after leaving America for England and abandoning the teaching job at Harvard his family was expecting of him, he made an unfortunate marriage and started a literary life of day job, essays and reviews, and (when he could), poetry. […]

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Jean Guéhenno (Favorite Passages)

Diary of the Dark Years, 1940-1944: Collaboration, Resistance, and Daily Life in Occupied Paris, by Jean Guéhenno Guéhenno bio A selection from one of the best documents of occupation during wartime, and one of my favorite diaries of a writer: [Guéhenno, on how he was a pacifist after WWI, but not after WWII started] I will never believe that men […]

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One Time People (Fiction)

Many thanks to the editors at Juked, who just published my story, “One Time People.” The story is from a collection, slowly emerging online and hopefully someday in print, called The Lonely Young and the Lonely Old. Other stories from the collection are here.

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Albert Camus, Notebooks (Favorite Passages)

Albert Camus: Notebooks, 1935 – 1951 Volume 1: 1935-1942 What I mean is this: that one can, with no romanticism, feel nostalgic for lost poverty. A certain number of years lived without money are enough to create a whole sensibility. 3 It is in this life of poverty, among these vain or humble people, that I have most certainly touched […]

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Adult Conversation (Fiction)

Many thanks to the editors of Meat for Tea: The Valley Review, who will be publishing my short story, “Adult Conversation,” in their next issue. An update will be posted when the issue is available. The story is part of a larger collection on the neglected and easily forgotten, The Lonely Young and the Lonely Old.

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Zen (Favorite Passages)

Along with my excerpts from Ramakrishna and the Desert Fathers, the following favorites from Zen Buddhism constitute just about all the religious wisdom I need. In one way or another, they are all expressions of humility and empathy, and upend the usual fundamentalist (and simple-minded, arrogant, and certain) approaches to scripture, discipline, knowledge, and to diversity of practice or belief. A Word document of […]

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The Desert Fathers (Favorite Passages)

Alongside the sayings of Ramakrishna and the monks of Zen Buddhism, the sayings of the Christian Desert Fathers are about all the wisdom I need, and below are my favorites from four separate collections. It will not appeal to everyone, but what these hermits seem to speak of more often than not is that greatest of virtues: humility. It is […]

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The Lake (fiction)

Many thanks to the editors of Foliate Oak, who published my short story, “The Lake,” in their December Issue. The story is part of a larger collection on the neglected and easily forgotten, The Lonely Young and the Lonely Old. An .mp3 of my reading of it is available here. A YouTube page of that reading is below:

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Hieronymus Bosch

Entries in the Anthology series organize my favorite anecdotes about artists, writers, and historical events, and are always being updated. While I love and depend on the exhaustive biography or study, in many ways the disconnected stories and fragments have been more important in my day-to-day living with art, literature and history. As such, nothing original is assumed here, and […]

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Albrecht Dürer

Entries in the Anthology series organize my favorite anecdotes about artists, writers, and historical events, and are always being updated. While I love and depend on the exhaustive biography or study, in many ways the disconnected stories and fragments have been more important in my day-to-day living with art, literature and history. As such, nothing original is assumed here, and […]

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Edward Hopper

Edward Hopper - People in the Sun

Entries in the Anthology series organize my favorite anecdotes about artists, writers, and historical events, and are always being updated. While I love and depend on the exhaustive biography or study, in many ways the disconnected stories and fragments have been more important in my day-to-day living with art, literature and history. As such, nothing original is assumed here, and […]

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The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna (Favorite Passages)

The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, written by “M”, translated by Swami Nikhilananda. It is hard to overstate my love for this book. Along with being the first gift my wife gave me soon after we met, it also contains everything I adore about religion, and articulates all that I ever hope to express about the interaction between different religions and the […]

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Cyril Edwards (Interview)

I’ve relied on many translators and scholars in the writing of To the House of the Sun, and over the years I’ve been lucky enough to correspond with a few of them. Their specialties vary widely—Greek religion, Hinduism/Indo-European studies, Egyptology, Arthurian romance, etc.—and it seems that their enthusiasm and love for language, history, and religion are worth sharing. Especially since […]

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What Eliot Means to Me

(for Eliot’s essay “What Dante Means to Me,” go here) I. Late in life, T. S. Eliot hoped the essays of his that would last would be those “appreciations of individual authors,” saying he had written best “about writers who have influenced my own poetry.”[1] He had come a long way from the essays written in his youth, essays famously […]

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Silence in London

Just back from London, where the hugeness of space and history were hard to ignore. But the experience was always deepest in the smallest space, where something sacred, or just something simply old, could be apprehended intimately, in silence. So that it was not Westminster Abbey, despite its beauty as a space and the unnerving realization that one is walking by the actual tombs of early kings and queens, including Elizabeth I. It was not this, but Westminster’s cloister: And it was Westminster’s Chapter House, with its original 13th-century tile, 14th-century paintings on the wall, and nearby the oldest door in England, supposedly used by Edward the Confessor, c. 1050:   And it was, most of all, Westminster’s Pyx Chamber, also dating to shortly after 1066. It is hard to say why this room struck me, but I could have stayed there for days: It was also not the Tower of London, the only time where the idea of royalty truly stank of excess and arrogance and blood, especially at the exhibit of the crown jewels. It was not here, but nearby, at the church of All Hallows by the Tower, a place gutted during the Blitz, the damage revealing a c. 775 Saxon Arch from the earliest version of the church, as well as c. 200 Roman pavement in the crypt below, and of course, crypt chapels for silence: And it wasn’t even London, really, so much as it was a side-trip to Salisbury, […]

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