Posts Tagged ‘Richard Wilbur’

love him so much – hurt him so bad

January 26, 2017

zzruthbatke

And I wonder sometimes, what is it in me that hates me?
Richard Wilbur, Complaint

He was the perfect man
Every woman wants to meet
Loving and honest
And friendly and sweet

I love him so much
I hurt him so bad

I beat up his sister
And slept with his dad

I love him so much
I hurt him so bad

I took all his money
And burned down his pad

I love him so much
I hurt him so bad

Left him demolished
And totally mad

I love him so much
I hurt him so bad

Something inside me
Just has to be sad

by Richard W. Bray

Walt Whitman is the Poet We Deserve in the Age of Trump, but Emily Dickinson Reigns

May 28, 2016

wwemily

There are several reasons why Emily Dickinson does not inhabit her rightful position as the greatest writer our culture has yet produced—she sedulously avoided publicity in her own lifetime (“How dreary – to be – Somebody!”); a comprehensive scholarly edition of her poetry was not compiled until almost seventy years after her death (long after the cannon had been established); she is often celebrated for her winsome poems that find their way into the high school textbooks like “I Shall Not Live in Vain” which represent only a tiny fraction of her output; she wrote short poems. (There is an absurd bias among critics in favor of “epic” poetry). Finally, we cannot overlook the obvious fact that Emily Dickinson was a woman and most of our cannon-selectors have been men, many of whom no doubt shared Nathaniel Hawthorne’s contempt for that “mob of scribbling women”

Moreover, elevating Emily Dickinson to her rightful place atop the pantheon of American poets would call into question the singular supremacy of Walt Whitman. Whitman, who sees himself as the great champion of democracy, claims to “contain multitudes” in his writing, but he merely embodies mountains of self-regard:

If I worship one thing more than another it shall be the spread of
   my own body,
or any part of it.

It is his intrepid endeavor to displace God with Self rather than the actual quality of his work which makes Whitman the darling so many humanist critics. As Alfred Kazin notes in God and the American Writer, for Whitman

There is no one supreme Deity, no hierarchy, no heaven. It is on earth and nowhere else that we live out the divine in ourselves to which we are called. We are as gods when we recognize all things as one. Spiritually, we are sovereign—entirely—thanks to our culture of freedom. As we dismiss whatever offends our own souls, so we can trust our own souls for knowledge of the infinite.

Like the self-deluded subjects who claim to see the Emperor’s New Clothes (and like the editors at Social Text who published Alan Sokal’s intentional gibberish) few critics today are able to discern this manifest truth—Walt Whitman is an overblown, narcissistic, self-worshipping buffoon. (“In all people I see myself.”) Of course, in so many ways, Whitman’s solipsism makes him precisely the national icon we deserve, particularly in the Age of Trump. (It is not at all surprising that Bill Clinton gave his girlfriend a copy of a book by Whitman, although we might have expected him to choose “Song of Myself” rather than Leaves of Grass.)

Walt Whitman’s poetry delivers much music but very little sense, irony, or wit. Despite his gargantuan reputation, the words of Whitman taken together hardly amount to a single metaphorical dead white blood cell inside the metaphorical pustule existing inside the metaphorical pimple on Emily Dickinson’s glorious metaphorical backside. Dickinson proves again and again that she is capable of saying more in fewer than thirty syllables than Whitman ever gets across in page after page of his rambling jingle jangle.

One of the wonders of Emily Dickinson’s capacious mind is her ability to entertain opposing thoughts. As Richard Wilbur notes in “Sumptuous Destitution,” his splendid 1959 article on Emily Dickinson, she is “not a philosopher.” This is precisely why she can embrace paradox in a manner that would be difficult for a philosopher, thus expanding our understanding of our bizarre universe.

In “Faith Is a Fine Invention,” for example, Dickinson seems to ridicule the tendency to cling to faith in our modern age.

“Faith” is a fine invention
When Gentlemen can see–
But Microscopes are prudent
In an Emergency.

Note the irony of calling faith (rather than the microscope) an invention. And what is it exactly that gentleman can see? Evidence of an invisible God, perhaps? But she is also lampooning those whose superstitious faith prevents them from seeing what wonders science reveals. One is reminded of Christian Scientists who would deny her children medical attention on religious grounds.

In “I Never Saw a Moor,” however, Dickinson defends faith entirely for its own sake. If you will pardon the tautology, she knows because she knows.

I never saw a moor;
I never saw the sea,
Yet know I how the heather looks
And what a billow be.
I never spoke with God,
Nor visited in heaven.
Yet certain am I of the spot
As if the checks were given.

Paradox is not a manifestation of reality; it is a consequence of the limitations of human perception. As Kurt Vonnegut notes in the novel Deadeye Dick, birth and death amount to the opening and closing of a “pinhole.” Great poets enable us to slightly expand the boundaries of our pinhole. That’s why my favorite philosophers are mostly poets.

by Richard W. Bray

Thanks, Max

May 15, 2016

wwThanxMax

 

Why are chase scenes so common in motion pictures? Why do television stations interrupt their regularly scheduled programs to broadcast live police pursuits? Are we rooting for the chasers or the chased? Richard Wilbur suspects it’s the latter. In his poem “Man Running,” Wilbur comments on our tendency to “darkly cheer” the fugitive and “wish him, guiltily, a sporting chance.” Wilbur speculates in the poem’s concluding stanzas that the popularity of chase scenes might be a function of evolution.

Sharing with him our eldest dread
Which, when it gathers a sleeping head,
Is a place mottled, ominous, and dim

Remembered from the day
When we descended from the trees
Into the shadow of our enemies
Not lords of nature yet, but naked prey.

(Collected Poems, Page 9)

Recently in our evolutionary history, human beings made the dramatic transition from prey to predator. But the terror and trauma of millions of years of being feasted upon by other animals has left a strong imprint on our psyche. (Even city kids are terrified of wild animals.)

In her book Blood Rites: Origins and History of the Passions of War, Barbara Ehrenreich posits the provocative thesis that human bellicosity, particularly as it manifests itself in our perpetual contemporary war-making activity, is largely the result of our atavistic need to overcome animal predators.

When our ancestors figured out how to make weapons and how to work in unison by communicating with one another, it was time for some epic payback on our furry enemies.

Homo sapiens arrived in Eurasia roughly 45,000 years ago, and very shortly thereafter, virtually every large species of prey animal and competing predator was gone. The patently obvious deduction is that Homo sapiens intentionally and methodically wiped out all those other species.

Man, the new king of the jungle, obliterated the competition:

Cave bears, saber-toothed tigers, mammoths, rhinos, lions, leopards, dholes–fierce as they were, they all vanished from the forests and steppes of Eurasia.

And even the Neanderthals, our most serious completion for world domination, “first drastically dwindled and then vanished as well.”

So how did our ancestors transmute from “naked prey” into such effective killing machines? Anthropologists tell us that three evolutionary developments were a key factors in making us the baddest species on the planet: big brains, opposable thumbs, and speech. But according to Steve Donoghue’s review of The Invaders: How Humans and Their Dogs Drove Neanderthals to Extinction (a new book by Pat Shipman) dogs also played an essential role in our rise to global dominance:

a pack of canines can detect prey long before humans can, and they can chase that prey farther and longer than humans can, and, crucially, they can keep that prey at bay and stationary until humans can arrive with their superior numbers and projectile weapons. The wolf-dogs would have realized in short order that in exchange for their instinctive distrust of hominins the arrangement would garner them more reliable kills. And the humans would have seen that the wolf-dogs were helping to secure more meat than they’d provide if they themselves were simply slaughtered. And so the 35,000-year-old partnership between humans and dogs began – in multiple genocides.

So I think it’s time for me to publically say, “Thank you, Max, you adorable little Shih-poo early warning intruder protection device. Thank you and all your canine ancestors for enabling us to eliminate the competition.”

 

by Richard W. Bray

What Was I Thinking?

January 31, 2016

wwwwwwwwwwtip

And I wonder sometimes, what is it in me that hates me?

Richard Wilbur, Complaint

What was I thinking?
Am I insane?
I wonder what happens
Inside my brain

Boss took me out
To announce my promotion
I puked on his shoes
And got a demotion

Whenever life hands me
The perfect shot
It ties up my tongue
In a perfect knot

She asked for my number
I was ready to score
Why did I tell her
She looks like a whore?

Whenever I’m offered
A True Romance
I flub all my lines
And ruin my chance

My mind is an iceberg
I just see the tip
I cannot control
What comes across my lips

by Richard W. Bray

Too Big for Our Own Good: Kurt Vonnegut on the Human Brain

February 8, 2015

 

So far the human episode has been a brief chapter in the story of life on Earth—about two hundred thousand years.  That’s not very long compared to the dung beetles who feed on rhinoceros droppings, which are the hearty descendants of bugs that were frolicking in dinosaur poop at least forty million years ago.  And sharks have been around for over 400 Million years.

Although it’s fun to fantasize about a time long ago when giant monsters roamed the earth, it’s much more painful to imagine a point in the future when Mother Nature says: “Time’s up, humans.  You had your chance, but you blew it.”   Indeed, as the poet Richard Wilbur notes, it’s almost impossible to imagine a future on this planet without us:

Nor shall you scare us with talk of the death of the race.
How should we dream of this place without us?—

The novel Galapagos by Kurt Vonnegut describes a future where evolution has altered humanity beyond recognition.  A million years hence, we have mutated into a furry, seal-like creature with flippers and a much smaller brain encased in a “streamlined skull.”  Our future progeny is no longer equipped to build skyscrapers or compose Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.  And these new creatures exhibit an immense moral superiority over modern-day humans because they lack the intellectual and physical tools to harm one another on a grand scale.  Besides, “how could you ever hold somebody in bondage with nothing but your flippers and your mouth?”

According to the Ghost of Leon Trout, the narrator of Galapagos who witnesses the million-year transformation of our species, this reduction of endowment is all for the better because humans

back then had a brain weighing about three kilograms!  There was no end to the evil schemes that a thought machine that oversized couldn’t imagine and execute.

Trout’s Ghost concludes that the human brain “is much too big to be practical.”  A practical brain would never “divert” people from “the main business of life by the hobgoblins of opinion.” The main business of life, of course, is survival and procreation.  Yet by some freak of evolution, human beings are capable of so much more.

Trout’s Ghost laments how our “overelaborate nervous circuitry” is responsible “for the evils we [are] seeing or hearing about simply everywhere.”  Furthermore, such self-inflicted horrors as war, famine, slavery, and genocide are “as purely a product of oversized brains as Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.”

Trout’s ghost confides that, “A million years later, I feel like apologizing for the human race.”  He also describes “the most diabolical aspect” of the oversized human brain:

They would tell their owners, in effect, “Here is a crazy thing we could actually do.”….And then, as though in trances, the people would really do it—have slaves fight each other to the death in the Colosseum, or burn people alive in the public square for holding opinions which were locally unpopular, or build factories whose only purpose was to kill people in industrial quantities, or to blow up whole cities, and on and on.”

Here’s another disadvantage to having too much brain power for our own good:

Big brains back then were not only capable of being cruel for the sake of cruelty.  They could also feel all sorts of pain to which lower animals were entirely insensitive.

Today the “mass of mankind” is “quietly desperate” because “the infernal computers inside their skulls [are] incapable of idleness.”  The constant din of thought inside our brains that people must bear is akin to having “Ghetto blasters inside our heads.” And there is

no shutting them down! Whether we had anything for them to do or not, they ran “All the time!  And were they ever loud!  Oh, God, were they ever loud.”

Like Brick in Tennessee in Williams’ “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” humanity craves to hear a “click in the head” which renders life “peaceful.” In Galapagos, Kurt Vonnegut suggests an evolutionary solution to the plight which ails us.  And perhaps it is the most plausible solution.  As Emily Dickinson notes

Narcotics cannot still the Tooth That nibbles at the soul

by Richard W. Bray

This Happy Now

January 20, 2015
Not Me and Max

Not Me and Max

As soon as Max sees me grab the leash, he goes into spasms of delight, jumping in the air and making little pirouettes. Joy. It’s not just for humans.

(I try not to say the word “walk” in front of Max unless I’m ready to take him for one. So in order not to tease him, I’ll say, “Maybe I’ll take Max for a ‘W-Word’ later this afternoon.”)

Like so many poets, Max is giddy for the natural world, and he cannot contain his enthusiasm for outside smells, sights, and sounds. And like Max, William Wordsworth began to cultivate his love of nature exploring “those few nooks to which my happy feet/ Were limited.”

Unlike so many human beings, however, Max is not overburdened by the demands of his quotidian existence. And I’m pretty sure he’s never given much thought to the meaning of life. It is therefore unlikely that Max could share with Mr. Wordsworth

                               That blessed mood
In which the burthen of the mystery,
In which the heavy and the weary weight
Of all this unintelligible world
Is lighten’d:—that serene and blessed mood,
In which affections gently lead us on,
Until, the breath of this corporeal frame,
And even the motion of our human blood
Almost suspended, we are laid asleep
In body, and become a living soul:
While with an eye made quiet by the power
Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,
We see into the things of life

But ecstasy also hurts. Wordsworth referred to such ecstatic moments as “spots of time.” Spots of time are often induced by nature, and as Sheldon W. Liebman explains, nature is “a domain in which the fundamental conditions of life are mixed, even paradoxical.” Ecstasy hurts because even in its thrall we realize that soon we will return to a world where

                               That time is past,
And all its aching joys are now no more,

Once we get beyond joy “And all its dizzy raptures” we are once again confined to “The still, sad music of humanity”

In the poem “Hamlen Brook,” Richard Wilbur calls this phenomenon “joy’s trick.” (Collected Poems 115).

Confronted with the immense beauty of the natural world, Wilbur laments his inability to “drink all this”

Joy’s trick is to supply
Dry lips with what can cool and slake,
Leaving them dumbstruck also with an ache
Nothing can satisfy.

For his part, Robert Frost argues that “Happiness Makes Up In Height For What It Lacks In Length” (Collected Poems 445).

There are many moments in Frost’s poetry when

We went from house to wood
For change of solitude. (445)

And the trick for human beings is to appreciate this happy now on its own terms. Frost explains in “Two Look at Two” (283).

‘This must be all.’ It was all. Still they stood,
A great wave from it going over them,
As if the earth in one unlooked-for favor
Had made them certain earth returned their love.

by Richard W. Bray

Under an Arch of the Railway: In Praise of W. H. Auden on his One Hundredth Birthday

February 21, 2013

railway arch

I’d like to read one of W. H. Auden’s best-known poems and one of the best-known poems, I suppose, modern poems of the last ten years. Probably someone will find that it was written in the last nine years, but it doesn’t matter…”As I walked Out One Evening.”

—Dylan Thomas (from the Caedmon Collection)

No poet consistently knocks me on my tailbone the way W.H. Auden does. Listening to Auden read Death’s Echo from the Voice of the Poet recordings makes me want to lie down in the fetal position and turn out all the lights.

As I Walked Out One Evening, depressing as it is, leaves me with some hope, however. At my lowest points, I try to remind myself that my life remains a blessing although I cannot bless.

Each stanza of “As I Walked out One Evening” is by itself a masterpiece, containing more literary merit than you will find on this entire blog.

The theme of the poem is certainly nothing new: Everything human beings do and feel is ephemeral. But a poet’s task is not to discover new themes. As Richard Wilbur notes, the “urge of poetry” is to bring its subject matter “into the felt world.”

The poem has many notable lines, but I’d like to focus on one that seems mundane at first reading, line seven:

“Under an arch of the railway”

There are, of course, many less lovely ways to express this particular image: Beneath the railroad line, below the arch which a train passes over, underneath the elevated train tracks, etc. But Auden’s construction magically sings itself off the page and into my brain where it will remain until such time as I am forced to surrender my smidge of nitrogen to the World Fund

Richard W. Bray

The Vaster Economy of Desire: Richard Wilbur on the Sumptuous Destitution of Emily Dickinson

November 16, 2012

brook

Philosophers are bound to paradigms and past pronouncements. But no paradigm comes close to capturing our multifarious world. That’s why my favorite philosophers are mostly poets. Poets are less likely to get boxed in by theory or even worry too much about what they were saying a week ago.

Richard Wilbur notes that Emily Dickinson (“not a philosopher”) was “consistent in her concerns but inconsistent in her attitudes” (10; 5). One of Miss Dickinson’s major concerns is the limited capacity of human beings to absorb even a fraction of what we crave. Our gargantuan appetites are ill-fitted to our frail, finite, and terminable bodies. But instead of lamenting this unsuitable arrangement, Emily Dickinson celebrates privation for its own sake:

Heaven is what I cannot reach!

In his 1959 article “Sumptuous Destitution,” Wilbur explores Dickinson’s “huge world of delectable distances,” where desire trumps actual possession (11). As Wilbur explains Dickinson (“Linnaeus to the phenomena of her own consciousness”) the poetess finds anticipation far more enticing than actual possession because “once an object has been magnified by desire, it cannot be wholly possessed by appetite” (4; 8). Employing physical hunger as a metaphor for all human desire, Dickinson explains in “I had been Hungry All the Years” how she “found”

That hunger was a way
Of persons outside windows,
The entering takes away.

Frustration is the inevitable consequence in Dickinson’s world of perpetual want where itching vanquishes scratching. The vigor of Dickinson’s yearnings are “magnified” by elusive wants:

[N]ot only are the objects of her desire distant; they are also very often moving away, their sweetness increasing in proportion to their remoteness. “To disappear enhances” one of the poems begins (11-12).

When Dickinson asserts that

Success is counted sweetest
By those that ne’er succeed

she is “arguing the superiority of defeat to victory, of frustration to satisfaction, and of anguished comprehension to mere possession” (9). Wilbur posits convincingly that, for Dickinson, the dead soldier in “Success is Counted Sweetest” made “the better bargain” than his compatriots who survived the victorious battle because his “defeat and death are attended by an increase of awareness, and material loss has led to a spiritual gain” (10).

Emily Dickinson chose her seclusion, and “At times it seems that there is nothing in her world but her own soul, with its attendant abstractions, and, at a vast remove, the inscrutable Heaven” (12). The God of Emily Dickinson’s capacious consciousness is immense and mysterious. We can spend our lives contemplating Him, but He can only be ingested in small bites.

The creature of appetite (whether insect or human) pursues satisfaction, and strives to possess the object in itself; it cannot imagine the vaster economy of desire, in which the pain of abstinence is justified by moments of infinite joy, and the object is spiritually possessed, not merely for itself, but more truly as an index of the All (11).

In his poem “Hamlen Brook,” Richard Wilbur discovers sumptuous destitution when he is nonplussed by overwhelming natural beauty.

How shall I drink all this?

Joy’s trick is to supply
Dry lips with what can cool and slake,
Leaving them dumbstruck also with an ache
Nothing can satisfy.

by Richard W. Bray

Eleven Stanzas that Strike Like a Chime through the Mind

May 29, 2011

Christina Rossetti

Richard Wilbur

e e cummings

Does the road wind up-hill all the way?
Yes, to the very end.
Will the day’s journey take the whole long day?
From morn to night, my friend.

from Uphill by Christina Rossetti

Let Observation with extensive view,
Survey mankind, from China to Peru:
Reark each anxious toil, each eager strife:
Then say how hope and fear, desire and hate,
O’spread with snares the clouded maze of fate,
Where wavering man, betrayed by venomous pride,
To tread the dreary paths without a guide,
But scarce observed, the knowing and the bold
Fall in the general massacre of gold;
Wide-wasting pest! That rages unconfined,
And crowds with crimes the record of mankind;
For gold his sword the hireling ruffian draws,
For gold the hireling judge distorts the laws;
Wealth heaped on wealth, not truth nor safety buys,
The Dangers Gather as the Treasures rise

from The Vanity of Human Wishes (The Tenth Satire of Juvenal Imitated) by Samuel Johnson

We have it and it doesn’t do us any
Good because nobody gets what they
Deserve more than everybody else.

from Family Values by Robert Pinsky

I am tired of tears and laughter,
And men that laugh and weep;
Of what may come hereafter
For men that sow to reap:
I am weary of days and hours,
Blown buds of barren flowers,
Desires and dreams and powers
And everything but sleep.

from Garden of Proserpine by Algernon Charles Swinburne

Thy gowns, thy shoes, thy beds of Roses,
Thy cap, thy kirtle, and thy posies
Soon break, soon wither, soon forgotten:
In folly ripe, in reason rotten.

from The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd by Sir Walter Ralegh

Joy’s trick is to supply
Dry lips with what can cool and slake,
Leaving them dumbstruck also with an ache
Nothing can satisfy.

from Hamlen Brook by Richard Wilbur

“I see the guilty world forgiven,”
Dreamer and drunkard sing,
“The ladders let down out of heaven,
The laurel springing from the martyr’s blood,
The children skipping where the weeper stood,
The lovers natural and the beasts all good.”
So dreamer and drunkard sing
Till day their sobriety bring:
Parrotwise with Death’s reply
From whelping fear and nesting lie,
Woods and their echoes ring.
The desires of the heart are as crooked as corkscrews,
Not to be born is the best for man;
The second-best is a formal order,
The dance’s pattern; dance while you can.

from Death’s Echo by W. H. Auden

To fight aloud, is very brave —
But gallanter, I know
Who charge within the bosom
The Cavalry of Woe —

from To Fight Aloud is Very Brave by Emily Dickinson

I knew a woman, lovely in her bones,
When small birds sighed, she would sigh back at them;
Ah, when she moved, she moved more ways than one:
The shapes a bright container can contain!
Of her choice virtues only gods should speak,
Or English poets who grew up on Greek
(I’d have them sing in chorus, cheek to cheek.)

from I Knew a Woman by Theodore Roethke

and nothing quite so least as truth
—i say though hate were why man breathe—
because my father lived his soul
love is the whole and more than all

from my father moved through dooms of love by e.e. cummings

No memory of having starred
Atones for later disregard
Or keeps the end from being hard.

from Provide, Provide by Robert Frost

by Richard W. Bray

Writers on Writing

February 24, 2010

Adrienne Rich

Robert Pinsky

Javier Marias

Lajos Egri

Writers on Writing

(Editor’s Note: This post is the result of a conversation I had in the comments section of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s blog. Until quite recently I would have scoffed at the very notion that such a thing as an online community could possibly exist)

W. H. Auden The Dyer’s Hand

Attacking bad books is not only a waste of time but also bad for the character. If I find a book really bad, the only interest I can derive from writing about it has to come from myself, from such a display of intelligence, wit and malice as I can contrive. One cannot review a bad book without showing off. (11)

Richard Wilbur Responses, Prose Pieces

Emily Dickinson elected the economy of desire, and called her privation good, rendering it positive by renunciation. And so she came to live in a huge world of delectable distances….And not only are the objects of her desire distant; they are also very often moving away, their sweetness increasing in proportion to their remoteness. “To disappear enhances,” one of the poems begins, and another closes with these lines:

The Mountain–at a given distance–
In Amber–lies–
Approached–the Amber flits–a little–
And That’s–the Skies

(11-12)

Adrienne Rich On Secrets, Lies and Silence

I have a notion that genius knows itself; that Dickinson chose her seclusion, knowing she was exceptional and knowing what she needed. It was, moreover, no hermetic retreat…But she carefully selected her society and controlled the disposal of her time. (160)

The Theater Essays of Arthur Miller

So long as modern man conceives of himself as valuable only because he fits into some niche in the machine-tending pattern, he will never know anything more than a pathetic doom. (60)

Ira Gershwin Lyrics on Several Occasions

When I was on jury service in New York many years ago there was a case found for the defendant. Afterwards, in the corridor, I saw the lawyer for the plaintiff approaching and thought I was going to be lectured. But no. Greetings over, all he wanted to know was whether the words or the music came first. (41)

Theodore Roethke On Poetry & Craft

The writer who maintains that he works without regard for the opinion of others is either a jackass or a pathological liar. (48)

Norman Mailer The Spooky Art

Kurt Vonnegut and I are friendly with one another but wary. There was a period when we used to go out together fairly often because our wives liked each other, and Kurt and I would sit there like bookends. We would be terribly careful with one another; we both knew the huge cost of a literary feud, so we certainly didn’t want to argue. On the other hand, neither of us would be caught dead saying to the other, “Gee, I liked your last book,” and then be met with silence because the party of the second part could not reciprocate. (288)

Robert Pinsky The Sounds of Poetry: A Brief Guide

There are no rules.
However, principles may be discerned in actual practice: for example, in the way people actually speak, or in the lines poets have written. If a good line contradicts a principle one has formulated, then the principle, by which I mean a kind of working idea, should be discarded or amended.
(7)

Javier Marias Written Lives (on Rainer Maria Rilke)

The fact that such a sensitive person, so much given to communing, should have turned out to be the greatest poet of the twentieth century (of this there is little doubt) has had disastrous consequences for most of the lyrical poets who have come after, those who continue communicating indiscriminately with whatever comes their way, with, however, far less remarkable results and, it has to be said, to the serious detriment of their personalities. (83-84)

Gore Vidal United States

Sex is. There is nothing more to be done about it. Sex builds no roads, writes no novels, and sex certainly gives no meaning in life to anything but itself. I have often thought that much of D. H. Lawrence’s self-lacerating hysteria toward the end of his life must have come out of some “blood knowledge” that the cruel priapic god was mad, bad and dangerous to know, and, finally, not even a palliative to the universal strangeness. (37)

George H.W. Rylands Words and Poetry

When a generation labels everything as “superb” or “divine,” when a man says “damn” or “hell,” the actual meaning of the word is secondary to its emotional value; the word becomes a symbol of pleasure or disgust. The use of language in poetry is extraordinarily similar.” (72)

Stephen Fry The Ode Less Travelled

I HAVE A DARK AND DREADFUL SECRET. I write poetry. This is an embarrassing confession for an adult to make. In their idle hours Winston Churchill and Noel Coward painted. For fun and relaxation Albert Einstein played the violin. Hemingway hunted, Agatha Christie gardened, James Joyce sang arias and Nabokov chased butterflies. But Poety? (xi)

Percy Lubbock The Craft of Fiction

…when we think of the storyteller as opposed to the dramatist, it is obvious that in the full sense of the word there is no such thing as drama in a novel. The novelist may give the very words that were spoken by his characters, the dialogue, but of course he must interpose on his own account to let us know how the people appeared and where they were, and what they were doing. (111)

Stephen King On Writing

The dictum in writing class used to be “write what you know.” Which sounds good, but what if you want to write about starships exploring other planets or a man who murders his wife and then tries to dispose of her body with a wood-chipper? (158)

Lajos Egri The Art of Dramatic Writing

It is imperative that your story starts in the middle, and not under any circumstances, at the beginning. (200)

by Richard W. Bray