Tuesday 23


Filed under: Poetry — Tags: — zundel @ pm

Randall Jarrell had a knack for criticism that makes you want to go read the poem.

Likewise, Francis-Noël Thomas‘s article Moving and Memorable on the newest edition of Larkin sends me out to reacquire a volume, hopefully one of the original books.

quoting Larkin:

It was Eliot who gave the modernist poetic movement its charter in the sentence, “Poets in our civilization, as it exists at present, must be difficult,” and it was Betjeman who was to bypass the whole light industry of critical exegesis that had grown up round this fatal phrase by demonstrating that a direct relation with the reading public could be established by anyone able to be moving and memorable.

Thomas and Mark Turner co-authored one of my all time favorite books: Clear and Simple as the Truth: Writing Classic Prose; second edition recently published.


Tuesday 17

Plethora of open source music making

Filed under: Art, Computers, Open source — Tags: , , — zundel @ am

Image via Wikipedia

Making music in Linux and beyond by Anders Bylund in Ars Technica 2011-01

Audacity … And the interface is as easy to use as ever—anecdotal evidence comes from a non-geek friend of mine whom I was able to guide through creating a theatrical sound effect he needed (a ship falling off the edge of the world), from downloading Audacity for the first time to a finished and usable effect, in less than 45 minutes. That was a remote assist via instant messaging.

Rosegarden … This is a fine example of how chaining various programs together can achieve astonishing effects with some elbow grease and know-how, and it’s also one reason why this program doesn’t play well with Mac or Windows systems. The expected array of helper programs just isn’t available on those platforms.

Sunday 157


Filed under: Mind, Society, Writing — Tags: — zundel @ pm

What is George Scialabba Good For?” by Mark Oppenheimer in AGNI online 2009

(…seeing the skeptical social democrat Scialabba get in the ring with the pop-psychologizing Malcolm Gladwell would be tasty)

For the left, Lasch’s critique of capitalism was profoundly discomfiting, because it posited “progress” as anything but. “For Lasch, then,” Scialabba writes, “modernization was not the solution but a new form of the problem—the problem, that is, of domination.”

Making the Case for Intellectuals” by Maureen Corrigan on Fresh Air 2009-04-28

Scialabba says: “Though nearly everything Trilling wrote had an ultimate political relevance, almost nothing he wrote had an immediate political reference.”

Saturday 156

Excoriator, killing 99 per cent of all known hypocrisies

Filed under: Mind, Poetry, Society — Tags: — zundel @ pm

I always start the weekend FT at the back to read Harry Eyres.

Is there a corner for poetry?” by Harry Eyres in The Financial Times 2009-06-06

“I hate poetry,” said this young man and, to make matters clearer: “I don’t believe in free expression.” For all the rebarbativeness of his remarks, I felt afterwards he was being more helpful and honest than all the bland promoters of poetry, or purveyors of a product called poetry that is not the real thing.

“Poetry, above all, is an approach to the truth of feeling,” says Rukeyser with admirable simplicity.

Poetry is up against it in all sorts of ways. Unlike video games, reality television, amateur dance troupes, it is not a cultural phenomenon that is generally welcomed into people’s lives.

I should read Harry more often. He refreshes me. And he reminds me what I value. I’d like to be him.


Monday 151

Orwell’s truths

Filed under: Politics, Society, Writing — Tags: — zundel @ am

Eternal vigilance” by Keith Gessen in the New Statesman 2009-05-28

… he thought a mature totalitarian system would so deform its citizenry that they would not be able to overthrow it.

Orwell may have gotten it right. Some citizens have overthrown totalitarian governments. But dictatorship does correlate with minds incapable of overthrowing it. Which came first?

University is where you sometimes get loaded up with fancy terms whose meaning you’re not quite sure of.

Orwell encapsulates Wilson’s argument with a remarkable concision: “Dickens had grown up near enough to poverty to be terrified of it, and in spite of his generosity of mind, he is not free from the special prejudices of the shabby-genteel.” This is stark, and fair, and that “terrified” is unforgettable.

Sunday 143

Welcome to America, now please shut up

Filed under: Travel, Writing — Tags: , — zundel @ pm

Mirror on America” by David Brooks in The New York Times 2009-05-22

…here will be a prose-poem of pure meaninglessness as his brilliance finally breaks loose from the tethers of observation and oozes across the page in a great, gopping goo of pure pretension.

I know the country, or most of it. It’ll never fit in a book. It has been too cliched, too stereotyped. Describing it truly would require new language, and that would take many words.

Jacques Barzun once observed that of all the books it is impossible to write, the most impossible is a book trying to capture the spirit of America (I first read this truth when I was three-quarters of the way through my own attempt).

Saturday 114

Libraries speak

Filed under: Building, Society — zundel @ pm

In Praise of the Town Library” by Michael Gorra in The Smart Set 2007-10-13

I too have walked into various towns’ libraries. They tell you things about the place.

I remember the library in Schwerin, Germany, in an otherwise purposed building. I went to find an atlas, to confirm what I suspected: that I had crossed into the former East Germany. They had no atlas from before 1989.

Thursday 105

True Britannia

Filed under: Society, Writing — Tags: — zundel @ pm

As the pink bits faded off into the sunset:

Darkness visible” by Philip Hensher in The Guardian 2009-04-11

And the rest of us?

Wednesday 104


Filed under: Poem — Tags: — zundel @ pm

If a flow in age appear,
’Tis but rain, and runs not clear.

Ah, how sweet it is to love!by John Dryden

Tuesday 26

Inaugurating poetry

Filed under: Poetry — Tags: — zundel @ pm

The sound of breaking butterfly cheers me immensely:

Inaugural Verse” by Rudolph Delson in n+1 2009-01-19

It is not, in fact, so hard to know what to make of Elizabeth Alexander. She is a poet who, this Tuesday, will earnestly attempt to do something that may well be beyond her talents.

Adam Kirsch on Elizabeth Alexander’s Bureaucratic Verse” in “The Plank” at The New Republic 2009-01-20

Monday 11

May 5, 1915

Filed under: Writing — Tags: — zundel @ pm

Writing about Horace’s odes, Professor Harris suggests perusing A E Housman’s A Shropshire Lad.

I pulled Paul Fussell’s The Great War and Modern Memory from the shelf and checked the index for Housman.

Which led to this:

Letters from Flanders” by Alexander Gillespie

…This day began for me about midnight, as I lay in my dug-out in the breastwork watching the plough swing slowly round. I shall remember that night; there was a heavy thunder-shower in the evening, but when we marched down it cleared away for a warm still summer night; still, that is, except for the sniper’s rifles, and the rattle of the machine-guns, and sometimes the boom of a big gun far away, coming so long after the flash that you had almost forgotten to expect it. The breastwork which we held ran through an orchard and along some hedgerows. There was a sweet smell of wet earth and wet grass after the rain, and since I could not sleep, I wandered about among the ghostly cherry trees all in white, and watched the star-shells rising and falling to north and south. Presently a misty moon came up, and a nightingale began to sing. I have only heard him once before, in the daytime, near Farly Mount, at Winchester; but, of course, I knew him at once, and it was strange to stand there and listen, for the song seemed to come all the more sweetly and clearly in the quiet intervals between the bursts of firing. There was something infinitely sweet and sad about it, as if the countryside were singing gently to itself, in the midst of all our noise and confusion and muddy work; so that you felt the nightingale’s song was the only real thing which would remain when all the rest was long past and forgotten. It is such an old song too, handed on from nightingale to nightingale through the summer nights of so many innumerable years. … So I stood there, and thought of all the men and women who had listened to that song, just as for the first few weeks after Tom was killed I found myself thinking perpetually of all the men who had been killed in battle—Hector and Achilles and all the heroes of long ago, who were once so strong and active, and now are so quiet. Gradually the night wore on, until day began to break, and I could see clearly the daisies and buttercups in the long grass about my feet. Then I gathered my platoon together, and marched back past the silent farms to our billets. There was a beautiful sunrise, and I went to sleep content.

Fussell writes: What purports to be a letter is more like an unfledged poem … To write like that you have to read all the time.

Gillespie, age 26, died in action 25 September 1915.

Sunday 10

Horace Ode I.9

Filed under: Poem — zundel @ pm

A mention by Harry Eyres in this weekend’s Financial Times sent me looking for a good translation of Horace’s ninth poem from his first book of odes.

Our Horatian winter of content” by Harry Eyres in The Financial Times 2009-01-10

Many stuffy translations exist. I think Horace unstuffy.

William Harris provides a charming loose translation and a nice reading.

Horace Odes, Book I.9” by William Harris

You see how the snow stands deep in Ripton’s woods
The snow and frozen hail have cracked the trees
Half to the ground, the river’s hard as land,
Inside we stoke generously the fire.

Professor Harris’s website looks worth long perusal. But later, as I go to have a drink with my friend Alex.

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