“Poets guard the language, poets are philologists, the historians, of language listening to the rustle of the hem of language as it travels liquidly across the page.”—James Wood Opening the Griffin Poetry Prize 2009 Awards Ceremony
“The senses are connected with the elements in a series of correspondences: the eyes is associated with water, which can absorb light, hearing with air, smell with fire, touch with earth.”—Aristotle from De Anima
“Unreliable narration is the name given to this kind of storytelling, the smudged hermeneutics whereby it is our task as readers to puzzle out the gaps and the slippages of a first-person account that knows less than it thinks it knows about itself.”—James Wood from a review of David Foster Wallace’s Oblivion in New Republic (9th August 2004)
“When Shakespeare commits lexical excess (by coining new words, by larding simple thought with plump dense sounds and metaphors, by hyper-enlivening every sentiment with figurative language), English becomes a body punctured by his violent actions. Example: ‘the murmuring surge / That th’unumb’red idle pebbles chafes / Cannot be heard so high.’ ‘Murmuring’ and ‘surge; and ‘unnumb’red’ present to the ear a glut of u and m and r sounds. And ‘idle’ and ‘pebble’, next to each other, create a pebble effect. With purple ripeness, low-pitched vowels (murmuring surge) ascend to high-pitched vowels (high). This apex of virtuosity - language creaming, ascending, and thickening.”—Wayne Koestenbaum from Humiliation
“I reached that odd point when you are no longer young, and yet you’re still not old. You become a kind of centaur: half the person you used to be, half somebody else; that point when there is more you do not care about and less and less you do - you are in no man’s land; you keep moving, but not because you will get anywhere.”—Benjamin Prado from Not Only Fire
“Am in the middle of a spreading light,
my hands inspired, the world beautiful.
Cannot stop looking at trees:
they’re so hopeful and so green.
A sunny pathway stretches beyond the mulberries,
I stand before the window in the prison hospital,
cannot smell the smell of medicine:
somewhere carnations must be in bloom.
That’s how it goes, my friend.
The problem is not falling a captive,
it’s how to avoid surrender.”—Nazim Hikmet ‘That’s How it Goes’ (Bursa prison, 1948) (trans. Taner Baybars)
“I went to the City Library and tried to write a poem to the dead man’s memory. Nothing came of it but a few pitiful lines which I tore up in shame. But out of that shame, out of that impotence and grief, something was born - something which I believe was the desire to become a writer; that is to say, to be able to tell of what it is to mourn, to have been loved, to be left lonely.”—Stig Dagerman
“Crafting a sexual position … always involves becoming haunted by what is excluded. And the more rigid the position, the greater the ghost and the more threatening it is in some way.”—Judith Butler in conversation with Peter Osborne
“It was only when I was growing up that I realised my mother’s need, her loneliness, which led her to try to keep me at home on a wet cold day. She felt that by going to school I was abandoning her. I have observed this attitude towards people who write or compose or paint or in any way desert the living and visible world to create a world of their own that is a threat to the existence and survival of the generally known world.”—Janet Frame from The Memorial Room
“How can you not compare the photo of Chekhov at Yalta with his two little dogs, Touzik and Chataigne, to Cartier-Bresson’s photo of Faulkner, also with his two little dogs? Sometimes you find yourself in a setting, a landscape, even with a person, that gives you a sense of deja-vu.”—Roger Grenier from A Box of Photographs
“Dickinson’s envelope-poems resemble the distant migrants that do not come fully into focus and so never constitute a clearly delimitable constellation. The wind moves them. Time moves them. If, in a given moment, one or two seem to be in close touch, each in the next moment seems remote from the others, unassimilable to a larger figure, whose moving edges drift and blur. More importantly, perhaps, like homing birds gone astray, they have exchanged the hermetic exchange inherent in letters, those ‘fine and private things’ sent to one intimate and elite addressee, for the more elliptical but finally more far-reaching relations of poems.”—Marta Werner ‘A Directory of Envelope Writings’ from Emily Dickinson: The Gorgeous Nothings
“The air and its light are described as ‘melted’, ‘glazed’, ‘unctuous’, ‘elastic’, ‘fermenting’, ‘contracted’, ‘distended’, ‘solidified’, ‘distilled’, ‘scattered’, ‘liquid’, ‘woven’, ‘brittle’, ‘powdery’, ‘crumbing’, ‘embalmed’, ‘congealed’, ‘gummy’, ‘flaked’, ‘squeezed’, ‘frayed’, ‘pressed’, ‘percolated’, ‘vitalised’ and even ‘burning.”—Ever Kosofsky Sedgwick from The Weather in Proust