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Index: Commentary on Art and Literature

Who will read short stories?

By DAVID McVEY. IN THE SPRING 2018 issue of The Author, Michael Bhaskar’s article ‘Not Going Gently’ offered a fascinating insight into the precarious survival of literary fiction and made a powerful case for its cultural importance. Necessarily, he addressed the long form, the novel, but his article prompted me to prod the physique of […]

Tintoretto: after and before.

Hoyt Rogers: ‘The past, as our imagination transforms it in the present, already evolves into the future. This was the lesson I learned from Tintoretto in work after work—a lesson that quickened my steps and restored me to reality, that multivalent realm of ‘the seen and the unseen.’’’

Five poets remark on prose poetry.

Peter Riley: ‘To avoid endless problems of definition, it would help if they were called “short prose pieces”, which is one thing they undeniably are. This was Eliot’s idea (who hated them). ‘

Satire for the Millennium.

By ANTHONY HOWELL. Twas a blith Prince exchang’d five hundred Crowns For a fair Turnip; Dig, dig on, O clowns! —Richard Lovelace (“On Sanazar’s being honoured…”) A definition of satire: Heinsius, in his dissertations on Horace, makes it for me, in these words; “Satire is a kind of poetry, without a series of action, invented […]

The Morality of the Profession of Letters.

R.L. Stevenson: ‘The writer has the chance to stumble, by the way, on something pleasing, something interesting, something encouraging, were it only to a single reader. He will be unfortunate, indeed, if he suit no one. He has the chance, besides, to stumble on something that a dull person shall be able to comprehend; and for a dull person to have read anything and, for that once, comprehended it, makes a marking epoch in his education.’

The Beginning and the End of Art

Tronn Overend: ‘There are rights and obligations, notions of justice and a facility of logic, plus the recognition of different “beliefs and intentions” in others. Denis Dutton notes there is nothing that is culturally specific about these human traits. They are as “universal as the blinking reflex”. Games, jokes, gossip; feelings of envy, pride, shame and grief are the human condition. To this list must be added the making of art.’

Pictures and words.

Peter O’BNrien: ‘The Cubists and Futurists, and Joyce and Beckett changed the way we look at images and the way we string words together. The linearity can be disrupted, the sequencing can be scrambled. Lacunae. Knots. Repetitions. Noughts. Everything is possible, and perhaps to be desired. And new connections are made between the ways the mind works and how it makes sense (or non-sense) of what it catches and absorbs.’

Poetry written in Britain’s ‘long moment’.

Peter Robinson: ‘The crisis our country is still in as we speak, the withdrawal agreement from the EU not likely to be got ‘over the line’, never mind the treaties that are to establish our future relationship with continental Europe, brought back, as we’ve already touched on, a lifetime of personal and public vicissitudes, and the poems in “Ravishing Europa” came relatively quickly under the pressure of public events as felt on my barometric pulses.’

In Keen and Quivering Ratio.

Tim McGrath: ‘Newton and Dickinson were themselves embodiments of the philosopher’s stone, the prima materia that brought about alchemical transformations. A good percentage of what they touched turned into the purest form of gold, the spiritual gold synonymous with perfection and immortality.’

In medias res.

Liminal Spaces in The Duke’s Children. Winner of the 2018 Trollope Prize. By DEVON BOYERS. CHARLES DARWIN’S 1859 work On the Origin of Species transformed the Victorian Era, introducing new ideas about natural law and chance that clashed with the prevailing belief in a Judeo-Christian Creator’s active participation in the human trajectory. This period of […]

Discovery and rediscovery.

Ian Seed: ‘It feels like cheating. I have not had to struggle with my narrative prose poems in the way that I do with other kinds of writing, and yet I believe that the best of them are the only writings of mine that are somehow genuinely themselves. They have needed just a little nurturing from me in order to make their own way in the world.’

The eyes of Coleridge.

Anthony Costello: ‘Coleridge’s eye poems sets him apart from other Romantic poets. Eyes are central to dozens of important poems and present in the form of significant phrases and lines in hundreds more. They are present as basic descriptors: ‘dark disliking eye’, ‘dim eyes’, ‘bright blue eyes’, but then the adjectives become more revealing and turn into adverbs and verbs…’

The function of criticism.

T.S. Eliot: ‘I do not deny that art may be affirmed to serve ends beyond itself; but art is not required to be aware of these ends, and indeed performs its function, whatever that may be, according to various theories of value, much better by indifference to them. Criticism, on the other hand, must always profess an end in view, which, roughly speaking, appears to be the elucidation of works of art and the correction of taste.’

Roeg elements: innovation and risk.

Anthony Howell: ‘The millennium seems to be wishing upon us the restoration of mawkish and short-sighted values – perhaps not the values of patriotism, fidelity, grace and tradition that preoccupied swathes of nineteenth century verse, but in many ways the appeal is the same. It’s an appeal to the emotions.’

Shame and shamelessness.

Anthony Howell: ‘We should remind ourselves that, while artists may represent horrors – think of Hieronymus Bosch – they should not be accused of endorsing the horrors they reveal. Everything is imaginable. In the words of André Gide, one must dare to be oneself. Why should an angry sense of shame provoke us into trashing artists for revealing nightmares?’