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Index: Principal Articles

Brunetière: Critic first.

Yetta Blaze de Bury: ‘I have been particular in exposing those features in Brunetière’s work which underline his own individuality: his worship of human dignity, his contempt of money, his disdain of flattery—all idiosyncrasies which strongly influence the critic’s severity toward the demoralising literature of the “naturalists”; a literature that is generally little else but excitement of the least noble instincts of humanity. In a word, he is chiefly concerned in literature with its ethical purport.’

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‘Do you know Brunetière?’

Erik Butler: ‘When Brunetière wrote that “battle looms,” he was not exaggerating. Two World Wars, if nothing else, should have proven as much; the struggles for national liberation that emerged when European empires collapsed have dotted the globe with expanding theaters of conflict. The economic and cultural imperialism of gung-ho American capitalism has begotten a market that can operate perfectly well without its creator. Fundamentalism has only flourished in response to “progress” (including, not too long ago, the “scientific socialism” espoused by the Soviet Union). ‘

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Brunetière and the ‘monster banquet’.

Elton Hocking: ‘Most of all, this banquet was held as a demonstration of protest against Brunetière. Three months before, he had dared to publish in his “Revue des deux mondes” an article which denounced the positivistic and materialistic spirit of modern science, and proclaimed that morality and happiness were to be found not in science, but in the spirit of the Church.’

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Asprezza.

Anthony Howell: ‘[In Drummond] one senses an intellectual struggle, a willingness to attempt something new. Drummond should be recognised as a pioneer: a poet prepared to experiment in his day, who made the madrigal his own. He is far more than a footnote in criticism devoted to Milton or Jonson.’

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Materializations.

James Gallant; ‘[Jacques] Vallee wrote in Dimensions (1988), that if you were interested in producing a spiritual revolution, you would need to “bypass the intelligentsia and the church, remain undetectable to the military system, leave undisturbed the political and administrative levels of society, and at the same time implant deep within [a] society far-reaching doubts concerning its basic philosophical tenets.” Those effects have been produced by the UFO and aliens, manifestations of the “little people,” and the materializations of the physical mediums.’

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Poetry and the fearful symmetry.

Daniel Bosch: ‘The optical is the existential. The instant night falls, we see less well, and conversely—perversely—we “hear things.” Night estranges. The certainties of day-lit labor yield to doubt: What was that? At night our imaginations, less-constrained by the sharp edges of the visible, and, as in childhood, less-convinced by rationalization and counter-evidence, confirm and reconfirm: We are not safe in night. We do not belong to it. Ancient cookfires and hearths—the first footlights—we won dim globes from darkness in which learned to what we do belong. ‘

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Octavio Paz in Cambridge, 1970.

Richard Berengarten: ‘In the act and process of reading Octavio, whether his prose or verse, my experience is that I am breathed on by a larger, more oxygenated air, so that whatever may be the othernesses that constitute my ‘I’ (subliminal, hidden, unnoticed, potential, dormant, discarded, dismayed, disarrayed …) which, together with my ‘I’, compose the multiple folia of my Self itself – these all get gathered and re-gathered into an opening of lungs and horizons, into a fuller, richer and more acute alertness of the senses to harmonies and dissonances; to the unique minutiae tucked and pleated throughout panoramas and the panoramas resident and resonant in minutiae. ‘

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Fear and loathing in the Royal Festival Hall.

Anthony Howell: ‘There is a lack of breadth that still dogs the selection process, I think as a direct result of prize-winners apotheosising into judges. In the end it all begins to feel samey. There are far too many “of”s – usually attached to death, love, or something equally gloomy, and so the poems not only feel samey, they feel doomy. Again and again we were urged to confront the death of a loved one or our own death. Surely there is more to poetry than a maudlin sense of nostalgia for those no longer with us?’

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Writing to Shakespeare.

Bonnefoy: ‘…you’re standing in a corner of the theatre. It’s cold, and a wind seems to be blowing. You’re talking to several men, young and old. One of them will be Hamlet; another, Ophelia. Do you have an idea to explain to them? No. Hamlet is being written here, at this very moment, in the sentences that come to you, that take you by surprise. It’s virtually an improvisation, over several days divided between your table—I don’t know where—and the stage: a text, certainly, but one you cross out off-the-cuff, as when you understand—for example, at this very instant—that your future Hamlet doesn’t grasp all that well what you’re trying to tell him.’

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Words ‘dreadful as the abortions of an angel’.

Anthony Howell: ‘I would identify this as “illuminated writing”. Readers may find it “over the top” (but that is what is being described). It’s as if Dylan Thomas were to find himself storming Hill 50. This might be thought an unfashionable, adjective-laden style these days, when writing such as Edith Sitwell’s is so often vilified (at least in “aware” poetry circles). But no one can take away from her poem “Still Falls the Rain” its right to be considered one of the great expressions about the suffering brought about by war (specifically the air raids of 1940). ‘

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Against Mysticism.

Oliver Elton: ‘We must cherish the hope that one day the bitter experience and illusory vision which are at the root of official mysticism may tend to die out, at any rate in the West. The process may be as long as the step from primitive idolatry, and meantime the regular mystics and their dispensaries must hold a regarded place. But science now forces us to think in long periods of time. ‘

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Picturing language.

Jaime Robles: ‘There is a certain point when changing from verbal art to visual art that the artist’s concerns shift. Both poetry and visual art have physical and material presences; poetry in the orthography of letters, the breaks of lines and placement of words on the field of the page. This, however, is not its primary material manifestation, which is instead aural. Rhythm, metre and the pyrotechnics of sound are poetry’s primary physical reality. It is within this aural world – whether spoken out loud or heard in the reader’s interior voice – that poetry’s meaning is given and apprehended. These are the material concerns of poetry and, like those of visual arts, they focus and concentrate in the body. To accept the idea of our world being limited to or by our words is to deny the body’s sensual experience of the world. Language is a slow phenomenon relative to the body’s perception, experience and understanding of the world.’

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The poet and the dictionary.

Alan Wall: ‘Geoffrey Hill’s poetic career has been mediated through his engagement with the dictionary. And that dictionary is first and foremost the OED. There is no greater dictionary in the world, and its making constitutes one of the great intellectual events of the twentieth century, though it started life in the nineteenth. There had never been anything like this before. Now the language itself has become the documented labyrinth of its own manifold meanings. Now history can be traced uttering itself thus and thus in one mutating word after another. The thought of a poet writing in English who would not grow excited turning the pages of the OED, or clicking on the electronic version, is so dismal that one wishes such a personage an even smaller readership than modern poets normally manage to acquire.’

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The Bedouin of St Katherine.

Hilary Gilbert: One of the oldest monasteries in Christendom is guarded by a tribe of mistreated Arabs: ‘Bedu are barred from the Armed Forces. Education is poor or non-existent: 44 per cent of Bedouin adults have had no education at all, compared with 7 per cent of Egyptians, and professional Bedu are almost unknown. Many lack electricity and accessible water. With healthcare poor, unaffordable or absent, and a heavy-handed security presence, Bedu feel with good reason that their country is failing them.’

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Venice and the theatre of memory.

Hoyt Rogers: ‘Venice teaches us that history is never dead: the humblest portico affords us a proscenium composed of centuries—but not as an album of faded recollections, settled and done. The theatre of memory unveils its meaning only when we behold it as a vital, breathing gospel of the present.’

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