The poet and artist William Blake was born in Soho in London on 28 November 1757. His ‘Newton’ conveys the scientist as allegorical figure: absorbed by man-made geometry to the exclusion of the self and the wonders of the natural world. Blake’s poetic and artistic works became important cultural touchstones during a tumultuous period in Western history, but his words and images comprise social commentary and critique that still speaks to our times.
“In her notes, we see her honing her habit of attention, her sensitivity to shades of meaning and the music of language, her tropism toward writers with a talent for noticing.”
— Parul Sehgal reviews Essays One, a new collected volume from Lydia Davis. Read the review in The New York Times.
— Do you prefer being called Professor, Doctor, Mrs or Ms?
— I like Toni.
In 2017, Sarah Ladipo Manyika and Mario Kaiser sat down with Nobel laureate Toni Morrison. Their conversation took place in her home in upstate New York. Read more at Granta.
Noted AIDS researcher Jay A. Levy became friends with Samuel Beckett after encountering his work as a student. This portrait, taken in Beckett’s home, was among books, letters, and memorabilia that Levy and his wife recently donated to Wesleyan University.
“Much to cast down, much to build, much to restore.”
— T.S. Eliot, The Rock
“Cisneros’s work allowed me to see the power in my culture’s storytelling tradition, and the power within myself.”
Kali Fajardo-Anstine and other Latinx writers
on the influence of Sandra Cisneros’s poetic coming-of-age novel,
The House on Mango Street.
“It’s the start of 2016, and Smith’s friend Pearlman—a producer and rock critic—has been hospitalized after a brain hemorrhage. As he lies in a coma, Smith recounts the tumultuous year that follows—the loss of friends (Sam Shepard is nearly bedridden), the horror of the imminent election and rise of nationalism, and the impending climate crisis. A reflection on mortality, the book retains Smith’s characteristically flat tone as she wanders through stretches of Arizona, California, Virginia, and Kentucky, stopping at diners for black coffee and onion omelets and conversations with strangers. She hitchhikes from San Francisco to San Diego and back, travels as far as Lisbon, and returns home to the quiet of her Rockaway bungalow to stare at the flowers. All the while, she describes the mundane details of life with incredible vividness…”
Camille Jacobson on
Year of the Monkey,
a new memoir from Patti Smith.
In these dark times
we look for the light.
“I felt very strongly that the communal suffering, and our ability to transcend it, was the thing that held us together. This was not some pessimistic worldview, quite the opposite really. It became clear that as human beings we have enormous capabilities that allow us to rise above our suffering – that we are hardwired for transcendence. […] [W]hether the lyric writing has changed, I would say that it has shifted fundamentally. I have found a way to write beyond the trauma […]. I found with some practise the imagination could propel itself beyond the personal into a state of wonder.”
“I grew up on the margins, I inherited all the value of the margins. I know from all my reading and living that extraordinary things happen on the edges—the changes happen, the rituals happen, the magic, for want of a better word, happens on the edge of things. Everything is possible at the edge. It’s where the opposites meet, the different states and elements come together.”
— Ali Smith, qtd. in The Paris Review
“You must never, never despair, whatever the circumstances. To hope and to act, these are our duties in misfortune. To do nothing and despair is to neglect our duty.”
— Boris Pasternak, Doctor Zhivago
A new online database allows users to track down the location of every known letter, postcard, and correspondence by Samuel Beckett listed in a public archive. You can tbeckett.library.emory.edu.
The New York Times has published a lovely and charming interview with Patti Smith, where she talks about some of her favourite books (and where I discovered she has a signed first edition of James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake).
Source: The New York Times
“When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.”
— Ansel Adams
“No definition of poetry is adequate unless it be poetry itself. The most accurate analysis by the rarest wisdom is yet insufficient, and the poet will instantly prove it false by setting aside its requisitions. It is indeed all that we do not know. The poet does not need to see how meadows are something else than earth, grass, and water, but how they are thus much. He does not need discover that potato blows are as beautiful as violets, as the farmer thinks, but only how good potato blows are. The poem is drawn out from under the feet of the poet, his whole weight has rested on this ground. It has a logic more severe than the logician’s. You might as well think to go in pursuit of the rainbow, and embrace it on the next hill, as to embrace the whole of poetry even in thought.”
— Henry David Thoreau, Journal, 26 January 1840