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Showing posts from September 30, 2012

God is your Next-Door Neighbour

The mesmerising, magniloquent poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke continues to exert its almost religious influence over readers. Rilke makes an entire world of meaning out of a personal vision, using religious language and images. The very valuable and, in my view, main achievement of this book (In the company of Rilke : why a 20 th -century visionary poet speaks so eloquently to 21 st -century readers yearning for inwardness, beauty & spiritual connection, Stephanie Dowrick, Allen & Unwin, 2009, ISBN 978-1-74237-180-1, RRP) is its description and commendation of the reading of poetry as a satisfying and necessary practice, available to anyone. Stephanie Dowrick identifies Rilke as gifted with ‘negative capability’. I know of several interpretations of what Keats meant by ‘negative capability’, and Dowrick herself definitely fits one of them: the ability to objectify in words her own experiences. In this case, Dowrick’s experience of reading poetry. Poetry, its intimacy,

Invisible yet Enduring Lilacs

Train overshoots Platform Three at Macleod Railway Station To enter into the written world of Gerald Murnane is to see and hear methodical, tested sentences that take us into unpredictable places. Methodical but managed sentences, tested but spontaneous sentences that emulate the logic and illogic of the moving mind. Methodical and unrepetitious, for they act like lines of poetry, mood and meaning changing even when the same words are used. These essays, fugitive or eremitical take your pick, have appeared over the past twenty years. (Gerald Murnane, Invisible yet enduring lilacs, Giramondo, $24.95, 225 p, 1-920882-09-X) They further accentuate the reader’s reliance on the imagination of Gerald Murnane. “I imagined that the house itself had been shipped many years before from Britain,” he writes. Most writers assume that their imagination is solidly before us in the work, but for Murnane his images are as essential and sensible as any reality he is constructing. Images are a fir

Otherwise than I had supposed it

When some cheese-headed ladder-climber reads      A poem of mine from the rostrum, Don’t listen. That girl in her jersey and beads,      Second row from the front, has the original nostrum I blundered through nine hundred parties and ninety-eight pubs       In search of. The words are a totem Erected long after for scholars and yobs      Who’d make, if they could, a bicycle-seat of my scrotum. (‘To Any Young Man who Hears my Verses Read in a Lecture Room’) The person James Baxter has to thank for saving this gem from oblivion is a Wellington lecturer. Such a paradox would not have been lost on a poet who spent his life at war with the powers of this world and who made his own rough peace with them, when he could. Baxter wrote much scurrilous verse about universities while relying on their patronage. He bent Catholic dogma inside out while running a commune with church blessing. He attacked bourgeois mores in book after book, depending on that same bourgeoi

Auden's Rediscovery of Christianity

 W. H Auden's Typewriter A paper by Philip Harvey given at a seminar on the poet W.H. Auden, as part of a joint presentation with Dr William Johnston at the Institute for Spiritual Studies, St. Peter's Church, Eastern Hill, Melbourne, on Wednesday the 6 th of April 2011.   1.     The Master of Versification W. H. Auden (1907-1973) clearly had the view that a poet, especially a great poet and he was only interested in being a great poet, had to have command of all the poetic forms. When we open the Collected Works we find every imaginable form of poem. There is the villanelle or pantoum: Time will say nothing but I told you so, Time only knows the price we have to pay; If I could tell you I would let you know. There is the limerick: As the poets have mournfully sung, Death takes the innocent young,              The rolling in money,         The screamingly funny, And those who are very well hung. Later in life Auden turned his