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Showing posts from 2015

The Poetry of Rowan Williams

Rowan Williams delivers the twelfth John Rylands Poetry Reading last year   This is a paper given by Philip Harvey in the Hughes Room at St Peter’s Church, Eastern Hill, Melbourne on Sunday the 6 th of December as one in an Advent series on religious poets. The original title of the paper was ‘The text that maps our losses and longings’. Everything Rowan Williams says and writes reveals a person with a highly developed sensitivity to language, its force, directness, instantaneousness, its subtlety, indirectness, longevity. A person though may speak three languages fluently and read at least nine languages with ease, as he does, and still not engage with language in the way we are looking at here. Because Rowan is unquestionably someone with a poetic gift. By that I don’t just mean he writes poetry, I mean he engages with the life of words, their meanings, ambiguities, colours, their playfulness, invention, sounds. We find this in those writings of his that deliberate

Charles Brasch and Dante

Unexpectedly, as he draws to the end of the steadfast and beautiful autobiography of the first half of his life (‘Indirections: a Memoir 1909-1947’, pages 412-413), the New Zealander Charles Brasch introduces from out of his reading time, Dante Alighieri. The timeframe is the immediate end of the second war, as he calls it, and Brasch is returning from wartime life in Britain to his homeland. Reading just then the early cantos of the ‘Inferno’, suddenly for the first time I felt I understood what inspired the ‘Commedia’ and what it is all about. It is a vision of the terrible reality of good and evil, and of the inescapable consequences of human action, which is the exercise of free will. The vision begins significantly in that dark wood between youth and middle age, where Dante implies that he had lost all sense of purpose and of right and wrong and that the life he was living was an unworthy one – unworthy of him. All at once he saw what he was in danger of becoming, and by c

From the Archive: Bloomsday in Melbourne 2010

On Mon, Jun 21, 2010 at 12:46 PM, Koan < > wrote: Thank you for entry into the inner rooms of our psychic otherworld.   Once more Melburnians were privileged to see and hear the Joycean words exposed, turned over, made multi-dimensional and amplified in whole new ways. We absorb the words as though for the first time. Sometimes I really do wonder if any other Bloomsday or Joyce theatre comes close to the variety and depth of the Melbourne brand, still going strong after seventeen years. It extends the novels in ways that continue to be original, provocative, informative, and fun.   Circe is one hell of an episode, to paraphrase Ernest Hemingway, and burlesque is an ideal vehicle. I liked the way the audience was taken from the comfort zone of the bar room and its jolly sing-song atmosphere into the sudden uncertainty of the madhouse, as witnessed in the ballroom theatre. Disintegration of identity is a fright, but Carnival of Vice i

David Denby and Dante : Reader Response Criticism

In 1996 David Denby, the New Yorker writer, published an account of his return to university, after thirty some years, to sit in on Literature seminars at Columbia University. This sit-in was not a protest against the canon and all it stood for, rather an older man’s attempt to observe, and maybe learn from, what students in the early 1990s made of major writers found in said canon. Reviewers at the time were divided over the worth of such a venture ( Great Books : My Adventure with Homer, Rousseau, Woolf, and Other Indestructible Writers of the Western World. Simon & Schuster, 1996) and we read the book now as a snapshot of the American zeitgeist at the end of the Cold War. Chapter 16 is where Denby and his fellow literature students tackle the first book of the Dante’s Comedy. That the course doesn’t have time for the other two books proves in itself to be a fault in what follows, as the students judge the Florentine solely on what he creates in Inferno, without chancing

Osip Mandelstam Tristia No. 92

Osip Mandelstam Tristia No. 92  Sometimes titled ‘Taurida’ What is the stream of golden liquid that pours from the bottle? It is the given, the proportion of riches that time has brought us, now being poured forth just when the world is in upheaval. Madame Vera Sudeikina, for whom the poem was composed, said the liquid was honey, but translators have theories, one calling it ‘cordial’, another ‘mead’. Honey and mead are the same word in Russian. Everything is slowed down and summery, so that her words, when they come, may be timed by the flow of the honey. She who has invited us into this special world uses words of misfortune – sad, bored or dull – to warn us that she and her friends have known better times. Their expectations are high, but their lives have been reduced by circumstances she cares not to describe. We will not be bored, and feel not the least bit dull, as though that were a rule of life. Who is she talking to but we, her guests in the future, reading the word

“Titles, stills, magic, fantasy” : Afterthoughts on Bloomsday in Melbourne 2015, The Reel Joyce

  The Blooms at Eccles Street and Howth Head.  Two stills from Joseph Strick’s film Ulysses, made in 1967 The general conclusion of both theatre and seminar this year was that a film of Ulysses is unrealisable. But that doesn’t mean we cannot realise theatre pieces about the novel and film. The ruse was that James Joyce and Charlie Chaplin planned to make a movie together, but ambitions, or egos, or artistic integrity, or time, or other projects, or love interests even, got in the way. Out of this unexpected, but not entirely unlikely, meeting of creative minds came a Bloomsday theatre piece of considerable insight. The new timber of the Docklands’ Library sent the aromatic fragrance of a recent work site. This is the most fully realised portrait of the artist as a middle-aged man that the script committee has yet created. The reason is obvious: the Joyce character has a natural opposite, a larger-than-life contrasting counterpart up against whom he has to test

The Optic Nerve : Seeing James Joyce Seeing

A paper written by Philip Harvey for the Bloomsday in Melbourne seminar held on the feast day, 16 th June 2015. Read at Library at the Dock, Docklands, Melbourne with Philip reading the Harvey bits and Liam Gillespie reading the Joyce bits (marked thus >>). The Optic Nerve 1: 1914-1922 (Ulysses) James Joyce was near-sighted. He suffered eye problems from early childhood. Most photographs and portraits of Joyce have him wearing glasses. Richard Ellmann says that nearsightedness became part of his personality, for rather than staring or putting on glasses, he assumed a look of indifference. James Joyce had strong prescription glasses all his life. >> Had he performed any special corporal work of mercy for her? He had sometimes propelled her on warm summer evenings, an infirm widow of independent, if limited means, in her convalescent bathchair with slow revolutions of its wheels as far as the corner of the North Circular road opposite Mr Gavin Low’s pl