“J G Ballard, the author who has died aged 78, was best known for his two fictionalised autobiographies, Empire of the Sun and The Kindness of Women; the former, which told of his childhood in a Japanese internment camp outside Shanghai, became an international best-seller and was later made into a film by Steven Spielberg.”
Read J G Ballard’s obituary in The Telegraph.
“The son of the poets Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath has taken his own life, 46 years after his mother gassed herself while he slept.
Nicholas Hughes hanged himself at his home in Alaska after battling against depression for some time, his sister Frieda said yesterday.”
Read Ben Hoyle’s article in The Times.
Dermot Cole’s thoughtful post about Nicholas Hughes is worth reading.
Read Edward Byrne’s post at One Poet’s Notes.
He heard the Banshees singing
weeks before she died.
Each night their cold blue keening
stained his dreams, or in the day time
one of their discordant notes
would find him, get lodged in his body
like a trapped wasp, somewhere
between his heart and his brain.
I tried to diffuse their mournful racket,
trained myself to coo like a wood pigeon,
breathe, like yeast expanding in proving dough,
whisper, like the soft crackle of crocus shoots
pushing through the crust of a bulb.
I asked the wind to sing something gentle,
told the moon to hum as it nosed its way
through the dark, worked hard to raise
the volume of our bodies as we loved:
our hearts thumping, our blood roaring,
our bones colliding.
But on that day I had no song strong enough
to hold them back. They came wailing,
whey-faced, raw-eyed, stood at the end of the bed
and sung him the long, demented opera
of her death.
“A healthy male adult bore consumes each year one and a half times his own weight in other people’s patience.”
“Each morning my characters greet me with misty faces willing, though chilled, to muster for another day’s progress through the dazzling quicksand the marsh of blank paper.”
“Writers take words seriously – perhaps the last professional class that does – and they struggle to steer their own through the crosswinds of meddling editors and careless typesetters and obtuse and malevolent reviewers into the lap of the ideal reader.”
“The writer must face the fact that ordinary lives are what most people live most of the time, and that the novel as a narration of the fantastic and the adventurous is really an escapist plot; that aesthetically the ordinary, the banal, is what you must deal with.”
“The refusal to rest content, the willingness to risk excess on behalf of one’s obsessions, is what distinguishes artists from entertainers, and what makes some artists adventurers on behalf of us all.”
“I would especially like to recourt the Muse of poetry, who ran off with the mailman four years ago, and drops me only a scribbled postcard from time to time.”
“From earliest childhood I was charmed by the materials of my craft, by pencils and paper and, later, by the typewriter and the entire apparatus of printing. To condense from one’s memories and fantasies and small discoveries dark marks on paper which become handsomely reproducible many times over still seems to me, after nearly 30 years concerned with the making of books, a magical act, and a delightful technical process. To distribute oneself thus, as a kind of confetti shower falling upon the heads and shoulders of mankind out of bookstores and the pages of magazines is surely a great privilege and a defiance of the usual earthbound laws whereby human beings make themselves known to one another.”
“These trees stand very tall under the heavens.
While they stand, if I walk, all stars traverse
This steep celestial gulf their branches chart.
Though lovers stand at sixes and at sevens
While civilizations come down with the curse,
Snodgrass is walking through the universe.”
- W D Snodgrass, from “These Trees Stand …”
(Heart’s Needle, 1959)
Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, William De Witt Snodgrass, died this morning after a four-month battle with inoperable lung cancer.
Read more about W D Snodgrass here.
Read “Heart’s Needle” here.
Read Ms Baroque’s wonderful post about W D Snodgrass here.
Click on the above link to read today’s article in The Guardian.
Read Peter McDonald’s review of The Lost Leader in The Guardian here.
Order your copy of The Lost Leader (Faber) here.
“Praise be to Nero’s Neptune
The Titanic sails at dawn
And everybody’s shouting
“Which Side Are You On?”
And Ezra Pound and T S Eliot
Fighting in the captain’s tower
While calypso singers laugh at them
And fishermen hold flowers …”
- Bob Dylan
“Perhaps they are not stars, but rather openings in heaven where the love of our lost ones pours through and shines down upon us to let us know they are happy.”
- Eskimo proverb
“There are so many little dyings that it doesn’t matter which one of them is death.”
- Kenneth Patchen
“From my rotting body, flowers shall grow and I am in them and that is eternity.”
- Edvard Munch
“I want a priest, a rabbi, and a Protestant clergyman. I want to hedge my bets.”
- Wilson Mizner
“I meant, said Ipslore bitterly, what is there in this world that truly makes living worthwhile?
Death thought about it, Cats, he said eventually, Cats are nice.”
- Terry Pratchett
“It isn’t necessary to imagine the world ending in fire or ice; there are two other possibilities: one is paperwork, and the other is nostalgia.”
- Frank Zappa
“I hope the leaving is joyful; and I hope never to return.”
- Frida Kahlo
“Death makes angels of us all and gives us wings where we had shoulders smooth as raven’s claws.”
- Jim Morrison
“For the Persian poet Rumi, each human life is analogous to a bowl floating on the surface of an infinite ocean. As it moves along, it is slowly filling with the water around it. That’s a metaphor for the acquisition of knowledge. When the water in the bowl finally reaches the same level as the water outside, there is no longer any need for the container, and it drops away as the inner water merges with the outside water. We call this the moment of death. That analogy returns to me over and over as a metaphor for ourselves.”
- Bill Viola
“What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset. “
“If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.”
- Meister Eckhart
“… and, when he shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun.”
- William Shakespeare
“O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won;
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting …”
- Walt Whitman
“He was a man, take him for all in all,
I shall not look upon his like again.”
- William Shakespeare
“There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”
- Leonard Cohen
“Live every day like your hair was on fire.”
- Zen proverb
White Owl Flies Into and Out of the Field
Coming down out of the freezing sky
with its depths of light,
like an angel, or a Buddha with wings,
it was beautiful, and accurate,
striking the snow and whatever was there
with a force that left the imprint
of the tips of its wings – five feet apart -
When Great Trees Fall
When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down
in tall grasses,
and even elephants
lumber after safety.
When great trees fall
small things recoil into silence,
eroded beyond fear.
When great souls die,
the air around us becomes
light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,
a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
gnaws on kind words
Great souls die and
our reality, bound to
them, takes leave of us.
dependent upon their
now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed
and informed by their
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance
of dark, cold
And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed.
Stop all the clocks
W H Auden
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crêpe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.
He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.
The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.