Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Beep beep

Extracts from Karl Shapiro's The Bourgeois Poet, which I'm currently reading [1]:

" Between the Times and the Partisan, Sestos and Abydos of aspiring poets. Between the itch for popularity and the refined thirst for the avant-garde. Between the picture on the opening page and the quiet hieratic promotion. Between the happy handshake and imperceptible nod of acceptance. Between the goose that lays the golden egg and the tailor who weaves the emperor's clothes. Then silence."


"But I'm no different. I arrange my books with a view to their appearance. Some highbrow titles are prominently displayed. The desk in my study is carefully littered; after some thought I hang a diploma on the wall only to take it down again. I sit at the window where I can be seen. What do my neighbours think of me - I hope they think of me. I fix the light to hit the books. I lean some rows one way, some rows another.

A man's house is his stage. Others walk on to play their bit parts. Now and again a soliloquy, a birth, an adultery."


"When I say the Hail Mary I get an erection. Doesn't that prove the existence of God?"


"This is a paragraph. A paragraph is a sonnet in prose. A paragraph begins where it ends. A paragraph may contain a single word or cruise for pages. Good writing rids itself of style, sanctifies no grammar, is silent more than it speaks. Most writing is bad because the writer never sits down to think until he sits down to write. Most writing is dishonest because the writer doesn't believe what he writes but is honestly trying to find out. Most writing is at the expense of the reader, a kindly fellow who would like to believe you."


"Photograph album lying on the grass, the wind reads you lazily. The wind thumbs my episodes. A few drops of rain splatter my years. There's plenty of sighing for the impossibles. I love the wine stains of certain accidental poems, pale purple Matisse wallpaper. Who spilled that? Some faces are already repressed."


"The molasses of lecturing is sweet and the rum of polemic is good for the stomach. I write prose to find out what I think. Then it is printed. The whole business is irresponsible. But it's getting somewhere: if the polished paragraph won't work I'll pick up mud. There are no rules in this game. You can skewer a king or throw him in the big pond."

[to Baudelaire]: "In fact, aren't you a children's poet? Aren't you the Lewis Carroll of small vice? Your shabby Wonderland of pus and giant nipple, your cats and jewels and cheap perfumes, your licking Lesbians and make-believe Black Mass, O purulence of Original Sin. And always playing it safe in the end, like Disneyland. So many safety devices, pulleys, cranks, classical Alexandrines."

Good stuff. Also watched Venus this evening, which is notable only for Peter O'Toole's mesmerising presence. O'Toole projects a kind of weary classicism effortlessly, and his voice is so exquisite that finely aged whisky would kill to get into that throat. Particularly memorable is O'Toole's rendition of Shakespeare's Sonnet XVIII ("Shall I compare thee to a summer's day") - in general I would have dismissed a script that uses Sonnet XVIII as hopelessly banal, but O'Toole rescues it from cliche and converts it into something sublime and moving.

Come to think of it, that's pretty much how the whole movie goes.

[1] Thanks largely to this piece by Jim Harrison in the New York Times.


Space Bar said...

Good writing rids itself of style, sanctifies no grammar, is silent more than it speaks.

And, like I'd said once and still maintain in the face of many arguments, 'All good poetry tends towards silence.'

Szerelem said...

Have I mentioned I want O'Toole to win an Oscar?
He's overdue a few. Atleast.

Revealed said...

I heard O' Toole on BBC the other day. He was asked to render Shakespeare, and he chose that exact same sonnet. He quoted as much as he could remember. Sheer poetry. His voice was intended to speak the Bard.

Anonymous said...

"..his voice is so exquisite that finely aged whisky would kill to get into that throat."

That is the best compliment I've ever heard/read about anyones voice!


J. Alfred Prufrock said...

Nice to see your lyrical side. Wonder what brought it on?


The Black Mamba said...

yes, O'toole did say (on npr) that he chose XVIII because "everyone knows that one, I think" :)

That said, he did also mention that all 156 were close to his heart and 'they hit the spot' and went on to recite another during that interview.

The Black Mamba said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...


totally unrelated to this post. hi iam anon from the previous post.

I meant " God! the gorilla i live with"

i was pointing to my husband who does not understand things other than engineering, ten sports and booze.
iam sorry for that painful image of god as gorrilla with abraham on top of tower. erase it right away. replace with this smug man on a sofa with a drink in hand watching ten sports on a moonlit/moonless/any night.