The Poet In Journals – St. Denys Garneau

One of my favorite books from ages ago, The Journal Of St. Denys Garneau which I discovered in a bargain bin at the Coles where Neil Young worked.
I had been frequenting the Champlain bookstore in Toronto, when I first saw a mention of him, picking up books in the European style or French style, uncut pages you had to razor open to read Marie Claire Blais, Anne Hébert(Garneau’s cousin), and others, etc. Which of course led to other readings of Hubert Aquin, Michel Tremblay, etc etc.

All their works were distinguishable from  but inseparable from others such as Marian Engel’s Bear, Miriam Waddington’s poems, Frank Scott’s certainly, or Monique Bosco’s Lot’s Wife.

Favorite because it fit right in with circumstances of thought, countryside and origin (I’d go to read it in solitude in a place near Ottawa, having visited my mother’s birthplace in Campbell’s Bay, Quebec), and the poetic disclosures. The discovery attached to slicing open pages, and translating – since the poems were in French – always felt fresh and new, and I could see what was missed in other translations though John Glassco’s comes closest.

Reminded me that favorites are often due to a time and place, as are poets whose popularity mysteriously decline upon their deaths; similar to the most popular novelists of decades or centuries past whom not many can even recall.

The book lasts for many reasons then, one of which would be the essential self, made bare without being mired in the spectacles which pass for a self these days, through literate and real details as is the case in many of his poems at whatever level they may be taken.

He was as much a denizen of my ‘neighborhood’ of spirits and souls as Shelley, Shakespeare, or reaching back, Archilochus, and Marcus Aurelius.

©Dean Baker

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For The Feminist Few – William Godwin, Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Shelley, Percy Shelley: Father, Mother, Daughter, Poet

 

 godwin_

 

William Godwin, father of Mary Shelley, and husband to Mary Wollstonecraft, her mother, wrote a book which has influenced many great poets and writers, and ought to influence many more.

Not in the sense of being a treatise, or bible of belief, but as fertile ground for what is inspiring and true in the entirety of the book.

An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice was written in 1793, during the French Revolution.  “Its powerful critique of the institutions of government and support for individual liberty of judgement raises profound questions about the nature of our duty to others that is still relevant today.” – https://global.oup.com/academic/product/an-enquiry-concerning-political-justice-9780199642625

“No work gave such a blow to the philosophical mind of the country as the celebrated Enquiry … Tom Paine was considered for a time as Tom Fool to him, Paley an old woman, Edmund Burke a flashy sophist. Truth, moral truth, it was supposed had here taken up its abode; and these were the oracles of thought.” – William Hazlitt, Spirit Of The Age

This book served the poet Shelley his entire life, as well as Byron and many others following.

https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/2785985-enquiry-concerning-political-justice-and-its-influence-on-modern-morals

 

 

In 1792 Mary Wollstonecraft  wrote  wollstonecraft A Vindication Of The Rights Of Women (With Strictures On Political and Moral Subjects), of which there are many great quotes to be derived. Such as “If women be educated for dependence; that is, to act according to the will of another fallible being, and submit, right or wrong, to power, where are we to stop?”

http://www.bartleby.com/144/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mary Shelley, with the benefit of inspiring suggestions from both Shelley and Byron, made her book maryshelley  Frankenstein; Or, The Modern Prometheus in 1818 when she was only 21.

All three of these books have a suggestive confluence together and apart; are revelatory for their own reasons, as such as was being created in those times when it may have been less difficult, or apparently so, for some great and unique literature to be created appears as obvious and transparent truths due not to the age but the authors’ abilities.

 

 

And all in a measure with one of the greats of poetry, Percy Bysshe Shelley, one of my most favorite poets ( along with John Donne, George Herbert, etc etc).

 

©Dean J.Baker

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Supposed Science Fiction – J.G. Ballard, ‘the poet of desolate landscapes’

‘the poet of desolate landscapes’

 

 

 

 

Fortunately for me I read some early Ballard in the ‘70’s before all the hype and surrounding mess over his work Crash, turned into a movie by Cronenberg.
He was called the ‘poet of desolate landscapes’ for a reason.
(http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/13/books/review/Lethem-t.html)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J._G._Ballard

One of my favorite science fiction writers, along with Thomas Disch (particularly Camp Concentration), Philip K. Dick, and other individual books, such as A Canticle For Leibowitz. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Canticle_for_Leibowitz

Most people will recognize what Spielberg did with his quite wonderful autobiographical work, Empire Of The Sun. Excellent movie, wonderful book.

However, a book of interviews with Ballard is more than interesting and shows a prophet of the future now in his words.
Extreme Metaphors is a great compilation of the author in talks that are always interesting, and often revelatory.

Take this passage, from 1974 – (the year, not any particular book), in an interview conducted by Carol Orr, with the influence of Judith Merrill, whom I was fortunate to meet. (Along with Marian Engel, who wrote the great (and supposedly feminist) novel, Bear amongst other works, introduced by poet Gwendolyn MacEwen, to my surprise when I was first meeting Gwen, who introduced me by saying, “This is the poet I’ve been telling you about,” and having Marian interject, “Well, say something brilliant then, poet” to which I apparently satisfactorily replied since both Judith and Marian gave an approving, and raised eyebrows, nod to Gwen afterwards. *biography

“Threats to the quality of life that everyone is so concerned about will come much more, say, from the widespread application of computers to every aspect of our lives where all sort of science fiction fantasies will come true, where bank balances will be constantly monitored and at almost any given time all the information that exists about ourselves will be on file somewhere – where all sorts of agencies, commercial, political and governmental, will have access to that information.”
– Pg.58, Extreme Metaphors, How To Face Doomsday without Really Trying.
Reason enough to start to reading his books, let alone that book.

http://www.ballardian.com/extreme-metaphors-on-sale

©Dean J. Baker

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Fishnet by Robert Lowell

 

 

 

 

Any clear thing that blinds us with surprise,
your wandering silences and bright trouvailles,
dolphin let loose to catch the flashing fish. . . .
saying too little, then too much.
Poets die adolescents, their beat embalms them,
The archetypal voices sing offkey;
the old actor cannot read his friends,
and nevertheless he reads himself aloud,
genius hums the auditorium dead.
The line must terminate.
Yet my heart rises, I know I’ve gladdened a lifetime
knotting, undoing a fishnet of tarred rope;
the net will hang on the wall when the fish are eaten,
nailed like illegible bronze on the futureless future.

©Robert Lowell

-excerpt from The Dolphin

Just read the first two lines and know that is not only about poetry but also about how
poetry in the world is recognizable, and the contrary is true: what isn’t poetry is known as well.

The brilliant use of metaphor matched with the physical aligning into discovery: how important poetry is when with only a few lines
endless senses of intellect, art, and personal renewal can be seen and pursued in a manner that the world itself would never allow, and thus must be and remain an object of delight and study,
because in that moment of poetry where the lines resound the reader is forever altered.

For those interested in literary trivia, ‘Dolphin’ is the nickname by which Lowell would often refer to his wife.

Fitting then that I came across this volume and others I relate to it such as For Lizzie And Harriet,   Day By Day and History among others of Lowell’s great works.

©Dean J. Baker

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