a blogalectic

“Society,” writes Jenna, “by default, is run on the extroverted principle, and its little social rules are not made with either the introvert or the artist in mind.” I agree, which is in part why I am constantly forgetting those rules, they’re easier to remember when they make sense.


I took a walk on Spaulding’s Farm the other afternoon. I saw the setting sun lighting up the opposite side of a stately pine wood. Its golden rays straggled into the aisles of the wood as into some noble hall. I was impressed as if some ancient and altogether admirable and shining family had settled there in that part of the land called Concord, unknown to me,—to whom the sun was servant,—who had not gone into society in the village,—who had not been called on. I saw their park, their pleasure-ground, beyond through the wood, in Spaulding’s cranberry-meadow. The pines furnished them with gables as they grew. Their house was not obvious to vision; their trees grew through it. I do not know whether I heard the sounds of a suppressed hilarity or not. They seemed to recline on the sunbeams. They have sons and daughters. They are quite well. The farmer’s cart-path, which leads directly through their hall, does not in the least put them out,—as the muddy bottom of a pool is sometimes seen through the reflected skies. They never heard of Spaulding, and do not know that he is their neighbor,—notwithstanding I heard him whistle as he drove his team through the house. Nothing can equal the serenity of their lives. Their coat of arms is simply a lichen. I saw it painted on the pines and oaks. Their attics were in the tops of the trees. They are of no politics. There was no noise of labor. I did not perceive that they were weaving or spinning. Yet I did detect, when the wind lulled and hearing was done away, the finest imaginable sweet musical hum,—as of a distant hive in May, which perchance was the sound of their thinking. They had no idle thoughts, and no one without could see their work, for their industry was not as in knots and excrescences embayed.

But I find it difficult to remember them. They fade irrevocably out of my mind even now while I speak and endeavor to recall them, and recollect myself. It is only after a long and serious effort to recollect my best thoughts that I become again aware of their cohabitancy. If it were not for such families as this, I think I should move out of Concord.

Thoreau: “WALKING.”

turn around, rag-and-bone

a blogalectic

I wish to be with those who know secret things, or else alone.

~Rainer Maria Rilke

We are at odds. Writing is not an act of seclusion, it is an act of reaching out, of embracing, challenging, or calling forth. It is an outward act which requires silence and seclusion, but then calls to the world it meets, embracing it and welcoming it in. […]

I’m grateful for the demands of my life, there is less time to write, more time to feel and know the world around me. Ora et Labora, the blessings of balance. It is what the Romantic’s lack, balance, aching muscles, roots, and the soothing resistance of bread dough. Not everyone is suited to physical labor, but the presence of mundane tasks is an essential to creative wholeness.


If the writer takes up his own voice as he works, though—if he has any compassion, any empathy, any truth in him, he’ll find that he’s spoken for others as well as for himself.


For a long while, I sat and read and pondered and stared. I was wondering how to answer—how to explain that, at the very least, saying solitude is a communal act and silence is terribly vocal may be on some essential level true, it doesn’t make it any easier.

Then I realised that everything I have to say on this subject, I’ve already said in a story called “Ragabone.” You can read it here.

And that’s all I have to say.

on writing

a blogalectic

First, two announcements:

1. There is a really utterly amazing contest going on over here. I won’t tell you what it is about because if I say “autographed Claire Massey chapbooks” you’ll all go rushing over there to get some and ignore the rest of my post.

2. unsettling wonder is coming back, and soon. It’s become something completely different, but it’s coming back.

Now, a blogalectic:

Often, we have a mistaken view of the nature of writing. We cling to the “nineteenth-century image of the poet-as-romantic; the lone rebel,..seized by holy imagination” (Kathleen Norris). It is a dangerous and isolating image. The writer is denied his voice – his words no longer have the power to call the community [to a] deeper understanding, because the community cannot see beyond the enjoyment they receive or fail to receive from his work.

–Masha, “Solitary Voices

But this seems to put the cart before the horse. The poet has no responsibility for or control of the community’s actions. Their enjoyment or lack thereof is not his concern. His concern is the poem on the page before him.

Nor is the community his community, as such. His community is his tradition, the company of writers and poets who have followed this path before; the supple words of court poets from centuries ago speak to him with more power an immediacy than the pundits and activists on his neighborhood block.

By all means, let the poet be an active community member, if it suits him. It’s a worthwhile sort of thing to do. But do not let him delude himself into thinking that it does a whit for his poetry. It does not. At best it teaches him compassion, which he can hack up into fuel for poetry. At worst it takes him away from his writing, devouring his time, crowding his mind with other things than the play of vision and colour and words, the light and texture of sound; it lets him flatter himself he is doing well when he has forsaken his true calling.

Yes, of course we live among people, and learn from them, and try to understand them and let them understand us. But this is what makes him a good person; it gives no indication at all whether he will be a good poet. It would be required of him even if he never wrote a word in his life.

The act of writing itself is an act of seclusion, a turning away from speech and community into the solitary, silent voice of the writer.  I know of no other way to write than that Romantic vision: in solitude, in silence, even in isolation. Because that “holy imagination,” the vision that drives the poet into the desert places and into the silence of written words, the sudden burst of fire that does not burn but goads the poet to lift up her voice in the wilderness whether the people choose to listen or no–that’s what it means to write.

on reading

a blogaletic

From Masha:

Why are we reading? What readers do we write for? And why, and how?


It isn’t just in hopes the writer will magnify my days and inspire me with wisdom, sometimes books take the place of television for me, and I look for the literary version of reality t.v., sometimes reading takes the place of sleep and I want to recreate my dreams – mysterious and surreal, sometimes I really am looking for illuminating, life-lifting beauty and meaningfulness. Am I too fickle a reader or am I indicative of the norm?

Why do we do anything, really?

That’s not a fit of existential angst, that’s an honest answer. I read for more or less precisely the same reasons I do anything else. Because I want to, or have to, or am getting paid to, or might get paid eventually. Or because of the company I’m with. Or because I want to learn something new, or revisit something old. I want to be frightened, or soothed, or contented. I want to improve myself, or I want to put myself to sleep.

We live in a happy enough word that reading can just be part of what we do everyday.
Reading is another part of life. And that’s a very good thing.

As to who do we write for—we write for readers. We write for the people who will read our writing. We don’t always know who that will be. It might be our friends and family, if our writing is our hobby. It might be people we never even thought would like our books, if our writing is a career. It might be people centuries later living in a civilisation we can only dream of, if our writing is either loved enough or archived well enough to be preserved.

We write for other people, other living people who read. It’s as simple as that.

This deeply moving reflection from the marvellous Katherine Langrish, a friend of this blog, is perhaps the best possible answer to why we write, and read.

from: “Strange Democracies”

a bit of blogalectic

The three of us began with some diverging ideas which I believe we still hold, but we go on growing in our own thought and in understanding and respect for each other. None of us, I think, holds any hard feelings, and in this world of bloodshed, that’s reason enough for gladness.

It’s easier to notice dehumanizing language when you know someone on the other side of any argument, whether relatively light, or very serious. I’m learning this all the time, and I’m realizing that one of the most refreshing things about this discussion is it’s freedom from artistic evangelism and the inspiration our discussions give me to try new things. We will probably never agree on Harry Potter, Twilight, or mediocrity, but, to paraphrase Mr. Pond, I like and respect my blogging friends. That tells me there is something worth considering, a reason to keep the conversation going.

You may have noticed that over the past few weeks I’ve tended to write other people’s words instead of my own. Not in a plagaristy sort of way, or in a guest-posty sort of way, just in a throw-up-an-occasional-TMBG-video-and-call-it-a-posty sort of way. This is partly due to constraints of time, because I am, I’m pleased to say, busy concocting a pantheon of beautiful things for you to read, which I shall begin unveiling shortly.

But it’s also due to my growing sense that it’s often better to hide behind the words and ideas of others, to put forward old concepts acknowledged as old, rather than rush recklessly for uniqueness, idiosyncrasy, and individuality. The idea is to gather fragments of the most varied things and point out their cohesion; to put up someone else’s words as indicative of what I think, but without the being bound to words.

So, to answer Masha and Jenna’s posts, I’d like to take refuge behind someone else’s ideas. I’ve had occasion to quote E.A. Wilmot before at this blog. And I recently stumbled across a interview he gave to The Neo-Leftist Observer in September 1947 (25:3), a few months before the release of his critical masterwork, Dying Gods and the Interior Cult of the Narrative West: Spenser, Marx, and the Poesis of Radical Marchen. The interview, “Strange Democracies: A Conversation with Professor Wilmot,” seems to have been the first part in a series of celebrity interviews by neo-marxist poets (the series, like the journal, was mercifully short-lived). Wilmot was interviewed by the as-yet-unknown Darren Halliday, in what seems to have been a truly remarkable confrontation of minds. The whole interview is rather too long to reproduce here, but Wilmot’s remarks on argument and discourse are, I think, of some interest. Typographical errors have been carefully retained. Read on below the jump.

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