Having also tried various neat distinctions which inevitably crumble in the face of precise examples that don’t fit, I liked Thoreau’s conclusion that a ‘beautiful fact’ can’t easily be excluded from a notebook on poetry.

For similar overlaps between fact (science) and poetry (art), see the Hungarian composer Zoltán Kodály.

‘I have a commonplace-book for facts and another for poetry, but I find it difficult always to preserve the vague distinction I had in my mind, for the most interesting and beautiful facts are so much the more poetry and that is their success.’ (18 February 1852)

For other writers on notebooks, see Lawrence Durrell, David Esterly, and Patrick Leigh Fermor on losing one.

Source: Henry David Thoreau,The Journal 1837-1861, Damion Searls (ed.), preface by John R. Stilgoe (New York: New York Review Books, 2009), p. 114

Photo credit: Annie Spratt at unsplash.com


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