Made up and yet true

Made up and yet true

A piercing rationale for the arts, if a rationale is needed.  They are made up, but …The paradox of the arts is that they are all made up and yet they allow us to get at truths about who and what we are or might be.  Source: Seamus Heaney, Finders Keepers:...
Like the last of his life

Like the last of his life

Harold Bloom’s comment on Hart Crane (1899-1932) is all the more poignant knowing that Crane considered some of his major work to have been a failure, suffered recurring bouts of alcoholism, and appears to have committed suicide when he jumped overboard a ship...
Chain of consequences

Chain of consequences

Grossman’s novel deals with a man who returns to ‘normal’ life after 30 years in the gulag.  Here he shows the extent to which words have consequences.  Words, spoken or written in this or that form of denunciation, translate into horrific suffering...
5 years old today!

5 years old today!

Dear Kind Readers,When we launched WritingRedux on Shakespeare’s and Cervantes’ birthday five years ago, we had the freedom to eat, drink and be merry with a group of friends, and could even hand out ink-splattered gift bags. Now, despite these more...
Poetry as gleaning

Poetry as gleaning

A telling comment by Christopher Isherwood on W.H. Auden’s approach to revising his poems. It makes one wonder how many scholars have wasted hours peering deeply into some poem of ‘celebrated obscurity’ which was never more than an accretion of lines...
Bull’s eye writing

Bull’s eye writing

You can just hear and see the word-arrow striking home and whooshingly vibrating its meaning as its velocity comes to rest in the bull’s eye.Closing lines like these would tremble in the ear like an arrow in a target.Oh for such twangingly sharp writing!For a...
From pantheon to palate

From pantheon to palate

A piled up commentary of poets on poets: Heaney on Mandelstam on Dante.  Osip Mandelstam (1891-1938), who died in uncertain circumstances following his second arrest under Stalin’s purge-fest, took Dante with him when he was sent into internal exile and wrote an...
Relief of the gods

Relief of the gods

A gratitude, therefore, that the whole race or culture has not been wiped out even if the city has been razed; gratitude that one strong torch-bearer has escaped the flames with one essential flame burning, to light another place. The reader feels the kind of...
Ripening writing

Ripening writing

In this comment on Zbigniew Herbert’s Report from the Besieged City (title of both a poem and a poetry collection), Heaney likens the development of the Polish poet’s writing to an apple ripening from a pure green hardness to something more mellow and...
Unreel writing

Unreel writing

There’s something of fairy-tale magic in this idea of writing as a thread teased out from the writer’s cupboard of experiences, unwinding like a ball of story silk. The writing unreels like a skein long stored in the cupboard of the senses. For a rich...
Technique as dousing

Technique as dousing

In discussing the technique of writing, Seamus Heaney conjures a water diviner as a metaphor.  At first glance far-fetched, as he follows it through, he builds a close parallel between the function of a diviner and that of a poet, one working with water, the other...
As healthy as …

As healthy as …

A bracing, surprising simile for presenting something as a picture of health and wholesomeness.  Here it is about reading material, but it could apply to anything else. Our Boys appeared regularly, a cultural antidote with official home backing, healthy as a Christian...
Of abundant overflow

Of abundant overflow

What causes creativity to spring forth?  I like Seamus Heaney’s idea that it is not so much reactive as a generous overflow from an abundant internal source.This then is truly creative writing.  It does arise from the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings,...
Slang-dotted prose

Slang-dotted prose

A lively description of Simon Winder’s zestful style which demonstrates that prose needn’t be plodding just because it’s about a serious subject.  His writing and personal asides breathe life into a sweeping history of the Hapsburgs, as it did with...

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