04 February 2006

The Commonplace of Every Thought

Here are some words by other people I've been mulling, collecting, disputing, worshipping, or generally gerunding recently:
We love a sentence only partially because of what it means, but even more for the manner and intensity through which it makes its meaning vivid.
--Samuel R. Delany, "Emblems of Talent", About Writing


I think that what I blame books for, in general, is that they are not free. One can see it in the writing: they are fabricated, organized, regulated; one could say they conform. A function of the revision that the writer often wants to impose on himself. At that moment, the writer becomes his own cop. By being concerned with good form, in other words the most banal form, the clearest and most inoffensive. There are still dead generations that produce prim books. Even young people: charming books, without extension, without darkness. Without silence. In other words, without a true author. Books for daytime, for whiling away the hours, for traveling. But not books that become embedded in one's thoughts and toll the black mourning for all life, the commonplace of every thought.
--Marguerite Duras, Writing
translated by Mark Polizzotti


Average art students produce art with different values than the art they admire or are taught. Average art is less challenging, less aggressive, more conciliatory and inviting, more immediately comprehensible, and less troubling than exceptional, historically important art.
--James Elkins, Why Art Cannot Be Taught


Standards are inevitable, and the best of these will create themselves to meet, to create new occasions. Let us, therefore, admit standards. But let us also ask how many critics of literature espouse, even selectively, the new, speak of it with joyous intelligence? Taking few risks, the best known among them wait for men of lesser reputations to clear the way.
--Ihab Hassan, "POSTmodernISM", New Literary History, Autumn 1971


Poets should exceed themselves -- when demands on us are slack, we should be anything but. Pressing the demands of the word forward is not only relevant but urgent. If our country does not vigorously cultivate poetry, it is either poetry's ineluctable time to wither or time to make a promise on its own behalf to put out new shoots and insist on a much bigger pot.
--C.D. Wright, Cooling Time: An American Poetry Vigil

2 comments:

  1. Duras is simply amazing. I've read her work since I was eighteen now and still go back to it and am enriched by it in new ways each time I read it. For a long time she was writing outside of my range of understanding, and yet I was still fascinated by her writing on some intuitive level, and I think that's a sign that you're doing something incredible as a writer when you're able to sustain the attention of someone who is only partially grasping what you're getting at.

    And that essay you quote her from, just really really true.

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  2. That Duras quote... Christ yes. In my capricious youth I'd have been tempted to get that tattooed somewhere...

    All the best,

    Nels Stanley.

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