Here’s Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize speech, which is a peek at his inspirations, entanglements and bondings and the power of stories to convey word pictures of the world. I was surprised he barely mentioned poetry.
“And many of the Serranos, the Indians from the hills, wearing their little conical black felt hats, seem capped with night, above the straight white shoulders. Some have come far, walking all yesterday in their black hats and black-sheathed sandals. Tomorrow they will walk back. And their eyes will be just the same, black and bright and wild, in the dark faces. They have no goal, any more than the hawks in the air, and no course to run, any more than the clouds.”
– D.H. Lawrence, in his nonfiction voice, heavy with mysticism and lyrical description on the otherness of the Indian culture he observed while staying near Oxaca in the mid-1920s.
By Louis MacNeice
It is patent to the eye that cannot face the sun
The smug philosophers lie who say the world is one;
World is other and other, world is here and there,
Parmenides would smother life for lack of air
Precluding birth and death; his crystal never breaks—
No movement and no breath, no progress nor mistakes,
Nothing begins or ends, no one loves or fights,
All your foes are friends and all your days are nights
And all the roads lead round and are not roads at all
And the soul… Click here for this wonderful poem…
Albert Murray, Ralph Ellison’s friend, remembers a short poem, which I will call a haiku, from their days as students together: Murray recalls the author of Invisible Man as the smartest-dressed upperclassman at Tuskegee. Murray was impressed that Ellison always seemed to check out the best books in the library, and he presented a “nascent elegance” in his two-tone shoes, bow tie, contrasting slacks, and whatever else the best haberdasher in Oklahoma had to offer.
“I even remember the poetry Ralph wrote,” Murray said:
“‘Death is nothing, / Life is nothing, / How beautiful these two nothings!’ “
See here for a deep appreciation of Alan Watts written by David Chadwick:
“This January, the English-born Watts would have been 101 old. He’s best known for his important role in the popularization of Zen in the West. His twenty-six books, and his popular radio and television broadcasts, introduced Americans of the 1950s and 1960s to a Zen that was authentic yet contemporary and accessible. In the hundreds of interviews I’ve conducted with practitioners from the early Zen Center days, Watts was the most frequently cited inspiration.
“Yet he was no sectarian. Watts wrote of the perennial philosophy—the unifying core of religion and profound inquiry in all quarters and eras. His approach to wisdom was curious and inclusive, embracing psychology, the natural sciences, art, music, dance, humor, and the enjoyment of nature, of sex, of life.”
“For as the carpenter’s material is wood, and that of the statuary is copper, so the matter of the art of living is each man’s life…
“The question at stake,” said Epictetus, “is no common one; it is this:—Are we in our senses, or are we not?”
– Excerpt From: Epictetus. “A Selection from the Discourses of Epictetus with the Encheiridion.”
The always readable and enlightening Clive James has given us his musing on TV’s renaissance in a series of “notebooks” wrapped around the idea of “binge watching,” which I translate to passionate appreciation. James is one of the great essayists and critics of our era and TV is lucky to have his interest.
“Books are the best of things, well used; abused, among the worst. What is the right use? What is the one end which all means go to effect? They are for nothing but to inspire.
“I had better never see a book than to be warped by its attraction clean out of my own orbit, and made a satellite instead of a system.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Not magnitude, not lavishness,
But Form—the Site;
Not innovating wilfulness,
But reverence for the Archetype.
I just finished Moby Dick for the second time. A hybrid, genius work way ahead of its time, combining a nonfiction, direct address to the reader and narrative fiction, in short a swirl and swerve that follows Melville’s daemon to tell his tale like no other, which he did. By the end, he’s understandably exhausted. But we have been told in a new, pre-modern archetype.