Friday, January 16, 2009

This weekend's Marianne Moore

With regard to emphasis in Biblical speech, there is a curious unalterableness about the statement by the Apostle James: The flower "falleth and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth." Substitute, "the grace of its fashion perisheth," and overconscious correctness is weaker than the actual version, in which eloquence escapes grandiloquence by virtue of gusto.

from The Complete Prose of Marianne Moore, p. 425

Somerset Maugham

If nobody spoke unless he had something to say, the human race would very soon lose the use of speech.

(via Google's Quotes of the Day)

"Personal relationship"

Eve Tushnet reflects on the phrase "personal relationship with God" in this essay for Inside Catholic. With references to one of the penitential psalms.

The comments contain an anecdote about Fr Rutler's response to the question "Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus?" -- a response which I may have to steal and use as my own!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

W. D. Snodgrass (1926-2009)

The Pulitzer-Prize-winning poet has died. Here is his "April Inventory."


Books can speak to us like God, like men or like the noise of the city we live in. They speak to us like God when they bring us light and peace and fill us with silence. They speak to us like God when we desire never to leave them. They speak to us like men when we desire to hear them again. They speak to us like the noise of the city when they hold us captive by a weariness that tells us nothing, give us no peace, and no support, nothing to remember, and yet will not let us escape.

Books that speak like God speak with too much authority to entertain us. Those that speak like good men hold us by their human charm; we grow by finding ourselves in them. They teach us to know ourselves better by recognizing ourselves in another.

Books that speak like the noise of multitudes reduce us to despair by the sheer weight of their emptiness. They entertain us like the lights of the city streets at night, by hopes they cannot fulfil.

Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude, Part One, chapter XIV (Image Books, 1968, pp. 61-62)

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When Merton writes of books that speak with the noise of the city's multitudes, noise that is ultimately empty, I think he may have anticipated the poetry of John Ashbery, whose clever orchestrations of language do not point to anything higher than the words themselves.