10 Birthdays and A Funeral

'We have to make a birthday tea for 10 and a funeral tea...'

20 March – a big day in cultural history: 43 BC – Ovid “Take your fill of amusement, but cast the veil of modesty over your peccadilloes. Never make a parade of your good fortune, and never give a woman a present that another woman will recognise.” [The Art of Love] “Death is not accustomed to injure genius, and greater fame arrives after we have become ashes…” [Epistle to an Envious Man]. 1828 – Henrik Ibsen “SOLNESS: Human beings haven’t any use for these homes of theirs. Not for being happy in. And I shouldn’t have had use for a…

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A Fatal Interview with Edna St. Vincent Millay

February 22, 2018 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Poetry, WRITING & LITERATURE |

Born 22 February 1892 (died 19 October 1950) TVC: Do you regret meeting George Dillon? E: He was such a gentleman.  He glowed and glowered, like a candle.  I blew him out but the moon lit up his face again. TVC: Er, ye-es.  I gather that throughout the affair, however, you never lost your love for your husband, Eugen? E: That’s right. But I was obsessed with St. George. I’m glad that most of our correspondence is lost.  There is nothing more tedious than curators poring over old love letters. TVC: Your long sequence of sonnets, Fatal Interview, sets out…

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Lost in Translation

February 9, 2018 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Fiction, Poetry, WRITING & LITERATURE |

(Thomas Bernhard, 9 February 1931 – 12 February 1989) ‘Lost in Translation‘ is an average film, but an excellent phrase. The Bridge between languages is (to cite another poor film) A Bridge Too Far, where literary translation is concerned. L may be close to mastering Classical Greek but this does not solve the problem of children in England who have to take a test on The Iliad. Whether translation be ‘faithful’ or ‘loose,’ the rules of language suggest that most literary translation will be something else than the original.  If you don’t believe me, try reading The Odyssey by Alexander…

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The Bells

January 19, 2018 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Poetry, WRITING & LITERATURE |

(by Edgar Allan Poe, born 19 January 1809) “The Bells,” published after Poe’s premature death, represents the poet both at his best and his worst. His terror is real, his verse prosaic, but the depth for feeling he generates wears you down in the end and you surrender: “Hear the tolling of the bells – Iron bells! What a world of solemn thought their monody compels! In the silence of the night, How we shiver with affright At the melancholy meaning of their tone! For every sound that floats From the rust within their throats Is a groan. And the…

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October 21, 2017 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Poetry, WRITING & LITERATURE |

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (born 21 October 1772) I don’t blame the anonymous person from Porlock who interrupted S.T. at Ash Farm during the composition of Kubla Khan; or, A Vision in a Dream: A Fragment.  (It may have been an opium trip in any case.) But the point is that Coleridge’s ‘fragment’ is perfect and needs no further embellishment. Richard Holmes, in his insanely detailed biography of Coleridge (1989), observed “His myth of creativity contains both these elements, which like Shelley’s “Ode to the West Wind”, implies both destruction and preservation of a poetic paradise…“Kubla Khan” is a pagan celebration of creative…

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