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  #21  
Old 04-04-2017, 01:05 PM
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Michael Ferris Michael Ferris is offline
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Walter, thanks for the Melville! I think I'm going to have to spend some time getting re-acquainted with his poetry (and with Emerson's) when I get back home.

You are far more expert in things Nabokov than I, but I had a similar reaction to his remark on Emerson: it doesn't seem a natural fit.
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  #22  
Old 04-04-2017, 01:05 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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The one thing I value so far of Nabokov's is this story: a student came to Nabokov's office and said he wanted to be a writer. Nabokov pointed out the window and said "What type of tree is that?" "I don't know", said the student. Nabokov said "You will never be a writer."
Not a pleasant or generous comment, if Nabokov did say it, but it reminds me how nice it is, in principle, to know the exact thing I am putting onto my page. It occasionally spurs me to do the extra work.

Cheers,
John
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  #23  
Old 04-04-2017, 03:14 PM
Gregory Dowling Gregory Dowling is offline
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I'm a fan of Melville's longest poetical work, the narrative poem Clarel. It is set in Palestine and has an intriguing set of characters, Americans, Englishmen, Swedes, Jews, Arabs, with a great mix of religious beliefs and disbeliefs. Just to give you some flavour of the verse (which some have described as clunky, being rhyming tetrameter), here is a section which describes the effect of a rock-fall followed by the appearance of a rainbow:

-----And came a rush, a roar -
Aloof, but growing more and more,
Nearer and nearer. They invoke
The long Judaic range, the hight
Of nearer mountains hid from sight
By the blind mist. Nor spark nor smoke
Of that plunged wake their eyes might see;
But, hoarse in hubbub, horribly,
With all its retinue around -
Flints, dust, and showers of splintered stone,
An avalanche of rock down tore,
In somerset from each rebound -
Thud upon thump - down, down and down -
And landed. Lull. Then shore to shore
Rolled the deep echo, fold on fold,
Which, so reverberated, bowled
And bowled down the long El Ghor.

They turn; and, in that silence sealed,
What works there from behind the veil?
A counter object is revealed -
A thing of heaven, and yet how frail:
Up in thin mist above the sea
Humid is formed, and noiselessly,
The fog-bow: segment of an oval
Set in a colorless removal
Against a vertical shaft, or slight
Slim pencil of an aqueous light.
Suspended there, the segment hung
Like to the May-wreath that is swung
Against the pole. It showed half spent -
Hovered and trembled, paled away, and - went.
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  #24  
Old 04-04-2017, 03:54 PM
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Aaron Novick Aaron Novick is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Orwn Acra View Post
And surely Nabokov was jesting re: Emerson. His is the sort of literature Nabokov disliked.
Surely. And yet there is nothing in the passage itself that signals that he is anything but serious. The only evidence that he was jesting is the immediate reaction (which we all seem to share): "wait, what?" And I don't think there's any other instances of his claiming to like something and not meaning it. So I am more and more convinced that Nabokov inscrutably and inexplicably really did just like Emerson's poetry.

Sorry to slightly hijack this thread, but I want to share Nabokov's finest insult of a fellow writer, which never stops being hilarious:
As to Hemingway, I read him for the first time in the early forties, something about bells, balls and bulls, and loathed it.
Also on the topic on excellent insults of authors by authors, but getting back to poetry, Emerson once called Poe "the jingle man."
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  #25  
Old 04-04-2017, 03:58 PM
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Aaron Novick Aaron Novick is online now
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Oh, and I remembered the poem I wanted to post, by D.H. Lawrence. A lot of his "Pansies" feel like tossed off, barely disguised moralistic blather, but every so often one of them rises above that, as here:


Spray

It is a wonder foam is so beautiful.
A wave bursts in anger on a rock, broken up
in a wild white sibilant spray
and falls back, drawing in its breath with rage,
with frustration how beautiful.
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  #26  
Old 04-04-2017, 04:56 PM
William A. Baurle William A. Baurle is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Ferris View Post
Thanks for that Nabokov quote, Aaron.

ITA on Melville’s novels -- works of immense genius. He also wrote a fair amount of poetry that Jarrell admired, IIRC. I’ll have to give that a go again, sometime. I remember him being kinda lumpy as a poet, as I remember Emerson… I agree on Henry James, who often uses so much of the page to convey so small a thought. I’ll admit he is a smooth writer and does often find le mot juste. I prefer Hardy as a novelist to Hardy as a poet. His novels always delight me. I found his range limited as a poet, as I recall, usually gloomy and morose. But then, he wrote SO MUCH. Maybe I missed the patches of Sun.
I prefer Hardy the novelist as well. I'll never forget Jude the Obscure. I admit, though, I have no collection of his poems, and only know what I've seen anthologized- which I've liked. I loaned Tess of the D'urbervilles to a lady friend and she gave it back to me in a huff, and went on and on about how she hated Tess, calling her a weakling and worse. I think my friend thought it was a romance novel. She read it in two sittings. She also hated my favorite novel*, Foucault's Pendulum, by Umberto Eco.

Amazingly, we stayed together for four years.

*Alright, third favorite, after Moby Dick and Adam Bede.
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  #27  
Old 04-04-2017, 05:41 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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I think my favorite misreading of a text is the one described in Thurber's "The Macbeth Murder Mystery."
There's a lot of preachy Lawrence to wade through (having never read a novel of his), but moments shine out: "Bavarian Gentians", in my memory at least, and this:

"A snake came to my water-trough,
On a hot, hot day, and I in pyjamas for the heat;
To drink there."

After that it goes rapidly to pot.

Cheers,
John
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  #28  
Old 04-04-2017, 07:26 PM
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Michael Ferris Michael Ferris is offline
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So, I’ve ordered Melville’s complete poems. They should be waiting for me when I get back. Thanks for the spur, Melville fans (of whom I count myself one). I remembered reading somewhere that Melville’s last years, during which he wrote much of his poetry, were rather unhappy. Got this from Wiki, quoting Laurie Robertson-Lorent's bio:

An unsympathetic person might characterize Melville as a failed writer who held a low-level government job, drank too much, heckled his wife unmercifully about the housework, beat her occasionally, and drove the children to distraction with his unpredictable behavior. A sympathetic observer might characterize him as an underappreciated genius, a visionary, an iconoclastic thinker, a sensitive, orphaned American idealist, and a victim of a crude, materialistic society that ate artists and visionaries alive and spat out their bones. He was both, and more.

Anyway, I look forward to plunging into the poems. I needed a good project.

And Bill – I also love GE. I re-read Middlemarch a year or two ago, and damn!, it’s good.

Back to ‘hidden gems”…

Last edited by Michael Ferris; 04-04-2017 at 07:45 PM. Reason: which, whom, whatever
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  #29  
Old 04-05-2017, 01:58 AM
William A. Baurle William A. Baurle is offline
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Michael - While I think Middlemarch (the last Eliot I read, maybe a year ago) was her greatest novel, Adam Bede is my favorite, if only because I sympathize so much with the Seth character, who got a very raw deal and suffered it in high style.

Once more unto the breach, dear friends. I'm a huge fan of Sir Philip Sidney. I picked up the Signet Classics Selected Poems when I was a sprout and loved it.

***

Astrophel and Stella

LIV

Because I breathe not love to every one,
Nor do not use set colours for to wear,
Nor nourish special locks of vowd hair,
Nor give each speech a full point of a groan,
The courtly nymphs, acquainted with the moan
Of them which in their lips Love's standard bear,
"What, he!" say they of me; "now I dare swear
He cannot love; no, no, let him alone."
And think so still, so Stella know my mind!
Profess, indeed, I do not Cupid's art;
But you, fair maids, at length this true shall find,
That his right badge is worn but in the heart.
Dumb swans, not chattering pies, do lovers prove;
They love indeed who quake to say they love.



Indeed.

Last edited by William A. Baurle; 04-05-2017 at 02:14 AM.
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  #30  
Old 04-05-2017, 03:21 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Among my favorite novels is The Young Visiters by Daisy Ashford, who wrote it when she was nine. I do also like George Eliot, perhaps especially The Mill on the Floss, though Middlemarch is very fine. At school years ago, a friend walked in while folks were discussing Eliot and said "George Eliot? I've never heard of her." It was one of the De Waals.
Lovely Philip Sidney poem.

Cheers,
John

PS (I guess). Ashford's opening sentence is fairly typical: "Mr Salteena was an elderly man of 42 and was fond of asking peaple to stay with him." The preface (in my edition) is by JM Barrie.

Last edited by John Isbell; 04-05-2017 at 06:25 AM. Reason: Ashford
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