‘Iago as much as Imogen’
|December 20, 2012|
Moby Dick Arises from the Deep, Gilbert Wilson
From The Chronicle Review:
The poet most likely to practice and evoke ethical imagination is not “poetical,” in the sense of flamboyant or opinionated. Thinking of Shakespeare, Keats, who was Shelley‘s contemporary, claimed that the most powerful versifier “has no identity” at all, for “he is continually … filling some other body.” He inhabits shade as much as light, Iago as much as Imogen.
The chameleonesque Keats had a preternatural talent for this “negative capability,” his phrase describing the ability to be “in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.” Adept at suspending the prejudices that so often accompany dogmatic surety, especially in moral contexts, he could adapt to myriad perspectives, and relished doing so.
As a close friend once reported, Keats, while describing his appreciation of Spenser’s description of a whale, “hoisted himself up, and looked burly and dominant, as he said, ‘what an image that is—sea-shouldering whales!’” Keats could expand into a leviathan; he could also contract, telling another friend that he was able to imagine a billiard ball delighting in “its own roundness, smoothness and rapidity of its motion.” He felt himself transmuted in other instances into a tormented bear, a sparrow picking at gravel, and a woman whose leopardlike seductiveness caused him to “forget [him]self entirely” and “live in her.”
Neither Keats’s nor Shelley’s ethics of identification justifies nefarious behavior, of course. True, the empathetic imagination, as Keats claims, can shock the “virtuous philosopher.” But just because a poet occupies an Iago or a Robespierre doesn’t mean that she endorses the villain’s actions. The purpose of suspending stereotypes is to make one more sensitive to the irreducible intricacies of the real, and so be better able to forge informed judgments about what is right and wrong.
Merleau-Ponty’s Child Psychology
As much as death signals the end of the self, birth is just as mysterious. Both extend out to infinity and signal the brevity and contingency of our lives. As mysterious are those first few years of life that one does not have access to as an adult, I know I existed before my earliest memories. I know I interacted with others, I learned to walk and talk. I was willful from my parent’s tales.
William Pope.L: Reader Friendly
William Pope.L is famous for (among other things) carrying a business card that identifies him as “The Friendliest Black Artist in America.” It’s a clever gag because it makes itself true, in a way, every time it draws people closer. The card must be especially useful when Pope.L does business with people who dread Black men or Black artists.
10 Things the NSA Has Seen Me Do
One winter in my early twenties myself and some good friends — a merging of art, music and literary ladies of New York, full-grown girls aspiring to be women — got together, had a lovely dinner, some wine and delightful chat. Then we decided to spend an hour practicing “Teach Me How To Dougie”. NSA — can you teach me how to Dougie? You know why? “Because all my bitches love me.”
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On the subject of death I’m inclined to turn to my two favourite writers. Vladimir Nabokov begins Speak Memory, an autobiography of sorts, with the kind of banality any reader of his knows better than to get cosy with: ‘The cradle rocks above an abyss and common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness.’ Given how much respect he had for common sense we shouldn’t be anything but wary.
Though Aldous Huxley is primarily remembered for his novels and to a lesser extent his essays, he began his writing career as a poet. While a student at Balliol College at Oxford, having been exempted from military service due to extremely poor eyesight, he was involved in several student poetry magazines. In September 1916 his first book of poetry, The Burning Wheel, appeared.