Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Stopped into Duthie's last week to see if they had a copy of Beckett's 800 page book of letters. They did. Thinking I might fall sideways, I grabbed Orwell's essays for ballast, purchasing both.

Beckett's first letter is to Joyce. It is brief. This is the first half:

"Mr. Joyce,

Here is the latest insertion. I think it might follow the passage which treats of form a concretion of content. I have succeeded in combining the three points in a more or less reasonable paragraph."

(The footnotes are five times as long as the letter.)

Though my intention was Beckett, it is Orwell I am reading. Last night I started his March 1945 piece for The New Saxon Pamphlet, "Poetry and the Microphone".

Here are some excerpts:

"It is commonplace that in modern times -- the last two hundred years, say -- poetry has come to have less and less connection with either music or with the spoken word."

"Lyrical and rhetorical poetry have almost ceased to be written..."

"How many people do not feel quasi-instinctively that there must be something wrong with any poem whose meaning can be taken in at a single glance?"

Orwell then makes a case for poetry on the radio:

"The poet feels that he is addressing people to whom poetry means something, and it is a fact that poets who are used to broadcasting can read into a microphone with a virtuousity they would not equal if they had a visible audience in front of them."

Something odd about that. I wonder if the same effect could be achieved if the "live" audience listened with their eyes closed and the poet read to his water glass.

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