“It is no use pretending that in an age like our own, ‘good’ poetry can have any genuine popularity. It is, and must be, the cult of a very few people, the least tolerated of the arts. Perhaps that statement needs a certain amount of qualification. True poetry can sometimes be acceptable to the mass of the people when it disguises itself as something else. One can see an example of this in the folk-poetry that England still possesses, certain nursery rhymes and mnemonic rhymes, for instance, and the songs that soldiers make up, including the words that go to some of the bugle-calls. But in general ours is a civilization in which the very word ‘poetry’ evokes a hostile snigger or, at best, the sort of frozen disgust that most people feel when they hear the word ‘God’. If you are good at playing the concertina you could probably go into the nearest public bar and get yourself an appreciative audience within five minutes. But what would be the attitude of that same audience if you suggested reading them Shakespeare’s sonnets, for instance?” – George Orwell, “Rudyard Kipling”

“No one, in our time, believes in any sanction greater than military power; no one believes that it is possible to overcome force except by greater force. There is no ‘Law’, there is only power. I am not saying that that is a true belief, merely that it is the belief which all modern men do actually hold. Those who pretend otherwise are either intellectual cowards, or power-worshippers under a thin disguise, or have simply not caught up with the age they are living in.” – George Orwell, “Rudyard Kipling”

“Of all our failings laziness is the least known to us. None is more powerful or more malignant, although its ravages are hidden. If we examine carefully into its influence we shall find that it is invariably mistress of our sentiments, interests and pleasures. It is an octopus which holds up the greatest ships; it is a flat calm more dangerous to important ventures than reefs or hurricanes. The indolence of sloth has a subtle and hidden charm for our souls which suspends our most ardent efforts, and crumbles our firmest resolutions.” – François VI, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, Maxims (trans. John Heard)

“Behind joy and laughter there may be a temperament, coarse, hard and callous. But behind sorrow there is always sorrow. Pain, unlike pleasure, wears no mask. Truth in art is not any correspondence between the essential idea and the accidental existence; it is not the resemblance of shape to shadow, or of the form mirrored in the crystal to the form itself; it is no echo coming from a hollow hill, any more than it is a silver well of water in the valley that shows the moon to the moon and Narcissus to Narcissus. Truth in art is the unity of a thing with itself: the outward rendered expressive of the inward: the soul made incarnate: the body instinct with spirit. For this reason there is no truth comparable to sorrow.” – Oscar Wilde, “De Profundis”

“When I think about religion at all, I feel as if I would like to found an order for those who cannot believe: the Confraternity of the Faithless, one might call it, where on an altar, on which no taper burned, a priest, in whose heart peace had no dwelling, might celebrate with unblessed bread and a chalice empty of wine.” – Oscar Wilde, “De Profundis” (emphasis in original)

“The capitalist machine does not run the risk of becoming mad, it is mad from one end to the other and from the beginning, and this is the source of its rationality. . . . its operation grows more relentless . . . it produces the terrible single class of gray gentlemen . . . it does not run the risk of dying all alone, but rather of making us die, by provoking to the very end investments of desire that do not even go by way of a deceptive and subjective ideology, and that lead us to cry out to the very end, Long live capital . . . . Except in ideology, there has never been a humane, liberal, paternal, etc., capitalism. Capitalism is defined by a cruelty having no parallel in the despotic regime of terror. . . . exploitation grows constantly harsher, lack is arranged in the most scientific of ways . . . . The reproduction of the interior limits of capitalism on an always wider scale has several consequences: it permits increases and improvements of standards at the center, it displaces the harshest forms of exploitation from the center to the periphery, but also multiplies enclaves of overpopulation in the center itself, and easily tolerates the so-called socialist formations. . . . There is no metaphor here: the factories are prisons, they do not resemble prisons, they are prisons. Everything in the system is insane.” – Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus (trans. Robert Hurley, et al.) (emphases in original)

“The truth is that sexuality is everywhere: the way a bureaucrat fondles his records, a judge administers justice, a businessman causes money to circulate; the way the bourgeoisie fucks the proletariat; and so on. And there is no need to resort to metaphors, any more than for the libido to go by way of metamorphoses. Hitler got the fascists sexually aroused. Flags, nations, armies, banks get a lot of people aroused.” – Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus (trans. Robert Hurley, et al.)

“The world is iron, there’s nothing you can do, it rolls up to you like a steamroller, there’s nothing you can do, here it comes, there it goes, they’re sitting on the inside, it’s like a tank, a devil is driving it with horns and glowing eyes, they tear you limb from limb, they sit there with their chains and teeth and tear you into bits. And it runs on, and there’s no getting out of the way of it.” – Alfred Döblin, Berlin Alexanderplatz (trans. Michael Hofmann)

“We need narrative not because it is a valid epistemological description of the world but because of its cognitive role. It’s how we make sense of things. An inability to render life experiences into a coherent narrative is characteristic of psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia. Text that fails to deliver narrative coherence, for example in terms of relating cause to effect and honouring the expectations of readers, is harder to understand. So identifying narratives in abstract activities such as music and sport seems inevitable: if they lacked the properties that make this possible, they wouldn’t catch on, because they would seem pointless and unintelligible. Looked at this way, we might wonder if the ultimate intelligibility of the universe will be determined not so much by the capacity of our minds to formulate the appropriate concepts and equations, but by whether we can find a meaningful story to tell about it.” – Philip Ball, “The Story Trap”

Step by step

“The compassionate mother, regarding her infant child, always strives to establish the child’s well-being. If she strives to establish the child’s well-being, she will endeavour to rid the child of calamities. If she endeavours to rid the child of calamities, her reflection and consideration become thorough. If her reflection and consideration are thorough, she will attain the principles of affairs. If she attains the principles of affairs, she will certainly accomplish her purposes. If she is certain of accomplishing her purposes, she will not hesitate in her action. To make no hesitation is called ‘bravery’.” – The Complete Works of Han Fei Tzu (trans. and ed. W. K. Liao)

A new story is posted

“Lawn” is the only story I had published in 2011.  It appeared in Thema in the autumn.  I have posted it today to this site, over to your right, in the “Previously Published Stories” menu, at the top and out of alphabetical order.  At some future point I’ll probably nudge it down a few notches to where it might be considered to belong.

“Lawn” contains the lyrics of “Twa Corbies,” an English folk ballad first printed in 1912 in Ballads Weird and Wonderful, published by John Lane The Bodley Head (a name weird and wonderful in its own right).