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Archive for March, 2012

J.G. Ballard.

Is there anyone like him?

Original, imaginative, his work sets its own parameters. Stark, it builds in story and description then slams itself into you like a force of its own nature.

“The Complete Stories of J.G. Ballard” begins with seeming simplicity, but grows intense fast. A tremendous introduction to Ballard’s work.

For example, from “The Garden of Time”:

“Towards evening, when the great shadow of the Palladian villa filled the terrace, Count Axel left his library and walked down the wide marble steps among the time flowers. A tall, imperious figure in a black velvet jacket, a gold tie-pin glinting below his George V beard, cane held stiffly in a white-gloved hand, he surveyed the exquisite crystal flowers without emotion, listening to the sounds of his wife’s harpsichord, as she played a Mozart rondo in the music room, echo and vibrate through the translucent petals.

“As was his custom before beginning his regular evening stroll, Count Axel looked out across the plain to the final rise, where the horizon was illuminated like a distant stage by the fading sun. As the Mozart chimed delicately around him, flowing from his wife‟s graceful hands, he saw that the advance columns of an enormous army were moving slowly over the horizon. At first glance, the long ranks seemed to be progressing in orderly lines, but on closer inspection, it was apparent that, like the obscured detail of a Goya landscape, the army was composed of a vast confused throng of people, men and women, interspersed with a few soldiers in ragged uniforms, pressing forward in a disorganised tide. Some laboured under heavy loads suspended from crude yokes around their necks; others struggled with cumbersome wooden carts, their hands wrenching at the wheel spokes; a few trudged on alone; but all moved on at the same pace, bowed backs illuminated in the fleeting sun.

“The advancing throng was almost too far away to be visible, but even as Axel watched, his expression aloof yet observant, it came perceptibly nearer, the vanguard of an immense rabble appearing from below the horizon…”

For me, I was ignited…the desire for more. And there is more…this work is massive, not to mention his wealth of novels. (I’m looking forward to delving into “The Crystal World”.)

It’s easy to grow obsessed with Ballard. He dives head-over-heels into his worlds and takes you along for the ride. Be careful. This is a serious writer who knows his craft and uses it well.

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I was just reading about a poet, Jack Gilbert, who is (rightly) being celebrated all over the web today. His poetry is evocative and subtle, but direct and raw…it has the power to open old desires, reawaken some forgotten ache.

One site refers to his “Collected Poems” as “almost certainly among the two or three most important books of poetry that will be published this year.”

Even if it is (and the bits I’ve read really are enticing), I abscond from “important” works of poetry. Not that poetry isn’t important (it’s my life-blood), but, to me, poetry should be sumptuous–a feast for the senses, both felt and hinted at. When poetry is touted as “important”, it loses its self-respect (yes, I believe poetry has a sense of self-respect) and feeds into the pseudo-intellectuals who propagate its “importance”.

Read poetry for the beauty of the work, the heady sense of stepping headlong into another essence than the usual day-to-day. For instance…

“If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight…We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world…”

~from “A Brief for the Defense”

and:

“We find out the heart only by dismantling what
the heart knows. By redefining the morning,
we find a morning that comes just after darkness.
We can break through marriage into marriage.
By insisting on love we spoil it, get beyond
affection and wade mouth-deep into love.
We must unlearn the constellations to see the stars…”

~from “Tear it Down”

Jack Gilbert takes you, holds you captive for a moment in his works of blood-and-beauty, and will keep you enticed. As all incredible poetry should.

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