Derek Attridge 'The Experience of Poetry' Book Launch Panel Discussion

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 29/05/2019 - 8:29pm in


poetry, Rome

This event celebrates the publication of Professor Derek Attridge's work The Experience of Poetry with a book launch panel discussion. The Experience of Poetry asks, was the experience of poetry—or a cultural practice we now call poetry—continuously available across the two-and-a-half millennia from the composition of the Homeric epics to the publication of Ben Jonson's Works and the death of Shakespeare in 1616? How did the pleasure afforded by the crafting of language into memorable and moving rhythmic forms play a part in the lives of hearers and readers in Ancient Greece and Rome, Europe during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, and Britain during the Renaissance?
This event is part of the 'Writers Make Worlds' series, Professor Attridge will offer a response to the panellists.
About the book:
In tackling these questions, this book first examines the evidence for the performance of the Iliad and the Odyssey and of Ancient Greek lyric poetry, the impact of the invention of writing on Alexandrian verse, the performances of poetry that characterized Ancient Rome, and the private and public venues for poetic experience in Late Antiquity. It moves on to deal with medieval verse, exploring the oral traditions that spread across Europe in the vernacular languages, the place of manuscript transmission, the shift from roll to codex and from papyrus to parchment, and the changing audiences for poetry. A final part investigates the experience of poetry in the English Renaissance, from the manuscript verse of Henry VIII's court to the anthologies and collections of the late Elizabethan era. Among the topics considered in this part are the importance of the printed page, the continuing significance of manuscript circulation, the performance of poetry in pageants and progresses, and the appearance of poets on the Elizabethan stage. In tracking both continuity and change across these many centuries, the book throws fresh light on the role and importance of poetry in western culture.


Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 26/05/2019 - 7:33pm in


poem, poetry, writing

There was a young harpist called Niamh,
who would wear her heart on her sliamh.
But then she plucked Sean
(he played the French hean).
They married before New Year’s Iamh.

The Last Bee

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 26/05/2019 - 7:31pm in

After the last ee
had uzzed its last uzz,

the irds and the utterflies
did what they could.

ut soon the fields lay are,
few flowers were left,

nature was roken,
and the planet ereft.

Unseen Poem

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 26/05/2019 - 7:28pm in

OK. Turn the page. Right, here goes …
The first line’s straightforward, I suppose.
At least I know what the words all mean.
It has an AA BB rhyming scheme.
What’s that French word for when one line
runs into the next? Jambon? Never mind.
Susan Jenkins is smiling, I bet she knows.
Oh great! Now the rhymes have disappeared
and the language is getting more obfuscatory
by the stanza. The voice keeps changing.
At first, it was confident. But now it’s confused
uncertain (?) and … hesitant?
and as for this bit
what was the poet even thinking?
(personally, i think
they must have been drinking)
Susan Jenkins needs more paper.
I hate her. There are ten minutes left.
What’s this poem all about anyway?
No idea. I shall just have to guess.
I’ll say it’s a metaphor for death.

Looking Through the Screen at the World’s Suffering

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 19/05/2019 - 5:00pm in

Most people on this earth live on the edge of an abyss. Life is a daily struggle to stay alive, to acquire enough to eat and drink, rudimentary health care, housing, and protection from murderous government forces, their various death-squads, and their economic vultures. The gap between the rich and poor, while always great, has grown even more obscenely vast, and lies at the core of what so many face daily.

Yay! David R. Bunch’s ‘Moderan’ Now Back in Print

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 07/05/2019 - 9:46pm in

Bit of good news for fans of classic SF. Looking through the Cheltenham branch of Waterstone’s last week, I found that David R. Bunch’s Moderan was now in print. This was published in 1971, and is really a series of vignettes originally published in small magazines, as well as the big SF mags Amazing and Fantastic. These are set in a future in which organic humanity has decided that its reached the end of its natural evolution, and to evolve further it must transform itself into machines. This process is described as it affects the hero, Stronghold 10. The style is superficially sympathetic to heighten what the reality of what this new, cyborg humanity has become: immortal, but paranoid with each stronghold at war with their neighbours.

Brian Aldiss gives as sample paragraph of Bunch’s prose style, which explains the background to the novel, in his and David Wingrove’s history of SF, The Trillion Year Spree:

Now, to turn tedious for a time, this is what happened. Flesh-man had developed to that place on his random Earth-ball home where it was to be the quick slide down to oblivion. All the signs were up, the flags were out for change for man and GO was DOWN. To ENDING. Flesh-man was at the top, far as he could climb as flesh-man, and from there he was certain to tumble. But he had the luck to have these brave good white-maned men in the white smocks, the lab giants, the shoulders, and great-bulged thighs of our progress (what matter if they were weazened, probe-eyed, choleric scheming, little men sometimes – more often than not, REALLY?) authors of so much of man’s development and climb to that place where he was just due to die, expire, destroy himself and his home at this grand stage of development to make new-metal man and set him in the Strongholds upon the plasto-coated Earth that had been man’s random and inefficient home. New-metal replaced flesh (down to the few flesh-strips and those, we hope, may soon be gone) the bones were taken out and new metal rods, hinges and sheets put in (it was easy!) and the organs all became engines and marvellous tanks for scientifically controlled functional efficiency forever. YAY! Don’t you see?! Our Scientists made of life-man (the VERY-STRANGE-accident man) essentially a dead-elements man, one who could now cope with eternity, but he certainly was not a dead man. AH! Heavens no! He was alive! with all the wonderful scienc3e of the Earth ages, and just as functional as anyone could wish. YAY! science, take your plaudits now! You’ve shown what was meant from the beginning for the VERY-STRANGE-accident man. (p.324).

Aldiss states that it’s a technophobic piece in the SF tradition of questioning technological progress that began with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

Moderan was out of print for a long time, so I’m looking forward to reading it some time. Bunch also wrote poetry in an avant-garde style very much like his prose, though in verse. A collection of his pieces, of which only one or two were SF, The Heartacher and the Warehouseman, was published in the 1990s. The title poem is set in the Moderan world, and is about one of these cyborgs coming to a warehouse carrying his pump in his heart. He complains that he – and all the other cyborgs – have no heart. The cyborg warehouseman, suspicious, retreats behind his armoury of weapons, informing him of all the cyborg bits and pieces they have, like hearts and mechanical fingers. But he fails to understand the man’s real complaint – that their civilisation has no heart in the metaphorical sense. The warehouseman drives the Heartacher away, but wonders what will happen to him as he retreats back into his cubby-hole.

It’s one of those pieces that was acutely relevant in the 1990s, when there was much talk among the chattering classes of transhumanism and cyborgisation. It was the decade when Radio 3 broadcast the series Grave New Worlds examining these possibilities through interviews with writers, artists and scientists, including Paul J. McAuley, J.G. Ballard and the Australian performance artist, Stelarc, who really has tried to turn himself into a cyborg in performances in which he wired himself up to the net, so that images found online would work his body automatically through galvanic stimulators some Borg organic puppet, and by giving himself a third, cybernetic arm. It’s still relevant as prosthetic limbs continue to improve. While these are an immense benefit to those, who have lost their real limbs through accident or disease, it does raise the question of how far this process can go and humans become the cyborgs of SF. This was the central question David Whittaker was pondering when he created Dr. Who’s cybermen. Bunch’s novel also seems to have influenced one of the writers of Dr. Who Magazine way back in the ’70s. One of the comic strips, Throwback: The Soul of a Cyberman, was about a cyberman, who had some how retained his emotions and compassion. The story was set on the planet ‘Moderan’. And in the 1980s the British space scientist, Duncan Lunan, expressed concerns that people, who were heavily reliant on medical machines suffered a loss of creativity when he explored the possibility of similar mergers between humans and machines in his class Man and the Planets.

I’m glad that this lost classic is back in print. But still more than a little annoyed that it, and other SF works like it, are overlooked by the literary crowd in favour of those by ‘literary’ authors like Ian McEwan. Sorry to ride this old hobby-horse again, but a few weeks ago there was an interview with McEwan in the I. The newspaper mentioned to him that Science Fiction fans were upset about him denying that his book was part of the genre. McEwan repeated his sentiment, saying it wasn’t SF, but was based on him considering real world issues. Well, so is much Science Fiction, all the way back to Frankenstein. Aldiss has praised it as the first real work of Science Fiction as it was based on science as it was known at the time. This was Galvani’s experiments making the severed legs of frogs twitch and move through electricity. McEwan’s attitude shows the basic contempt of many literary authors and critics for the genre. They’re keen to borrow its tropes, but sneer at it as essentially trivial fantasy, unlike the serious stuff they’re writing. Much SF is, and doesn’t pretend otherwise. But there is a very large amount which isn’t, and which deserves to be taken as seriously as so-called ‘serious’ literary works like McEwan’s.


The Philosophy Haiku of Kris McDaniel

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 03/05/2019 - 10:22am in


philosophy, poetry

Philosopher Kris McDaniel, who will be moving shortly from Syracuse University to the University of Notre Dame, writes philosophy haiku.

Chiharu Shiota, “The Crossing”

Haiku, a form of poetry that originated in Japan, traditionally are composed of 17 syllables over three lines, with 5 in the first line, 7 in the second, and 5 in the third.

Professor McDaniel says that “trying to write haiku about philosophy is a good philosophical exercise, since the form forces both brevity and creativity of expression.” He adds, “Regardless, they are fun to write.” He kindly gave me permission to post a few of them here.

Some are about Kant and his interpreters:

twelve categories
derived from forms of judgment?
or forced to fit them?


Jonathan Bennett:
Kant’s a phenomenalist
It’s all in the head!


Things we cannot see
still belong to possible


But McDaniel gives a number of other figures in philosophy the haiku treatment:


Descartes divided
the body infinitely
the mind not at all


all this you can doubt
your body, the world are lost
meditate again


Hume looked for himself
but could find no impression
No idea of “I”


 Arithmetic fell
when Russell showed to Frege
a contradiction


Francis H. Bradley
had trouble with relations
and so lived alone


The worlds of Lewis
though merely possible
contain flesh and blood

More here.

The post The Philosophy Haiku of Kris McDaniel appeared first on Daily Nous.

An Experiment in Philosophy and Poetry (guest post by Aaron Meskin)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 24/04/2019 - 9:53pm in

Imagine the following: you write an academic paper in philosophy, a poet then writes a poem about your paper, and then you respond to the poet. 

That’s the intriguing idea that philosopher Aaron Meskin and poet Helen Mort have made real with their forthcoming volume, Opposite: Poems, Philosophy & Coffee. In the following guest post,* Professor Meskin (currently at Leeds, but soon moving to the University of Georgia) explains how the book came about and shares an excerpt from the introduction and one of Dr. Mort’s poems.

Clive Head, “The Synaptical Cubist Orders for Two”

An Experiment in Philosophy and Poetry
by Aaron Meskin

The British poet, Helen Mort, and I recently explored a novel way in which poetry and philosophy might be in dialogue. We put together a book, Opposite: Poems, Philosophy & Coffee, which is just about to be published by Valley Press, an independent publisher located in Scarborough, UK.

The core of the book comprises ten poems composed by Helen in response to her reading of ten recent essays in philosophical aesthetics which I suggested. The main criterion for selection was a suspicion that Helen would find the paper interesting. The philosophers (Jeanette Bicknell, Eva Dadlez, Anne Eaton, John Dyck, Cynthia Freeland, Sherri Irvin, Eileen John, Thi Nguyen, Nick Riggle, Jon Robson, me) then briefly respond to Helen’s poems. An introduction explains the genesis of the work, and two codas reflect on the relationships between coffee, philosophy and poetry.

Topics addressed in the book include bad art, itches, meals, oversinging, portraits, rock climbing, street art, tastimony, tattoos and a song by Belle and Sebastian. We’re really excited by the way it turned out.

Why coffee? We hatched the plan for the bookshop in a local cafe conveniently located opposite the University of Leeds where we both worked when we met. The first poem that Helen wrote—the piece that gave us the idea for the project—was set in another of our favorite Leeds coffee places, and it responds to a co-authored paper of mine which addresses the epistemology of taste. And the whole project was based on the idea that the book might be like a cafe (or bar) conversation between a poet and a philosopher (or ten).

All the royalties from the book are going to support a Leeds charity which addresses childhood hunger. To order it, go here.

Here’s an excerpt—the first bit is a piece from the introduction where Helen talks about her process, and then there’s a poem by Helen prompted by her reading of Eileen John’s “Meals, Art and Artistic Value” (originally published online and open access in Estetika), along with Eileen’s response. You can read the abstract of Eileen’s paper and download a complete copy of it here. To read Helen’s response to Eva Dadlez’s work on the art of tattoos, mentioned in the excerpt from the introduction below, along with Eva’s response, you’ll have to get the book.

From the Introduction (by Helen Mort)

 I was excited and inspired by the papers Aaron had begun to send to me, particularly Eva Dadlez’s work on the status of tattoos as works of art. As I began to try to write poems in response, I sometimes got a little weighed down by the idea of trying to make my creative responses ‘hold’ or contain some of the theory explored so eloquently in the papers. In short, I was trying to make them too directly philosophical. The resulting pieces were abstract and seemed dead on the page. When I returned to Eva’s paper for another read, I decided to try a different approach and react to her consideration of tattooing-as-art by creating my own version of a portrait, a sketch (in words) of famous tattooed lady Betty Broadbent. This response was much more tangential than the pieces I’d tried previously and freed me up to react to the theories and proposals I was encountering in a looser way. I couldn’t hope to paraphrase the philosophers I’d been reading, nor should I try. This needed to be a dialogue, a sprawling conversation, the kind you might have in a bar late at night.

“Learning to Eat”
Helen Mort

Learning to eat again
is like learning to run
down a mountainside,
I mean really run, your
legs freewheeling,
your ribs bright spokes
in your chest. It’s like
learning to fall asleep
in someone else’s arms,
or like that exercise in art
class where you don’t
look down at the page
until the end to see
the bulbous, lovely
shapes you’ve made.
I have acquired the
language of colour
and shade. I have
renounced the minimalism
of Ryvita and apple peel.
I have abandoned
the expressionism
of meat-rind in the plant pots
potatoes hidden in pockets
sponge pudding pushed
around the bowl. So,
when you place a dish
of mackerel down
in front of me on our first
meal together, I see
the jewelled detail
of blackberries, the sweep
of buttered mash,
the texture of kale.
I say this is a masterpiece
and mean it, then
you arrange each
artful item
on the plate
and together
we demolish it.


“Mash, Mackerel, Masterpiece”
by Eileen John

This poem makes me really happy. It is remarkable to me that Helen Mort could make such a beautiful, flowing, moving leap from my earnest attempt to write about meals and artistic value. Her poem does the thing that I love but do not understand about poetry, as it packs more into its forty-one short lines than can fit into pages and pages of a philosophical essay. Let me try to talk about what that ‘more’ is.

Her title is “Learning to Eat”, and the first line is “Learning to eat again”. This is a hook for me right away, because I do not think of eating as something I learned to do or would have to relearn. But that thought has changed by the end of the poem. The first simile given to tell us about learning to eat again, that it “is like learning to run / down a mountainside”, is a great image of bodily freedom and almost tumbling downhill motion—but the mystery of the hook is still there. Why do we need to learn this? Can’t we just let gravity and the mountainside have their way with us? But with that vivid motion in mind, you can remember that although it is in a way natural and hard not to do, it is also not exactly easy to do. It takes coordination and concentration and being ready to adjust at a moment’s notice. The poem brings out how eating does and does not “come naturally” to us. We will eat somehow or other, if there is food available, but we will not inevitably eat in a way that has the freedom, energy and finely adjusting, coordinating ease that can be had. We may have to learn it, and part of what the poem does is make that project bigger or deeper than I made it.

I was trying to say that in having meals, though we are not constituting works of art—roughly because meals resist the pointed purpose and integrity of art—we can do things with artistic value. That value involves “taking reflective charge” of possibilities for goodness. This poem takes charge in that way: as I am trying to say here, I could not have seen the possibilities for goodness that happen in this poem. It does this in part by making the “masterpiece” of a meal be a matter of people meaning that it be so to each other. Maybe this is a deft, heartening argument against my claim—if so, I don’t mind! In the vocabulary of the poem, that we learn to eat well, perhaps happily demolishing a dish of buttered mash and mackerel together, seems to be hard and easy. It is not only a matter of artistic value; it takes openness to what people are, as bodily, artful, moving, learning beings.

Related: Who called it “Experimenting with Coffee” instead of “X-phresso”?Poetry and Philosophical Thinking; Philosopher PoetsPhilosophy’s Exclusion of Literary WritingsPhilosophy & Literary Writings Revisited

The post An Experiment in Philosophy and Poetry (guest post by Aaron Meskin) appeared first on Daily Nous.

A Marriage of Conscience: Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 18/04/2019 - 5:00am in

Edward Curtin “About suffering they were never wrong,” wrote W. H. Auden in the poem “Musée Des Beaux Arts.” These lines occurred to me last week when all eyes were focused on the brutal British seizure of Julian Assange from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. No one should have been surprised by this despicable spectacle carried out in the noonday light for all to see, for the British government has not served as America’s jailer for the past seven years for no reason. It doesn’t take x-ray eyes to see that the British and the Moreno government in Ecuador are twin poodles on the American leash. After a phony display of judicial fairness, the British, as required by their American bosses, will dispatch Assange to the United States so he can be further punished for the crime of doing journalism and exposing war crimes. Assange has suffered mightily for American sins. The Anglo-American torturers know how to squeeze their victims to make old men out of the young. Abu Ghraib was no aberration. The overt …

Not for Long, Adorno & Horkheimer

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 10/04/2019 - 9:54pm in


aesthetics, art, poetry

In Book 22 of the Odyssey, there is a description of the way in which Odysseus’ son punishes the faithless women who had reverted to prostitution. Emotionless, and with an inhuman composure rivaled only by the impassibilité of the major nineteenth-century novelists, Homer describes the movement of the nooses and coldly compares the women’s appearance as they hang to that of birds caught in a net; the reticence and composure of the narration are the true marks of eloquence. The passage closes with the information that the feet of the row of suspended women “kicked out for a short while, but not for long” [Odyssey 22.473] The precision of the descriptive artist, which already exhibits the frigidity of anatomy and vivisection, [61] is employed to provide evidence of the dying convulsions of the subjected who, in the name of law and justice, were cast down into that realm from which Odysseus the judge had escaped. As a citizen reflecting momentarily upon the hanging, Homes assures himself and his audience (actually readers) that it did not last long--a moment and then it was all over. But after the "not for long" the inner flow of the narrative is arrested. Not for long? The device poses the question, and belies the author's composure. By cutting short the account, Homer prevents us from forgetting the victims, and reveals the unutterable eternal agony of the few seconds in which the women struggle with death. No echo of the "not for long" remains except the Quo usque tandem that the rhetors of the later period unwittingly devalued by themselves laying claim to the long-suffering attitude in question. In the narrative account of atrocity, hoever, hope attaches to the fact that it happened a long time ago. Homer offers consolation for the entanglement of prehistory, savagery, and culture by recourse to the once-upon-a-time device. Yet the epic is novel first, and fairytale after.--Theodor Adorno & Max Horkheimer (1947) Dialectic of Enlightenment, translated by John Cumming, p. 80 [emphasis in original]

Much of the so-called Excursus 1 ("Odysseus or Myth and Enlightenment") of Dialectic of Enlightenment -- is nearly unreadable unless one is steeped in the Gymnasium culture that marked the aspirations to Bildung of Wilhelmine Germany (and its European equivalents). The Excursus -- latin for digression -- is a lengthy re-interpretation of the Odyssee. It may seem peculiar to do so in exile in Los Angeles in the early 1940s, especially in a book with 'Enlightenment' (or Dialectic) in its title. But (with an explicit nod to Nietzsche) Homer is treated as "the basic text of European civilization." (46)

I had to memorize the opening lines of the Odyssee. I flunked the assignment initially. My latin teacher had me repeat the in the teacher's lounge (in front of her bemused colleagues) a few weeks later. I still remember the first line, but the second one required a check online:

ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπεμοῦσαπολύτροπονὃς μάλα πολλὰ
πλάγχθηἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσεν:

That I associate the quoted passage with Gymnasium culture is not primarily due to this minor personal trauma, but due to the little puzzle Adorno & Horkheimer lodged in this text, their untranslated, Quo usque tandem. I recognized at once Cicero's opening lines of the first Catiline Oration:  Quo usque tandem abutere, Catilina, patientia nostra? Quam diu etiam furor iste tuus nos eludet? How long will you abuse our patience, O Catiline...* And not for the first time I reflected on the curiosity of the centrality of that nouveau riche defender of aristocratic values in a decayed republic, Cicero, in the Latin curriculum of a Gymnasium in Amsterdam in the 198s0. 

Adorno and Horkheimer are a bit quick to suggest Homer prevents us from forgetting the victims. The twelve condemned women, on the testimony of Eurykleia (Odysseus's wet-nurse), are left nameless. Their 'crime' according to Eurykleia was to show her and Penelope no honor. It is notable that Eurykleia explicitly denies that Telemachos had been mistreated by them. For, Telemachos changes his father's sentence (from death by sword to death by hanging) in virtue of their lack of honor to him and for consorting with Penelope's suitors ('prostitution').** In Telemachos' treatment of the twelve nameless women -- they are hung after being forced to clean the mayhem subsequent Odysseus' murderous revenge on his wife's suitors+ -- there are gruesome anticipations of the fate of women who served occupying forces in the world war. 

There is, I think, no consolation (or 'hope') in citizen Homer. After the gruesome deeds are done, there are rites of purification (and the cleaning up of the corpses, etc--now done by Odysseus), and life goes on without the nameless twelve women.  

I had started this impression by wanting to write about a lost culture such that whatever Adorno & Horkheimer wished to say has become opaque. But my intentions are deflected by my train of thought. In the quoted passage, they treat the devaluation of language by political rhetoric as an accident ("unwittingly").++ But this -- appropriating another's lived experience, even of death -- is always a temptation of political rhetoric, Adorno & Horkheimer's not excepted. 



Wilamowitz is of the opinion that the sentence is "related with relish by the poet" (Die Heimkehr des Odysseus, p. 67). Even though the authoritarian philologist is delighted to find that the simile of the bird-nest is "just and modern in its appropriateness to the jerking of  the hanged women" (op. cit., p. 76), the relish seems to be mostly by his own. Wilamowitz's writings are among the most emphatic documents of the German intermingling of barbarism and culture erected on the basis of modern Philhellenism.

*See also one of Mary Beard's best columns in TLS. Her point is, in fact, partially anticipated by Adorno & Horkheimer.

**One wonders how much of Telemachos' humiliated inability to defend his mother's honor, while his returning father succeeds, is displaced onto these unfortunate women. 

+There are also gruesome anticipations of the work by the Sonderkommandos in the camps.

++It's possible Adorno & Horkheimer side with Cataline, who was advocating debt relief on behalf of the poor, and against the martial law of Cicero.