26/05/2008

the last observatory

Milan Kundera – The Curtain

The Novel as foundational art form, as the moral engine that manufactured European culture and society: Milan Kundera's firmness on this point is definite. Modernity and the Novel are coevals – the latter stands as the most complete expression of the Enlightenment project that we can hope to have, secular, ironic, pluralist. Within its galleries homo faber and homo ludens finally merge, finding a medium at once gravely humorous and humorously grave.

If Harold Bloom credits Shakespeare with the invention of the human – those shifting states of interiority and sceptical self-awareness – Kundera asserts the claim of the Novel in this regard. “Western society,” he writes in his earlier essay collection Testaments Betrayed, “habitually presents itself as a society of the rights of man; but before a man could have rights, he had to constitute himself as an individual, to consider himself as such and to be considered as such; that could not happen without the long experience of the European arts and particularly of the art of the novel, which teaches the reader to be curious about others and to try to comprehend truths that differ from his own.”

The art of the novel is our most effective riposte to priestcraft... While the latter craves the formal fixity of ritual and dogma – including their political aspects - the novel flourishes in an atmosphere of doubt. While religion enshrines purity and spiritual vigour, the novel enjoys an ethical hygiene all its own. It recognizes the ill-wrought, lopsided brokenness of the average human being, even as religion chivvies us to attain a glassy perfection. It liberalizes discourse, as religion endeavours to purge and straiten it. And religion earns itself, too, the especially Kunderan anathema reserved for kitsch – what Nabokov once termed poshlost – as does totalitarianism as such, and the gaudy simplifications of socialist-realist art and police-state surveillance, etc. (Not to forget those for whom Rabelais coined the name 'agelasts' – joyless wraiths incapable of laughter...) The 'secular tyranny of kitsch', as Kundera has it, derives its sway over people from a cynical appeal to the desire for Komfortismus, easy consolation – making dupes of us all. On contrary, the novel of Kundera's great tradition shuns such cheapening, is constantly at sword's point against the hypocrisies of power. Kundera elaborates a theory in which history – as mobilized in nation states and war and the clash of ideologies – is set in opposition to the history of the novel, the radiant diachrony in which the art exists beyond the blind impersonal forces that buffet mankind. “Here I am making a declaration of involvement in the history of the novel,” he adds in Testaments Betrayed, “when all my novels breathe a hatred of history...”:
...of that hostile, inhuman force that – uninvited, unwanted – invades our lives from the outside and destroys them. Yet there is nothing inconsistent in this double attitude, because the history of humanity and the history of the novel are two very different things. The former is not man's to determine, it takes over like an alien force he cannot control, whereas the history of the novel (or of painting, of music) is born of man's freedom, of his wholly personal creations, of his own choices. The meaning of an art's history is opposed to the meaning of history itself. Because of its personal nature, the history of an art is a revenge by man against the impersonality of the history of humanity.

('L'histoire du roman en tant que vengeance sur l'histoire tout court.') Kundera's conception of the 'history of humanity' assonates with that given form in Tolstoy's War and Peace, for example. Throughout that great work (Tolstoy was loath to describe it as novel), History figures as the oceanic indestructible... In the epilogue Tolstoy subtly dramatizes the tragic opposition between the chronos of historical time and the kairos of fictive time – Pierre Bezukhov, having survived the battle of Borodino and capture by the French, now married to Natasha and installed as a respectable homme d'affaires, conceives a new enthusiasm for what will – beyond the limits of the book – become the Decembrist movement: we know, of course, that the leaders of the revolt were later executed as traitors; and have no reason to suppose that Pierre's fate will be any different. Tolstoy's epic rounds itself up – but history proceeds across the stormlit landscape, insensible of the lives swarming below, its dark thunderheads laden with lightning....

Kundera further deepens his thesis of the novelist's essential attitude to History-with-a-capital-H in his new suite of essays, The Curtain (La Rideau):

Because History, with its agitations, its wars, its revolutions and counter-revolutions, its national humiliations, does not interest the novelist for itself – as a subject to paint, to denounce, to interpret. The novelist is not a valet to historians; History may fascinate him, but because it is a kind of searchlight circling around human existence and throwing light onto it, onto its unexpected possibilities, which, in peaceable times, when History stands still, do not come to the fore but remain unseen and unknown.

The novel will defend its autonomy to the last. Kundera proposes that its essentialism – its sovereign right to scrutinize life in its very existential nakedness – must be the chief guarantee of its validity. The Curtain – like its predecessors, The Art of the Novel and Testaments Betrayed – is arranged as a fascicle of brief ruminative excurses. Crisply tied together by a number of unifying themes, they orbit the central notion of the Novel as the premier means of making sense of, lending definition to the human condition. Kundera valorizes this most amenable form with great intensity. The concept of Weltliteratur comes quickly to the fore, and Kundera makes it clear that only the novel has license to be a supranational mode, uninterested in political or social imperatives, triumphantly decontextualized – only by considering itself against the tapestry of the history of its internal development, can a work properly call itself a novel. Moreover, for Kundera, it's the generous panopticism of the form that warrants its supremacy: Ernesto Sábato “...says explicitly that in the modern world, abandoned by philosophy and splintered by hundreds of scientific specialties, the novel remains to us as the last observatory from which we can embrace human life as a whole.”

And the curtain itself? As per the fugue-like structure of his essays, Kundera recurs to the idea of the 'curtain of pre-interpretation' - “A magic curtain, woven of legends, hung before the world. Cervantes sent Don Quixote journeying and tore through the curtain. The world opened before the knight errant in all the comical nakedness of its prose.” Here we have presented the elementary beginnings of the novel, its impulse towards demystification. It abolishes the sickly lyricism of the Romantic forms, the solipsism of lyric poetry, and turns its gaze on the world's festival: “If I imagine the genesis of a novelist in the form of an exemplary tale, a 'myth', that genesis looks to me like a conversion story: Saul becoming Paul; the novelist being born from the ruins of his lyrical world.” Tearing the curtain means, among other things, breaching the valances of self-deception, the political lie, delusions about our place in the scheme of things, false consciousness; it means minting afresh our perceptions, besoming clean the lumber-room of our premade assumptions... The novelist is the arch-individualist, the inheritor of a tradition that will not overwhelm and absorb him; a refuser of the obsolescence of the efforts of his forebears (there is much still to learn from the example of Rabelais), one who makes it his business to 'seek out the never-said', to bring to bear on human experience articulate energies wrought to a fine pitch; an ironist and humourist in the old style... Cleanly translated by Linda Asher, The Curtain sorts well with the arguments of Kundera's earlier essays – reads rather as a coda and reprise of them - and confirms him as still one of the most passionately convinced of the novel's practitioners.

17/05/2008

zizek and the eclipse of the world

Slavoj Žižek – In Defense of Lost Causes

"The time of big theories was the time of big results." - G.K. Chesterton, Heretics

Reading Žižek, this Barnum of the radical Left: how can you prepare, except by a regimen of intellectual calisthenics, or perhaps even a cross-country yomp – on a rain-flayed moor, in the depths of November - with the breeze-block of Lacan's Écrits in your backpack? His flashing eyes, his waving hair...

A certain Diogenes Teufelsdröckh, Professor der Allerley-Wissenschaft of Weissnichtwo, sitting alone in the Grüne Gans in that venerably ancient university town:
..over his tumbler of Gukguk ... reading Journals; sometimes contemplatively looking at the clouds of his tobacco-pipe, without other visible employment: always, from his mild ways, an agreeable phenomenon there; more especially when he opened his lips for speech; on which occasions the whole Coffee-house would hush itself into silence, as if sure to hear something noteworthy. Nay, perhaps to hear a whole series and river of the most memorable utterances; such as, when once thawed, he would for hours indulge in, with fit audience: and the more memorable, as issuing from a head apparently not more interested in them, not more conscious of them, than is the sculptured stone head of some public fountain, which through its brass mouth-tube emits water to the worthy and the unworthy...

“A wild note pervades the whole utterance of the man,” Carlyle goes on, “like its keynote and regulator...”:

..now screwing itself aloft as into the Song of Spirits, or else the shrill mockery of Fiends; now sinking in cadences, not without melodious heartiness, though sometimes abrupt enough, into the common pitch, when we hear it only as a monotonous hum; of which hum the true character is extremely difficult to fix.

Thomas Carlyle, of course, was satirising the scholar-enthusiast - peculiarly European, peculiarly remote from the workaday world: Sartor Resartus is a batty exercise in almost Popean debunkery. The twentieth-century uneasily subverted the stereotype with figures from Sartre to Bernard Henri-Levy entering the public arena, styling themselves as political theorists, activists and commentators – but, on the whole, they betrayed themselves as ideological charismatics too readily seduced by fame.

Slavoj Žižek – tenured Professor of Things-in-General at the University of Ljubljana as Carlyle's Teufelsdrockh was at the University of Weissnichtwo – emerged in the Nineties as a tireless explicator of radical politics through the prism of Lacanian psychoanalysis. Forbiddingly prolific, he has written some thirty three books with such playfully riddling titles as Enjoy Your Symptom! and Everything You Wanted to Know About Lacan ... But Were Afraid to Ask Hitchcock. Doubtless he'll have written another by the time I reach the end of this paragraph...

Since the public intellectual is somewhat in bad odour these days, you might be inclined to regard Žižek as a sort of latterday Comus, Milton's seductive magus, tripping the light fantastic toe... Few thinkers so exult in the play of thought, so plausibly leaven their arguments with illustrations from Hollywood blockbusters – treating them with due seriousness, as Žižek does here in the case of 300, for example – even fewer still can set forth their arguments with such charm and humour. A book by Žižek is an expansive tour d'horizon, and Žižek himself is a Tiggerish guide. Yet, his customary brio and zing notwithstanding, Žižek's thought remains ineradicably pessimistic, acknowledging as it does the nameless obscenity at the core of the human subject. History, if we're to be less deceived, must be recognized as a charnel house; human nature as a corrupt enigma; and the two unassailably entwined. Among the lost causes in this book, a 'global emancipatory politics' might only be achieved if we come to terms with our species-being itself; and effect a renovatio on an unprecedented scale...




“Better a disaster of fidelity to the Event,” Žižek pronounces in the first pages of In Defense of Lost Causes, “than a non-being of indifference towards the Event. To paraphrase Beckett's memorable phrase ... after one fails, one can go on and fail better, while indifference drowns us deeper and deeper in the morass of imbecilic Being.” And what might this Event whereof he writes actually be? Žižek appropriates the concept from the Maoist philosopher Alain Badiou, who describes it in his study Ethics as one of the 'major dimensions of a truth-process', “...which brings to pass 'something other' than the situation, opinions, instituted knowledges; the Event is a hazardous [hasardeux], unpredictable supplement, which vanishes as soon as it appears..” The term clarifies a little with examples, with the event “..compel[ling] us to decide a new way of being..”:

Such events are well and truly attested: the French Revolution of 1792, the meeting of Heloise and Abelard, Galileo's creation of physics, Haydn's invention of the classical musical scale... But also: the Cultural Revolution in China (1965-67), a personal amorous passion, the creation of Topos theory by the mathematician Grothendieck, the invention of the twelve-tone scale by Schoenberg... [Ethics, p. 41]

(A radical twist on the Black Swan meme, one might say: something that springs unbidden from the merely contingent, undetermined by it, which changes everything...) Žižek, taking his cue from Foucault, adds the Iranian Revolution to this list - “..a momentary opening that unleashed unprecedented forces of social transformation.” But Foucault was wrong, Žižek asserts. “How so?” you may find yourself asking. In celebrating the irruptive Event of the 'collective will' that pointed a way out of the 'deadlock' of European modernity and Western liberal democracy, Foucault 'blundered':

One can claim that he did the right thing for the wrong reason: the manner in which he theorized and justified his engagement is misleading. The framework within which Foucault operates in his analysis of the Iranian situation is the opposition between the revolutionary Event, the sublime enthusiasm of the united people where all internal differences are momentarily suspended, and the pragmatic domain of the politics of interests, strategic power calculations, and so forth – the opposition which, as we have already seen, directly evokes Kant's distinction between the noumenal (or, more precisely, the sublime which evokes the noumenal dimension) and the phenomenal.

Clear? Splendid. Žižek appears to concede that Foucault's error was in applying too inflexible a theoretical framework on a political moment that was complicated in excess of the abstract binarism he sought to bring to bear on it... In this regard, Žižek extenuates Foucault's failure by arguing that it wasn't fully grounded in his philosophy. (Indeed Foucault seems not to have understood what was happening at all – hence his 'blunder'.) Heidegger's flirtation with Nazism, on the other hand, Žižek puts down firmly to its consonance with the logical progression of his thought. He may have 'erred ontically'; but, ceteris paribus, was on the right track 'ontologically'. And Žižek wonders if perhaps Heidegger needed his suspect engagement with Nazism in order fully to grasp the implications of his ideas, to work them through to their fullest realisation... The 'technological nihilism' critiqued by Heidegger – the modern stain – could only have been effected from within it. So argues Žižek.

He cites these examples of woefully misplaced political faith, not because he simply wants to indemnify these great figures, but because in both we find a comparable gap between the rightness of the theory and the blind alley up which its misapplication led them. The pure virtuality of their philosophies was corrupted by those 'politics of interests, strategic power calculations, and so forth' – and it was their profound distrust of liberal democracy, and their ill-starred bid to locate an alternative, that brought them to the logical impasse of Nazism and Islamic theocracy. Theory and praxis were tragically ruptured. Žižek, however, must burrow deep into the Heideggerian corpus to turn up his mitigations. (There's more than a hint of special pleading to it.) Yet it is Žižek's purpose to persuade us that the sole rejoinder to the advance of what he calls biopolitics must be a determined recovery of the old 'grand narratives' – post-Marxist, Lacanian – and the “'Messianic' standpoint of the struggle for universal emancipation.”

Not so much lost causes as forms of radicalism seemingly rendered obsolete by the onward march of liberal democracy and the unassailable preponderance of capitalism:

Modern society is defined by the lack of an ultimate transcendental guarantee, or, in libidinal terms, of total jouissance. There are three main ways to cope with this negativity: utopian, democratic, and post-democratic. The first (totalitarianism, fundamentalism) tries to reoccupy the ground of absolute jouissance by attaining a utopian and harmonious society which eliminates negativity. The second, the democratic, enacts a political equivalent of “traversing the fantasy”: it institutionalizes the lack itself by creating a space for political antagonisms. The third, consumerist post-democracy, tries to neutralize negativity by transforming politics into apolitical administration: individuals pursue their consumerist fantasies in the space regulated by expert social administration.

The bloodless hollowed-out inauthenticity of such a society – with its managerialism and atomised self-involvement – must be countered; its prevailing doxa challenged. Žižek makes the rather unexpected claim that revolutionary movements such as the Jacobins and the Bolsheviks essentially grasped the problem of societal change – in spite of the sanguinary sequelae – and they oughtn't be so readily dismissed for how they conducted themselves subsequently... “Instead of withdrawing from political engagement,” Žižek writes, “one should remember the motto that, behind every fascism, there is a failed revolution.” (Žižek urges the identification of a 'third term' between liberal democracy and Islamo-fascism.):

The ideological universe of movements such as Hezbollah is based on the blurring of distinctions between capitalist neo-imperialism and secular progressive emancipation: within the ideological space of Hezbollah, women's emancipation, gay rights, and so on, are nothing but the 'decadent' moral aspect of Western imperialism...

In Defense of Lost Causes is densely argued, wildly digressive (Žižek can't resist kicking an insight around, stress-testing it); and oftentimes jars with its outré formulations. Its waywardness has its charm – sometimes Žižek reads like a mild Chestertonian paradoxographer; sometimes his prose edges dangerously close to unreadability as such. A diffuse book, frustrating and exhilarating by turns; overillustrated, too much in hock to theoretical esoteria. But, taken all in all, the casual reader may well find the whiff of nostalgie de la boue about it – its demonstrative patience with revolutionary terror, its plea-making on behalf of unpleasant ideologies – a little too much to stomach.

06/05/2008

scar spirit

Les Murray – Fredy Neptune

Poetry – whatever else it might be – is a pledge of truth in concentrate. And modern poetry especially has thrown in its lot with precise statement, briefly set down: gnomic, imagistic, short. That a poem should prolong itself, spooling out its dazzlements to book-length, seems to us a kind of gaffe, as if it outstays its welcome by running to more than twenty lines. The long poem - unless explicitly parodic, like Clive James's Peregrine Prykke's Pilgrimage, say; or an adaptation like Derek Walcott's Omeros – has a hard time justifying itself to readers accustomed to pithy brevity. What can it offer, that prose fiction itself can't?

Literary historians hold that, at some point in the nineteenth century, the epic finally ceded to the novel. (György Lukács elaborates this view in Theory of the Novel.) Prose proved more serviceable to the temper of the times; it became almost a species of journalism. Poetry retreated into the Tennysonian mist of Idylls of the King; or, later, the tired pastoralism of the Georgians. The bulky straightforwardness of a realist novel was more open to the emergencies of modern urban society. In the poem, the literary voice was privatized. It turned to inwardness and an almost solipsistic indifference to the social world. The novel's promiscuity – its sheer busyness, its mimicry of the voices of the agora – forced poetry to withdraw into a place insulated by silence.

When Matthew Arnold complained to his friend Arthur Hugh Clough that the times were 'unpoetical', Clough sat himself down and wrote Amours de Voyage, one of the finest narrative poems of the Victorian era. Clough's trick was to ironize the high style, and give free rein to the prosiness of prose in his verse. It was a clever response – using classical hexameters to 'get down' the contemporary moment – in this case, the Revolutions of 1848. But Clough is largely forgotten today.

What can the verse novel achieve by its stubborn irredentism, its bid to reclaim lost ground from prose fiction? Didn't Pushkin pretty emphatically made any later efforts in the form de trop? Eugene Onegin settles the hash of any writer who wants to expand poetry's scope to take in character and plot... The application, by the novelist, of the sedimentary layers of detail, patiently hoarding up life's little tschotchkes – trifles making up the sum of novelistic life - is a process sharply at odds with the deep excavation of language the poet undertakes, the poet's job as verbal mosaicist. (Craig Raine, Martian and miniaturist, threw caution to the wind in his History: the Home Movie, cheekily ignoring the problem altogether and assembling his verse narrative of the Raine-Pasternak families in a chaptered sequence of triplets – successfully, I think, whatever its critics might say. Although the risk was considerable: that of the story grinding to a halt beneath the weight of poetic finickiness.)

The Australian poet Les Murray chews over all this in his note to the novel sequence The Boys Who Stole the Funeral: “I wanted to reclaim the narrative for poetry, to recapture ground which the senior literary form had begun losing to the novel as early as the end of the seventeenth century, and which it had decidedly lost to film and TV in the twentieth. But how to do it?..”

Murray discusses the technical problem of finding a formal template for his long poem. One able to manipulate language at the cellular level – as the lyric poet will do – yet able also to take the broad narrative sweep. As a poem tends to slow the reader down, each syllable potentially charged with meaning, each image soliciting our close attention; so story must barrel unstoppably along.. The stanza of Fredy Neptune – unruly, ill-crafted – discourages the reader from squinting too much at the prosody: Murray is being artfully artless.

Friedrich Boettcher (a.k.a. Fred Butcher, Fredy Neptune), merchant seaman and Australian of German extraction, on shore leave in the port of Trabzon, witnesses the death by fire of a group of Armenian women:
They were huddled, terrified, crying,
crossing themselves, in the middle of men all yelling.
Their big loose dresses were sopping. Kerosene, you could smell it.
The men were prancing, feeling them, poking at them to dance -
then pouf! they were alight, the women, dark wicks to great orange flames,
whopping and shrieking. If we'd had rifles there
we'd have massacred those bastards. We had only fists and boots.
One woman did cuddle a man: he went up screaming too.

Fredy is thus swept up, Zelig-like, in the vortex of history. The spectacle of the women has a physiological effect on him – he's left bodily numb (he attributes it, mistakenly, to psychosomatic leprosy), trapped in a Nothing, an asbestos shell. Fredy's gentleness and innate decency are stunned into this unresponsive blank. Transformed into a kind of Strine Golem, he must 'relearn human', as Murray put it in another context. How we're meant to understand this symbolically, isn't quite clear. Fredy remains inwardly the man he was – shell-shocked, he certainly isn't. “I just curled up in my hammock, like a burnt thing myself,/and turned my back...” Fredy must exert himself to conceal his condition from other folk; and moves through the world as a pariah, his body bearing the stain of what he saw, perhaps almost in reflexive disgust at our creaturely fragility. Indeed, in due course, he comes to realize that he's endowed with both enormous strength and physical invulnerability. Les Murray seems to be saying that – exposed to the nightmare of history – Fredy's mind and body have been traumatically dissevered, the latter brought up hard against the fact of its coarse materiality. Bodies break and burn and are otherwise wrecked. How can their complex of nerve, blood and bone really be us? To accept our physical limitations is necessarily to accept that we're bondslaves to matter. Murray, in his prose writings, makes the distinction between the 'wholespeak' of poetry and the 'narrowspeak' of .. everything else. Fredy succumbs to the narrowspeak of a body that is solely a machine. Wholespeak would encompass body and spirit in an unbroken circuit. (“Wholespeak is the soul's language, and it can only be spoken about effective in that integral language.”)

Fredy Neptune
froths and foams with plot and incident – one damn thing after another! Fredy finds himself an accidental tourist among the ruins of the twentieth century. He meets a stellar array of historical figures, from T.E. Lawrence to Banjo Paterson. Marlene Dietrich attempts, unsuccessfully, to woo him with a recital of Rilke. From the Ottoman Empire to Hollywood, via Shanghai, the Holy Land, Depression America, Berlin and the Outback – picaresque on the grand scale. Les Murray invents in this book a poetics of yarning. Fredy's tale swoops, yaws, stumbles, stravaigs this way and that; as does the teller. There are a fair few 'with one bound he was free!' moments. It does have the decided air of a shaggy dog story, with all the rambling inconsequentiality and fidgety aimlessness of that genre. Fredy's voice, however, is an extraordinary, sustained creation. Of unlettered bushman stock, he conjures from his life an idiom quite unheard of in the Western literary canon. (Fredy, in the Murray lexicon, is a 'groover'.) The tricks of singularity in this voice – its ornery pungency, its random brilliancies, its pathos – are quite, quite unique:

One time, it dreamed my body was made of fire,
not hurting me, but no flesh human could come near.
It was tough flowing orange, glaring hard gold
out through its buttonholes and gaps; the clothes weren't affected.
Another time, the Army handed it over to Pilate
but he knocked it straight back
because it didn't eat grass or divide the hoof.
In the fire dream, I could reach inside it, touch its innards

even trace inside the null bulbs it wasn't worthwhile playing
lonely-games with, awake. Even they were alive from inside,
only from inside. I got the weeks, that last war-year,
on work, branding, cutting, feeding, watering, training.
I wasn't heavy, but not weightless either, in the day.
I could hear my boots, stamp dust, see things resist and bend,
balance, and talk, and pass for white.
At night I was dark and fell with the dark through the world.

The book is riddled with Wordsworth's 'visionary dreariness'. What you might call a vernacular Sublime. Fredy responds to the deployment of the Atom Bomb - “..and then the screen bulged white/with scrolls spreading wide from the bottom as it hoisted/like as if a billion beings were charged outwards, and it/towering straight above them under the boiling top cloud..” - as to a belated revelation of human oneness: “I brooded on the white because I was a scar spirit.” And it's the lesson of Murray's poem, if I can put it this way, that humanity must salvage what it can from its wounded state, that war, political violence and the like only confirm, in the end, the indefeasibility of the human.

“If there was any sort of meta-artistic concern in the book,” Murray wrote about The Boys Who Stole the Funeral, “it is probably for the despised and relegated country poor, the people I come from and belong to, and to whom I dedicate everything I may achieve. And I guess that, here, I don't finally mean only Australian country people, but all who have to put up with this world's Pilates and Pharisees.” The enemy, in any of its multitudinous manifestations, is what Murray calls interest - “..narrowspeak risen socially, full of judgment and scorn, terrified of death..”:

It subordinates, and will not be subordinated. It seeks ravishment, but will resist fiercely even as it affects to surrender, and so knows nothing of attentive, truly receptive silence. The bearer of interest is typically a consumer, not celebrating objects and honouring their life, but absorbing them and discarding them, often only partly digested. Where poetry seeks fusion, interest avoids it and substitutes excitement for poetic experience. The linkage with dream is often absent, and where it is present we feel the underlying dream is not in harmony with the surface utterance. When interest turns away from something, it believes that thing has utterly vanished and no longer counts.

“Interest is a human mode which has no soul of its own. And thus perhaps no soul at all.” Murray obsesses, throughout his work, with the deficits of Enlightenment, on what was lost by the valorization of Reason. (In his more unbuttoned moments, he claims that we are inmates of an inner police state.) Fredy Neptune elaborates further, a poem against Interest; it is a Missa Solemnis, booming out against hatred, the bloodless utilitarianism that'd reduce us to mere automata, against tyranny and the Star Chambers of the world. In the end, Fredy himself takes his bow, hungrily alive to the going-on of things: “But there's too much in life: you can't describe it.”

in their deathtime

Paul Farley & Michael Symmons Roberts - Deaths of the Poets What - for the poet, whose work is validated by the vital intricacies o...