I shall not be afraid anymore (of buying books)

I’ve just had a flash of literary kinsmanship, a true moment of realisation that I owe to the wonderful Jeanette Winterson, and which will probably reveal itself to be very dangerous for the state of my finances and bookshelves, but here it is:

I’ve been dipping in and out of Winterson’s art objects, a collection of essays on art and literature and Virginia Woolf and so much more, a collection so dense and fascinating I usually read one then pause for a few days to let it sink in. And today, the one I read is called “The psychometry of books”, and it is about book collecting. It starts: 

“Book collecting is a  obsession, an occupation, a disease, an addiction, a fascination, an absurdity, a fate. It is not a hobby. Those who do it must do it. Those who do not do it, think of it as a cousin  of stamp-collecting, a sister or the trophy cabinet,  bastard of a sound bank account and a weak mind.”

How true, how perfect. I wanted to shout, to sing those lines aloud (even if that might get me transfered to the closest asylum and despite my love of the country I really don’t want to try out Cambodia”s mental health care, thank you very much). Somebody (well of course not just anybody) gets it.

I would have been content just with that,  but a bit further comes the line which I will now utter everytime I ask myself whether I should be buying more books or not:

“That is the way with books. You regret only the ones you did not buy.”

So from now on, fellow book-addicts, I shall procede without guilt and remind myself every time I feel apologetic about having bought a couple books, that first it is not really a choice, more a question of fate. And mostly, that it is the ones you don’t buy that you’ll regret. Enough said.

P.s. since it is now universally proven that it is acceptable to buy books, buy “Art objects”. You won’t regret it.


A poem for Sunday

Today, one of my absolute favourite poems in the English language, even if  I generally don’t care that much for E. E. Cummings’ poetry. But this one, for an unaccountable reason, stands out. It probably is due to the sheer magic of the verse “Into the street of the sky night walks scattering poems“. Perfection.

23 23(Sonnet IX from Tulips, 1922)

A poem for Sunday (and for National Poetry Month)

This, for a change, is a more modern poem, by W. Waring Cuney – an American poet and singer I discovered through this poem, which was on my way to the city centre when I lived in Leiden. I just like the atmosphere of the picture.

IMG_0839As April is “national Poetry Month”, the Poetry foundation is giving their April issue for free, as a pdf download, a great way to discover (American) poets, check it out!

Here’s the full poem, so that you can appreciate it without the disturbing branches:

This here 
Is what 
To the Blues.
That there 
Is what
To the Blues. 
This here,
have you any cool?
one horn full.
Filled the Blues
That's what 
To the Blues. 
That again 
A nickel in, 
John Burkes 
Carried on. 
A nickel in, 
The platter 
A spin,
Let's listen 
To what Charlie
To the Blues.

W.Waring Cuney

A poem for sunday

Yet another of the Muurgedichten, poems written al around the city of Leiden, in The Netherlands – if one day I have the courage/something very dull to procrastinate with a vengeance I will sort out all the pictures I have of those from my other few hundreds pictures of the time I spent there for one Erasmus semester, and make a whole post about those. Meanwhile, I figured it is always time for a small dose of Rilke.

41 Das ist die Sehnsucht

In Frühe Gedichte

The  only translation I can find is the one on the Muurgedichten site, by Jan and Allan Van Asselt:

That is longing: living in turmoil
and having no home in time
and those are wishes: gentle dialogues
of day's hours with eternity 

And that is life. Until out of a yesterday
the most lonely hour rises
which, smiling differently than the other sisters (hours)
silently encounters eternity

A quote on love and probabilities

Because I woke up with the words “We send starships, we fall in love”, this morning, for no apparent reason other than, probably, my brain wanting to wake up to a beautiful sentence. Do you ever have lines stuck in your heads, like songs, and spend hours trying to remember where they are from?

At least that’s a step up from the usual unending mambo-jambo of repetitive songs that struggle to find the top rank on the most-annoying-song-stuck-in-head-list. The current top place is disputed between that which doesn’t even deserve to be called a song, and Old Macdonald had a farm. When I say I live in constant hell…

For a change, then, an amazing quote (from an amazing book, now that I remember where I’ve read it) Continue reading

A poem for Sunday (2)

It’s all I have to bring today—
This, and my heart beside—
This, and my heart, and all the fields—
And all the meadows wide—
Be sure you count—should I forget
Some one the sum could tell—
This, and my heart, and all the Bees
Which in the Clover dwell.

Emily Dickinson, It’s all I have to bring today (26)

From The Complete Poems


a poem for Sunday


To be in any form, what is that?

If nothing lay more developed the quahaug and its callous shell were enough.


Mine is no callous shell,

I have instant conductors all over me whether I pass or stop,

They seize every object and lead it harmlessly through me.


I merely stir, press, feel with my fingers, and am happy,

To touch my person to some one else’s is about as much as I can stand.

Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass (27)

There was a girl, and her uncle sold her. A quote on life and numbers


Today I did my periodic scanning of the news, something I do once in a while here when I’m able to get WiFi, and since those days have been spaced out in weeks recently due to bad connections and me travelling (quite willingly) to the most remote places, the news pile up and it turns jnto an even more it’s grim and shocking exercice. Today it was more news of refugees let down by quotas in Europe, earthquake in Pakistan and Afghanistan with growing numbers of deaths and injuries, election results in Switzerland that will surely lead to more xenophobic and self-centered laws I’m the near future and you probably know the rest already, this is just a small sample.

I thought about individual lives in those great tragedies, how media will go for the most sensational picture (passing through Kathmandu a few days ago was a striking reminder of it, as most of the city is holding together, despite what we could see in the news at the time of the earthquake, and it saddens me that it seems we all need the grimmest picture to get some interest, even if a more faithfull one would still have meant destruction of thousands of houses in that case), how quickly we loose interest and go back to our lives – or the ones of our direct neighbours, how fickle we are in front of it all.

It made me think of this quote – well, a rather long one – from Neil Gaiman, in American Gods, where he says it best, as he always seem to be. (I’m rather a fan of every single thing he has ever written, I think). Don’t want to spoil the simple force of it, so I’ll let you with it, and go back to my individual, rather similar, rather unique, life.

There was a girl, and her uncle sold her. Put like that it seems so simple.
No man, proclaimed Donne, is an island, and he was wrong. If we were not islands, we would be lost, drowned in each other’s tragedies. We are insulated (a word that means, literally, remember, made into an island) from the tragedy of others, by our island nature and by the repetitive shape and form of the stories. The shape does not change: there was a human being who was born, lived and then by some means or other, died. There. You may fill in the details from your own experience. As unoriginal as any other tale, as unique as any other life. Lives are snowflakes – forming patterns we have seen before, as like one another as peas in a pod (and have you ever looked at peas in a pod? I mean, really looked at them? There’s not a chance you’ll mistake one for another, after a minute’s close inspection) but still unique.

Without individuals we see only numbers, a thousand dead, a hundred thousand dead, “casualties may rise to a million.” With individual stories, the statistics become people- but even that is a lie, for the people continue to suffer in numbers that themselves are numbing and meaningless. Look, see the child’s swollen, swollen belly and the flies that crawl at the corners of his eyes, this skeletal limbs: will it make it easier for you to know his name, his age, his dreams, his fears? To see him from the inside? And if it does, are we not doing a disservice to his sister, who lies in the searing dust beside him, a distorted distended caricature of a human child? And there, if we feel for them, are they now more important to us than a thousand other children touched by the same famine, a thousand other young lives who will soon be food for the flies’ own myriad squirming children?

We draw our lines around these moments of pain, remain upon our islands, and they cannot hurt us. They are covered with a smooth, safe, nacreous layer to let them slip, pearllike, from our souls without real pain.
Fiction allows us to slide into these other heads, these other places, and look out through other eyes. And then in the tale we stop before we die, or we die vicariously and unharmed, and in the world beyond the tale we turn the page or close the book, and we resume our lives.
A life that is, like any other, unlike any other.
And the simple truth is this: There was a girl, and her uncle sold her.