Posts Tagged ‘Goethe’
April 21, 2015 | by Damion Searls
What is poetry? Etymology provides more questions than answers.
T. S. Eliot, who once famously called National Poetry Month the cruelest, was also one of many to point out the hopeless semantic tangles that ensue because “poetry” has two opposites. Poetry can be the lined stuff, often with rhymes, as opposed to sentences and paragraphs; poetry can also be the good stuff, as opposed to the plodding or simply informational. But if good prose can be poetic, a novel can be “pure poetry,” and poems can be prosaic, then it’s not clear what anyone is talking about, really. Or rather, it’s clear except to theorists trying to come up with definitions. Poetry is what’s thrilling, while a poem is that poor thing with eleven readers, eight of them members of the poet’s extended family.
Etymology doesn’t help—it only highlights that the apples and oranges here are how the thing is made and how it moves. Poetry is from the Greek poiein, “to make”: a poem is something made, or in English we would more naturally say crafted. Yet everyone agrees good prose is well crafted, too. Prose means, literally, “straightforward,” from the Latin prosa, proversus, “turned to face forward” (whereas verse is all wound up, twisty and snaky, “turned” in every direction except, apparently, forward). Yet we all know that poems can be clear and direct, too, especially when they’re songs. Read More »
April 22, 2014 | by Michael Lipkin
There were no best-seller lists in 1809, but it was quickly clear to the German reading public that Goethe’s third novel, Elective Affinities, which appeared in the fall of that year, was a flop. His first, The Sorrows of Young Werther, had inspired a fashion craze and copycat suicides, and had fired the heart of a young Napoleon. His latest effort, on the other hand, received befuddled notices from critics and little love from the coterie of writers and philosophers drawn to the Great Man. Everyone from the Brothers Grimm to Achim von Arnim to Wilhelm von Humboldt agreed that the book was a bore, that its plot made nearly no sense, and that its treatment of adultery bordered on the distasteful.
At sixty, Goethe was not one to let bad reviews get him down. The universally beloved Faust had appeared in 1808, and by 1810, Goethe was to have completed his Theory of Colors as well as his autobiography, Poetry and Truth. Nonetheless, in the correspondence he sent out around the time of publication, Goethe found himself compelled to admit that he had as little idea as anyone else of what he was trying to accomplish with his most recent book, or of what it had finally become. Then as now, Elective Affinities is an incredible, deeply mystifying read, the headstone of a man who hoped to groom the wilderness of life into an English park where even loss, pain, and death have finally found their proper place. Read More »
December 28, 2012 | by Sophie Pinkham
We’re out this week, but we’re re-posting some of our favorite pieces from 2012 while we’re away. We hope you enjoy—and have a happy New Year!
At three in the morning, Almaty’s tiny airport is no match for the crackling expanses of sky and snow. As we rise from our seats, the local women shrug on their fur coats, shape shifters assuming animal form. New York hasn’t seen much winter lately, and I’m glad of evidence that the seasons still exist—even if I had to come on a business trip to Kazakhstan to find it.
The long smooth road from the airport is lined with luxury-car dealerships and dilapidated beer shops, their signs askew. “Double beer!” one sign cries, sounding drunk. The streets are named after poets, heroes, and Soviet institutions. (Meet me at the intersection of Goethe and Komintern. Sentences like these are the reward for time spent in the former Soviet Union.) We pass a fluorescent Eiffel Tower standing sentry in front of a shopping center. “What’s that?” I ask the driver. “The Eiffel Tower,” he answers, matter-of-fact. I’m reminded of a Kyrgyz woman who told me that the Great Wall of China did not exist. Though she herself had visited the wall, she insisted that the section she’d seen was the only real part, built recently to dupe foreigners. “But you can see it from space,” I protested. “The Chinese are very clever,” she answered. “And those Buddhas in the caves? You think those are a thousand years old? All from the eighties. Trust me.”
September 20, 2012 | by Sadie Stein
September 21, 2010 | by Lorin Stein
April Ayers Lawson’s short story “Virgin” appears in our new issue. It is Lawson’s first appearance in a magazine with national circulation. Last week she was kind enough to answer a few questions from her home in Greenville, South Carolina.
In “Virgin” you describe sexual frustration and desire very convincingly—and very specifically—from a man’s point of view. How did you do it?
Close observation. Male frustration seems to me more focused, more linear, than female frustration. This interests me a lot. Also, I enjoy asking men about what they think it means to be a man. I like to hear about the women in their lives—how they view their mothers, sisters, girlfriends, wives. I like to try to understand what it means to be “manly,” what it means for a man to think he's failed to be manly. The more I understand men, the more I understand women.
Also, when a story is about women—I consider the story to be mostly about the women—it makes more sense to me to feel them from the perspective of a man.
Did you ever feel out of your depth?
The perspective came naturally. If it didn't I'd have aborted. When I write I’m doing it as an act of discovery. Also to get high. What I’m writing should feel at least as real to me as what’s physically around me. It should rise out of and also sustain a heightened sense of emotional reality. Otherwise, no point, no pleasure.
The stories of yours that I have read are all set in the South among Evangelical Christians. Do you write with a Southern Christian reader in mind? Read More »