Every week, the editors of The Paris Review lift the paywall on a selection of interviews, stories, poems, and more from the magazine’s archive. You can have these unlocked pieces delivered straight to your inbox every Sunday by signing up for the Redux newsletter.
Embracing fall equinox, we bring you George Seferis’s 1970 Writers at Work interview, where he speaks to the roles of conscious and subconscious memory in poetic imagery; Edmund White’s short story “The Secret Order of Joy”; and Jane Hirshfield’s poem “Autumn.”
George Seferis, The Art of Poetry No. 13
Issue no. 50 (Fall 1970)
When autumn approached, when there would be a rather strong wind, and the fishing barges would have to sail through rough weather, we would always be glad when they were at last anchored, and my mother would say to someone among the fishermen who’d gone out: “Ah, bravo, you’ve come through rough weather”; and he would answer: “Madam, you know, we always sail with Charon at our side.” That’s moving to me. Perhaps when I wrote about Ulysses in “Upon a Foreign Verse”—perhaps I had in mind somebody like that fisherman. Those “certain old sailors from my childhood” who would recite the Erotokritos.
The Secret Order of Joy
By Edmund White
Issue no. 84 (Summer 1982)
I can’t really remember how I met Tommy. I recollect him first as a smooth cloche of shiny light brown hair sporting the slender plume of a cowlick, a head bent over a book in study hall belonging to someone I’d heard was captain of the tennis team, leader of the Crowd and Sally’s steady; then, without transition, he was my friend and he was struggling to explain to me his theory about Sartre’s Nausea as we kicked our way through autumn leaves. “Uh … uh … ” he was crying out on a loud, high note, a sustained nasal sound, as he stopped walking and held a finger up. Then his small, blue eyes, straining to see an idea in the distance, blinked, glanced smoothly up and down. The glitter of prophecy faded. He shrugged: “Lost it.” He exposed his palms and then pocketed his hands in his trousers. I held my breath and counted ten before I offered my soft, apologetic suggestion: “But aren’t you really saying that Sartre thinks Man is … ” and I filled in the blank with the closest approximation I could invent, not of Sartre’s thought but of Tommy’s dubious interpretation of it.
By Jane Hirshfield
Issue no. 109 (Winter 1988)
Again the wind
flakes gold-leaf from the trees
and the painting darkens—
as if a thousand penitents
kissed an icon
till it thinned
back to bare wood,
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