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Is Biography Mere Voyeurism?


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Is Biography Mere Voyeurism?

 

 

 

When Sylvia Plath committed suicide in 1963, Ted Hughes' adulterous affair with Assia Wevill was seen by many as the trigger for this tragedy. As Plath's posthumous fame grew, Hughes found himself at the receiving end of hostility from those who saw Plath as a feminist icon and a victim. A book that had a devastating effect on Hughes was Al Alvarez's book, The Savage God: A Study of Suicide, which focused on Plath's suicide. Friends like Tom Gunn advised Hughes to write his own version of the marriage and Plath's suicide. But Hughes refused, arguing that his poetry spoke for him. The Birthday Letters was Hughes' continuing dialogue with Plath and his critics.

 

Again, when John Bayley's book A Memoir of Iris Murdoch was published and made into a film by Richard Eyre, friends and admirers of Murdoch accused Bayley of portraying Murdoch in her decrepitude (she suffered from Alzheimer's) and that the book overshadowed her achievements as a novelist and writer. AN Wilson, a friend of Murdoch, wrote that Bayley's account of Murdoch was a Pandora's Box of which he quite clearly lost control. Wilson then wrote a biography to set the record straight and bring out the intelligent, witty, fiercely independent and formidable thinker that Murdoch was.

 

Hardy famously asked his second wife Florence Dugdale to burn his papers and yet we have a long line of reputable biographies of Hardy, the latest of which is Claire Tomlin's biography.

 

On the other hand, John Cowper Powys (1872-1963) wrote his autobiography and his diaries are clearly intended for the reader and open with:

 

Dear reader

 

 

 

 

Do you think the biography influences how we read a particular writer?

 

Does the biography give us a greater insight into the work of the writer?

 

Or is the biography a voyeuristic intrusion into the lives of the writers, particularly those, like Hardy, who objected to such interest in their lives?

 

What makes biography such a popular genre?

 

 

Please discuss.

goldenlangur

 

 

Even a single enemy is too many and a thousand friends too few - Bhutanese saying.

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Hi gl, You raise some interesting questions and I think this could be a great topic for discussion.

 

I have to qualify my response by saying I am not normally attracted to biographies, at least not a whole book. I do like to have some background especially of an author when I am reading his or her work, but a Wikipedia short version that supposedly provides the bare facts is sufficient for me. But I have read one biography in recent years, although admittedly it was required reading for an online class. My Wars are Laid Away in Books, The Life of Emily Dickinson by Alfred Habegger which by mid way I was only reading the parts that were pertinent to the class discussion. I found it interesting but very slow reading, easy to put down and slow to pick up.

 

Do you think the biography influences how we read a particular writer?

 

I definitely think knowing something about a writer influences how we read their work. Sylvia Plath has never been a favorite of mine, partly because I knew her story before I read her works and I thought of her as kind of whiney. I didn't have a lot of sympathy for her. I felt she wallowed in her victimhood. I know, she was clinically depressed and I should have more empathy but it just doesn't happen for me.

 

Does the biography give us a greater insight into the work of the writer?

 

I think knowing some things about a source, especially an author, does help understanding and insight. It makes a poem richer, a novel more intriguing, or gives perspective. A time and a place and a who.

 

Or is the biography a voyeuristic intrusion into the lives of the writers, particularly those, like Hardy, who objected to such interest in their lives?

 

I do think that unless authorized by the subject, biographies can be an intrusion into the subjects' lives, especially if they are still alive or their immediate family is still alive. Although if the person has died and his/her immediate family is also gone, such as in the case of Thomas Hardy, an investigative piece might be very interesting. Personally I find the investigative process the most interesting part.

 

 

What makes biography such a popular genre?

 

I think biographies are popular because they expand and give a perspective to something we are already interested in. The subject of the biography has done something or experienced something that has captured the public's interest. The biography gives a human face to the something. Of course in the last couple of decades it seems that biographies quickly come out about people current in the news. These I view as simply exploitation and probably not worth spending the time to read.

 

~~Tink

~~ © ~~ Poems by Judi Van Gorder ~~

For permission to use this work you can write to Tinker1111@icloud.com

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Hello, Goldenlangur. First, I should say that I rarely read any book cover to cover, biographies not excepted. That said, I'll go on to say that I have several biographies of poets. Like my other books, I treat them as reference books, picking them up whenever the mood strikes me, and I always learn something from them. The ones in my collection are:

 

Robert Frost -- A Life by Jay Parini

 

Savage Beauty -- The Life of Edna St.Vincent Millay by Nancy Milford

 

E.E. Cummings -- A Biography by Christopher Sawyer-Laucanno

 

William Carlos Williams -- I Wanted to Write a Poem: The Autobiography of the Works of a Poet Reported and edited by Edith Heal

 

Of these four, the Frost and Millay biographies have been captivating, probably because (thanks to the biographies) I have found that I somehow identify with these poets. The Cummings and Williams biographies were impulse purchases, and I've barely opened them.

 

Do you think the biography influences how we read a particular writer?

I think yes. It was the Frost biography that really opened my mind and heart to Frost. I never much cared for Frost's folksy image, and it was this book that revealed to me his inner, darker side -- a side I found much more interesting than his public persona. Some would argue that the information about the man could be garnered from his works, but I myself am not always that astute. I'm mostly self-taught when it comes to poetry, and I'm hungry for the type of insight and guidance that an academic might be able to provide. As an analogy, I offer this: when I went to the Dali Museum in Florida, I took the tour. Had I not, I would have missed out on a lot.

 

Does the biography give us a greater insight into the work of the writer?

A well-written biography about a writer will definitely do this and should (in my opinion) include examples, expert analysis, some unpublished works, and even some holographic images. Of course, this is coming from someone who would not find a biography about a writer interesting if he himself wasn't an aspiring writer. :)

 

Or is the biography a voyeuristic intrusion into the lives of the writers, particularly those, like Hardy, who objected to such interest in their lives?

I tend to agree with Tinker that a biography of anyone living should probably be authorized. Otherwise, it runs the risk of not being taken seriously, of being tabloid-like. That's not to say I wouldn't peruse an unauthorized biography or tabloid. :icon_razz:

 

As for a biography's amounting to a voyeuristic intrusion into the life of a writer, I think not. Any notable person, including a published, commercially successful writer, has to expect public enthusiasm and interest in his work and his person. Of course, anyone (even a celebrity) could fiercely guard his privacy by keeping a low profile and with lawsuits, but, unless one is an outsider artist like HENRY DARGER, some level of public scrutiny of the artist is likely or even desireable. After all, no one knew Henry Darger wrote anything until he died. No one even gave Henry Darger, the man, any thought. I think if one chooses to publish, he shouldn't be surprised if people are also curious about his person (to a polite extent, of course), not just his works. J.D. Salinger would not, in my opinion, be the norm.

 

What makes biography such a popular genre?

I guess many people just find other perhaps more accomplished people to be intriguing. There's a level of fascination with anyone's perceived artistic and/or financial successes. Just look at the abundance of television "reality" shows that focus on celebrities and their lifestyles. Although shows of this genre are likely to be a predictable mix of autobiography and script (most of them just show the rock star or other artist doing mundane things albeit in a "living large" kind of way), even without their artistic accomplishments, multitudes are enthralled by them.

 

Thanks for opening this exciting topic, Goldenlangur. I'm eagerly looking forward to reading your own thoughts on the subject.

 

Tony

Here is a link to an index of my works on this site: tonyv's Member Archive topic

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goldenlangur

Hi Tink,

 

 

I'm delighted that you responded to this :D

 

Is My Wars are Laid Away in Books, The Life of Emily Dickinson by Alfred Habegger a literary biography? I find a literary biography more rewarding than a personal biography. Like you I like to dip into the book, depending on a related topic that I might be reading elsewhere. Norman White's literary biography of Hopkins is one of my favourites.

 

 

I definitely think knowing something about a writer influences how we read their work. Sylvia Plath has never been a favorite of mine, partly because I knew her story before I read her works and I thought of her as kind of whiney. I didn't have a lot of sympathy for her. I felt she wallowed in her victimhood. I know, she was clinically depressed and I should have more empathy but it just doesn't happen for me. ~~Tink

 

Her suicide seems to have preceded her literary fame and I wonder if all the interest in this and her clinical depression in any way helps us to read and appreciate her work better?

 

 

 

I think knowing some things about a source, especially an author, does help understanding and insight. It makes a poem richer, a novel more intriguing, or gives perspective. A time and a place and a who.

 

Perhaps you have a point here.

 

 

I do think that unless authorized by the subject, biographies can be an intrusion into the subjects' lives, especially if they are still alive or their immediate family is still alive. Although if the person has died and his/her immediate family is also gone, such as in the case of Thomas Hardy, an investigative piece might be very interesting. Personally I find the investigative process the most interesting part.

 

I agree that access to archived materials must be quite fascinating for a biographer. I am reading Claire Tomalin's biography of Hardy. She says that Hardy made his women protagonists like Tess, Fanny and Mrs Yeobright, walk the same routes and paths that his mother Jemima Hand, walked in the west county of Dorset, England.

 

I read Hardy's works when I was about 14 and knew nothing about such biographical details but these characters still worked for me. I'm not sure knowing such details enhance my appreciation of these characters and their lives.

 

 

I think biographies are popular because they expand and give a perspective to something we are already interested in. The subject of the biography has done something or experienced something that has captured the public's interest. The biography gives a human face to the something. Of course in the last couple of decades it seems that biographies quickly come out about people current in the news. These I view as simply exploitation and probably not worth spending the time to read.

 

You're right, Tink. One could say that Renaissance biographies like Boccaccio's of Dante explore the work and achievements of the poet but the recent trend in biographies which seek to debunk the writer/poet do little to enrich one's knowledge of a writer. The spurt of celebrity-ghost written accounts are very much in the mold of Warhol's fifteen minutes of fame.

 

 

 

Thank you very much.

goldenlangur

 

 

Even a single enemy is too many and a thousand friends too few - Bhutanese saying.

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goldenlangur

Hi Tony,

 

What a great response! I will return with more thoughts.

 

 

Thank you. :)

goldenlangur

 

 

Even a single enemy is too many and a thousand friends too few - Bhutanese saying.

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goldenlangur

Hello Tony,

 

 

... I have several biographies of poets. Like my other books, I treat them as reference books, picking them up whenever the mood strikes me, and I always learn something from them .... Tony

 

Biography as reference books is a relevant association, especially as you point out how the biography of Frost helped you delve into his work.

 

 

I'm mostly self-taught when it comes to poetry, and I'm hungry for the type of insight and guidance that an academic might be able to provide. As an analogy, I offer this: when I went to the Dali Museum in Florida, I took the tour. Had I not, I would have missed out on a lot.

 

I wonder if a literary biography is more rewarding than one focused on a writer/poet's personal life?

 

 

A well-written biography about a writer ... should (in my opinion) include examples, expert analysis, some unpublished works, and even some holographic images. Of course, this is coming from someone who would not find a biography about a writer interesting if he himself wasn't an aspiring writer. :)

 

I'm intrigued by the idea of holographic images. Do expand a little more.

 

 

I tend to agree with Tinker that a biography of anyone living should probably be authorized. Otherwise, it runs the risk of not being taken seriously, of being tabloid-like. That's not to say I wouldn't peruse an unauthorized biography or tabloid. :icon_razz:

 

Yes, both you and Tink make a good point here about a living writer's permission for a biography.

 

 

As for a biography's amounting to a voyeuristic intrusion into the life of a writer, I think not. Any notable person, including a published, commercially successful writer, has to expect public enthusiasm and interest in his work and his person. Of course, anyone (even a celebrity) could fiercely guard his privacy by keeping a low profile and with lawsuits, but, unless one is an outsider artist like HENRY DARGER, some level of public scrutiny of the artist is likely or even desireable. After all, no one knew Henry Darger wrote anything until he died. No one even gave Henry Darger, the man, any thought. I think if one chooses to publish, he shouldn't be surprised if people are also curious about his person (to a polite extent, of course), not just his works. J.D. Salinger would not, in my opinion, be the norm.

 

Salinger is a good example. Would a posthumous biography of Salinger help us appreciate his work better? I agree that a writer or artist's work is in the public domain and therefore open to scrutiny. What I'm not sure about is if the writer/artist's private life needs to be fine-combed and poured over. I wonder if such scrutiny in a way is a distraction from the study/reading of a writer's work. Sometimes, a biography or biographical research into a writer's life can become an end in itself. I'm reminded of the intense scrutiny into Nabokov's childhood, following his book, Lolita. So-called researchers bandied about stories of sexual abuse in his childhood, which were never substantiated. Nabokov was then still alive to counter these allegations. However, such publicity mired his book in tabloid controversy and people reacted to this rather than read his book, which is beautifully written and also explores how Freudian Analysis can be stood on its head - Lolita turns the Freudian onus of the child's sexual complex towards the parent (Oedipal) on its head by making Humbert Humbert, the parent-sexual predator. It is unfortunate that the controversy surrounding Lolita and the researches into Nabokov's life overshadow the significance of the book.

 

It also raises the question: does everything a writer writes about, necessarily have to be based on actual experiences?

 

 

I guess many people just find other perhaps more accomplished people to be intriguing. There's a level of fascination with anyone's perceived artistic and/or financial successes. Just look at the abundance of television "reality" shows that focus on celebrities and their lifestyles. Although shows of this genre are likely to be a predictable mix of autobiography and script (most of them just show the rock star or other artist doing mundane things albeit in a "living large" kind of way), even without their artistic accomplishments, multitudes are enthralled by them.

 

Absolutely Tony - we do have a fascination with the lives of those whom we encounter in books, TV programs or works of art. Sometimes, the interest in the personal side of things seem to overshadow the creative output and contribution of the person. This is quite different, as you point out, for those who seek such publicity in the reality shows.

 

 

Thanks for opening this exciting topic, Goldenlangur. I'm eagerly looking forward to reading your own thoughts on the subject.

 

Thank you very much indeed for giving this topic such a detailed response. My own thoughts are that there is nothing to compare with reading the actual work of the writer/poet itself and biography, especially given the debunking timbre of such works in our times, detract from the creative achievements of the writer/poet/artist. I also feel that posthumous biographies often dish out scandalous details about a writer/poet and the dead have no comeback or opportunity to counter such lurid accounts. Sometimes, I wonder if through a biography people lay claim to the writer/poet's work in our own way. The biographies of Iris Murdoch by her husband Bayley and friend, AN Wilson (although the latter purports to restore Murdoch her dignity) seem to be of this ilk.

Edited by goldenlangur

goldenlangur

 

 

Even a single enemy is too many and a thousand friends too few - Bhutanese saying.

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I wonder if a literary biography is more rewarding than one focused on a writer/poet's personal life?

I'm not quite sure what the difference between the two types is. I think the ones I described in my post above would probably fall into the literary biography category. If that's in fact the case, the literary biography is definitely the only one I am likely to peruse.

 

Another type of book which might be similar to the literary biography is a compilation of an author's correspondence. Such books often provide great insight into the author's life and his works. For example, I have A Wild Perfection -- The Selected Letters of James Wright. In addition to the strictly personal letters to family, friends, colleagues, etc. are the letters Wright wrote to his contemporaries. His letters to Hall, Bly, Dickey, and others contain valuable insight into their works, discussion of poems in progress (including early versions), and even some unpublished works. So that's how these guys shared poems and ideas and received feedback before PMO! :rolleyes: Snail mail! :icon_razz: That's okay if there's no other option, but I prefer the immediate gratification only available through internet bulletin boards! :)

 

I'm intrigued by the idea of holographic images. Do expand a little more.

Several books I have contain facsimile manuscripts of works by various poets. Some are completed poems (in which cases it's wonderful just to see the handwriting of the poets) while others are especially exciting because they are early, incomplete, or finished versions of the poems and contain cross-outs, corrections, etc. Even if it's a typewritten manuscript with handwritten corrections, it's thrilling to get a glimpse of a master's thought process during the act of creation. It makes him seem human. Yeats didn't write the perfected "Leda and the Swan" in one fell swoop. To have someone tell me so is okay, but to see it for myself as I struggle to create? How encouraging is that! It makes the aspiration of producing a great work seem attainable.

 

Salinger is a good example. Would a posthumous biography of Salinger help us appreciate his work better? I agree that a writer or artist's work is in the public domain and therefore open to scrutiny. What I'm not sure about is if the writer/artist's private life needs to be fine-combed and poured over. I wonder if such scrutiny in a way is a distraction from the study/reading of a writer's work. Sometimes, a biography or biographical research into a writer's life can become an end in itself. I'm reminded of the intense scrutiny into Nabokov's childhood, following his book, Lolita. So-called researchers bandied about stories of sexual abuse in his childhood, which were never substantiated. Nabokov was then still alive to counter these allegations. However, such publicity mired his book in tabloid controversy and people reacted to this rather than read his book, which is beautifully written and also explores how Freudian Analysis can be stood on its head - Lolita turns the Freudian onus of the child's sexual complex towards the parent (Oedipal) on its head by making Humbert Humbert, the parent-sexual predator. It is unfortunate that the controversy surrounding Lolita and the researches into Nabokov's life overshadow the significance of the book.

I'm not sure, but your points are well taken and give pause for thought. In the case of Salinger, I have not been drawn to read him. Though he is highly acclaimed by many academics, I also have read (and heard) opinions which claim that The Catcher in the Rye is not all what it's cracked up to be. I must admit that it's Salinger's reclusive nature and other eccentricities, brought to light by the media (and biographers like his own daughter) upon his recent death, that could very well provoke me to some day pick up and read the book.

 

I have Lolita (the annotated version), but, because of my irrational reluctance (or laziness) to read books cover to cover (already mentioned in my previous reply above) I have not yet read it. :icon_redface: But, the story appeals to me. So, someday ...

 

It also raises the question: does everything a writer writes about, necessarily have to be based on actual experiences?

Absolutely not. I think it's in the Paris Review interview with Robert Lowell (link found elsewhere on this site) where Lowell says that many of his poems began with some sort of personal, life connection as inspiration yet morphed into something slightly (or greatly) different from actual events. I find that that's also the case with many of my own works. I set out inspired to write about one thing, and the product ends up being something else albeit of equal importance to the reader. Does the reader really care if the events mentioned in a poem are completely true-to-life? I don't think so. The reader wants to draw from the poem, to connect with it, to relate to it in some way. It makes no difference to the reader if the author really got laid off from his day job. It's the art and the story that matter.

 

My own thoughts are that there is nothing to compare with reading the actual work of the writer/poet itself and biography, especially given the debunking timbre of such works in our times, detract from the creative achievements of the writer/poet/artist. I also feel that posthumous biographies often dish out scandalous details about a writer/poet and the dead have no comeback or opportunity to counter such lurid accounts. Sometimes, I wonder if through a biography people lay claim to the writer/poet's work in our own way. The biographies of Iris Murdoch by her husband Bayley and friend, AN Wilson (although the latter purports to restore Murdoch her dignity) seem to be of this ilk.

Hear, hear! It's absolutely about the creative output of the artist. In addition to becoming prejudiced by a possible smear campaign against an author, the reader who chooses to let others interpret a literary work of art for him is, by default, missing out on the benefits and other joys of reading.

 

Thank you, again, Goldenlangur!

 

Tony

Here is a link to an index of my works on this site: tonyv's Member Archive topic

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goldenlangur

Hi Tony,

 

Some great additional thoughts! :)

 

I'm not quite sure what the difference between the two types is. I think the ones I described in my post above would probably fall into the literary biography category. If that's in fact the case, the literary biography is definitely the only one I am likely to peruse.

 

I found this Wiki link for Literary Biography:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dictionary_of...erary_Biography

 

What I had in mind is indeed described in the Wiki link - the literary biography in addition to basic information about birth/death of the writer poet, is mainly focused on the writing. Norman White's literary biography of Hopkins is an example as also several of the volumes on Joyce's Finnegan's Wake by writers like Campbell and Atherton. I think the books you mention might well come into this category.

 

 

Another type of book which might be similar to the literary biography is a compilation of an author's correspondence. Such books often provide great insight into the author's life and his works. For example, I have A Wild Perfection -- The Selected Letters of James Wright. In addition to the strictly personal letters to family, friends, colleagues, etc. are the letters Wright wrote to his contemporaries. His letters to Hall, Bly, Dickey, and others contain valuable insight into their works, discussion of poems in progress (including early versions), and even some unpublished works. So that's how these guys shared poems and ideas and received feedback before PMO! :blush: Snail mail! :icon_razz: That's okay if there's no other option, but I prefer the immediate gratification only available through internet bulletin boards! :)

 

I agree. Reading the writing of a poet or writer can be quite a magical moment :D Your example of the letters of James Wright is a wonderful one. It is interesting that he corresponded with fellow poets of the time.

 

I am reminded of a little experience.

 

A friend of my father's )in England) was acquainted with the nephew and literary executor of the writer John Cowper Powys and took us to visit Francis Powys (the nephew) in a village in Dorset. Francis Powys' wife Sally was then annotating the Diaries of John Cowper Powys and she showed us some specimens of his writing. It was quite a humbling and extraordinary moment. John Cowper Powys wrote about his daily walks and meetings with people in the village, who inspired his writings as also the local landscape and the weather. He also wrote at length about the progress of his novels and the on-going libel case with the owner of Wookey Hole mines. The latter accused Powys of slandering him in one of Powys books, called The Glastonbury Romance, in the form of the rapacious character,Philip Crow.

 

It was indescribable reading passages in his writing.

 

Several books I have contain facsimile manuscripts of works by various poets. Some are completed poems (in which cases it's wonderful just to see the handwriting of the poets) while others are especially exciting because they are early, incomplete, or finished versions of the poems and contain cross-outs, corrections, etc. Even if it's a typewritten manuscript with handwritten corrections, it's thrilling to get a glimpse of a master's thought process during the act of creation. It makes him seem human. Yeats didn't write the perfected "Leda and the Swan" in one fell swoop. To have someone tell me so is okay, but to see it for myself as I struggle to create? How encouraging is that! It makes the aspiration of producing a great work seem attainable.

 

This does indeed sound incredible. It seems you have some fascinating material.

 

 

In the case of Salinger, I have not been drawn to read him. Though he is highly acclaimed by many academics, I also have read (and heard) opinions which claim that The Catcher in the Rye is not all what it's cracked up to be. I must admit that it's Salinger's reclusive nature and other eccentricities, brought to light by the media (and biographers like his own daughter) upon his recent death, that could very well provoke me to some day pick up and read the book.

 

You're right Tony, Salinger and the Catcher in the Rye have become the very stuff of literary cults. I found the book quite difficult to get into. It is perhaps a coming -of-age kind of book and I read it only recently so it seemed rather uneventful and all the publicity surrounding it seemed a bit of a puzzle.

 

I have Lolita (the annotated version), but, because of my irrational reluctance (or laziness) to read books cover to cover (already mentioned in my previous reply above) I have not yet read it. :icon_redface: But, the story appeals to me. So, someday ...

 

I hope so. He is a master craftsman and to think English was not his mother tongue!

 

 

Absolutely not. I think it's in the Paris Review interview with Robert Lowell (link found elsewhere on this site) where Lowell says that many of his poems began with some sort of personal, life connection as inspiration yet morphed into something slightly (or greatly) different from actual events. I find that that's also the case with many of my own works. I set out inspired to write about one thing, and the product ends up being something else albeit of equal importance to the reader. Does the reader really care if the events mentioned in a poem are completely true-to-life? I don't think so. The reader wants to draw from the poem, to connect with it, to relate to it in some way. It makes no difference to the reader if the author really got laid off from his day job. It's the art and the story that matter.

 

Very well put. We don't write out of nothing and yet what we write is not an ipso facto reproduction of our actual experiences. This is one of the hardest things for a writer/poet I feel - the work seen as a reflection of life and experiences in the main. What about imagination and creative impulse?

 

Hear, hear! It's absolutely about the creative output of the artist. In addition to becoming prejudiced by a possible smear campaign against an author, the reader who chooses to let others interpret a literary work of art for him is, by default, missing out on the benefits and other joys of reading.

 

Sadly, biography sometimes does this - overshadow the actual work.

 

 

I have enjoyed this discussion.

 

 

Thank you :D

goldenlangur

 

 

Even a single enemy is too many and a thousand friends too few - Bhutanese saying.

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I am reminded of a little experience.

 

A friend of my father's )in England) was acquainted with the nephew and literary executor of the writer John Cowper Powys and took us to visit Francis Powys (the nephew) in a village in Dorset. Francis Powys' wife Sally was then annotating the Diaries of John Cowper Powys and she showed us some specimens of his writing. It was quite a humbling and extraordinary moment. John Cowper Powys wrote about his daily walks and meetings with people in the village, who inspired his writings as also the local landscape and the weather. He also wrote at length about the progress of his novels and the on-going libel case with the owner of Wookey Hole mines. The latter accused Powys of slandering him in one of Powys books, called The Glastonbury Romance, in the form of the rapacious character,Philip Crow.

 

It was indescribable reading passages in his writing.

This does sound like it was an incredibly inspiring experience! I'll endeavor to learn more about John Cowper Powys. Even the thought that he wrote unafraid in diaries is encouraging. I'm sometimes hesitant to put thoughts down. King says do it ( e.g. don't be afraid of what morality police might say about your work), Frost wrote extensively in notebooks, Powys kept diaries. Is there a pattern that's starting to manifest itself here? :D Note to self: write! :)

 

Several books I have contain facsimile manuscripts of works by various poets. Some are completed poems (in which cases it's wonderful just to see the handwriting of the poets) while others are especially exciting because they are early, incomplete, or finished versions of the poems and contain cross-outs, corrections, etc. Even if it's a typewritten manuscript with handwritten corrections, it's thrilling to get a glimpse of a master's thought process during the act of creation. It makes him seem human. Yeats didn't write the perfected "Leda and the Swan" in one fell swoop. To have someone tell me so is okay, but to see it for myself as I struggle to create? How encouraging is that! It makes the aspiration of producing a great work seem attainable.

 

This does indeed sound incredible. It seems you have some fascinating material.

Unfortunately not. Nothing like what you had the fortune to see in the Powys manuscripts. I have no originals, only some commercially available stuff and some older textbook style books edited by the likes of Louis Untermeyer.

 

Very well put. We don't write out of nothing and yet what we write is not an ipso facto reproduction of our actual experiences. This is one of the hardest things for a writer/poet I feel - the work seen as a reflection of life and experiences in the main. What about imagination and creative impulse?

Imagination and creative impulse, without question! There are people who take luxury cruises to places like the North Pole and Antarctica. Till now, I have only written about these places I have never been. Still, when I write about them, I feel like I'm there.

 

I have enjoyed this discussion.

 

 

Thank you :D

Likewise! :D Thanks again for the great topic!

 

Tony

Here is a link to an index of my works on this site: tonyv's Member Archive topic

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goldenlangur
This does sound like it was an incredibly inspiring experience! I'll endeavor to learn more about John Cowper Powys. Even the thought that he wrote unafraid in diaries is encouraging. I'm sometimes hesitant to put thoughts down. King says do it ( e.g. don't be afraid of what morality police might say about your work), Frost wrote extensively in notebooks, Powys kept diaries. Is there a pattern that's starting to manifest itself here? :D Note to self: write! :)

 

You're right. :D Francis and Sally Powys are now both dead so the last contact with a great literary spirit is now lost. But reading JCP's diaries in that cottage in Dorset is something I will cherish for all the moons to come.

 

 

Unfortunately not. Nothing like what you had the fortune to see in the Powys manuscripts. I have no originals, only some commercially available stuff and some older textbook style books edited by the likes of Louis Untermeyer.

 

Originals would be exorbitant to own but your reference to Louis Untermeyer, the American Poet Laureate suggests that you have some valuable books to cherish and enjoy.

 

Imagination and creative impulse, without question! There are people who take luxury cruises to places like the North Pole and Antarctica. Till now, I have only written about these places I have never been. Still, when I write about them, I feel like I'm there.

 

 

The power of the imagination knows no bounds and how wonderful it is to visit the places you do in your imagination and poems. :D

 

 

:D Thanks again for the great topic!

 

 

A pleasure Tony to exchange thoughts and experiences here.

 

Thank you.

goldenlangur

 

 

Even a single enemy is too many and a thousand friends too few - Bhutanese saying.

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