Difficult syntax in Hill, Prynne, Jarvis and Neil Pattison.

I’ve been goaded into this by Lachlan Mackinnon’s disparaging reference to Hill’s ‘tortured’ syntax in ‘Clavicles’ and by reading Jack Baker’s useful paper on “The Burden of Authentic Expression in the Later Poetry of Geoffrey Hill”. Thinking about how best to get this particular gripe off my chest, I have come to the conclusion that a comparative survey of those that take syntactical innovation to extremes might be more productive than simply having yet another rant about Mackinnon.

Mucking around with syntax is commonly justified by the normal poetic bleat that the language is not adequate to give voice to the poet’s finer feelings and deeper thoughts. Such manipulation is often used to disguise the fact that the poet has nothing to say- whilst acknowledging these pitfalls I want to try and show why and how really accomplished poets to produce stunning work.

I want to start with a rough and ready definition of syntax- the way in which phrases and sentences are put together.

I also want to propose that good poems are a site of many different kinds of struggle and one of the most telling is the one that engages with the standard English phrase and/or sentence.

Sometimes this engagement can lead the reader to new heights of bafflement. My current favourites are ” To the / chance repented step. This night is. By limit reach / luminous” (Neil Pattison) and “At for to.” (J H Prynne). Baker makes the following comparison -“But, whereas many of Hill’s peers, from John Ashbery to J.H. Prynne, revel in linguistic indeterminacy, the poet-figure in Hill’s recent work emerges as one who strives to resurrect language, to preserve its capacity for “eloquence and apprehension” against the destructive tendencies of the age.” I think this is absolutely correct about Hill and I can see that Ashbery’s output is about 85% revel but I think he’s wrong about Prynne.

I do however think there is a key difference between Hill and Prynne in that Hill loves language and Prynne doesn’t. Hill’s best work is characterised by an increasingly vivid tussle to get language to do what it is capable of, to realise its full potential at the hands of the poet. Prynne, on the other hand sees language as perpetually tainted and that the structure of language reflects and underpins the worst aspects of our culture. Jarvis and Neil Pattison both seem to fit somewhere in between but nevertheless produce work that bears evidence of different types of conflict.

Here’s Prynne in his ‘quick riposte’ to Peter Handke in Quid 6-

Of course it is rather easy to ‘see what he means’; and the history of Europe in this century is full of those terrible events supposed to have traduced or contaminated language, along with those sorrowful bystanders, perched upon some peak of purity, who can bewail the loss of a model of rational, passionate and poetic discourse that would somehow resist the ruptures of historical process. But, how silly. Warfare between nations is most often waged across language-frontiers, as a fiercely linguistic event, even if often for reasons not fully conscious or not admitted into full public view; but the mounting up of a war programme, in advance of the hostilities and to justify their methods, is a concatenation of intensely linguistic processes, in which the whole identity and propensity of individual language-histories are worked into the deepest complicity. By the time that war ‘breaks out’, that is, is declared by one nation or tribal cohort confident of subjugating another, the cascade of positional alterations to language use has been largely completed.

I don’t think that Prynne is saying that language is inherently evil or morally flawed but that it is often a kind of willing partner in Very Bad Things.

Then we have this longer passage from ‘George Herbert, Love III’-

Well, language is imperfect and is damaged by sin, not least in relation to man’s conception of his own self, inner and outer, puffed up with tendency to vainglory and selfishness even in moments of the most vehemently powerful moments of exchange with the divine. The very format of utterance grammar, with the subject-position in English syntax coming before and governing all by way of a sequent predicate, performs and expresses this vaunted, front-loaded selfhood. What the reader has in this poem is what is discoverable in its fallible language and we are to reconstruct what may be its near-full spiritual significance, by linguistic acts, by scrutiny of searching and minute kind. This is sacred philology and hermeneutics, ancient practices which are root-based.

But in the human encounter with belief-moments the reader is not pursuing the practice of assimilation to the world of language and experience outside the self, as situated in a distinct historical or cultural era, or not this merely. The reader is also intimately drawn into this focus of experience as given form and purpose by belief or the question of it: and this self-interior focus is also in large part linguistic.

Needless to say, there isn’t much here that I agree with and some of it seems to be obviously incorrect but it does give us a clear pointer as to what Prynne might be about. It’s also striking that this notion of a language damaged by sin and its structure performing some of the less desirable features of our national character should be expressed with such clarity and vehemence.

In the interests of balance, I want to weigh this against what Hill says at the start of the ‘Weight of the World’ essay-

Questions of accessibility turn upon matters of context. In both sacred and secular writings we may receive, at any instance, a sense of things inaccessible suddenly made accessible, where grammar and desire are miraculously at one. The effect may appear to be studied (as in Milton or Hopkins) or spontaneous (as in the Wesleys or Wordsworth); what delights and silences us is the sustained moment of communion between the two kinds of eloquence and apprehension.

So, for Prynne, the structure of language is to be attacked and our blithe assumptions about it (neutrality, innocence) are to be confronted and undermined on the way to declaring ‘how things are’. The price for this is the charge of obscurity and elitism.

Whereas Hill is in a struggle, wrestling and moulding language in the hope of reaching that point where the creative impulse and language structure are ‘miraculously unified’

Now I need some examples to indicate what I’m trying to say. With Prynne I think it can be shown that the broad arc of the last thirty years has been a more and more uncompromising attack culminating in the magnificently austere ‘Streak~~Willing~~Entourage~~Artesian’ of 2009.

Thirty years (ish) takes us back to ‘Oval Windows’ from 1983. The second poem in the sequence shows some sign of an early attack:

Formerly in a proper tonic, the rain
would pelt and cure by the foam inlet.
Smartly clad they could only panic
through the medium itself, rabbit by proxy.
On both sides smart guidance ex-stock
makes for home like a cup cake over.
Don't stare:
Police aware:
it is a defect coma and it shows;
try it on, see if they'd want to care.

I don’t want to undertake any kind of analysis of meaning or intention but I do want to point out where the syntax is being attacked. To start with most of the ‘rules’ are honoured, sentences make a kind of sense and are self-contained but some commas are missing and we are not at all clear what/who ‘it’ and ‘they’ refer to in the last two lines.

There is a project to be undertaken mapping the ‘syntax arc’ which I might do for Arduity but here I want to magically leap into 2009:

As to for a mint action bare sender add mantric, bare
cradle invention socket burden to saturate. To ramble his
for glimpse for insert her his pinnate to foramen custom
topic indecision failer for. At for was para fusing flim

This is the first quatrain of the eleventh poem in the sequence and is representative of the kind of attack that goes on throughout. I chose this because the first three words are echoed in the sentence ‘At for to.’ in the fifth quatrain.

The attack is of such force that phrases that do ‘follow the rules’ stand out in stark relief (pun intended). This poem has ‘Skim the lines’ and ‘Did they wear better’ but the rest is very much in the same state as the lines above.

Now we come to Geoffrey Hill. This inevitably involves some discussion of where the dividing line in his trajectory occurs. Jack Baker seems to place one line prior to ‘Canaan’ in 1996 and to another between ‘Triumph of Love’ and ‘Speech! Speech!’ in 2000 whilst others identify ‘Triumph of Love’ as the turning point. I’m going to play safe and use ‘The Pentecost Castle’ sequence from ‘Tenebrae’ which was published in 1978 and this year’s ‘Clavicles’. This contrast enables me to make my point without getting mired in the before/after debate and is also appropriate because of the two
epigraphs. The first is from W B Yeats:

It is terrible to desire and not
possess and terrible to possess
and not desire.

and the second is from Simone Weil:

What we love in other human
beings is the hoped for satisfaction
of our desire. We do not love their
desire. If what we loved in them
was their desire, then we should
love them as ourself.

I don’t often get all soppy about poetry but ‘The Pentecostal Castle’ sequence is heartbreakingly beautiful. Re-reading it today I’ve become more aware of both its humanity and lyrical strength. It’s also a supreme example of personal and intellectual honesty. This is the eighth poem:

And you my spent heart's treasure
my yet unspent desire
measurer past all measure
cold paradox of fire

as seeker so forsaken
consentingly denied
your solitude a token
the sentries at your side

fulfilment to my sorrow
indulgence of your prey
the sparrowhawk the sparrow
the nothing that you say.

Again, I’m not going to worry about meaning but look at the nature of the struggle with language. The first thing to note is the absence of punctuation and this can be read as a list of twelve semi-autonomous phrases or three self contained sentences. The phrases make sense and are constructed in accordance with ‘normal’ English. The sequence as a whole can be thought of as a wonderful meditation on the many dimensions of desire but there is not yet any real sign of overt struggle.

I’ve chosen poem 11 from the ‘Clavics’ sequence because I think that it is likely to have been in Mackinnon’s mind when he described Hill’s syntax as ‘tortured’. This is the first part of the poem before we get to the ‘wings’:

Plug in a dissonance to make them wince.
Density a workable element.
Name-acclaim once-
Reclaimed ransom
Truth from figment.
Picks its fragment
Somewhere such a kingdom
Roughed assonance.
Judith of Bethulia's well wrested
Calm. How controverted we have become,
Questor quested;
Answerable;
Outside the frame
You can't draw from
Old dense pin-stabbed Bible
Unmolested.
Somewhere is sacramental belonging.
Here we find but banking with God's grammar
Strung unstringing
Grace from chance, worked like a novice stammer.

I would argue that this exemplifies Hill’s battle with language rather than his torture of it. The phrases make sense, there are properly formed sentences and with a bit of work we can see what he’s trying to get at. If heightened language is what marks poetry out from prose, isn’t this a good example of how this can be done?

So far we have struggle and attack as ways of confronting language and must now move on to the subversive practices of Simon Jarvis.

I think that it is reasonable to assume that Jarvis has a problem with contemporary poetry of all shades in that he doesn’t even try to do what he wants it to. He has therefore launched a two-pronged attack on the form and the way we think about the form. This is achieved by using poetry to attack poetry. The two prongs are at the opposite ends of the poetic spectrum, at one end is the defiantly metrical 250+ pages of ‘The Unconditional’ which looks like poetry and behaves like poetry but uses digression to defy the reader’s stamina and ability to keep up. A very much lighter version of this is ‘Bacarole’ on the Claudius App which looks like a poem but uses very extended sentences and clauses to disrupt any readerly attempt at conventional understanding. At the other end of the spectrum there is ‘Dionysus Crucified’- I’ve written about some of its more outlandish strategies before and I don’t intend to repeat myself here but it is difficult to imagine anything more radically ‘free’ that doesn’t descend into nonsense.

What I think I’m trying to say is that the Jarvis project involves the skilled use and manipulation of language to take aim at current poetic discourse and practice and is a much more effective strategy than most of those attempted in the last fifty years. In terms of syntax mangling, even on the very experimental ‘cross’ page the only clear example is ‘He needs stabbed in a throat’.

Now we come to Neal Pattison who has been known to add helpful comments to this blog and who is also a very accomplished poet. I want to use an extract from the prose poem ‘Curve, Indifference’ which was published in ‘Preferences in 2006 because it deploys a very different approach to syntax that produces a quite complex effect:

This we in the litchen attest. This afternoon is. By
stone reaches. Sunlight warms to a limit room, its
loving parallel : there are in stones her junctures
attested, and the low reaches bed cool with talk's 
mantle. Locators in pliancy instruct with cherubic
levity. The lips of earth, the breast and eyes attest
we mean extraction : these accidental of discre-
tionary will by chalk banked drop embed these 
only reaches accidental lip. You are awake. To the 
chance repented step. This night is. By limit reach,
luminous.

I’ve written about the Preferences collection before and probably need to write a longer piece to do it full justice but I’d now like to use the above to try and show how Neil uses syntax to heighten and intensify what is being said and also to display and withdraw at the same time. The repetition of attest and the subject/verb inversion when this is used, the deliberate placing of the colons between the words rather than immediately after the preceding word, the temporal progress from afternoon to night, the use of emphasis in the most conventional sentence are all used with great skill both to heighten and intensify what is being said. The greater subtlety lies in the things that are left unsaid, that ‘sense’ is being pointed towards but not actually displayed.

So, poets can do complex things with syntax and some of us find this one of its greatest attractions. In fact, with a few honourable exceptions, poets that don’t do things with syntax tend to be quite dull and banal. The primary exception is, of course, Elizabeth Bishop.

The Unconditional, Streak~~Willing and Preferences are available from Barque Press, Dionysus Crucified is available from Grasp Press, Clavics and the Collected Prynne (for Oval Windows) are both generally available.

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11 responses to “Difficult syntax in Hill, Prynne, Jarvis and Neil Pattison.

  1. I’m a regular subscriber to your blog and an occasional reader who looks out for articles of interest. Prynne interests me, so I’ve read this post with care.

    I remain baffled by Prynne’s poems. I cannot work out where the door handle is to get inside them. So this piece of yours is interesting because you imply that we should actually appreciate his attack on syntax.

    I’m afraid I can’t follow your reasoning here. Normally I would regard the finest writing as that which expresses complex thoughts with maximum clarity and simplicity. So why should we commend an attack on the very stuff of language itself? After 200 million years of the development of language in homo sapiens, why should anyone want to go back to the beginning and destroy it all? Would they break the wheel, or return the secret of fire to the gods?

    I am deeply puzzled by any support for attacks on syntax , battles with language, or torturing language as you describe above.

    I’m not trying to score a point. I’m interested!

    • John
      Thank you for this considered response. Let me say at the outset that I don’t hold to a fixed ‘position’ on this stuff and try not to make definitive claims.for or against. I think it is reasonable to observe that poets have always been involved in the manipulation of syntax as one of many means to heighten language and that I am in part attracted to the form by the way in which this has been done. In fact I’m probably more fond of 17th century manipulations than those currently deployed.
      With regard to Prynne, I think I disagree with all most all of his views on language and on the role of poetry but I have enormous respect for someone who makes poetry in such a profound and uncompromising way. The more I read Prynne, the more I become aware of being ‘within the scope’ of incredibly serious and important work. I would not want to write in a similar vein because I have a very different view but I do have immense respect for his formidable body of work.
      I don’t think Prynne is going back to the beginning, I think his attacks are a radical and unsettling attempt to get the rest of us to question what most of us take for granted.

  2. I have been reading your blog with great interest, and I admire very much the way you engage with this stuff and “talk human” on the subject. With regard to Prynne, on the one hand the fractured syntax makes its own discordant music, and provides the same excitement as a particularly tortured cello noise from someone like Iannis Xenakis. Or like the visual thrill of an exploded contemporary art form, the murderous head made from a motor car number plate, you might say. But that’s the trivial side to it.

    I think in your reply just now you’re underplaying the intense political engagement, and, to speak bluntly, the revolutionary commitment and political hostility which underpin Prynne’s later work. I’d go so far as to say that if you share Prynne’s politics, you will understand his language readily and instinctively, and that if you don’t agree with the politics of this poetry, then the poetry will unfailingly reject you. Without knowing anything about Prynne’s personal intellectual journey, I read his 60s and early 70s poems very much in the light of Heidegger’s philosophy. When I read the Origin of the Work of Art, suddenly Prynne’s concerns became more intelligible and I could seem to place them within an intellectual tradition and a philosophical context. But certainly once we get to the mid to late 90s the whole Heideggerian project seems to be violently rejected and what takes its entire place seems (to me anyway) a very orthodox, moralising form of Marxism.

    I don’t think Prynne is hostile to language as such, but he is intensely hostile to what he sees as corrupting it, to those who build with rotten materials on decayed foundations, and that surely is market Capitalism, and those poets and thinkers whose language co-conspires with it. The key thing is I think he also believes in the idea of communism and of a transformative revolutionary possibility (I get all this from the poetry and the prose, somehow, I have really no idea what he actually thinks) and that belief separates his work absolutely from that of the noise makers and sound experimentalists who have a postmodern good time with undirected possibility.

    I think you’re most unfair to Larkin, whose poetry is clearly competent and intensely felt if nothing else (and I think we should valorise those things dammit) but that’s by the by. And the distinction between poets who can be taken in in a single gulp and those we have to labour at makes no sense to me. It takes no time at all to read “bent” by Ted Berrigan but one can think about it a whole life long, on and off.

    To John I would say, perhaps you’re not baffled by the poems, it only seems that way. It’s like mistaking boredom for a lack of understanding, or hostility for boredom. It may be more that you don’t agree with the poetry and it refuses you in its turn.

    • I’d like to start with Larkin, I readily accept his competence and was once an admirer of the material. When he died I re-read the work and found, to my dismay, a fundamental dishonesty lurking within. I think he does feeling very well but I now see this as one of the many sleights of hand that are both manipulative and shoddy. Having changed my mind once, it is unlikely that I’ll change it back again.
      With regard to Prynne, my observation of his view of language was a shorthand quip for a much more complex set of attitudes but I did want to draw a reasonably comparison with Hill’s attitude- which is also much more complex than the above. My only defence is that in order to make comparisons (which I think might be a worthwhile exercise) there is a need to find common denominators.
      I’m not sure on the nature of Prynne’s socialism, he’s certainly on the hard leftish side of the spectrum but I’m not sure that his current view is exclusively Marxian but I will have a look at the poems published in the nineties again.
      I think there’s still a lot more Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty than there is of Marx in the later work but I do know what you mean about the moralising- which is more than a little at variance with the ‘flat’ how-it-is function that Prynne claims to be aiming for. With regard to Heidegger, the ‘Poetic Thought’ essay steals the Heideggerian rhetoric lock, stock and barrel.
      The view of language as fallen from some original state of grace I still think is key to engaging with the later work, perhaps more so than his feelings about how language is currently misused.

  3. While you’ve been discussing other things, I’ve been persevering with Prynne. I’ve read The Oval Window (which you mention) several times to see whether I could find a way into it.
    Thomas makes a reasonable charge that perhaps my difficulty with Prynne comes from not feeling comfortable with his politics, but I don’t think it’s that because I hardly notice the Marxism in it. Agreed, there are references to markets and also to China (in Mao’s time) but these are swamped by other references.
    My real difficulty is simply in not understanding the text on the page. I recognise the vast majority of individual words; a few I had to look up, and one or two appeared to have been invented. I recognise possibly a majority of the phrases, but I can’t connect them. Although you say that this poem at least observes the rules of syntax, I’m not sure that is the case. Very few of the lines on the page seem intelligible to me.
    That left me looking for a different way in. Should I piece together a jigsaw of meaning from many disparate groups of words? I can see that there are many repeated motifs. Or is it a mistake to look for a single meaning – is the reader meant to see several parallel texts all jumbled up? Or do we pick bits up like flotsam and jetsam on the beach to make our own ‘found sculptures’?
    I really don’t know.
    That’s my trouble really. I just don’t know the way in.
    Don’t feel obliged to respond. But I’m open minded to suggestions. So far I remain bewildered.

    • John,

      I don’t have a definitive way in but the bebrowed method consists of reading the sequence carefully two or three times and identifying the sentences and phrases that are coherent and trying to see if there’s an apparent theme or pattern across these. The second method is about identifying what the sentences (or parts of sentences ) appear to be doing- whether they are statments, questions or instructions. The there’s the bits that are obviously more lyrical/poetic than the rest and trying to identify what they might be about.
      Also, if you aren’t attracted to the work and the kind of activity that it demands then you shouldn’t try and force yourself to do it. It took me five or six years with Prynne in the house before I felt interested enough to ‘dive in’. I also found reading Keston Sutherland on Prynne to be very helpful.
      Hope this is useful.
      John

  4. Dear John Stevens,

    Live with it for a while. Look things up if you like. Or imagine everything in the poem is just what you think it is. Animate those things into relation: surprise yourself. Maybe compare the experience of reading “The Oval Window” to your experience of reading a text by which you find yourself easily accommodated. Think about how you got there, how you, your real self, and not this reader, or that reader, or anyone else, came to be accommodated by one text and repulsed by another. Then read again. By an act of sympathetic imagination, see if you can feel your way in to the life of someone who “The Oval Window” easily accommodates. Is there any such person? How did they come to be such a person? Is “The Oval Window” an accommodating text for anyone?

    Trust your response. Your history in that response, or rather, that response’s history in you, is the poem.

    Maybe you can’t get inside it. Maybe there’s nothing to get inside, and the metaphor is awry. Might we imagine instead a surface area, or an abstraction of a surface area, an array of loci and connecting vectors? Might we imagine the poem like this: as the shape determined by a group of coordinates, isolated and connected within the whole structure of the language itself? Imagine a complex three dimensional form composed of vectors intersecting at points of light: like the drawing of a constellation of stars, taken from its flat representation on a chart, and become a complex polygonal form which you can manipulate freely in imagination. Can you picture something like that?

    Let me try to improve on it. Imagine a populous country seen from the window of an aircraft at night, the network of lights implying complex human activity below, and implying the history of that activity, implying in fact the whole human reality. You can no more get into that country than you can get out of the plane. Your experience of that country is a particular experience, perhaps a limited experience, but it doesn’t fail to be an experience, even though it’s neither the same experience as that which the inhabitants on the ground might be having, nor quite exactly the same experience as that which any other observer, through any other window on the aircraft, is having at that same moment.

    Once you have landed, and gone home, you look at a map of that land which you saw laid out through the distorting aperture of the aircraft’s narrow window. You can’t get into the map. But you could try to get imaginatively into the landscape which that map represents by imagining yourself as an observer really present to the places which the map describes in abstract. Were it a strange landscape, of a kind whose ground you’d never before walked, you might still do this easily enough. You could use the map to give you information — about elevations, waterways, routes, human habitations, and so on — which you could use in constructing imaginative representations to yourself of what that land would actually be like were you actually there. You would bring your experience of experience to bear on this act of representation, and trust that experience well enough to trust the representation, within certain limits. Though you’d be aware that you couldn’t fully imagine that landscape as it really is, in its full detail, this wouldn’t bother you too much. You’d have sufficient information to make a provision in knowledge, something to go on.

    In the history of that provision would lie the journey you took by air, and the experience you had of looking down on the land; the map would lie there too; there would lie the activity of imaginative construction, not to mention the life of experience which preconditioned that activity, and which you brought to bear upon it. For all its fragility, a rich provision! Of the limits of this knowledge you would be perfectly cognisant, and with those limits you would be perfectly comfortable, for the time being. You would know that what you had imagined bore a certain kind of relationship with the real place which lay somewhere behind this activity. You would understand the complex knowledge you bore to be of a limited kind, and would not mistake its truth for the real truth — and you would know not to trust to the real truth too readily.

    To further extend your knowledge you would go to the library, to the web, into your community, and try to find out more about that place: see pictures, learn about its geology, seek other maps, and other kinds of accounts of the land and its people. Your understanding of a place completely unknown to you, untravelled by you, only seen from the air, encountered principally in abstract representation and in studious labour, would be a lived concern, part of the activity of your life at large. That unknown country would be mapped onto your real experience of life, though your life had never been lived within its terrain.

    Can “The Oval Window” be similarly treated? It’s really up to you to make something of it: and what you make of it can only be a provision for the time being. Your experience of the work, which you must trust to have good intentions towards you in the first instance at least, will become more complex and replete the more that experience is socialised, shared and tested. So it’s good to see you here. If I might make some practical suggestions: start by describing your experience of the poem as that experience really is experienced by you. Describe in detail your difficulty, your particular sense of exclusion from the poem, or rather, its particular repulsion of you. Look to the detail of your experience of the poem, and try to fix the precise moments when your attention is thrown off, distracted, or aggressed. What seem to you flaws in your responses to the poem might not be flaws at all, but products of particular events in the poem, which might not prove incidental to the poem’s designs on you. Read attending carefully, more closely than you think appropriate, to your own responses. Then subject those responses to careful analysis. Be sceptical and objective in relation to your own reading process, and to your habitual approaches on literary texts. Don’t expect to like what you find. This work will not make you happy or fulfilled. But it might originate a commitment which you will come to esteem among the most important of your life, your real life, the one you really live. Your history with the poem, including your history of disappointment with it, your history of repulsion and rejection, is the reality of the poem, is the poem’s presence to that life. Consider that history as lying invisibly across the language of the poem itself – imagine that the poem, the actual poem itself, holds and encompasses that history. Imagine that the poem is pleated to you: to the whole experience of your life, to your life’s representation to your consciousness, to all that you imagine that life to be. Imagine this because it is true.

    After all – you didn’t imagine, when you were looking down from the plane on the land below, that you weren’t really, in the moment you looked, wholly a part of that place, wholly part of its life and order, did you?

    All best, Neil

  5. John, Neil – thanks to you both for these thoughtful responses.
    I shall return to The Oval Windows with the two Bebrowed methods in mind, and with that intriguing extended metaphor of the view from the plane – I wonder if Google Earth might be an additional tool? 🙂 – and take a look also at your latest post, John, on Prynne and Hill.
    All the best – John

  6. Reblogged this on Zealotry and commented:
    This, particularly the comment stream where the author and several others engage in a respectful and exploratory dialogue on how to read difficult work, is really quite strikingly good, and I’ve been dwelling in it off and on all year so far. This re-blog is the point at which I pretty much give up on writing a post of my own about it that lives up to it. Go read.

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