If Ideas Had Shapes

A quoteblog ranging from philosophers in bathrobes to galaxy-rises

Tag: poetry

Douglas Hofstadter – Le ton beau de Marot (1997)

In contrast to my two poems, which both painted an uninhibitedly joyous bursting-out of jail in the midday sun, Bob’s hinted at a hush-hush, clandestine escape, the pair most likely slinking furtively through chilly corridors in the darkest of pre-dawn darkness.


Douglas Hofstadter – Le ton beau de Marot (1997)

…I still liked my own two poems, mind you, but I felt that Bob had brought out subtle dimensions of the original that I had utterly neglected. Never once had it occurred to me to try to capture, or even tip my hat to, the oldness of the Marot poem.

Douglas Hofstadter – Le ton beau de Marot (1997)

…Considerations of form were thus brought in much more explicitly than in the previous version, even though there, despite the fact that I was striving for nothing but the purest, most austere, least form-concerned type of literality, issues of form raised their little heads all over the place, like crowds of little mushroomlets merrily sprouting up in the most carefully tended of lawns.

Douglas Hofstadter – Le ton beau de Marot (1997)

This is my style at its most pure, and, I must say, at its most joyous. Paradoxical though it surely sounds, I feel at my freest, my most exuberant, and my most creative when operating under a set of heavy self-imposed constraints. I suspect that the welcoming of constraints is, at bottom, the deepest secret of creativity—and that, of course, is why poetry, built on a foundation of constraints, is so central to this book. Translation, too, is a dense fabric of constraints—and thus, needless to say, the merging of translation with poetry gives rise to such a rich mesh of interlocking constraints that the mind goes a bit berserk in a mixture of frustration and delight.

Oscar Wilde – The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890)

The mere fact of having published a book of second-rate sonnets makes a man quite irresistible. He lives the poetry that he cannot write. The others write the poetry that they dare not realize.

author unknown – The Elder Eddas (ca. 13th century)

Vices and virtues the sons of mortals bear in their breasts mingled; no one is so good that no failing attends him, nor so bad as to be good for nothing.

author unknown – The Elder Eddas (ca. 13th century)

I counsel thee… Words thou never shouldst exchange with a witless fool.

author unknown – The Elder Eddas (ca. 13th century)

A foolish man, who among people comes, had best be silent; for no one knows that he knows nothing, unless he talks too much. He who previously knew nothing will still know nothing, talk he ever so much.

Salman Rushdie – The Satanic Verses (1988)

‘A poet’s work,’ he answers. ‘To name the unnamable, to point at frauds, to take sides, start arguments, shape the world and stop it from going to sleep.’

Christopher Hitchens – Hitch-22 (2010)

It can be good to start with a shipwreck. Your ideal authors ought to pull you from the foundering of your previous existence, not smilingly guide you into a friendly and peaceable harbor. Just as Llewellyn’s tale of Huw Morgan had upended my sense of the social scale, so the words of Owen’s “Dulce et Decorum Est” went off like a landmine under my concept of history and empire. The moment came in class. It was the turn of a very handsome boy named Sean Watson to read. As he stumbled his bored and boring way through the lines, I was consumed first by a sense of outrage, as if seeing somebody taking an axe to a grand piano. How could anybody be so brutish and insensitive? I wanted to wrench the book from his hands and declaim the poem. But then I found that this would not in fact be possible, because my eyes were blinded with stinging tears.