Archive for the 'Eng 200' Category

Amiri Baraka

October 17, 2006


Born LeRoi Jones
Born in the industrial city of Newark, New Jersey
After attending Howard University in Washington, D. C., he served in the United States Air Force
In the late fifties, settled in New York’s Greenwich Village where he was a central figure of that bohemian scene
Became nationally prominent in 1964, with the New York production of his Obie Award-winning play, Dutchman
Became a Black Nationalist, moving first to Harlem and then back home to Newark
In the mid-1970s, became a Third World Marxist-Leninist
1999, after teaching for twenty years in the Department of Africana Studies at SUNY-Stony Brook, he retired
Currently he lives with his wife, the poet Amina Baraka, in Newark.


Poems are bullshit unless they are / teeth or trees or lemons piled / on a step. Or black ladies dying / of men leaving nickel hearts / beating them down. Fuck poems / and they are useful, wd they shoot / come at you, love what you are, / breathe like wrestlers, or shudder / strangely after pissing. We want live / words of the hip world live flesh & / coursing blood. Hearts Brains / Souls splintering fire. We want poems / like fists beating niggers out of Jocks / or dagger poems in the slimy bellies / of the owner-jews. Black poems to / smear on girdlemamma mulatto bitches / whose brains are red jelly stuck / between ‘lizabeth taylor’s toes. Stinking / Whores! We want ‘poems that kill.’ / Assassin poems, Poems that shoot / guns. Poems that wrestle cops into alleys / and take their weapons leaving them dead / with tongues pulled out and sent to Ireland. Knockoff / poems for dope selling wops or slick halfwhite / politicians Airplane poems. rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr / rrrrrrrrrrrr … tuhtuhtuhtuhtuhtuhtuhtuhtuhtuh / … rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr … Setting fire and death to / whities ass. Look at the Liberal / Spokesman for the jews clutch his throat / & puke himself into eternity … rrrrrrrrrr / There’s a negroleader pinned to / a bar stool in Sardi’s eyeballs melting / in hot flame. Another negroleader / on the steps of the white house one / kneeling between the sheriff’s thighs / negotiating cooly for his people. / Aggh … stumbles across the room … / Put it on him, poem. Strip him naked / to the world! Another bad poem cracking / steel knuckles in a jewlady’s mouth / Poem scream poison gas on beasts in green berets / Clean out the world for virtue and love, / Let there be no love poems written / until love can exist freely and / cleanly. Let Black People understand / that they are the lovers and the sons / of lovers and warriors and sons / of warriors Are poems & poets & / all the loveliness here in the world
We want a black poem. And a / Black World. / Let the world be a Black Poem / And Let All Black People Speak This Poem / Silently

-Black Art (in whole)

For Malcolm’s eyes, when they broke/ the face fos ome dumb white man, For/ Malcolm’s hands raised to bless us/ all black and strong in his image/ of ourselves. For Malcolm’s words/ fire dars, the victor’s tireless/ thrusts, words hung above the world/ change as it may, he said it, and/ for this he was killed, for waying,/ and feeling, and being/change, all/ collected hot in his heart, For Malcolm’s/ heart raising us above our filthy cities,/ for his stride, and his beat, and his address/ to the grey monsters of the world, For Malcolm’s/ pleas for your dignity, black men, for your life,/ black man, for the filling of your minds/ with righteousness. For all of him dead and/ gone and vanished from us, and all of him which/ clings to our speech black god of our time./ For all of him, and all of yourself, look up,/ black man, quit stuttering and shuffling, look up,/ black man, quit whining and stooping, for all of him,/ For Great Malcolm a prince of the earth, let nothing in us rest/ until we avent ourselves for his death, stupid animals/ that killed him, let us never breathe a pure breath if/ we fail, and whtie men call us faggots till the end of/ the earth.

-A Poem For Black Hearts (in whole)

In the south, sleeping agains/ the drugstore, growling under/ the trucks and stoves, stumbling/ through and over the cluttered eyes/ of early mysterious night. Frowning/ drunk waving moving a hand or lash./ Dancing kneeling reaching out, letting/ a hand rest in shadows. Squatting/ to drink or pee. Stretching to climb/ pulling themselves onto horses near/ where there was sea (the old songs/ lead you to believe). Riding out/ from this town, to another, where/ it is also black. Down a road/ wehre people are asleep. Towards/ the moon or the shadows of houses./ Towards the songs’ pretended sea.

-Legacy (For Blues People) (in whole)

How will it go, crumbling earthquake, towering inferno, juggernaut, volcano, smashup,/ in reality, other than the feverish nearreal fantasy of the capitalist flunky film hacks/ tho they sense its reality breathing a quake inferno scar on their throat even snorts of/ 100% pure cocaine cant cancel the cold cut of impending death to this society. On all the/ screens of america, the joint blows up every hour and a half for two dollars an fifty cents./ They have taken the niggers out to lunch, for a minute, made us partners (nigger charlie) or/ surrogates (boss nigger) for their horror. But just as superafrikan mobutu cannot leopardskinhat his/ way out of responsibility for lumumba’s death, nor even with his incredible billions rockefeller/ cannot even save his pale ho’s titties in the crushing weight of things as they really are./ How will it go, does it reach you, getting up, sitting on the side of the bed, getting ready/ to go to work. Hypnotized by the machine, and the cement floor, the jungle treachery of trying/ to survive with no money in a money world, of making the boss 100,000 for every 200 dollars/ you get, and then having his brother get you for the rent, and if you want to buy the car you/ helped build, your downpayment paid for it, the rest goes to buy his old lady a foam rubber/ rhinestone set of boobies for special occasions when kissinger drunkenly fumbles with/ her blouse, forgetting himself./ If you dont like it, what you gonna do about it. That was the question we asked each other, &/ still right regularly need to ask. You dont like it? Whatcha gonna do, about it??/ The real terror of nature is humanity enraged, the true technicolor spectacle that hollywood/ cant record. They cant even show you how you look when you go to work. or when you come back./ They cant even show you thinking or demanding thenew socialist reality, its the ultimate tidal/ wave. When all over the planet, men and women, with heat in their hands, demand that society/ be planned to include the lives and self determination of all the people ever to live. That is/ the scalding scenario with a cast of just under two billion that they dare not even whisper./ Its called, “We Want It All … The Whole World!”

-A New Reality Is Better Than a New Movie! (in whole)

We’ll worship Jesus/ When jesus do/ Somethin/ When jesus blowup/ the white house/ or blast nixon down/ when jesus turn out congress/ or bust general motors to/ yard bird motors/ jesus we’ll worship jesus/ when jesus get down/ when jesus get out his yellow lincoln/ w/ the built in cross stain glass/ window& bow w/black peoples/ enemies we’ll worship jesus when he get bad enough to at least scare/ somebody

Jesus need to hurt some a our/ enemies, then we’ll check him/ out, all that screaming and hollering/ & wallering and moaning talkin bout/ jesus, jesus, in a red/ check velvet vine + 8 in. heels

we aint gonna worship jesus cause jesus dont exist/ xcept in song and story except in ritual and dance, except in slum stained/ tears or trillion dollar opulence stretching back in history, the history/ of the oppression of the human mind/ we worship the strength in us/ we worship our selves/ we worship the light in us/ we worship the warmth in us/ we worship the world/ we worship the love in us/ we worship our selves/ we worhsip nature/ we worship ouselves/ we worship the life in us, and science, and knowledge, and transformation/ of the visible world/ but we aint gonna worship no jesus/ we aint gonna legitimize the witches and devils and spooks and hobgoblins/  the sensuous lies of the rules to keep us chained to fantasy and illusion/ sing about life, not jesus/ sing about revolution, not no jesus/ stop singing about jesus,/ sing about, creation, our creation, the life of the world and fantastic/ nature how we struggle to transform it, but dont victimize our selves by/ distorting the world/ stop moanin about jesus, stop sweatin and crying and stompin and dyin for jesus/ unless thats the name of the army we building to force the land finally to/ change hands. And lets not call that jesus, get a quick consensus, on that,/ lets damn sure not call that black fire muscle no invisible psychic dungeon/ no gentle vision straight jacket, lets call that peoples army, or wapenduzi or/ simba/ wachanga, but we not gon callit jesus, and not gon worship jesus, throw/ jesus out yr mind. Build the new world out of reality, and new vision/ we come to find out what there is of the world/ to understand what there is here in the world!/ to visualize change, and force it./ we worship revolution

-When We’ll Worship Jesus


Claude McKay

September 26, 2006


Festus Claudius McKay
Born in Jamaica to peasant farmers, lived in the West Indie until 23
Came to the U.S. to study agriculture and to become a writer
Poetry expresses a new sense of black political assertion and a rich awareness of black cultural life
Figure of the Harlem Renaissance
Identified with oppressed and working people
Active socialist


If we must die, let it not be like hogs / Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot, / While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs, / Making their mock at our accursed lot. / If we must die, O let us nobly die, / So that our precious blood may not be shed / In vain; then even the monsters we defy / Shall be constrained to honor us though dead! / O kinsmen! we must meet the common foe! / Though far outnumbered let us show us brave, / And for their thousand blows deal one death-blow! / What though before us lies the open grave? / Like men we’ll face the murderous, cowardly pack, / Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!

-If We Must Die (in whole)

Written in response to vilent anti-black riots in Chicago, 1919
First appeared in ‘The Liberator’
McKay’s most famous poem

Bananas ripe and green and ginger-root, / Cocoa in pods and alligator pears, / And tangerines and mangoes and grape fruit, / Fit for the highest prize at parish fairs,
Set in the window, bringing memories / Of fruit trees laden by low-singing rills, / And dewy dawns and mystical blue skies / In benediction over nun-like hills.
Mine eyes grew dim and I could no more gaze, / A wave of longing through my body swept, / And, hungry for the old, familiar ways, / I turned aside and bowed my head and wept.

The Tropics in New York (in whole)

Although she feeds me bread of bitterness, / And sinks into my throat her tiger’s tooth, / Stealing my breath of life, I will confess / I love this cultured hell that tests my youth! / Her vigor flows like tides into my blood, / Giving me strength erect against her hate. / Her bigness sweeps my being like a flood. / Yet as a rebel fronts a king in state, / I stand within her walls with not a shred / Of terror, malice, not a word of jeer. / Darkly I gaze into the days ahead, / And see her might and granite wonders there, / Beneath the touch of Time’s unerring hand, / Like priceless treasures sinking in the sand.

-America (in whole)

May allude to ‘Ozymandias’ by Percy Bysshe Shelley

I hear the halting footsteps of a lass / In Negro Harlem when the night lets fall / Its veil. I see the shapes of girls who pass / Eager to heed desire’s insistent call: / Ah, little dark girls, who in slippered feet / Go prowling through the night from street to street.
Through the long night until the silver break / Of day the little gray feet know no rest, / Through the lone night until the last snow-flake / Has dropped from heaven upon the earth’s white breast, / The dusky, half-clad girls of tired feet / Are trudging, thinkly shod, from street to street.
Ah, stern harsh world, that in the wretched way / Of poverty, dishonour and disgrace, / Has pushed the timid little feet of clay. / The sacred brown feet of my fallen race! / Ah, heart of me, the weary, weary feet / In Harlem wandering from street to street.

-Harlem Shadows (in whole)

Applauding youths laughed with young prostitutes / And watched her perfect, half-clothed body sway; / Her voice was like the sound of blended flutes / Blwon by black playrs upon a picnic day. / She sand and danced on gracefully and calm, / The light gauze hanging loose about her form; / To me she seemed a proudly-swaying palm / Grown lovelier for passing through a storm. / Upon her swarthy neck black, shiny curls / Profusely fell; and, tossing eons in praise, / The wine-flushed, bold-eyed boys, and even the girls, / Devoured her shape with eager, passionate gaze: / But, looking at her fasely-smiling face, / I knew her self was not in that strange place.

-The Harlem Dancer (in whole)

Publication announced McKay’s entrance into the American literary scene
Shakespearean sonnet form

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

September 5, 2006


One of the founders of the Romantic Movement in England and one of the Lake Poets
Lifelong friend of William Wordsworth and Charles Lamb
Bright child, could read before he was four
Was bored with school, fled and enlisted in the Light Dragoons under the alias Silas Tomkyn Comberbache
Left Cambridge without a degree
Coleridge started using opium as a pain reliever around 1796
Married but was unable to support his wife and family
Best known for his long narrative poems and poems concerning the supernatural
Sees poetry in terms of unity and paradox: the poem should work organically as a whole
Very concerned with education and the Educated Man


The frost performs its secret ministry, / Unhelped by any wind.

My babe is so beautiful! it thrills my heart / With tender gladness, thus to look at thee, / And think that thou shalt learn far other lore / And in far other scenes! For I was reared / In the great city, pent ‘mid cloisters dim, / And saw nought lovely but the sky and stars. / But thou, my babe! shalt wander like a breeze /  By lakes and sandy shores, beneath the crags / Of ancient mountain, and beneath the clouds, / Which image in their bulk both lakes and shores / And mountain crags: so shalt thou see and hear / The lovely shapes and sounds intelligible / Of that eternal language, which thy God / Utters, who from eternity doth teach / Himself in all, and all things in himself.

-Frost at Midnight

Coleridge addresses his childhood in the city as the root of his discomfort among the natural world
Wants his son, Hartley then 17 moths, to be taught by nature

Kubla Khan (1797)
Or, A Vision in a Dream. A Fragment

Takes its title from the Mongol/Chinese emperor Kublai Khan of the Yuan dynasty
Coleridge’s dream was interrupted by a business man in regards to something trivial
The poem takes us from the ordinary and transports us to the ancient past
Nature is being controlled in the first stanza, but bursts forward and cannot be contained in the second
Poetry can be seen as something constructive, used to recreate this paradise

“In consequence of a slight indisposition, an anodyne had been prescribed, from the effect of which he fell asleep in his chair at the moment that he was reading the following sentence, or words of the same substance, in Purchas’s Pilgrimage: ‘Here the Khan Kubla commanded a palace to be built, and a stately garden thereunto: and thus ten miles of fertile ground were inclosed with a wall.’

Quotations: (Poem in whole)

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan / A stately pleasure-dome decree: / Where Alph, the sacred river, ran / Through caverns measureless to man / Down to a sunless sea. / So twice five miles of fertile ground / With walls and towers were girdled round: / And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills / Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree; / And here were forests ancient as the hills, / Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.
But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted / Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover! / A savage place! as holy and enchanted / As e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted / By woman wailing for her demon-lover! / And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething, / As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing, / A mighty fountain momently was forced: / Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst / Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail, / Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher’s flail: / And ‘mid these dancing rocks at once and ever / It flung up momently the sacred river. / Five miles meandering with a mazy motion / Through wood and dale the sacred river ran, / Then reached the caverns measureless to man, / And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean: / And ‘mid this tumult Kubla heard from far / Ancestral voices prophesying war!
    The shadow of the dome of pleasure / Floated midway on the waves: / Where was heard the mingled measure / From the fountain and the caves. / It was a miracle of rare device, / A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!
A damsel with a dulcimer / In a vision once I saw: / It was an Abyssinian maid, / And on her dulcimer she played, / Singing of Mount Abora. / Could I revive within me / Her symphony and song, / To such a deep delight ‘twould win me, / That with music loud and long, / I would build that dome in air, / That sunny dome! those caves of ice! / And all who heard should see them there, / And all should cry, Beware! Beware! / His flashing eyes, his floating hair! / Weave a circle round him thrice, / And close your eyes with holy dread, / For he on honey-dew hath fed, / And drunk the milk of Paradise.

Biographia Literaria (1817)

Merges personal experience with philosophical speculation
Contains the famous distinction between Fancy and Imagination
Argues there are two cardinal points of poetry: the ordinary and the supernatural
Rejects Wordsworth’s claim that ordinary language is superior
Consists of two main parts: Coleridge’s critique on Wordsworth’s theory of poetic diction and-

“My literary life and opinions, as far as poetry and poetical criticism are concerned”


“To carry on the feelings of childhood into the powers of manhood; to combine the child’s sense of wonder and novelty with the appearances which every day for perhaps forty years had rendered familiar… this is the character and privilege of genius, and one of the marks which distinguish genius from talents.”

“To admire on principle is the only way to imitate without loss of originality.”

“The primary imagination I hold to be the living power and prime agent of all human perception, and as a repetition in the finite mind of the eternal act of creation in the infinite I AM. The secondary I consider as an echo of the former, coexisting with the conscious will, yet still as identical with the primary in the kind of its agency, and differing only in degree, and in the mode of its operation… The fancy is indeed no other than a mode of memory emancipated from the order of time and space and blended with, and modified by that empirical phenomenon of the will which we express by the word choice.”

“A poem is that species of composition which is opposed to works of science by proposing for its immediate object pleasure, not truth… But if the definition sought for be that of a legitimate poem, I answer it must be one the parts of which mutually supposrt and explain each other; all in their proportion harmonizing with, and supporting the purpose and known influences of metrical arrangement.”

“The reader should be carried forward, not merely or chiefly by the mechanical impulse of curiosity, or by a restless desire to arrive at the final solution; but by the pleasurable activity of mind excited by the attractions of the journey itself.”

“The poet, describein ideal perfection, brings the whole soul of man into activity, with the subordination of its faculties to each other, according to their relative worth and dignity. He diffuses a tone and spirit of unity that blends and (as it were) fuses, each into each, by that synthetic and magical power to which we have exclusively appropriated the name of imagination.”

“Finally, Good Sense is the Body of poetic genius, Fancy its Drapery, Motion its Life, and Imagination the Soul that is everywhere and in each; and forms all into one graceful and intelligent whole.”

“Rustic live (above all, low and rustic life) especially unfavorable to the formation of human diction- the best parts of language the products of philosophers, not clowns or shepherds.”

“It is more than probably that many classes of the brute creation possess discriminating sounds, by which they can convey to each other notices of such objects as concern their food, shelter, or safety. Yt we hesitate to call the aggregate of such sounds a language, otherwise than metaphorically. The best part of human language, properly so called, is derived from reflection on the acts of the mind itself.”

“For the property of passion is not to create, but to set in increased activity.”

Cris Mazza

July 31, 2006


Used to train and show dogs
Writing focuses on issues of gender, sexuality, family and authority

Is it Sexual Harassment Yet? (1991)

Third person objective view during Terence’s side of the story, first person narrative/confessional during Michelle’s


“Even before the Imperial Penthouse switched from a staff of exclusively male waiters and food handlers to a crew of fifteen waitresses, Terence Lovell was the floor captain. Wearing a starched ruffled shirt and black tails, he embodied continental grace and elegance as he seated guests and, with a toreador’s flourish, produced menus out of thin air. He took all orders but did not serve- except in the case of a flaming meal or dessert, and this duty, for over ten years, was his alone. One of his trademarks was to never be seen striking the match- either the flaming platter was swiftly paraded from the kitchen or the dish would seemingly spontaneously ignite on its cart beside the table, a quite explosion, then a four-foot column of flame, like a fountain with floodlights of changing colors.”

“Over the next year or so, the floor staff was supposed to eventually evolve into one made up of all women with the exception of the floor captain. It was still during the early weeks of the new staff, however, when Terence began finding gifts in his locker.”

“Then one of the waitresses, Michelle Rae, reported to management that Terence had made inappropriate comments to her during her shift at work.”

“As soon as you feel like someone, you’re no one. Why am I doing this? Why?
So, you’ll ask about my sexual history but won’t think to inquire about the previous encounters I almost had, or never had: it wasn’t the old ships-in-the-night tragedy, but let’s say I had a ship, three or four years ago, the ship of love, okay? So once when I had a lot of wind in my sails (is this a previous sexual experience yet?), the captain sank the vessel when he started saying stuff like, ‘You’re never going to be the most important thing in someone else’s life unless it’s something like he kills you- and then only if he hasn’t killed anyone else yet nor knocked people off for a living- otherwise no one’s the biggest deal in anyone’s life but their own.’ Think about that. He may’ve been running my ship, but it turns out he was navigating by remote control. When the whole thing blew up, he was unscathed. Well, now I try to live as though I wrote that rule, as thought it’s mine. But that hasn’t made me like it any better.”

“There are so many ways to humiliate someone. … I already know the type: he’ll be remote, cool, distant- seeming to be gentle and tolerante but actually cruelly indifferent. It’ll be great fun for him to be aloof or preoccupied when someone is in love with him, genuflecting, practically prostrating herself. If he doesn’t respone, she can’t say he hurt her, she never got close enough. He’ll go on a weekend ski trip with his friends. She’ll do calisthenics, wash her hair, shave her legs, and wait for Monday. Well, not this time, no sir. Terence Lovell is messing with a sadder-but-wiser chick.”

“When a man looks at you the way he did at me, he’s either ignoring you or undressing you with his eyes, but probably both. And that’s just what he did and didn’t stop there. He’s not going to get away with it.”

“Then winked and smiled at me later when I gave him his share of my tips. Told me to keep up the good work. Used the word ass every chance he got in my presence for weeks afterwards. Isn’t this sexual harassment yet?”

“Two pool tables, a juke box and big-screen TV. What a lousy front- looks exactly like what it really is, his lair, puts on his favorite funky music, his undulating blue and green lights, snorts his coke, dazzles his partner- his doped-up victim- with his moves and gyrations, dances her into a corner and rapes her before the son’s over, up against the wall- that song’s in the juke box too.”

“But wait, nothing ordinary or healthy like that for the girl who was chosen to be the center of his dark side- she’ll have to be both the cause and cure for his violent ache, that’s why he’s been so relentless, so obsessed, so insane… he was driven to it, to the point where he had to paint the tip of his hard-on with 150 proof whiskey then use the fancy revolver to ignite it, screaming- not like any sound he ever made before- until he extinguished it in the girl of his unrequited dreams. Tssss.”

“caller: Once is all it takes, baby. Bang. The rest of your life will start. But guess who’ll still be there at the center of everything you do.”

William Faulkner

June 19, 2006


William Cuthbert Faulkner
Nobel Prize-winning novelist from Mississippi
Work is known for literary devices like stream of consciousness, multiple narrations or points of view, and narrative time shifts
Known for using long, serpentine sentences and meticulously chosen diction
Some consider Faulkner to be the only true American Modernist prose fiction writer of the 1930s

A Rose For Emily (1930)

Distinctive for its unusual use of first-person plural point of view and non-chronological ordering of episodes
Story of an eccentric spinster, Emily Grierson, and her relationship with her town, father and Homer Barron, the object of her affections
Themes of society of the South at that time, the role of women in the South, and extreme psychosis


“When Miss Emily Grierson died, our whole town went to her funeral: the men through a sort of respectful affection for a fallen monument, the women mostly out of curiosity to see the inside of her house, which no one save an old manservant- a combined gardener and cook- had seen in at least ten years.”

“Alive, Miss Emily had been a tradition, a duty, and a care; a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town…”

“They rose when she entered- a small, fat woman in black, with a thin gold chain descending to her waist and vanishing into her belt, leaning on an ebony cane with a tarnished gold head.  Her skeleton was small and spare; perhaps that was why what would have been merely plumpness in another was obesity in her.  She looked bloated, like a body long submerged in motionless water, and of that pallid hue.  Her eyes, lost in the fatty ridges of her face, looked like two small pieces of coal pressed into a lump of dough as they moved from one face to another while the visitors stated their errand.”

“People in our town, remembering how old lady Wyatt, her great-aunt, had gone completely crazy at last, believed that the Griersons held themselves a little too high for what they really were.”

“Being left alone, and a pauper, she had become humanized.”

“…we knew that with nothing left, she would have to cling to that which had robbed her, as people will.”

“She carried her head high enough- even when we believed that she was fallen.  It was as if she demanded more than ever the recognition of her dignity as the last Grierson; as if it had wanted that touch of earthiness to reaffirm her imperiousness.  Like when she bought the rat poison, the arsenic.  That was over a year after they had begun to say ‘Poor Emily,’ and while the two female cousins were visiting her.
‘I want some poison,’ she said to the druggist.  She was over thirty then, still a slight woman, though thinner than usual, with cold, haughty black eyes in a face the flesh of which was strained across the temples and about the eye-sockets as you imagine a light-house-keeper’s face ought to look.  ‘I want some poison,’ she said.
‘Yes, Miss Emily.  What kind? For rats and such? I’d recom-‘
‘I want the best you have.  I don’t care what kind.’…
Miss Emily just stared at him, her head tilted back in order to look him eye for eye, until he looked away and went and got the arsenic and wrapped it up.”

“…as if that quality of her father which had thwarted her woman’s life so many times had been too virulent and too furious to die.”

“They held the funeral on the second day, with the town coming o look at Miss Emily beneath a mass of bought flowers, with the crayon face of her father musing profoundly above the bier and the ladies sibilant and macabre; and the very old men- some in their brushed Confederate uniforms- on the porch and the lawn, talking of Miss Emily as if she had been a contemporary of theirs, believing that they had danced with her and courted her perhaps, confusing time with its mathematical progression, as the old do, to whom all the past is not a diminishing road, but instead, a huge meadow which no winter ever quite touches, divided from them now by the narrow bottleneck of the most recent decade of years.”

“For a long while we just stood there, looking down at the profound and fleshless grin.   The body had apparently once lain in the attitude of an embrace, but now the long sleep that outlasts love, that conquers even the grimace of love, had cuckolded him.”

E. T. A. Hoffman

June 19, 2006


Ernst Theodor Wilhelm Hoffmann
One of the best-known representatives of German Romanticism
author of fantasy and horror, a jurist, composer, music critic, draftsman and caricaturist
Used the pen name “E. T. A. Hoffmann”, telling people that the “A.” stood for Amadeus, in homage to the composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

The Sandman

First in a book of stories titled Die Nachtstücke (The Night Pieces
Later adapted (very loosely) as the ballet Coppélia
Horrific depiction of the folklore character, the Sandman, who is traditionally said to throw sand in the eyes of children to help them fall asleep
Clara represents the Enlightenment and Nathanael the Romantics
Themes of eyes (interpreted by Freud as fear of castration),


“Most curious to know more of this Sandman and his particular connection with children, I at last asked the old woman who looked after my youngest sister what sort of man he was. ‘Eh, Natty,’ said she, ‘don’t you know that yet? He is a wicked man, who comes to children when they won’t go to bed, and throws a handful of sand into their eyes, so that they start out bleeding from their heads. He puts their eyes in a bag and carries them to the crescent moon to feed his own children, who sit in the nest up there. They have crooked beaks like owls so that they can pick up the eyes of naughty human children.'”

“‘Master! Master!’ he cried, ‘leave my Nathanael his eyes!’ ‘Let the child keep his eyes and do his share of the world’s weeping.'”

“Oh, my dearest Nathanael, do you not believe that even in gay, easygoing, and carefree minds there may exist a presentiment of dark powers within ourselves which are bent upon our own destruction?”

“It is the phantom of our own ego, whose intimate relationship, combined with its profound effect on our spirits, either flings us into hell o transports us to heaven.”

“Possibly, also, you will come to believe that real life is more singular and more fantastic than anything else and that all a writer can really do is present it as ‘in a glass, darkly.'”

“He will exist and work on you only so long as you believe in him; it is only your belief which gives him power.”  

Allen Ginsberg

June 16, 2006


Irwin Allen Ginsberg
American Beat poet
Influenced by Romanticism, Modernism, jazz, Kagyu Buddhism, Judaism, and homosexuality
Follower of Walt Whitman, brought his homosexuality to the surface
As a gay teenager, Ginsberg began to write letters to The New York Times about political issues

“Democracy! Bah! When I hear that word I reach for my feather Boa!”

“I’m a stenographer of my mind. I write down what passes through it, not what goes on around me. I’m a poet.”


I’m addressing you. / Are you going to let your emotional life be run by / Time Magazine? / I’m obsessed by Time Magazine. / I read it every week. / Its cover stares at me every time I slink past the corner / candystore. / I read it in the basement of the Berkeley Public Library. / It’s always telling me about responsibility.  Buisness- / men are serious.  Movie producers are serious. / Everybody’s serious but me. / It occurs to me that I am America. / I am talking to myself again.

America you don’t really want to go to war. / America it’s them bad Russians. / Them Russians them Russians and them Chinamen. / And them Russians. / The Russia wants to eat us alive. The Russia’s power / mad. She wants to take our cars from out our / garages.
Her wants to grab Chicago. Her needs a Red Readers’ / Digest. Her wants our auto plants in Siberia. / Him big bureaucracy running our fillingsta-/ tions.
That no good. Ugh. Him make Indians learn read. / Him need big black niggers. Hah. Her make us / all work sixteen hours a day. Help.
America this is quite serious. / America this is the impression I get from looking in the television set. / America is this correct? I’d better get right down to the job. / It’s true I don’t want to join the Army or turn lathes / in precision parts factories, I’m nearsighted and / psychopathic anyway. / America I’m putting my queer shoulder to the wheel.


it was the racks and these on the racks I saw naked / in electric light the night before I quit, / the racks were created to hang our possessions, to keep us together, a temporary shift in space, / God’s only way of building the rickety structure of / Time, / to hold the bags to send on the roads, to carry our / luggage from place to place / looking for a bus to ride us back home to Eternity / where the heart was left and farewell tears / began.

-In The Baggage Room At Greyhound

O dear sweet rosy / unattainable desire / …how sad, no way / to change the mad / cultivated asphodel, the / visible reality…
and skin’s appaling / petals- how inspired / to be so lying in the living / room drunk naked / and dreaming, in the absence / of electricity… / over and over eating the low root / of the asphodel, / gray fate…
rolling in generation / on the flowery couch / as on a bank in Arden- / my only rose tonite’s the treat / of my own nudity.

-An Asphodel

In back of the real / railroad yard in San Jose / I wandered desolate / in front of a tank factory / and sat on a bench / near the switchman’s shack.
A flower lay on the hay on / the asphalt highway / -the dread hay flower / I thought- It had a / brittle black stem and / corolla of yellowish dirty / spikes like Jesus’ inchlong / crown, and a soiled / dry center cotton tuft / like a used shaving brush / that’s been lying under the garage for a year.
Yellow, yellow flower, and / flower of industry, / tough spiky ugly flower, / flower nonetheless, / with the form of the great yellow / Rose in your brain! / This is the flower of the World.

-In back of the real (in whole)

What thoughts I have of you tonight, Walt Whitman, for I walked down the side streets under trees with a headache self-consious looking at the full moon.
In my hungry fatigue, and shopping for images, I went into the neon fruit supermarket, dreaming of your enumberations!
What peaches and what penumbras! Whole families shopping at night! Aisles full of husbands!  Wives in the avocados, babies in the tomatoes! -and  you, Garcia Lorca, what were you doing down by the watermelons?
I saw you, Walt Whitman, childless, lonely  old grubber, poking among the meats in the  refrigerator and eyeing the grocery boys.
I heard you asking questions of each: Who  Killed the pork chops? What price bananas? Are you  my Angel?
I wandered in and out of the brilliant stacks of cans following you, and followed in my imagination by the store detective.
We strode down the open corridors together in our solitary fancy tasting artichokes, possessing every frozen delicacy, and never passing the cashier.
Where are we going, Walt Whitman? The doors close in an hour. Which way does your beard point tonight?
(I touch your book and dream of our odyssey in the supermarket and feel absurd.)
Will we walk all night through solitary streets? The trees add shade to shade, lights out in the houses, we’ll both be lonely.
Will we stroll dreaming of the lost America of love past blue automobiles in driveways, home to our silent cottage?
Ah, dear father, graybeard, lonely old courage-teacher, what America did you have when Charon quit poling his ferry and you got out on a smoking bank and stood watching the boat disappear on the black waters of Lethe?

-A Supermarket in California (in whole)
 see Poetry Speaks

Howl (1955)

Noted for relating stories and experiences of his friends and contemporaries, its tumbling hallucinatory style, and the subsequent obscenity trial which it provoked
Dedicated to Carl Solomon, whom Ginsberg met in a mental institution


I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,/ dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix

ah, Carl, while you are not safe I am not safe, and / now you’re really in the total animal soup of / time-

with the absolute heart of the poem of life butchered / out of their own bodies good to eat a thousand / years.

Real holy laughter in the river! They saw it all!  the / wild eyes! the holy yells! They bade farewell! / They jumped off the roof! to solitude! waving! / carrying flowers! Down to the river! into the / street!

Carl Solomon! I’m with you in Rockland / where you’re matter than I am

I’m with you in Rockland / where the faculties of the skull no longer admit / the worms of the senses

I’m with you in Rockland / where you scream in a straightjacket that you’re / losing the game of the actual pingpong of the / abyss

I’m with you in rockland / where we hug and kiss the United States under / our bedsheets the United States that coughs all / night and won’t let us sleep

I’m with you in Rockland / in my dreams you walk dripping from a sea-/ journey on the highway across America in tears / to the door of my cottage in the Western night

Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! / Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy!
The world is holy!The soul is holy! The skin is holy! / The nose is holy! The tongue and cock and hand / and asshole holy!
Everything is holy! everybody’s holy! everywhere is / holy! everyday is in eternity! Everyman’s an / angel!

Holy forgiveness! mercy! charity! faith! Holy! Ours! / bodies! suffering! magnanimity!
Holy the supernatural extra brilliant intelligent / kindness of the soul!

Toni Morrison

June 14, 2006


Nobel Prize winner
Played an important role in bringing African American literature into the mainstream
Concentrates on themes of feminism and racism in America

Sula (1973)

Two friends, Nel and Sula, whose relationship examines the confusing mysteries of human emotions
Addresses ideas of good and evil and how the two resemble one another


“In 1969, in Queens, snatching liberty seemed compelling.  Some of us thrived; some of us died.  All of us had a taste.”

“Which accounted for the fact that white people lived on the rich valley floor in that little river town in Ohio, and the blacks populated the hills above it, taking small consolation in the fact that every day they could literally look down on the white folks.”

“Shadrack stared at the soft colors that filled these triangles: the lumpy whiteness of rice, the quivering blood tomatoes, the grayish-brown meat.  All their repugnance was contained in the neat balance of the triangles- a balance that soothed him, transferred some of its equilibrium to him.  Thus reassured that the white, the red and the brown would stay where they were- would not explode or burst forth from their restricted zones…”

“When they bound Shadrack into a straitjacket, he was both relieved and grateful, for his hands were at last hidden and confined to whatever size they had attained.”

“Suddenly without raising his eyelids, he began to cry.  Twenty-two years old, weak, hot, frightened, not daring to acknowledge the fact that he didn’t even know who or what he was…”

“There in the toilet water he saw a grave black face.  A black so definite, so unequivocal, it astonished him.  He had been harboring a skittish apprehension that he was not real- that he didn’t exist at all.  But when the blackness greeted him with its indisputable presence, he wanted nothing more.”

“It was not death or dying that frightened him, but the unexpectedness of both.  In sorting it all out, he hit on the notion that if one day a year were devoted to it, everybody could get it out of the way and the rest of the year would be safe and free.  In this manner he instituted National Suicide Day.”

“An eagerness to please and an apology for living met in her voice…Then, for no earthly reason, at least no reason that anybody could understand, certainly no reason that Nel understood then or later, she smiled.  Like a street pup that wags its tail at the very doorjab of the butcher shop he has been kicked away from only moments before, Helene smiled.”

“‘I’m me,’ she whispered.  ‘Me.’
Nel didn’t know quite what she meant, but on the other hand she knew exactly what she meant.
‘I’m me.  I’m not their daughter.  I’m not Nel.  I’m me.  Me.’
Each time she said the word me there was a gathering in her like power, like joy, like fear. Back in bed with her discovery, she stared out the window at the dark leaves of the horse chestnut.
‘Me,’ she murmured.  And then, sinking deeper into the quilts, ‘I want..I want to be…wonderful.  Oh, Jesus, make me wonderful.'”

“And it was natural that he, after all, because the first one to join Shadrack- Tar Baby and the deweys- on National Suicide Day.”

“The Peace women simply loved maleness, for its own sake.”

“They were solitary little girls whose loneliness was so profound it intoxicated them and sent them stumbling into Technicolored visions that always included a presence, a someone, who, quite like the dreamer, shared the delight of the dream.”

“Sula was a heavy brown with large quiet eyes, one of which featured a birthmark that spread from the middle of the lid toward the eyebrow, shaped something like a stemmed rose.  It gave her otherwise plain face a broken excitement and blue-blade threat like the keloid scar of the razored man who sometimes played checkers with her grandmother.  The birthmark was to grow darker as the years passed, but now it was the same shade as her gold-flecked eyes, which to the end, were as steady and clean as rain.”

“When, he wondered, will those people ever be anything but animals, fit for nothing but substitutes for mules, only mules didn’t kill each other the way niggers did.”

“‘You settin’ here with your healthy-ass self and ax me did I love you?  Them big old eyes in your head would a been two holes full of maggots if I hadn’t.'”

“I’d be laying here at night and he be downstairs in that room, but when I closed my eyes I’d see him… six feet tall smilin’ and crawlin’ up the stairs quietlike so I wouldn’t hear and opening the door soft so I wouldn’t hear and he’d be creepin’ to the bed trying to spread my legs trying to get back up in my womb.”

“Sula was probably struck dumb, as anybody would be who saw her own mamma burn up.  Eva said yes, but inside she disagreed and remained convinced that Sula had watched Hannah burn not because she was paralyzed, but because she was interested.”

“‘Well, don’t let your mouth start nothing that your ass can’t stand.  When you gone to get married?  You need to have some babies.  It’ll settle you.’
‘I don’t want to make somebody else.  I want to make myself.'”

“‘Any more fires in this house, I’m lighting them!’
‘Hellfire don’t need lighting and it’s already burning in you…’
‘Whatever’s burning in me is mine!'”

“‘The real hell of Hell is that it is forever.’ Sula said that.  She said doing anything forever and ever was hell…’Sula was wrong.  Hell ain’t things lasting forever.  Hell is change.'”

“Sula was distinctly different.  Eva’s arrogance and Hannah’s self-indulgence merged in her and, with a twist that was all her own imagination, she lived out her days exploring her own thoughts and emotions, giving them full reign, feeling no obligation to please anybody unless their pleasure pleased her.  As willing to feel pain as to give pain, to feel pleasure as to give pleasure, hers was an experimental life…She was completely free of ambition, with no affection for money, property or things, no greed, no desire to command attention or compliments- no ego.  For that reason she felt no compulsion to verify herself- be consistent with herself.”

“Now Nel was one of them.  One of the spiders whose only thought was the next rung of the web, who dangled in dark dry places suspended by their own spittle, more terrified of the free fall than the snake’s breath below… If they were touched by the snake’s breath, however fatal, they were merely victims and knew how to behave in that role (just as Nel knew how to behave as the wronged wife).  But the free fall, oh no, that required- demanded- invention: a thing to do with the wings, a way of holding the legs and most of all a full surrender to the downward flight if they wished to taste their tongues or stay alive.  But alive was what they, and now Nel, did not want to be.  Too dangerous.”

“All those cities held the same people, working the same mouths, sweating the same sweat.”

“If I take a chamois and rub real hard on the bone, right on the ledge of your cheek bone, some of the black will disappear.  It will flake away into the chamois and underneath there will be gold leaf.  I can see it shining through the black.  I know it is there…”

“‘After all the old women have lain with the teen-agers; when all the young girls have slept with their old drunken uncles; after all the black men fuck all the white ones; when all the white women kiss all the black ones; when the guards have raped all the jailbirds and after all the whores make love to their grannies; after all the faggots get their mothers’ trim; when Lindbergh sleeps with Bessie Smith and Norma Shearer makes it with Stepin Fetchit; after all the dogs have fucked all the cats and every weathervane on every barn flies off the roof to mount the hogs… then there’ll be a little love left over for me.  And I know just what it will feel like.'”

“Then she realized, or rather she sensed, that there was not going to be any pain.  She was not breathing because she didn’t have to.  Her body did not need oxygen.  She was dead.
Sula felt her face smiling.  ‘Well, I’ll be damned,’ she thought, ‘it didn’t even hurt.  Wait’ll I tell Nel.'”

“They hugged trees simply to hold for a moment all that life and largeness stilled in glass, and gazed at the sun pressed against the gray sky like a worn doubloon, wondering all the while if the world were coming to an end.”

“So he had said ‘always,’ so she would not have to be afraid of the change- the falling away of skin, the drip and slide of blood, and the exposure of bone underneath.  He had said ‘always’ to convince her, assure her, of permanency.”

“Still, when the day broke in an incredible splash of sun, he gathered his things.  In the early part of the afternoon, drenched in sunlight and certain that this would be the last time he would invite them to end their lives neatly and sweetly, he walked over the rickety bridge and on into the Bottom.  But it was not heartfelt this time, not loving this time, for he no longer cared whether he helped them or not.  His rope was improperly tied; his bell had a tinny unimpassioned sound.  His visitor was dead and would come no more.”

“Maybe the sun; maybe the clots of green showing in the hills promising so much; maybe the contrast between Shadrack’s doomy, gloomy bell glinting in all that sweet sunshine.  Maybe just a brief moment , for once, of not feeling fear, of looking at death in the sunshine and being unafraid.  She laughed.”

“Called to them to come out and play in the sunshine- as though the sunshine would last, as though there really was hope.””A lot of them died there.  The earth, now warm, shifted; the first forepole slipped; loose rock fell from the face of the tunnel and caused a shield to give way.  They found themselves in a chamber of water, deprived of the sun that had brought them there”

“‘Sula?’ she whispered, gazing at the tops of trees.  ‘Sula?’
Leaves stirred; mud shifted; there was the smell of overripe green things.  A soft ball of fur broke and scattered like dandelion spores in the breeze.
‘All that time, all that time, I thought I was missing Jude.’  And the loss pressed down on her chest and came up into her throat. ‘We was girls together,’ she said as though explaining something. ‘O Lord, Sula,’ she cried, ‘girl, girl, girlgirlgirl.’
It was a fine cry- loud and long- but it had no bottom and it had no top, just circles and circles of sorrow.”

Vladimir Nabokov

June 12, 2006


Russian-American author, critic, and acknowledged lepidopterist and chess player

“The good reader is one who has imagination, memory, a dictionary, and some artistic sense – which sense I propose to develop in myself and in others whenever I have the chance.”

“…’reality’ (one of the few words which mean nothing without quotes)…”

“For me a work of fiction exists only insofar as it affords me what I shall bluntly call aesthetic bliss, that is a sense of being somehow, somewhere, connected with other states of being where art (curiosity, tenderness, kindness, ecstasy) is the norm.”

Lolita (1955)

Deals with the desire of a middle-aged pedophile Humbert Humbert, the narrator, for a 12-year-old girl, Lolita; Humbert keeps a prison-diary of his lifelong fascination with pubescent “nymphets”
Famous for its innovative style and infamous for its controversial subject

“As far as I can recall, the initial shiver of inspiration was somehow prompted by a newspaper story about an ape in the Jardin des Plantes, who, after months of coaxing by a scientist, produced the first drawing ever charcoaled by an animal: this sketch showed the bars of the poor creature’s cage.”


“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins.  My sin, my soul.  Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth.  Lo.  Lee.  Ta. 
She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock.  She was Lola in slacks.  She was Dolly at school.  She was Dolores on the dotted line.  But in my arms she was always Lolita.”

“Between the age limits of nine and fourteen there occur maidens who, to certain bewitched travelers, twice or many times older than they, reveal their true nature which is not human, but nymphic (that is, demoniac); and these chosen creatures I propose to designate as ‘nymphets.'”

“I want my learned readers to participate in the scene I am about to replay;  I want them to examine its every detail and see for themselves how careful, how chaste, the whole wine-sweet event is if viewed with what my lawyer has called, in a private talk we have had, ‘impartial sympathy.’  So let us get started.  I have a difficult job before me.”

“I knew I had fallen in love with Lolita forever; but I also knew she would not be forever Lolita.”

“…desire and decision (the two things that create a live world)…”

“We are not sex fiends!  We do not rape as good soldiers do.  We are unhappy, mild, dog-eyed gentlemen, sufficiently well integrated to control our urge in the presence of adults, but ready to give years and years of life for one chance to touch a nymphet.  Emphatically, no killers are we.  Poets never kill.”

“‘The Girl Scout’s motto,’ said Lo rhapsodically, ‘is also mine.  I fill my life with worthwhile deeds such as- well, never mind what.  My duty is- to be useful.  I am a friend to male animals.  I obey orders.  I am cheerful.  That was another police car.  I am thrifty and I am absolutely filthy in thought, word and deed.'”

“…for the look of lust always is gloomy; lust is never quite sure- even when the velvety victim is locked up in one’s dungeon…”

“Imagine me; I shall not exist if you do not imagine me; try to discern the doe in me, trembling in the forest of my own iniquity; let’s even smile a little.”

“‘You chump,’ she said, sweetly smiling at me.  ‘You revolting creature.  I was a daisy-fresh girl, and look what you’ve done to me.  I ought to call the police and tell them you raped me.  Oh, you dirty, dirty old man.'”

“…every now and then I would take a bed-and-cot or twin-bed cabine, a prison cell of paradise, with yellow window shades pulled down to create a morning illusion of Venice and sunshine when actually it was Pennsylvania and rain.”

“After they had all gone my Lo said ugh, closed her eyes, and dropped into a chair with all four limbs starfished to express the utmost disgust and exhaustion and swore it was the most revolting bunch of boys she had ever seen.  I bought her a new tennis racket for that remark.”

“…I was so struck by the radiant tenderness of her smile that for an instant I believed all our troubles gone.”

“Wildly, I pursued the shadow of her infidelity; but the scent I traveled upon was so slight as to be practically undistinguishable from a mad-man’s fancy.”

“Being a murderer with a sensational but incomplete and unorthodox memory, I cannot tell you, ladies and gentlemen, the exact day when I first knew with utter certainty that the red convertible was following us.”

“Three of four miles out of Wace, I turned into the shadow of a picnic ground where the morning had dumped its litter of light on an empty table; Lo looked up with a semi-smile and without a word I delivered a tremendous backhand cut that caught her smack on her hot hard little cheekbone.
And then the remorse, the poignant sweetness of sobbing atonement, groveling love, the hopelessness of sensual reconciliation.  In the velvet night, at Mirana Motel (Mirana!) I kissed the yellowish soles of her long-toed feet, I immolated myself…But it was all of no avail.  Both doomed were we.  And soon I was to enter a new cycle of persecution.”

“A change of environment is the traditional fallacy upon which doomed loves, and lungs, rely.”

“Freedom for the moment is everything… To myself I whispered that I still had my gun, and was still a free man- free to trace the fugitive, free to destroy my brother.”

“It is not the artistic aptitudes that are secondary sexual characters as some shams and shamans have said; it is the other way around: sex is but the ancilla of art.”

“Thus, neither of us is alive when the reader opens this book.  But while the blood still throbs through my writing hand, you are still as much part of blessed matter as I am, and I can still talk to you from here to Alaska.  Be true to your Dick.  Do not let other fellows touch you.  Do not talk to strangers.  I hope you will love your baby.  I hope it will be a boy.  That husband of yours, I hope, will always treat you well, because otherwise my specter shall come at him, like black smoke, like a demented giant, and pull him apart nerve by nerve.  And do not pity C.Q.  One had to choose between him and H.H., and one wanted H.H. to exist at least a couple moths longer, so as to have him make you live in the minds of later generations.  I am thinking of aurochs and angels, the secret of durable pigments, prophetic sonnets, the refuge of art.  And this is the only immortality you and I may share, my Lolita.” 

Oscar Wilde

June 9, 2006


Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde 
Anglo-Irish playwright, novelist, poet, short story writer and Freemason
One of the most successful playwrights of late Victorian London
Sometimes called ‘the apostle of beauty’
Among the last of the Victorians: he posed as an exponent of new ideas but was also of an old school of thought
Major celebrity of his day, known for his barbed and clever wit
Suffered a dramatic downfall and was imprisoned after being convicted for gross indecency (homosexual acts)
Known for his role in the aesthetic and decadent movements
Gravestone is covered in lipstick marks


Tread lightly, she is near / Under the snow, / Speak gently, she can hear / The daisies grow.
All her bright golden hair / Tarnished with rust, / She that was young and fair / Fallen to dust.
Lily-like, white as snow, / She hardly knew / She was a woman, so / Sweetly she grew.
Coffin-board, heavy stone, / Lie on her breast; / I vex my heart alone, / She is at rest.
Peace, peace; she cannot hear / Lyre or sonnet; / All my life’s buried here, / Heap earth upon it.

-Requiescat (in whole)

Written after the death of Wilde’s younger sister

The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890)

A portrait made of the eponymous Dorian Gray is marred because of his many sins, becoming old and disfigured, while he himself remains young and perfect
Themes of aestheticism and the morality of art, homosexuality, beauty, youth, Hedonism, Romanticism/Realism


“There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book.”

“All art is quite useless.”

“‘Harry,’ said Basil Hallward, looking him straight in the face, ‘every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter.  The sitter is merely the accident, the occasion.  It is not he who is revealed by the painter; it is rather the painter who, on the coloured canvas, reveals himself.  The reason I will not exhibit this picture is that I am afraid that I have shown in it the secret of my own soul.'”

“‘I believe that if one man were to live out his life fully and completely, were to give form to every feeling , expression to every thought, reality to every dream- I believe that the world would gain such a fresh impulse of joy that we would forget all the maladies of mediaevalism, and return to the Hellenic ideal- to something finer, richer, than the Hellenic ideal, it may be.  But the bravest man amongst us is afraid of himself. The mutilation of the savage has its tragic survival in the self-denial that mars our lives.  We are punished for our refusals.  Every impulse that we strive to strangle broods in the mind, and poisons us.  the body sins once, and has done with its sin, for action is a mode of purification.  Nothing remains then but the recollection of a pleasure, or the luxury of a regret.  The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.  Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself, with desire for what its monstrous laws have made monstrous and unlawful.'”

“‘…You have a wonderfully beautiful face, Mr. Gray.  Don’t frown.  You have.  And Beauty is a form of Genius- is higher, indeed, than Genius, as it needs no explanation…To me, Beauty is the wonder of wonders.  It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances.  The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible…'”

“Yes, there would be a day when his face would be wrinkled and wizen, his eyes dim and colourless, the grace of his figure broken and deformed.  The scarlet would pass away from his lips, and the gold steal from his hair.  The life that was to make his soul would mar his body.  He would become dreadful, hideous, and uncouth.”

“‘How said it is!’ murmured Dorian Gray, with his eyes still fixed upon his own portrait.  ‘How sad it is! I shall grow old, and horrible, and dreadful.  But this picture will remain always young.  It will never be older than this particular day of June…. If it were only the other way!  If it were I who was to be always young, and the picture that was to grow old!  For that-for that- I would give everything!  Yes, there is nothing in the whole world I would not give!  I would give my soul for that!'”

“‘She behaves as if she was beautiful.  Most American women do.  It is the secret of their charm.'”

“‘Never marry at all, Dorian.  Men marry because they are tired; women, because they are curious: both are disappointed.'”

“‘When one is in love, one always begins by deceiving one’s self, and one always ends by deceiving others.  That is what the world calls a romance.'”

“‘A great poet, a really great poet, is the most unpoetical of all creatures.  But inferior poets are absolutely fascinating.  The worse their rhymes are, the more picturesque they look.  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.'”

“The expression looked different.  One would have said that there was a touch of cruelty in the mouth.  It was certainly strange… There were no signs of any change when he looked into the actual painting, and yet there was no doubt that the whole expression had altered.”

“But the picture?  What was he to say of that?  It held the secret of his life, and told his story.  It had taught him to love his own beauty.  Would it teach him to loathe his own soul?  Would he ever look at it again?”

“There is a luxury in self-reproach.  When we blame ourselves we feel that no one else has a right to blame us.  It is the confession, not the priest, that gives us absolution.”

“‘So I have murdered Sibyl Vane,’ said Dorian Gray, half to himself-‘murdered her as surely as if I had cut her little throat with a knife.  Yet the roses are not less lovely for all that.  The birds sing just as happily in my garden.  And tonight I am to dine with you, and then go on to the Opera, and sup somewhere, I suppose, afterwards.  How extraordinarily dramatic life is!'”

“‘The girl never really lived, and so she has never really died…She was less real than they are.'”

“Yes: there was to be, as Lord Henry had prophesied, a new Hedonism that was to recreate life, and to save it from that harsh, uncomely puritanism that is having, in our own day, its curious revival.  It was to have its service of the intellect, certainly; yet, it was never to accept any theory or system that would involve the sacrifice of any mode of passionate experience.  Its aim, indeed, was to be experience itself, and not the fruits of experience, sweet or bitter as they might be.  Of the asceticism that deadens the senses, as of the vulgar profligacy that dulls them, it was to know nothing.  But it was to teach man to concentrate himself upon the moments of a life that its itself but a moment.”

“…no theory of life seemed to him to be of any importance compared with life itself.”

“On his return he would sit in front of the picture, sometimes loathing it and himself, but filled, at other times with the pride of individualism that is half the fascination of sin, and smiling, with secret pleasure, at the misshapen shadow that had to bear the burden that should have been his own.”

“Society, civilized society at least, is never very ready to believe anything to the detriment of those who are both rich and fascinating.  It feels instinctively that manners are of more importance than morals…”

“For the canons of good society are, or should be, the same as the canons of art.  Form is absolutely essential to it.  It should have the dignity of a ceremony, as well as its unreality, and should combine the insincere character of a romantic play with the wit and beauty that make such plays delightful to us.  Is insincerity such a terrible thing?  I think not.  It is merely a method by which we can multiply our personalities.”

“To him, man was a being with myriad lives and myriad sensations, a complex multiform creature that bor within itself strange legacies of thought and passion, and whose very flesh was tainted with the monstrous maladies of the dead.”

“Dorian Gray had been poisoned by a book.”

“Sin is a thing that writes itself across a man’s face.  It cannot be concealed.  People talk sometimes of secret vices.  There are no such things.  If a wretched man has a vice, it shows itself in the lines of his mouth, the droop of his eyelids, the moulding of his hands even.”

“The dead man was still sitting there, too, and in the sunlight now.  How horrible that was!  Such hideous thins were for the darkness, not the day.”

“Time stopped for him.  Yes: that blind, slow-breathing thing crawled no more, and horrible thoughts, Time being dead, raced nimbly on in front, and dragged a hideous future from its grave, and showed it to him.  He stared at it.  Its very horror made him stone.”

“‘Don’t speak about those days, Dorian: they are dead.’
‘The dead linger sometimes.  The man upstairs will not go away.'”

“Ugliness that had once been hateful to him because it made things real, became clear to him now for that very reason.  Ugliness was the one reality.  The coarse brawl, the loathsome den, the crude violence of disordered life, the very vileness of thief and outcast, were more vivid, in their intense actuality of impression, than all the gracious shapes of Art, the dreamy shadows of Song.  They were what he needed for forgetfulness.”

“Each man lived his own life, and paid his own price for living it.  The only pity was one had to pay so often for a single fault.  One had to pay over and over again, indeed.  In her dealings with man Destiny never closed her accounts.”

“…we have lost the faculty of giving lovely names to things.  Names are everything.  I never quarrel with actions.  My one quarrel is with words.  That is the reason I hate vulgar realism in literature.”

“‘Life has been your art.  You have set yourself to music.  Your days are your sonnets.'”

“‘The books that the world calls immoral are the books that show the world its own shame.'”

“Ah! in what a monstrous moment of pride ad passion he had prayed that the portrait should bear the burden of his days, and he keep the unsullied splendour of eternal youth!  All his failure had been due to that.  Better for him that each sin of his life had brought its sure, swift penalty along with it.  There was purification in punishment.  Not ‘Forgive us our sins,’ but ‘Smite us for our iniquities,’ should be the prayer of man to a most just God.”

“It was his beauty that had ruined him, his beauty and the youth that he had prayed for.  But for those two things, his life might have been free from stain.  His beauty had been to him but a mask, his youth but a mockery.  What was youth at best?  A green, and unripe time, a time of shallow moods, and sickly thoughts.”

“When they entered, they found hanging upon the wall a plendid portrait of their master as they had last seen him, in all the wonder of his exquisite youth and beauty.  Lying on the floor was a dead man, in evening dress, with a knife in his heart.  He was withered, wrinkled, and loathsome of visage.  It was not till they examined the rings that they recognized who it was.”

The Critic as Artist (1890/1891)

Argues that criticism is a creation within a creation: criticism is just as respectable of an art as the object it is interpreting
Set up as a conversation between Gilbert and Ernest 


Gilbert: …When man acts he is a puppet. When he describes he is a poet.

Gilbert:…Those who live in marble or on painted panel know of life but a single exquisite instant, eternal indeed in its beauty, but limited to one note of passion or one mood of calm. Those whom the poet makes live have their myriad emotions of joy and terror, of courage and despair, of pleasure and of suffering.

The statue is concentrated to one moment of perfection. The image stained upon the canvas possesses no spiritual element of growth or change. If they know nothing of death, it is because they know little of life, for the secrets of life and death belong to those, and those only, whom the sequence of time affects, and who possess not merely the present but the future, and can rise or fall from a past of glory or of shame. Movement, that problem of the visible arts, can be truly realized by Literature alone. It is Literature that shows us the body in its swiftness and the soul in its unrest.

Gilbert: But, surely, Criticism is itself an art. And just as artistic creation implies the working of the critical faculty, and, indeed, without it cannot be said to exist at all, so Criticism is really creative in the highest sense of the word. Criticism is, in fact, both creative and independent.

Gilbert: …Dullness is always an irresistible temptation for brilliancy, and stupidity is the permanent Bestia Trionfans that calls wisdom from its cave. To an artist so creative as the critic, hat does subject matter signify? No more and no less than it does to the novelist and the painter. Like them, he can find his motives everywhere. Treatment is the test. There is nothing that has not in it suggestion or challenge.

Gilbert:…Indeed, I would call criticism a creation within a creation.

Nay, more, I would say that the highest Criticism, being the purest form of personal impression, is in its way more creative than creation, as it has least reference to any standard external to itself, and is, in fact, its own reason for existing, and as the Greeks would put it, in itself, and to itself, an end.

Gilbert: …For the highest Criticism deals with art not as expressive but as impressive purely.

Gilbert: …Who cares whether Mr. Rsukin’s views on Turner are sound or not? What does it matter? That mighty and majestic prose of his, so fervid and so fiery-colored in its noble eloquence, so rich in its elaborate symphonic music, so sure and certain, at its best, in subtle choice word and epithet, is at least as great a work of art as any of those wonderful sunsets that bleach or rot on their corrupted canvases in England’s Gallery; greater indeed, one is apt to think at times, not merely because its equal beauty is more enduring, but on account of the fuller variety of its appeal, soul speaking to soul in those long-candenced lines, not through form and colour alone, though through these, indeed, completely and without loss, but with intellectual and emotional utterance, with lofty passion and with loftier thought, with imaginative insight, and with poetic aim; greater, I always think, even as Literature is the greater art.

And so the picture becomes more wonderful to us than it really is, and reveals to us a secret of which, in truth, it knows nothing, and the music of the mystical prose is as sweet in our ears as was that flute-player’s music that lent to the lips of La Gioconda those subtle and poisonous curves. Do you ask me what Leonardo would have said had any one told him of this picture that ‘all the thoughts and experience of the world had etched and moulded therein that which they had of power to refine and make expressive the outward form, the animalism of Greece, the lust of Rome, the reverie of the Middle Age with its spiritual ambition and imaginative loves, the return of the Pagan world, the sins of the Borgias?’ He would probably have answered that he contemplated none of these things, but had concerned himself simply with certain arrangement of lines and masses, and with new and curious colour-harmonies of blue and green. And i is for this very reason that the criticism which I have quoted is criticism of the highest kind. It treats the work of art simply as a starting point for a new creation. It does not confine itself – let us at least suppose so for the moment – to discovering the real intention of the artist and accepting that as final. And in this it is right, for the meaning of any beautiful created thing is, at least, as much in the soul of him who looks at it, as it was in his soul who wrought it. Nay, it is rather the beholder who lends to the beautiful created thing its myraid meanings, and akes it marvelous for us, and sets it in some new relation to the age, so that it becomes a vital portion of our lives, and symbol of what we pray for, or perhaps of what, having prayed for, we fear that we may receive.

Beauty has as many meanings as man has moods. Beauty is the symbol of symbols. Beauty reveals everything, because it expresses nothing. When it shows us itself, it shows us the whole fiery-coloured world.

Gilbert: …For a painter is limited, not to what he sees in nature, but to what upon canvas may be seen.

For, when the ideal is realized, it is robbed of its wonder and its mystery, and becomes simply a new starting point for an ideal that is other than itself.

Gilbert: …But I see it is time for supper. After we have discussed some Chambertin and a few ortolans, we will pass on to the question of the critic considered in the light of the interpreter.
Ernest: Ah! you admit, then, that the critic may occasionally be allowed to see the object as in itself it really is.
Gilbert: I am not quite sure. Perhaps I may admit it after supper. There is a subtle influence in supper.