“This is one moment, / But know that another / Shall pierce you with a sudden painful joy.”*

*T.S. Eliot, Murder in the Cathedral (1935).

From: Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? (2011), by Jeanette Winterson:

“…I had no one to help me, but the T.S. Eliot helped me.

So when people say that poetry is a luxury, or an option, or for the educated middle classes, or that it shouldn’t be read at school because it is irrelevant, or any of the strange and stupid things that are said about poetry and its place in our lives, I suspect that the people doing the saying have had things pretty easy. A tough life needs a tough language – and that is what poetry is. That is what literature offers – a language powerful enough to say how it is.

It isn’t a hiding place. It is a finding place…

…When she had done, she picked up the little paraffin stove we used to heat the bathroom, went into the yard, poured paraffin over the books and set them on fire.

I watched them blaze and blaze and remember thinking how warm it was, how light, on the freezing Saturnian January night. And books have always been light and warmth to me.

I had bound them all in plastic because they were precious. Now they were gone.

In the morning there were stray bits of texts all over the yard and in the alley. Burnt jigsaws of books. I collected some of the scraps.

It is probably why I write as I do – collecting the scraps, uncertain of continuous narrative. What does Eliot say? These fragments have I shored against my ruin…

…There was pain. There was joy. There was the painful joy Eliot had written about…”

From: Heinrich Heine’s Almansor: A Tragedy (1823), as translated in True Religion (2003) by Graham Ward:

“Where they burn books, at the end they also burn people”

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