Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

A frightening duty owed

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Here there are not enough books, one says, no theaters, no museums, simply not enough to do. Yet, deprived of books, a man must fall back on thought, and out of thought, if he can learn to order it, will come the urge to record, and in extremity, if he has no means of recording, recitation, the ordering of memory which leads to meter, to commemoration. There can be virtues in deprivation, and certainly one virtue is salvation from a cascade of high mediocrity, since books are now not so much created as remade…

A boy with weak eyes skims a flat stone across the flat water of an Aegean inlet, and that ordinary action with the scything elbow contains the skipping lines of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and another child aims a bamboo arrow at a village festival, another hears the rustling march of cabbage palms in a Caribbean sunrise, and from that sound, with its fragments of tribal myth, the compact expedition of Perse’s epic is launched, centuries and archipelagoes apart. For every poet it is always morning in the world…This is the benediction that is celebrated, a fresh language and a fresh people, and this is the frightening duty owed.

Derek Walcott, in his Nobel lecture

Written by nevalalee

March 19, 2017 at 7:30 am

Posted in Quote of the Day, Writing

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