Write About a Creative Period of Your Life


Still Life with Grape Juice and Sandwishes, by David Ligare


Associative Mind: Ansen is the most delicate hippopotamus of poets with his monstrous classical versifications – he gets conversational fatness “into stricter order” by use of weird echosyllabics, polyphony, strict rhymeless pindarics, versicles and alcaics coherent palindromes and such like maser eccentricities – and hangup on forms which interestingly pushes academic models beyond polite limits into the area of lunatic personal genius – This is an amazing book, with many sad poems.

Deliberate Prose, Allen Ginsberg pg. 424



Paris from Camus's Notebooks
by Alice Kaplan

The myth is tenacious: an unknown writer on the verge of international fame, not suspecting that the scattered pages on his or her desk will become that miracle, a first published novel and a passport to glory. From March to May 1940, Albert Camus was that man, finishing a draft of the book he was calling The Stranger. The city, eerily calm, overtaken with a sense of dread, was weeks from the German invasion. Paris has changed enormously since 1940, but you can still walk in Camus’s footsteps through places that a few literary specialists have put on the map and come close to a moment of artistic creation.

Camus finished a first draft of his novel alone in a hotel room in Montmartre. The former Hôtel du Poirier on the rue Ravignan sits atop one of Paris’s “buttes” or hills, whose cleaner air might have benefitted the young writer, who struggled with chronic tuberculosis. The site is still about as picturesque a place as Paris has to offer: up a terraced set of steps, on one side of a cobblestone square with its own fountain, the little hotel stood directly across from the Bateau-Lavoir, a beehive of artist studios, spread out like a ship. On this vessel of high modernism, Picasso painted Les Demoiselles d’Avignon in 1907. The glory days of the Bateau-Lavoir ended after World War I, but in March 1940, when Camus lived in its shadow, the place still exuded its bohemian aura. Crowned by the mammoth Sacré-Cœur cathedral, Montmartre was an acquired taste, with its own diehard citizens—pimps and scoundrels, anarchists and poets. Far from the business districts, Montmartre was still, in 1940, practically a separate village, a neighborhood where an artist or writer could get by on almost nothing. 

Camus was unhappy in Montmartre, but it was a productive unhappiness. For the exhausted young man far from home, the long metro ride from his job at the daily paper Paris-Soir on the rue du Louvre in the center of Paris to the Abbesses stop in the north, the cramped elevator rising from the bowels of the metro line to the surface, the walk up the windy hill in slippery March weather, only brought home how alienated he felt. In his first notebook entries he circles around a title for his novel:

What does this sudden awakening mean, in this dark room, with the sounds of a city that has suddenly become strange? And everything is strange to me, everything, without a single person who belongs to me, with no place to heal this wound. What am I doing here, what is the point of these smiles and gestures? I am not from here—not from anywhere else either. And the world has become merely an unknown landscape where my heart can lean on nothing.

Then Camus adds a crucial sentence: “A Stranger, who can know what this word means.” Read more...


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I found no grail. But I did discover the modern tradition. Because modernity is not a poetic school but a lineage, a family dispersed over several continents and which for two centuries has survived many sudden changes and misfortunes: public indifference, isolation, and tribunals in the name of religious, political, academic and sexual orthodoxy. Being a tradition and not a doctrine, it has been able to persist and to change at the same time. This is also why it is so diverse. Each poetic adventure is distinct, and each poet has sown a different plant in the miraculous forest of speaking trees. Yet if the poems are different and each path distinct, what is it that unites these poets? Not an aesthetic but a search.

– Octavio Paz