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‘The Poems You Write Up at Night’: Compulsive Versifying

A few excerpts from that article ‘Compulsive Versifying after Treatment of Transient Epileptic Amnesia’ in Neurocase that everybody’s talking about:


 

Abstract

Compulsive production of verse is an unusual form of hypergraphia that has been reported mainly in patients with right temporal lobe seizures. We present a patient with transient epileptic amnesia and a left temporal seizure focus, who developed isolated compulsive versifying, producing multiple rhyming poems, following seizure cessation induced by lamotrigine. Functional neuroimaging studies in the healthy brain implicate left frontotemporal areas in generating novel verbal output and rhyme, while dysregulation of neocortical and limbic regions occurs in temporal lobe epilepsy. […]

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The Muse v. The Reading Public
    Richard Wilbur v. Philip Larkin
    (or: A Study in Writing Habits)

Kompare & kontrast:

‘Advice from the Muse’
Richard Wilbur
for T. W. W.

How credible, the room which you evoke:
At the far end, a lamplit writing-desk.
Nearer, the late sun swamps an arabesque
Carpet askew upon a floor of oak,
And makes a cherry table-surface glow,
Upon which lies an open magazine.
Beyond are shelves and pictures, as we know,
Which cannot in the present light be seen.

Bid now a woman enter in a mood
That we, because she brings a bowl of roses
Which, touch by delicate touch, she redisposes,
May think to catch with some exactitude.
And let her, in complacent silence, hear
A squirrel chittering like an unoiled joint
To tell us that a grove of beech lies near.
Have all be plain, but only to a point.

Not that the bearded man who in a rage
Arises ranting from a shadowy chair,
And of whose presence she was unaware,
Should not be fathomed by the final page,
And all his tale, and hers, be measured out
With facts enough, good ground for inference,
No gross unlikelihood of major doubt,
And, at the end, an end to all suspense.

Still, something should escape us, something like
A question one had meant to ask the dead,
The day’s heat come and gone in infra-red,
The deep-down jolting nibble of a pike,
Remembered strangers who in picnic dress
Traverse a field and under mottling trees
Enter a midnight of forgetfulness
Rich as our ignorance of the Celebes.

Of motives for some act, propose a few,
Confessing that you can’t yourself decide;
Or interpose a witness to provide,
Despite his inclination to be true,
Some fadings of the signal, as it were,
A breath which, drawing closer, may obscure
Mirror or window with a token blur—
That slight uncertainty which makes us sure.

Wilbur, Richard. Collected Poems, 1943-2004: 104-105. New York: Harcourt, Inc., 2004.

‘Fiction and the Reading Public’
Philip Larkin

Give me a thrill, says the reader,
Give me a kick;
I don’t care how you succeed, or
What subject you pick.
Choose something you know all about
That’ll sound like real life:
Your childhood, Dad pegging out,
How you sleep with your wife.

But that’s not sufficient, unless
You make me feel good —
Whatever you’re ‘trying to express’
Let it be understood
That ‘somehow’ God plaits up the threads,
Makes ‘all for the best’,
That we may lie quiet in our beds
And not be ‘depressed’.

For I call the tune in this racket:
I pay your screw,
Write reviews and the bull on the jacket —
So stop looking blue
And start serving up your sensations
Before it’s too late;
Just please me for two generations —
You’ll be ‘truly great’.

Larkin, Philip. Collected Poems: 170. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003.

The tragedy of teenage girls.

For all their poise

They wait on boys.