Eternity of the Instant

He ordered a cup of coffee, slowly spooned sugar into it, tasted it (a pleasure that had been forbidden him in the clinic), and thought, while he stroked the cat's black fur, that this contact was illusory, that he and the cat were separated as though by a pane of glass, because man lives in time, in successiveness, while the magical animal lives in the present, in the eternity of the instant. 

- Borges, "The South" from Collection Fictions

The Moments That Possess Me

These are the moments that possess the writer, not the lover, and which live on perpetually. Once can return to them time and time again in memory, or use them as a fund upon which to build the part of one's life which is writing. 

- Lawrence Durrell, Justine

The Solace of Art

I spoke of the uselessness of art but added nothing truthful about its consolations. The solace of such work as I do with brain and heart lies in this - that only there, in the silences of the painter or the writer can reality by reordered, reworked and made to show its significant side. Our common actions in reality are simply the sackcloth covering which hides the cloth-of-gold - the meaning of the pattern. For us artists there waits the joyous compromise through art with all that wounded or defeated us in daily life; in this way, not to evade destiny, as the ordinary people try to do, but to fulfil it in its true potential - the imagination. 

- Justine, Lawrence Durrell 

Durrell Threads the Needle

  • Not to be known always wounds. 
  • We went from room to room, fracturing the silences.
  • His heart withered in him and he has been left with the five senses, like pieces of a broken wineglass. 
  • Not to care about gain, that is what Alexandria recognises as madness. 
  • ... rocked upon the oceanic splendors of a language she would never know. 
  • I want to return to my farmhouse in Normandy heart-whole. 
  • At last she goes softly, reluctantly, circumspectly int the lighted world with a little sigh. 
  • ... etiolated flowers of afternoons spent in anguish, tossing upon ugly beds, bandaged by dreams. 
  • ... the open petal of the mouth that fell on mine like an unslaked summer. 

- fragments from Justine, Lawrence Durrell

The Inextricable

... for those who feel deeply and who are at all conscious of the inextricable tangle of human thought there is only one response to be made - ironic tenderness and silence. 

- Justine, Lawrence Durrell 

Love Close at Hand

Absence sharpens love and nearness strengthens it - with books as with the rest of us. And I’ve got a number of books close at hand …

- Gina Berriault, The Tea Ceremony


An officer in from North Africa is astonished that my "buggers of masquisards" as he calls them express themselves in a tongue whose sense escapes him, his ear being unalienable to “speaking in images.” I point out to him that argot is only picturesque whereas the tongue in usage here is due to the wonderment communicated by creatures and things in the intimacy with which we continually live. 

- Rene Char, Leaves of Hypos

Anne Carson on Candor

If you are not the free person you want to be, you must find a place to tell the truth about that. To tell how things go for you. Candor is like a skein being produced inside the belly day after day, it has to get itself woven out somewhere ... the point is not to find a reader, the point is the telling itself. 

- Anne Carson, Float

Francis Bacon: The Pulsations of a Person

When I look at you across the table I don't only see you, I see a whole emanation which has to do with personality and everything else ... the living quality ... all the pulsations of a person ... the energy within the appearance ... And to put that over in a painting mans that would appear violent in paint. We nearly always live through screens - a screened existence. And I sometimes think when people say my work is violent that from time to time I have been able to clear away one or two of the screens. 

- Francis Bacon, Painter, as quoted in Float by Anne Carson

Specialize in Your 1%

From now on specialize; never again make any concession to the ninety-nine parts of you which are like everybody else at the expense of the one which is unique.

- The Unquiet Grave, Cyril Connolly

C. D. Wright's Simple Music

… I made
simple music
out of sticks and string. On side B of me,
experimental guitar, night repairs and suppers
such as this. 

- from Our Dust, C. D. Wright


I put one foot in front of the other as if it were my last. This is my task, my chosen lot. 

- C. D. Wright, “And the Last Shall Be First”

Only the Philosopher Knows How to Live

He knew how to hide rather than how to live ... Let a man retire and the common crowd will think of hum as leading a life apart, free of all cares, self-contented, living for himself, when in fact not one of these blessings can be won by anyone other than the philosopher. He alone knows how to live for himself: he is the one, in fact, who knows the fundamental thing, how to live. 

- Seneca, Letters from a Stoic, Letter LV

Composed of Scents, Silence

What makes me paint with incredible passion is an emotional totality composed of scents, silence; it's the impression, when I paint outside, of making love with nature. 

- from an interview with photographer and painter Jacques Henri Lartigue, age 91

Thousands, yet, Just One More

I have thousands of pictures of the snow from since I was little. I woke up at six thirty (this morning), I shivered in the cold, but I took my photos, I was happy. I have this thing inside me that never lets me be. People ask me if I'm bored. Can you imagine ... 

- from an interview with photographer and painter Jacques Henri Lartigue, age 91

Home: Inexhaustible

Beginning with Sartoris I discovered that my own little postage stamp of native soil was worth writing about and that I would never live long enough to exhaust it ...

- William Faulkner, Paris Review Interview

Trust and the Creative Process

Ms. Tippett: You talk about the “part of the psyche that works in concert with consciousness and supplies a necessary part of the poem—a heart of the star as opposed to the shape of the star, let us say—exists in a mysterious, unmapped zone: not unconscious, not subconscious, but cautious. . .you're saying that the writer has to be kind of in courtship with this...
Ms. Oliver: Yes.
Ms. Tippett: ...elusive, essential, but elusive, cautious, as you say, cautious part. And that if you turn up every day, it will learn to trust you.
Ms. Oliver: Yes, yes, yes, yes. I remember that.
Ms. Tippett: This is a very practical way about talking about something that's quite...
Ms. Oliver: That trust is very important ...
Ms. Tippett: And that's the creative process.
Ms. Oliver: That is the creative process. 

- from On Being, "Listening to the World," an interview with Mary Oliver