January 24th, 2012
Dear friend,
I have not written to you for a long time, and meanwhile have been in France and have seen the cold and lonely earth …

Hölderlin, in a letter to Casimir Ulrich Böhlendorff, translated by Michael Hamburger, in Hölderlin: Selected Poems and Fragments

Me too, Friedrich, me too.

September 30th, 2011
Je déteste la poésie parlée, la poésie en phrases. […] Les exhalaisons d’âme, le lyrisme, les descriptions, je veux de tout cela en style. Ailleurs c’est une prostitution, de l’art, et du sentiment même. […]
Sont de même farine tous ceux qui vous parlent de leurs amours envolés, de la tombe de leur mère, de leur père, de leurs souvenirs bénis, qui baisent des médaillions, pleurent à la lune, délirent de tendresse en voyant des enfants, se pâment au théâtre, prennent un air pensif devant l’Océan. Farceurs ! farceurs ! et triples saltimbanques ! qui font le saut du tremplin sur leur propre cœur pour atteindre à quelque chose.
J’ai eu aussi, moi, mon époque nerveuse, mon époque sentimentale, et j’en porte encore, comme un galérien, la marque au cou. Avec ma main brûlée j’ai le droit maintenant d’écrire des phrases sur la nature du feu.

Flaubert, in a letter to Louise Colet, 6th July 1852.

This is the source of the quote in Anne Carson’s ‘TV Men: Sappho’ (via Ingeborg Bachmann, who altered it somewhat in Malina). I haven’t the time or ability to translate it well enough, but the last lines, the relevant ones, I translate thusly:* 

[After railing against a certain kind of overwrought poetry, Flaubert writes] 

I, too, have had my hysterical moments, my sentimental moments, and I carry them still like a galley slave branded on the neck. With my burnt hand I have the right now to write sentences about the nature of fire.

It reads differently, I think, from how Bachmann and Carson used it. That’s all, my literary detective work is done. Back (oh Lordy) to the marking!

*Feel free to correct me, oh Francophones! But not about the use of ‘thusly’: that, I’m afraid, is perfect.

(Source: rousseaustudies.free.fr)

August 15th, 2011
Sophie Calle, dumped by email, made the said email - which ended with those strangely cold words, ‘Take Care of Yourself’ - into a work of art. It was eventually exhibited at the French Pavilion of the Venice Biennale in 2007. According to The Guardian:

she distributed the missive to 107 women professionals, photographed them reading it and invited them to analyse it, according to their job. The ex’s grammar and syntax have been torn apart by a copy editor, his manners rubbished by an etiquette consultant and his lines pored over by Talmudic scholars. He has been re-ordered by a crossword-setter, evaluated by a judge, shot up by a markswoman, second-guessed by a chess player and performed by actress Jeanne Moreau. A forensic psychiatrist decided he was a “twisted manipulator”. The temple to a woman scorned is entitled “Take care of yourself” (Prenez soin de vois), immortalising lines that Calle, if she hadn’t had recourse to the international art world, might have read again and again in tears.

I understand this kind of gesture. I did something similar with a letter from an ex - pulled it apart, teased out words, until what remained was a poem that was far more true than the blathering in the letter itself. Writers, artists (bloggers?) - there’s a chance we’ll always get at least a quiet revenge.

Sophie Calle, dumped by email, made the said email - which ended with those strangely cold words, ‘Take Care of Yourself’ - into a work of art. It was eventually exhibited at the French Pavilion of the Venice Biennale in 2007. According to The Guardian:

she distributed the missive to 107 women professionals, photographed them reading it and invited them to analyse it, according to their job. The ex’s grammar and syntax have been torn apart by a copy editor, his manners rubbished by an etiquette consultant and his lines pored over by Talmudic scholars. He has been re-ordered by a crossword-setter, evaluated by a judge, shot up by a markswoman, second-guessed by a chess player and performed by actress Jeanne Moreau. A forensic psychiatrist decided he was a “twisted manipulator”. The temple to a woman scorned is entitled “Take care of yourself” (Prenez soin de vois), immortalising lines that Calle, if she hadn’t had recourse to the international art world, might have read again and again in tears.

I understand this kind of gesture. I did something similar with a letter from an ex - pulled it apart, teased out words, until what remained was a poem that was far more true than the blathering in the letter itself. Writers, artists (bloggers?) - there’s a chance we’ll always get at least a quiet revenge.

May 28th, 2011
Anyway this is just a note to tell you I’m in a new shell or an old one, like a hermit crab and the ink is now out of two of my pens and this is the last one. I have no more ink in the house tonight. I’ll keep you posted.
John Steinbeck, in a letter to Pascal Covici, September 1948.

(Source: thisrecording.com)

May 12th, 2011
Do you know, a horrible thing has happened to me. I have begun to doubt Tennyson.
Gerard Manley Hopkins, in a letter to Alexander William Mowbray Baillie, 1864.

(Source: poetryfoundation.org)

May 9th, 2011
If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire ever can warm me, I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. These are the only ways I know it. Is there any other way.
Emily Dickinson sets the bar high, in a letter to Thomas Higginson. See Thomas H. Johnson (Ed.), The Letters of Emily Dickinson, for more.