George Orwell

In the diamond at the heart of the moon

Sixty-nine notes before the US elections, part 1

Photo of a photo from a wall in Omar Perez’s apartment in Havana

Sam Truitt
In memory of David Graeber (1961–2020)

1.   two three four … / what are we fighting for?
2.   Is poetry’s role to keep open a human possibility until all may join? Isn’t that what the confounders sought?
3.   “Election” means something like the state or act of picking out or choosing.
4.   An election illuminates the space between us.
5.   “Election” shares the same cognate (Latin eligere) with “elite,” meaning “chosen people,” the adjectival use of which Byron introduced into English in a passage in Don Juan (Canto 13) recounting a party:

With other Countesses of Blank — but rank;
At once the lie and the elite of crowds;
Who pass like water filterd in a tank,
All purged and pious from their native clouds …

How to write: The student's moment

I just spent a week in erica kaufman’s workshop at the Institute for Writing and Thinking at Bard, which brings together secondary and college teachers for workshops and conferences focused on how to use writing as central to how we generate and refine our ideas about literature and language (and all subjects; we had biology and music teachers in our section). In one session, we worked with three essays about writing, George Orwell’s “Why I Write,” Jamaica Kincaid’s “In History,” and William Carlos Williams’s “How to Write.” Orwell’s portrait of the writer is essentially as political activist; Kincaid’s is of the courage to rewrite history; Williams’s is of a double mind commanding the double function of the text. Williams appears less political than Orwell or Kincaid, until the end of his essay, where he launches an attack on the teaching of standard English in American schools.

What might be the relationship between this well-known critique Williams held (“Why bother with English when we have a language of our own?”) and how Williams depicts the writing process in this piece? That is, what Williams calls the “deepest mind” and the “fore-brain” of the writer, the latter being the thing that in his words “attacks” a piece of writing once it is set down, editing, criticizing, and making possible what Williams calls “modern verse structures.”

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