THIS collection was not on the school course when I was a lad and had it been, I would have been drawn to the evanescent Emily Dickinson. It is simply a treasury ranging over a period of 700 years, from Chaucer to the present. Only one woman is included, Dickinson, or two if you include TS Eliot. In his foreword, Joseph O'Connor quotes from Dickinson's 'I Felt a Funeral in my Brain', "Every teenager on the cusp of adulthood knew what she meant," he writes. The funeral she refers to was not teenage angst or rebellion, but epilepsy; "I dropped down, and down." Yeats is here, as you would expect, the showy Dylan Thomas, and, to be kinder to Eliot, few others could contemplate Christianity and then delight readers with Macavity the cat. Kavanagh, Clarke and Kinsella are all here to be enjoyed.
FOLLOWING Pessoa's death in Lisbon in 1935, a trunk was discovered containing 25,000 of his letters, poems, journals, simple and not so simple thoughts, insights and aphorisms from which this book is a collection. They amount to a meandering mosaic of musings teeming with thoughts – "Art gives us the illusion of liberation from the sordid business of being." Note that 'the illusion'. And "Grammar is a tool not a law". Also here is the comedic aspect of our "short, troubled existence." He was fond of the bottle, and seems a man soured by life. "My life: a tragedy booed off the stage by the gods after only the first act." He was also an insomniac, a man acquainted with the daily tedium of living but capable of flashes of wit. He lived alone, as far as I can make out, and his moods were dark. His life, he writes, "...is a slow shipwreck of everything I ever wanted to be." Oh dear.
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