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This article is taken from PN Review 64, Volume 15 Number 2, November - December 1988.

Stream and Rock Idris Parry

Words are an experience like any other. It is wrong to think of them as mere equivalents. They have a life of their own. They are related to other phenomena, can even suggest these phenomena, but only as a dragonfly seen at a distance in uncertain light can look like a hawk. The bridge is imagination, a special way of looking at a shape which can be dead to one man and alive to another.

Somewhere in my mind phrases from the past revolve and extend, and disappear for a while, then turn up again, much grown, and nag me to take notice of them. One comes from Rilke's Duino Elegies: 'A strip of fruitland between stream and rock.'

There are writers who can describe their past in detailed order. They seem to remember everything about what they have done, where they have been, the people they have known, from childhood to the present day. They amaze me. I can't remember yesterday with the clarity they bring to forty years ago. My consciousness must be different from theirs. In me the past is a twilight zone without shape or sequence, and only the occasional flash of particular recollection - a face, part of a room, a gesture... and of course words.

There seems no conscious selection at the time. Are we ever free to choose? Some things are imposed, rather than invited. I do not think the question of choice comes into it. ...


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