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This item is taken from PN Review 190, Volume 36 Number 2, November - December 2009.

Letters from Anthony Curtis, Mark Dow, Brian Lee


Iain Bamforth writes (‘Catchwords 2’) ‘Illustrations… have rarely been employed in conventional philosophy or even the humanities…’ This is to ignore the use of emblems by political philosophers. The 400 plus pages of Hobbes’s Leviathan are an explication of its emblematic frontispiece, a crowned monarch, embodying his subjects, with a sword in one hand and a crosier in the other, observed waist-high aloft his kingdom above lower panels depicting its various powers. The use of emblems by political philosophers was dealt with thoroughly by Quentin Skinner in Hobbes and Republican Liberty (Cambridge University Press, 2008) where emblems illustrating attempts throughout the seventeenth century to define the concept of liberty and its impediments are reproduced.


Tip of the Tongue


In ‘Why is Verse Poetry?’ (PNR 189), Nigel Fabb notes that when we’re choosing our words, ‘sometimes we have the meaning but not the sound-structure, the so called “tip-of-the-tongue” experience.’

But in the ‘tip-of-the-tongue’ experience, a person often does retrieve the missing word’s stress pattern (and thus the number of syllables), in addition to the meaning, even while the word itself goes un-retrieved.

If I’m not mistaken, this is precisely what tells us here outside the lab, anyway that the sound-patterns are, as Fabb reports, stored separately.

Brooklyn, New York

Keeping Faith


Easy to share - too easy - your nostalgia (PNR 189), if that is what it is - your feelings about nostalgia; and Mr Chowder’s, apparently, and Mr Baker’s, the lost ‘quick’ of Olson, the lost ‘voltage’ of Creeley, and your finally hyphenated gesture towards ‘something’ else…

With Nostalgia, Sentimentality (and Sincerity) used to be another capitalised ‘keyword’; and possible to feel nostalgic for them, too for Donald Davie, for Trilling, for Henry Gifford, for C.H. Sisson, who used to keep them as touchstones. But the two words aren’t the same, and used to be checked by ‘reality’ - the one Yeats said he wrote for, not the one often referred to in the phrase ‘the real world out there’, or ‘reality teevee’.

These suggestions may not be the ‘something else’ you are looking for - we all are (it’s the hardest thing in the world to find), in your own very likeable ‘I will go on talking forever’ way. Where is it going to come from - the buried question must be what lies behind your cry - in our present reality? Will poems - do they? - come out of it, the state of the linguistic (a real language of men? Not ‘really’) a quantitive linguistic, produced to demand, we all use everyday, as never before. (But there is always ‘another thing’ as Rilke said.) Creeley fought with it, Carlos Williams, Hughes, oh don’t go on, a history of opposition. That is where it will come from, alas, if we know what we are doing.

No good being sentimental about what that would take. Perhaps the language of Gerontion? Or is that nostalgia?

Not to feel so for poetry (and criticism) itself. That might mean it was dead, and you’ve been keeping it alive.


The year of May Swenson’s birth is 1913, not 1919 as we erroneously reported in PNR 189.

This item is taken from PN Review 190, Volume 36 Number 2, November - December 2009.

Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this item to
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