Silence and Absence in Rumi

Rumi (1207-1273), astonishing for a poet, was preoccupied with silence. Now, on superficial examination poetry, writing, speaking is the antithesis of silence. But, for Rumi, silence like absence was the ever-present nothingness from which things, including speech and poetry, emerge. This insight, a miraculous insight, upends our usual understanding of how the world is, what…

The cellar of memory

Isaiah Berlin (1909-1997) described Anna Akhmatova (1889-1966) in 1945 as   immensely dignified, with unhurried gestures, a noble head, beautiful, somewhat severe features and an expression of immense sadness.   I never met her except in her poetry. When I first read her poems, I found that they were charged as like with intensely powerful…

I pass as all things do, dew on the grass

The title of this post is from Bazan's death poem. He died in 1730 at the age of 69 years. His death poem refers to “dew” an image of transience in Buddhist literature. In my childhood, too, dew would settle, overnight, on the blades of grass, on leaves and flowers like a miraculous secretion on…

The moon leaks out from sleeves of cloud

Luigi Pirandello (1867-1936) is best known for his plays, in particular, Six Characters in Search of An Author and Henry IV. However, he also wrote novels and short stories. In his final year, he attempted to write one short story a day and he came close to achieving this aim. These short stories are collected…

Reading Conrad in Borneo

All around them in a ring of luxuriant vegetation bathed in the warm air charged with strong and harsh perfumes, the intense work of tropical nature went on: plants shooting upward, entwined, interlaced in inextricable confusion, climbing madly and brutally over each other in the terrible silence of a desperate struggle towards the life-giving sunshine…

Twyfelfontein 20°33’53”S 14°22’11”E

  I haven’t told you about our trip to Damaraland. We started early, traveling along the coast road from Swakopmund with the ocean to our west. I imagined that if we simply continued going up north we would arrive in Lagos after 4000 miles. As it was, after stopping to look at a recent shipwreck…