Poetry tells the truth

Seamus Heaney, the great Irish poet, whose marvelous collection of essays, “The Redress of Poetry,” I like to re-read, writes that W.H.

Life is more than necessity

Every now and then, I travel up the Essequibo River to spend weekends in a small house set on the bank in a clearing of white sand cut from the jungle. 

Unfinished Business

This business of being old is bothering me. Yes, there are aches and fragilities and coughs and creaks and increasing physical ineptitude of all kinds.

Supreme achievement

I am not a horse-racing fan nor a lover of horses, however thoroughly bred into strength and beauty they may be, but a friend of mine and connoisseur of many of life’s artistic achievements, including that of great horse-racing, sent me a piece of marvellous writing which figures right up at the top of my list of the best sports articles I have ever read.

Real fitness takes real sacrifice

In my sports career I always had difficulty training hard. When I got to a certain point quite far up the tennis ladder, I realised that trying to step up the last few rungs was going to take a terrible toll in unending hours of soul-destroying practice and relentless physical conditioning.

To live is to read

Having long outlived the Biblical span of three score years and ten, I realise more and more clearly that this overtime gifted by the Gods must be very carefully husbanded.

Life’s rich feast

Education is important not simply for the implantation of specific information about specific subjects but, perhaps more importantly, for the passing on of a whole “culture” of learning, attitudes, and behaviour – a variety of distinct “languages” of understanding, including self-understanding.

Unforgettable

The memory of man is astonishing and mysterious. How can one account for the fact that my old Aunt Anna, at the age of 92, could not recall what she had been told an hour before yet could delight one with a most joyfully and meticulously remembered account of a dance she had attended 76 years before, when she was 16, describing exactly the dress she wore that whirled around her ankles as she waltzed and the sip of wine she had from a glass embossed with cupids and the naval officer she danced with whose beard curled precisely so?

Set down what deeply matters in your life

Many of us, at some time or another, have resolved to “keep a diary,” probably as part of some grand and comprehensive plan to organize one’s life better and achieve great things – plans, I am afraid, which soon run aground on the dangerous shoals of everyday living. 

I simply cannot keep up to date

What follows, is simply a human cry of despair from one poor innumerate wretch who finds himself lost in the new terminologies, the scientific progress and the whole terrible onslaught of up-to-date technical jargon.

No one is great for very long

Politicians love to praise themselves or arrange for others to praise them. About 3,500 years ago, the greatest of all Egyptian Pharaohs, Rameses II, obviously a politician to his fingertips, set up a huge statue to himself at Thebes.

No “side” should have all power

When one thinks about it, the concept of “Government” is a strange one for it assumes as its fundamental premise that certain men and women – human beings like you and me – can and should be allowed to take upon themselves the right to direct the rest of us what to do, presumably for our own good.

What comes after youth

I will very soon be 86. A young man once wrote – or rather sent an email – to me asking about the magazine Kyk-Over-Al, which I used to edit once upon a time.

What is really important in life?

The golden shower orchids in my wife’s garden are particularly lovely. In the evening with the late sun gleaming, they cascade in beauty on the old tree boughs.

Is there ever nothing to live for?

Giacomo Leopardi, who was to become one of the greatest poets of his or any time, was born in 1798 on his parents’ estate near the small Italian town of Recanati in the dusty hills above the Adriatic Sea.

Making sense of oneself

As I get older, I find I try to capture in memory more fully than ever the passing marvellousness of an ordinary day by writing down what happens in a journal.

Uncluttering one’s life

About to arrive at the age of 86, so suddenly after being born, I recognize very clearly that I am slowing to a jog, approaching a hobble.

A blessing for my mother

Perhaps my oldest memory—I must have been two or three—is of my mother hugging me at night when she put me into bed and holding the palms of my hands together while she said a simple prayer, which I soon learned by heart.                                

The value of time

My father was a gentle, calm, and wise man. “He never raised his voice except to give encouragement nor raised his hand except to greet a friend.” But in his gentleness he was also strong in his convictions.

We are not rational

We often wonder why those around us – very much including those in supreme authority – are making such a mess of things.

The birth that re-started history

So many Christmas poems from which to choose. E.U. Fanthrope’s lines:   “And this was the moment When a few farm workers and three Members of an obscure Persian sect   Walked haphazard by starlight straight Into the kingdom of heaven.”   And always, but I won’t quote it again, the greatest Christmas poem of them all, T.S.

Even in the worst of times

Even in the worst of times – and who can doubt that the times are pretty bad– reading comes to the rescue by revealing other worlds of experience where cruelty and mindlessness and man’s inhumanity to man do not continually have the upper hand.

In Canada

My wife and I have just returned from one of the great cities of the world. 

Ageing well

I apologise if this appears to take the form of a health and fitness page in this newspaper.

Read to Succeed

I remember “Read to Succeed” was once the theme of the activities and exhibitions organised to celebrate the work of library services for the children of Guyana.

The habit of finding things to do

My younger friends – and at my advanced age virtually everyone is younger – particularly Generation Xers (born 1965-79) and the millennials (born 1980-2000) – complain about being over-scheduled and over-committed.

The responsibility to use words accurately

A very great asset is the ability to write well. Just as the gift of speech first separated man from animal, so has the ability to set speech down in written form gradually raised man up from his first beginnings as brute to the high level of science, art, and social organisation which he now precariously occupies.

The Robin Hood principle abandoned

It would cost US$700 million a year to immunise 250 million children in poor countries against polio, measles, whooping cough, diphtheria, tetanus and tuberculosis. 

The mark of a free society

In the old Soviet Russia one of the more outrageous features of life was that their greatest creative writers for years were barred from publishing in their own native land.

Silver linings

Samuel Johnson, that great man of letters and heavyweight of good sense in eighteenth century England, commonly said the people whom we should most beware in the world are those who constantly insist on finding fault, those whose clouds are never lit by silver linings, those who everlastingly “refuse to be pleased.” I am often reminded of Sam Johnson’s suspicion of such people and their moanings and gnashing of teeth when I read the newspapers or look at the news and commentaries and interviews and panel discussions on our TV channels.

Guidelines

At the ripe old age of eighty-five, when one is very aware that it is time to make sense of what has happened in one’s life, I have become convinced about two major things.