Seamus Heaney, great Irish poet and Nobel Laureate, died last month aged 74.
It is an honour to have received in the awards for 2012 a Guyana Prize for Literature for my latest book of poetry, The Comfort of All Things, published by the Moray House Trust.
My tutor at Cambridge, Professor Nick Hammond, authority on the history of ancient Macedonia and on the life of Alexander the Great, used to coach me on what he called “exercises of the mind.” He knew I played tennis for the university and he put it to me that just as I trained hard for the tennis so should I stretch to exhaustion the muscles of the mind.
One might have thought that as time passes the heart might harden as arteries harden and the sense of loss grow less acute as the five familiar senses most certainly tend to do.
In the intense, ongoing debate about the Amaila Falls Hydro Electric Project I confess to finding myself mystified.
Famous poems have been written on the deaths of those who have meant more than life itself to the poet.
Life at 80 is as full of adventure and interest as it ever was but the adventures and interests are now mostly sedentary.
Last week Colin Campbell, an old Etonian and quintessentially English, died at his home in Blackhorse Lane, South Mimms, in Hertfordshire at the age of 86.
I do not get the impression that governance in the world is good or that it is getting better.
Sport is an inexhaustible source of good conversation and friendly disputation. The other day I was conversing with a group of friends who, like myself, find nothing more companionable and enjoyable than holding forth on the latest events and controversies in the world of sport.
A J Seymour is Guyana’s greatest man of letters. Martin Carter is the nation’s most renowned poet; Edgar Mittelholzer, Wilson Harris and Roy Heath are our outstanding novelists; and Denis Williams combined in one man a Renaissance range of talents as artist, novelist and anthropologist.
One way or the other, if any nation is to do well, beneath and beyond the rhetoric and the fruitless slogans, the real work has to be done by ordinary people who do not indulge in the rhetoric and who do not shout the slogans.
Secretly, like an earthquake underground hardly noticed, a revolution is going on which will eventually change completely the way the world is organized.
When I was young I sometimes used to sit in the evening with an old aunt while she told her rosary beads.
“Records are there to be broken,” Sobers observed when asked how he felt when Lara eclipsed his world record Test score of 365.
There is an exact relationship between how language is used and how power is exercised.
What an astonishing thing a book is. It’s a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles.
The diaries of William Gladstone, one of the greatest British prime ministers, are astonishing.
I love poetry. It is the quiet passion of my life. When I was a child my mother read me old nursery rhymes at bedtime and they had the lilt of poetry in them which stayed with me forever.
In any given situation we assume that people, including ourselves, will act sensibly.
Arriving at the age of 80, so suddenly after being born, I recognize very clearly that I am slowing to a jog if not quite yet a hobble.
As golden afternoon transmutes into silver evening and then into velvet darkness fretted by stars I sit to read and think and dream.
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 moaning and gnashing of teeth when I read the newspapers
Sveinsson Knut, Canute the Great, King of England from 1016, King of Denmark from 1018 and King of Norway from 1030 until he died in 1035, was perhaps the most successful and effective of the early rulers of England.
The younger generation never experienced, and older people tend to forget, how very limited and how very stifled the media was in the last period of President Burnham’s rule.
Last weekend my wife and I went up the great Essequibo to stay at the beautiful river-home of my brother-in-law and his wife.
Consider yourself fortunate if you are right 51% of the time. Listen to the old Galician Jew, settled at last in his old age in a little house in an Israeli kibbutz after a hard lifetime including a brush with the unimaginable horror of Auschwitz.
Right now the temperature of partisan dispute, and tempers on all sides, are rising sharply.
At eighty years of age one must expect to factor attendance at funerals into one’s monthly (weekly?) schedule.
It isn’t an exercise that makes much sense to try and rank poets in a sort of hierarchy of greatness.
I was distressed in conversation with a friend whom I admire for his level head, his learning, his insight, and his wit to hear him speak of his sense of being cramped for intellectual space, of his boredom with what seems to him the narrow opportunities in the country, of his disgust at the eternal back-biting and bitter and belittling rivalries which crowd out any hope of civil discourse.
Many people go to the ends of the earth to find beauty. And certainly beauty can be found at the ends of the earth.
I have been reading a book of great beauty given to me as a Christmas gift by my wife: A River Runs Through It, by Norman Fitzroy Maclean.
For God’s sake, what is going on? A young Pakistani girl is shot in the head for trying to educate herself and others like her.
We live in a world which seems to take little interest in joy.
I remember a very long time ago, in the era of Prime Minister, not even then President LFS Burnham, when I was a Director in the sugar industry, I had occasion to enquire from an official at the then State Planning Commission about a request made months before for approval for the introduction of a new incentive scheme in the industry.
Out of infinite pain the mind of man can fashion beauty. John Clare, the English nature poet, born in 1793 who died in a madhouse in 1864, was the most poverty-stricken of any major poet who ever lived.
Winston Churchill, exasperated by opposition politicians constantly questioning his policies and his own credentials and frustrated by having to consult and compromise on measures which in his judgement were straightforward and ripe for introduction without hesitation, once exploded: “Democracy is the worst kind of government!” Then he paused, thought a little bit, considered the alternatives and ruefully concluded – “Except all the others.” Democracy ensures, or should ensure, that the differing views, varied cultural persuasions and diverging concepts of how the people’s affairs should be managed are allowed expression and none ever squeezed into resentful, and eventually festering,
One of the strangest paradoxes in the history of the human race is that while men have commonly dominated simply by virtue of their greater strength and aggression, women time and time again have been the cause of their downfall and defeat.
Seamus Heaney, the great Irish poet, whose marvellous collection of essays The Redress of Poetry I like to re-read, writes that WH Auden’s elegy for Yeats was “a rallying cry that celebrates poetry for being on the side of life, and continuity of effort, and enlargement of the spirit.” Heaney believes that one function of poetry is to act as a counterweight to hostile and oppressive forces in the world; he calls this “the imagination pressing back against the pressure of reality.” This is what he calls “redress,” whereby “the poetic imagination seems to redress whatever is wrong or exacerbating in the prevailing conditions,” offering “a response to reality which has a liberating and verifying effort upon the individual spirit… tilting the scales of reality towards some transcendent equilibrium… This redressing effect of poetry comes
One man is running a company with the help of three old family retainers, two others who haven’t had a new idea in a couple of generations, and a whole raft of school drop-outs.
There are some things that keep out the darkness that continually threatens in anyone’s life.
When I was young, and benefited not only from a fresh and eagerly absorptive mind but also from a strong belief that an eternity of life stretched in front of me, I loved to read big books, books of immense length.
Two weeks later I am still sweating with the initial nervousness and horror and still dancing in the final exultation of our victory in the World Cup.
The list is long in Guyana of problems needing solution and the list isn’t shortening.
In two of the main centres of democracy, America and Europe, democracy is rapidly failing.
I remember ‘Read to Succeed‘ was once the theme of the activities and exhibitions organized to celebrate the work of library services for the children of Guyana.