Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Passion and the Prose

"Only Connect" is one of my favorite epigraphs of all time. It is loose, chewy and simple, like crusty Italian bread. I love epigraphs. It is the little look through the keyhole, illuminating and distilling what the author wants you to see most. The moral, the heart, the center, the strength is always in the epigraph. It is sign and signifier at once.

When I was at Mount Holyoke, I was taught by a wonderful, wonderful poet. He was a celebrated, eccentric, genius, lovable, Russian Nobel Laureate, but more than anything else he was shot through with magic. After reciting a poem by Frost or Hardy or Cavafy or his beloved Auden, he would lean on the back of his chair and ask, "What is it all about?".

In prose, the epigraph always always hold the seeds to what it is all about. The epigraph to his own heartbreakingly well crafted essays is taken from Czeslaw Milosz's haunting 'Elegy for N.N.'. Once you meet that poem, you will keep it with you always. It begins "Tell me if it is too far for you" and traces a journey across the world that one lover did not take to meet another. The epigraph my professor used was "And the heart does not die when one thinks it should". It is an echoing, weighted truth.

In any book, I always read the epigraph first and last. 'Only Connect' hints at strung together depths to come and then after you have read Forster's geniuns novel, it means so much more.


  1. People always say they would go to the ends of the earth for the right person, but how often do they really? That sounds like a poem I would like to read. I'll have to look it up next time I'm in the school library.

  2. it is a wonderful poem! i love when matt maddox says that in seven brides for seven brothers!

  3. One of the best things that can happen as a reader is to be off by yourself somewhere, reading something that connects you so completely with the author that you feel it was written for you alone. Doesn't happen often, but when it does, it's magic. Poetry especially. Loved your blog today.


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