Always even-tempered, he spent most of his time out of doors, going on long expeditions even in the worst of weather, or when it was fine sitting on a camp stool somewhere near the house in his white smock, a straw hat on his head, painting watercolours. When he was thus engaged he generally wore glasses with grey silk tissue instead of lenses in the frames, so that the landscape appeared through a fine veil that muted the colours, and the weight of the world dissolved before your eyes. The faint images that Alphonso transferred on to paper, said Austerlitz, were barely sketches of pictures – here a rocky slope, there a small bosky thicket or a cumulus cloud – fragments, almost without colour, fixed with a tint made of a few drops of water and a grain of malachite or ash blue.”
WG Sebald, Austerlitz, p124-126
I dream about my childhood in the same dark tonality of my paintings. The sky is always lowering into the sea, the beach is deserted and something awful has happened or is about to happen. Rick Amor comment on painting Nightmare 1982
It is an exceptional achievement to create a work of art in which a second immersion is so forcefully impelled by the first. As soon as I began my first reading of The Transit of Venus, I knew instinctively that every sentence was an iceberg, hinting at greater meaning and depth than was visible on the surface. Only when I finished the novel could it change in my hands from a work of paper to one of shimmering fabric which, held up to a different light, now showed itself to be shot through with completely new colours. And so I re-read, to find it even sharper, more painful, more complex, more beautiful, but also colder, asking tougher questions: What do we expect of life? And what does it expect of us? When I finished my recent reading, I wrote to a friend: ‘I’m overwhelmed – by the book, by my response to it. I am confronted and moved and full of a feeling of wanting, somehow, to live up to it, and to Hazzard’s demands. Charlotte Wood, on rereading The Transit of Venus, by Shirley Hazzard (from here)
I feel that, analogous to life itself- a writer’s ability to develop and even to continue to produce at all, to a large measure depends on a capacity for self-questioning. The important inward questions are usually simpler in youth. As one grows older, they grow more challenging, and often more threatening. . . . How can one undertake, with any confidence, to portray the inner reality, the motives and consciousness of others, if one has not applied such tests to oneself?
Patt Morison: . . . even people who’ve never read a poem by choice will, under emotional stress — a family death, or 9/11 — sit down and try to write a poem. What is happening there?
W.S. Merwin: We begin to say something that cannot be said. When you see on the front page a woman in Iraq who’s just seen her husband blown up, you see her there, her mouth wide open, you know the sound coming out of her, a howl of grief and pain — that’s the beginning of language.
Trying to express that, it’s inexpressible, and poetry is really [there] to say what can’t be said. And that’s why people turn to it in these moments. They don’t know how to say this, [but] part of them feels that maybe a poem will say it. It won’t say it, but it’ll come closer to saying it than anything else will.