This Craft of Verse

This Craft of Verse

by Jorge Luis Borges

Borges's writings are models of succinct power; by temperament and by artistic ambition, he was a minimalist, given to working his wonders on the smallest scale possible.

All the same, in his intellectual bearing Borges was a skeptic, critical of but not disparaging or cynical toward the truth claims of systematic philosophical or religious thought.

He was at once a genuine artist and a judicious, sympathetic critic.The posthumous publication of This Craft of Verse, Borges's 1967 Norton Lectures, reacquaints us with his splendid critical faculties.

The volume is a welcome gift, too, reminding us of Borges's generous insistence on identifying with his fellow readers, who are ever ready to be transported by their love for literature.

The lectures transcribed and collected here -- with their frequent quotations from the European languages, both ancient and modern -- were delivered extemporaneously, performances made possible by Borges's own powers of recollection (which were, it need hardly be said, formidable).In life and in literary manner Borges was a cosmopolitan, his range of reference almost inexhaustibly wide.

The lectures conclude with a statement of Borges's own "poetic creed." This slim but profound volume, however, ranges much farther afield.

Borges serves up intriguing asides on the novel, on literary criticism and history, and on theories of translation.

Ultimately, his comments touch on the largest questions raised by literature and language and the thornier puzzles of human communication.The lectures convey Borges's evident delight in English and his eloquence and ease in the language, even when facing a distinguished audience of native English speakers.

But perhaps that is not so surprising, after all, for Borges carried on a lifelong love affair with the English language and the literatures of the British Isles and North America.

And the study of Old English became a hobby to which Borges remained passionately devoted until his death.

The English language he counted as his second (and perhaps even preferred) home.Since the 1960s, when the then relatively obscure Buenos Aires writer was first introduced to English-speaking readers in translations of the classic Ficciones and the anthology Labyrinths, it has been apparent that Borges survives the ordeal of translation without obvious loss.

Borges's style is classical: concise, understated, cleanly cadenced, strict in its devotion to the old-fashioned values of clarity and logical order.

Whether in his native Spanish or in his adopted English, Borges is a writer and lecturer who impresses us with his singular intellectual wit, charm, and refinement.This Craft of Verse makes an exquisite addition to a distinguished series and offers, moreover, invaluable insights into the mind and work of a true modern master.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Poetry
  • Rating: 4.31
  • Pages: 160
  • Publish Date: March 30th 2002 by Harvard University Press
  • Isbn10: 0674008200
  • Isbn13: 9780674008205

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As you are aware, I have ventured occasionally into writing; but I think that what I have read is far more important than what I have written. Borges here comes across as magnificent a reader as he is a writer.

He groped for ideas, rather like a blind man groping for things in the dark. He began with the "riddle" of poetry and continued with metaphor, epic poetry and the novel, word-music and translation, and "thought and poetry". He ended with sharing his own creed as a poet wherein he "try to justify my own life and the confidence some of you may have in me, despite this rather awkward and fumbling first lecture of mine." It was hardly awkward and fumbling. Like, for example, "Happiness, when you are a reader, is frequent." Or on reading lists: "The danger of making a list is that the omissions stand out and that people think of you as being insensitive." And on long books: "Though we are apt to think of mere size as being somehow brutal, I think there are many books whose essence lies in their being lengthy." And this came from a writer who never wrote a novel. He recited them with feeling, bringing out the stresses where they fall, sometimes going at length in describing the choice of words of the poet and pointing out their distinctiveness, what makes the lines go on ringing in the reader's ears. One imagined the listeners hanging on to every word, as when he shared his propensity to book-buying: Sometimes, looking at the many books I have at home, I feel I shall die before I have come to the end of them, and yet I cannot resist the temptation of buying new books. The lectures also revealed a man of humility and self-effacing disposition, one who acknowledged his forebears and influences, and the sources of his metaphysical ideas. In fact he said them, those things about the patterns and the games of metaphors. This, I think, is felt by all of us; for if we look into a literal translation of some outlandish poem, we expect something strange. That only a very few patterns and rhyming schemes existed in poetry led the poet to declare that free verse is much more difficult to pull off than rhymed poems. I began, as most young men do, by thinking that free verse is easier than the regular forms of verse. Today I am quite sure that free verse is far more difficult than the regular and classical forms. At least I have found, now when I am near my journey's end, that the classic forms of verse are easier. This idea, unorthodox as it is, was way more interesting than William Childress's rant against free verse . As you are aware, I have ventured into writing; but I think that what I have read is far more important than what I have written. By epic, he meant the simultaneous singing of a verse and telling of a story. In fact, he has to fall into the trickery of a novelist." If we think about the novel and the epic, we are tempted to fall into thinking that the chief difference lies in the difference between verse and prose, in the difference between singing something and stating something. The difference lies in the fact that the important thing about the epic is a heroa man who is a pattern for all men. I think that all those very daring and interesting experiments with the novelfor example, the idea of shifting time, the idea of the story being told by different charactersall those are leading to the moment when we shall feel that the novel is no longer with us. That's what it felt like listening to the poet.

Y que, además, nos adentran en los conocimientos de la poesía desde la perspectiva de uno de los más grandes poetas: -no solo de Sudamérica sino del mundo- Jorge Luis Borges. Una lectura imprescindible para todos los que quieren ser poetas, para los que se conforman con el placer de la lectura de poesía o, simplemente, para todos aquellos seguidores del maravilloso Borges.

They were the tears of loss that such a brilliant mind has gone out of the world but also tears of gratitude that one such as he had come to be and that he has shared with us his love of reading and his insight into the magical world of words.

On his return to Argentina in 1921, Borges began publishing his poems and essays in Surrealist literary journals. Coetzee said of Borges: "He, more than anyone, renovated the language of fiction and thus opened the way to a remarkable generation of Spanish American novelists."