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Guy Davenport quotes (showing 1-23 of 23)

“The poet is at the edge of our consciousness of the world, finding beyond the suspected nothingness which we imagine limits our perception another acre or so of being worth our venturing upon.”
Guy Davenport, The Geography of the Imagination: Forty Essays
“When Heraclitus said that everything passes steadily along, he was not inciting us to make the best of the moment, an idea unseemly to his placid mind, but to pay attention to the pace of things. Each has its own rhythm: the nap of a dog, the procession of the equinoxes, the dances of Lydia, the majestically slow beat of the drums at Dodona, the swift runners at Olympia.”
Guy Davenport, The Geography of the Imagination: Forty Essays
“Man was first a hunter, and an artist: his early vestiges tell us that alone. But he must always have dreamed, and recognized and guessed and supposed, all the skills of the imagination. Language itself is a continuously imaginative act. Rational discourse outside our familiar territory of Greek logic sounds to our ears like the wildest imagination. The Dogon, a people of West Africa, will tell you that a white fox named Ogo frequently weaves himself a hat of string bean hulls, puts it on his impudent head, and dances in the okra to insult and infuriate God Almighty, and that there's nothing we can do about it except abide him in faith and patience.

This is not folklore, or quaint custom, but as serious a matter to the Dogon as a filling station to us Americans. The imagination; that is, the way we shape and use the world, indeed the way we see the world, has geographical boundaries like islands, continents, and countries. These boundaries can be crossed. That Dogon fox and his impudent dance came to live with us, but in a different body, and to serve a different mode of the imagination. We call him Brer Rabbit.”
Guy Davenport, The Geography of the Imagination: Forty Essays
“Art is always the replacement of indifference by attention.”
Guy Davenport
“Sometimes when reading Goethe I have a paralyzing suspicion that he is trying to be funny.”
Guy Davenport
“The poet and poetess have always had a rough time of it in the Republic. It has ever been their endemic luck to starve, become a Harvard professor, commit suicide, lose their reading glasses before an audience of sophomores, go upon the people a la Barnum, and serve as homework in state universities, where they could in nowise get a position and where their presence usually scatters the English faculty like a truant officer among the Amish.”
Guy Davenport, The Geography of the Imagination: Forty Essays
“Something of the previous state, however, survives every change. This is called in the language of cybernetics (which took it form the language of machines) feedback, the advantages of learning from experience and of having developed reflexes.”
Guy Davenport
“The meaning of the world, said Wittgenstein, is outside the world. Events and values are distinguishable only in relation to others. A totality of events and values, the world itself, requires another.”
Guy Davenport
“Reality is the most effective mask of reality. Our fondest wish, attained, ceases to be our fondest wish. Success is the greatest of disappointments. The spirit is most alive when it is lost. Anxiety was Kafka's composure, as despair was Kierkegaard's happiness. Kafka said impatience is our greatest fault. The man at the gate of the Law waited there all of his life.”
Guy Davenport
“Lives do not have plots, only biographies do.”
Guy Davenport, The Hunter Gracchus: And Other Papers on Literature and Art
“The birds suffer their suffering each in a lifetime, forgetting it as they go.”
Guy Davenport
“It is worthwhile adding that the power of the poem to teach not only sensibilities and the subtle movements of the spirit but knowledge, real lasting felt knowledge, is going mostly unnoticed among our scholars. The body of knowledge locked into and releasable from poetry can replace practically any university in the Republic. First things first, then: the primal importance of a poem is what it can add to the individual mind.

Poetry is the voice of a poet at its birth, and the voice of a people in its ultimate fulfillment as a successful and useful work of art.”
Guy Davenport, The Geography of the Imagination: Forty Essays
“A pettos speckled with gold ajiggle with a fremitus from the heart touches me like Athena's hoolet mewing in uncertain dark. So much is nature, whereon we build our particulars fastidious and critical. Your every arrow O Eros has hit me, as the song goes. O girls, girls. This arrow is Timo's curls, this is Heliodora's shoes, this the smell of quinces that blows from Demo's door, flowers plaited into Dorothea's hair and ox-eyed Antikleia's smile that is music from the islands, summer's stars.”
Guy Davenport, Eclogues: Eight Stories
“Bonnie Jean (who thinks all philosophers are idiots) has this quarrel with Wittgenstein, who in several places says that reddish green is inconceivable. Yet every summer, when our peppers are drying from green to red, one can see an intermediate stage that is precisely reddish green.”
Guy Davenport
“How can I shake and dispel the awful reputation of being an "erudite" writer? I’m about as erudite as a traffic cop. I like to know things; what’s so two-headed peculiar about that?”
Guy Davenport
“Of the autistically interior, dreaming, reading, erotic, self-sufficient child in Balthus' painting we have practically no image at all. Balthus' children are not being driven to succeed where their parents failed, or to be popular, adjusted, or a somebody.”
Guy Davenport, Every Force Evolves a Form: Twenty Essays
“Avoid the suave flow of prose that’s the trademark of the glib writer. An easy and smooth style is all very well, but it takes no chances and has no seductive wrinkles, no pauses for thought.”
Guy Davenport
“nothing now exists that is so valuable as whatever theoretically might replace it.”
Guy Davenport
“... a boar is a very special kind of animal whose bristling is a thing unto itself, and his nape, like a snake's neck, is more a word than a reality.”
Guy Davenport
“Olson's Maximus and Zukofsky's 'A' are too symbolically and verbally complex, respectively, to command large audiences especially in an age when a college degree is becoming a certificate of illiteracy.”
Guy Davenport
“I God, a very Gomorry on wheels! You lead the most exciting life I know of, and complain more about it than any two well-off bastards in the running. I am glad to hear you sound like your old self, though I never hearn of no Jonathan with two Davids.

Top of this letter is an allusion to that wonderful novel, The SotWeed Factor, in which Ebenezer Cooke, “poet and virgin,” is about to be raped by a buncher sailors (they have him tied across a table in the fo’c’sle; he is saved by a raiding party of pirates, one of whom strides into the scene and says, “I God, this here ship’s a very floatin’ Gomorry!”

Have come down with the flu since inditing the above. [...]. The mail yestiddy brought a letter from Sam Beckett! asked to see Sappho and Arky. I sag with fatigue. Blessings.

Guy”
Guy Davenport
“The rule was: everything in its place. To this day I paint in one part of my house, write in another, read in another; read in fact, in two others: frivolous and delicious reading such as Simenon and Erle Stanley Gardner in one room, scholarship in another. And when I am away from home, I am somebody else. This may seem suspicious to the simple mind of a psychiatrist, but it seems natural enough. My cat does not know me when we meet a block away from home, and I gather from his expression that I'm not supposed to know him, either.”
Guy Davenport
“The unexamined life is eminently worth living, were anyone so fortunate. It would be the life of an animal, brave and alert, with instincts instead of opinions and decisions, loyalty to mate and cubs, to the pack. It might, for all we know, be a life of richest interest and happiness. Dogs dream. The quickened spirit of the eagle circling in high cold air is beyond our imagination. The placidity of cattle shames the Stoic, and what critic has the acumen of a cat? We have used the majesty of the lion as a symbol of royalty, the wide-eyed stare of owls for wisdom, the mild beauty of the dove for the spirit of God.”
Guy Davenport


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