Sunday, November 29, 2020


Substitutes for Ink

Guy Davenport (1927-2005), "Finding," in The Geography of the Imagination (San Francisco: North Point Press, 1981), pp. 359-367 (at 364):
Sir Walter Scott, out hunting and with some good lines suddenly in his head, brought down a crow, whittled a pen from a feather, and wrote the poem on his jacket in crow's blood.
This may be an embellished recollection of a passage in a letter from Walter Scott to William Clerk (August 26, 1791):
[S]o much simplicity resides among these hills, that a pen, which could write at least, was not to be found about the house, though belonging to a considerable farmer, till I shot the crow with whose quill I write this epistle.
Clive James (1939-2019),, "Sergei Diaghilev," Cultural Amnesia (2007; rpt. London: Picador, 2012), pp. 169-174 (at 172-173):
Rimbaud, of course, had raised the same question long before. His teenage masterpiece Bâteau ivre, among all the other things it is, is a perfect construction, architecture on paper. But the young man who wrote it was also capable of composing a poem on a café table using, as a substitute for ink, his own excrement, delivered fresh into his hand specifically for the purpose.


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