‘The Writer’s Intellectual Quest’: Late Long Poems

  • Nancy K. Gish


In the summer of 1981 at New York City’s Museum of Modern art, one exhibit consisted of video screens placed around the wall of a circular room. The only light came from the screens on which appeared scenes of ordinary life from each of the earth’s time zones: a lunch counter in New York where a man made pizza, an old couple gardening in Central America while a dog trotted down a path, clouds shifting patterns over the ocean. The effect of entering the room was unusual and at first disorienting. None of the screens had anything specifically in common, nor did they focus on anything rare or of heightened interest. Individual images were random and often flat. Yet many people stayed long and became absorbed in the varying details. If one remained long enough, the cumulative effect took on a distinctive quality. Not only did the enormous diversity and yet similarity of human activity begin to impress itself, but the initially flattened details could become fascinating.


Individual Word Early Lyric Extended Analogy Rich Part Eternal Truth 
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  1. 3.
    Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus (New York: Vintage, 1955) pp. 46–7 n.Google Scholar
  2. 8.
    Hugh MacDiarmid, Complete Poems: 1920–1976 (London: Martin Brian & O’Keeffe, 1978) II. p. 1462 n.Google Scholar
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    Quoted in Hugh MacDiarmid, In Memoriam James Joyce (Glasgow: William Maclellan, 1955) pp. 16–17.Google Scholar
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    John Hellman, Fables of Fact (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1981) P. 7.Google Scholar
  5. 16.
    Barker Fairly ‘Charles Doughty and Modern Poetry’, The London Mercury, June 1935, quoted in Lucky Poet p. 340.Google Scholar
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    Lev Shestov, In Job’s Balances, trans. Camilla Coventry and C. A. Macartney (London, 1932; Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 1975) p. 359.Google Scholar

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© Nancy K. Gish 1984

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  • Nancy K. Gish

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