Saturday, April 19, 2014

Octavio Paz: Más allá del amor



Todo nos amenaza: 
el tiempo, que en vivientes fragmentos divide 
al que fui 
del que seré, 
como el machete a la culebra; 
la conciencia, la transparencia traspasada, 
la mirada ciega de mirarse mirar; 
las palabras, guantes grises, polvo mental sobre la yerba, 
el agua, la piel; 
nuestros nombres, que entre tú y yo se levantan, 
murallas de vacío que ninguna trompeta derrumba. 

Ni el sueño y su pueblo de imágenes rotas, 
ni el delirio y su espuma profética, 
ni el amor con sus dientes y uñas nos bastan. 
Más allá de nosotros, 
en las fronteras del ser y el estar, 
una vida más vida nos reclama. 

Afuera la noche respira, se extiende, 
llena de grandes hojas calientes, 
de espejos que combaten: 
frutos, garras, ojos, follajes, 
espaldas que relucen, 
cuerpos que se abren paso entre otros cuerpos. 

Tiéndete aquí a la orilla de tanta espuma, 
de tanta vida que se ignora y se entrega: 
tú también perteneces a la noche. 
Extiéndete, blancura que respira, 
late, oh estrella repartida, 
copa, 
pan que inclinas la balanza del lado de la aurora, 
pausa de sangre entre este tiempo y otro sin medida.

Tiziano: Entombment




Paul Gauguin: Yellow Christ



Friday, April 18, 2014

Giotto: Crocefissione (1303-1305 circa)




Ricardo Puentes Melo: El Escribano del Tirano


No se puede negar, Gabriel García Márquez es, por mucho, el mejor escritor vivo de habla hispana.

Pero también es un caradura, dueño de un cinismo de tal magnitud que no le permite sonrojarse cuando protesta porque le piden visa a él, pero que ni se inmuta porque sus amigos Fidel y Raúl Castro tienen sumida en la miseria a los cubanos al tiempo que ellos mismos viven como jeques árabes. Y tampoco dice ni mú –obviamente- por la crueldad y ferocidad animal con la cual sus grandes amigos ordenan asesinar ciudadanos latinoamericanos por medio de los movimientos terroristas marxistas que hoy son patrocinados con dinero del narcotráfico.

Lo disparatado de García Márquez lo ha conducido a respaldar abierta y furibundamente la dictadura cubana y a escribir extensísimos artículos destacando la humanidad de Fidel, su ‘amor por la justicia’ y su ‘genialidad intelectual’. Dice Gabo, como amanuense del tirano: “Lo llaman: Fidel. Lo rodean sin riesgos, lo tutean, le discuten, lo contradicen, le reclaman, con un canal de transmisión inmediata por donde circula la verdad a borbotones. Es entonces que se descubre al ser humano insólito, que el resplandor de su propia imagen no deja ver. Este es el Fidel Castro que creo conocer: Un hombre de costumbres austeras e ilusiones insaciables, con una educación formal a la antigua, de palabras cautelosas y modales tenues e incapaz de concebir ninguna idea que no sea descomunal..”
Pero si Neruda se mojó en los pantalones de la felicidad al escribir sobre Stalin, ¿por qué nuestro Nobel no puede hacer lo propio para bien patriótico de nuestra literatura?

En contraprestración, el tirano le regaló a Gabo una lujosa casa en Cubanacá, con piscina, criados de la revolución, mucamas hambrientas y mayordomo las 24 horas, conexión satelital, refrigeradores atiborrados de comidas que los cubanos jamás verán, vista preciosa hacia un paisaje donde no se ve la desgracia de los isleños. Todo un refugio para nuestro Nobel. Fue de esa casa que salió Antonio de la Guardia a la que fue para rogarle a García Márquez que intercediera por su vida ante Fidel ya que sabía que iba a ser fusilado. Gabo no movió un dedo.

Antonio de la Guardia fue uno de los fusilados en 1989 tras descubrirse que los Lucio, del M-19, eran parte del Cartel de la droga de Cuba, isla que usaban como escala para llevar drogas a Estados Unidos. El M-19, a través de los Lucio, controlaban esta ruta con el apoyo necesario de Castro. A punto de ser fusilado, Antonio de la Guardia culpó a los Lucio y al M-19 y aseguró que los guerrilleros y Castro le habían dicho que llevar droga a Estados Unidos era una de las tantas formas de lucha.
Y Gabo debió pensar lo mismo. Porque Antonio de La Guardia era su amigo cercano, pero le importó un bledo.

Es que nuestro premio Nobel ha estado casi toda su vida al servicio del comunismo, en cualquiera de sus etapas, y en contra de quienes alertan contra el peligro de este sistema totalitario. Ha tenido la desvergüenza de llamar “fundamentalismo democrático” a todo aquello que siga el modelo de la voluntad popular: “(…) Ahora estamos en el gran peligro de que estas democracias se vuelvan tan fundamentalistas que ya no permitan que haya ninguna experiencia más en la búsqueda de la felicidad (…)¿Qué clase de democracia quieren imponerle a Cuba, que a lo mejor puede lograr una democracia distinta y más justa?”

Esas veleidades con el comunismo han llevado a García Márquez a ser su propagandista falaz. Recordemos el caso de la huelga bananera de los empleados de la United Fruit, cuyo desacertado manejo ocasionó la muerte de siete empleados a manos del ejército. Este hecho fue aprovechado por el comunismo y sus aliados en la prensa, de tal manera que publicaron que la cantidad de muertos había ascendido a más de 1.000. Hasta hoy en día a ese desafortunado episodio se le conoce como “La Masacre de las bananeras” y ha sido sobredimensionado por Gabo en sus relatos. Igual hizo cuando los vietnamitas salieron huyendo de su país al triunfar el comunismo. García Márquez los acusó de apátridas y casi de estúpidos por no tener ‘una conciencia política’ a prueba del ‘expansionismo norteamericano.’ Los refugiados nor-vietnamitas, que sufrían un pavoroso drama, siempre fueron para Gabo “extremistas exagerados” mientras que a los atroces crímenes del comunismo él las da el eufemístico término de “ejecuciones de guerra”.

Discurso macabro el de Gabo, regodeándose con los placeres hedonistas de la dictadura mientras fustiga con su pluma prodigiosa a quien ose oponerse a la sevicia de su compadre, su cómplice genocida, Fidel Castro.
Gabo y el poder mediático. La fundación Nuevo Periodismo Iberoamericano (FNIP) es otra muestra más de su delirante búsqueda de poder. La FNIP no es otra cosa que una élite de periodistas de izquierda que se reúnen para premiarse entre ellos mismos. Todo con el patrocinio histórico del magnate Lorenzo Zambrano, de Cementos Mexicanos (Cemex) –que en la práctica es el dueño de la FNIP-, Julio Mario Santodomingo y familia, y el mismo George Soros. Sin olvidar mencionar a la Corporación Andina de Fomento (CAF), el Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo, el INDES, y otras entidades multimillonarias que derrochan ríos de dinero para financiar esta clase de proyectos comunistoides que por razones que saltan a la vista favorecen la acumulación de poderes, capital y recursos naturales en poquísimas manos en lo que se ha dado en llamar ‘comunismo de Estado’, que no es otra cosa que la reducción del poder (incluido el poder económico) en una selecta élite que controla bancos, medios de comunicación, fuentes de recursos naturales, etc. Estos también han sido premiados por la FNIP que benefician… es decir los benefactores se auto-premian en la clase de periodismo que apoya García Márquez. Porque el FNIP es simplemente una máquina propagandística del régimen de los Castro.

Y no podrá decirse nunca que estos desvaríos neo comunistas de Gabo son cosa nueva. Desde antes de que cayera el muro de Berlín –evento que le arrancó lágrimas al Nobel- ya venía financiando esas ideas. Cuando ganó el premio Rómulo Gallegos, en 1972, García Márquez donó los 25 mil dólares del galardón al Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS), una corriente más del Partido Comunista de Venezuela.

Luego apoyó, al unísono con las FARC, la campaña de Andrés Pastrana, a quien le aplaudió el despeje del Caguán para los
narcoterroristas; ha sido furibundo amigo de los comandantes del ELN, con quienes disfrutaba a manteles, como destacados sibaritas, manjares de todos los sabores, atendidos por sirvientes cubanos cuyas familias siguen sometidas al hambre, al ofrecimiento de sus despojos sexuales a cambio de arroz, carne, huevos… delicias que rara vez prueba el sufrido pueblo isleño.

El asunto es que Gabo está enfermo. Por supuesto, es atendido en medio de los lujos de los que carecen por mucho las víctimas de sus amigos los Castro.

No sabemos si su chofer sigue siendo “Don Chepe”, ese antiguo guerrillero que siempre lo ha acompañado. Pero desde acá hacemos votos para que, si éste es el final de sus días, se le conceda la claridad mental para arrepentirse de su complicidad con el asesinato de miles y miles de latinoamericanos que cayeron por la mano de los Castro mientras él, Gabo, empeñaba su talento a cambio de sentirse cercano al poder que él dijo despreciar pero que, en realidad, toda su vida estuvo dispuesto a reptar en búsqueda de los placeres pagados con la sangre y el sudor de los humildes. Aunque hay que reconocer que García Márquez ayudó a que Castro no fusilara, al menos, a unos cinco condenados. Se le abona..!

Ah, Gabo…! Se nos puede ir con una demencia senil que le impida remorderse por su complicidad con el criminal; pero igual las generaciones presentes, pasadas y futuras seguirán siendo manoseadas por el mito de Gabriel García Márquez, un inigualable escritor pero un lúgubre ser humano que usó a las víctimas del comunismo para las vendimias de su vanidad, esas donde los míseros eran pisoteados en su lagar para producir el vino de los bacanales de aquellos tiranos que tanto admiró.


¿Realismo mágico…? ¡Qué va..! ¡Realidad cruel..!

Diego Velázquez: Cristo Crucificado (1631)




Uncle Fidel Castro



Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Robert Graves: The



One moonlit night a ship drove in,
A ghost ship from the west,
Drifting with bare mast and lone tiller,
Like a mermaid drest
In long green weed and barnacles:
She beached and came to rest.

All the watchers of the coast
Flocked to view the sight,
Men and women streaming down
Through the summer night,
Found her standing tall and ragged
Beached in the moonlight.

Then one old woman looked and wept
'The 'Alice Jean'? But no!
The ship that took my Dick from me
Sixty years ago
Drifted back from the utmost west
With the ocean's flow?

'Caught and caged in the weedy pool
Beyond the western brink,
Where crewless vessels lie and rot
in waters black as ink.
Torn out again by a sudden storm
Is it the 'Jean', you think?'

A hundred women stared agape,
The menfolk nudged and laughed,
But none could find a likelier story
For the strange craft.
With fear and death and desolation
Rigged fore and aft.

The blind ship came forgotten home
To all but one of these
Of whom none dared to climb aboard her:
And by and by the breeze
Sprang to a storm and the 'Alice Jean'
Foundered in frothy seas. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Robert Graves Interviewed by Peter Buckman and William Fifield




Robert Graves (right) and Len Lye.

Dressed in corduroys, mariner's sweater, black horsehide  jacket, and with a blanket wrapped around his middle, Robert Graves rolled his own cigarettes and chain-smoked throughout the interview. Reading glasses hung from his neck on a ribbon, which frequently became tangled in his hair. Tall, loosely built, Graves has always been physically powerful, but owing to a climbing accident during his school years he cannot swivel his head and so uses a reading stand, fidgeting it into strategic positions on the desk in front of him while he talks. Tins of small Dutch cigars, jars of tobacco, marbles, pencils, and porcelain clown heads are on the desk. 

There is a carton brimming with press clippings on the floor. Over the fireplace is a shelf with the works of T. E. Lawrence; on the mantel, Greek, Roman, Oriental, and African figurines. “This dial of wood? From a tree hewn in Shakespeare's yard.” He fingered it, spoke of continuity. He knew Hardy, and Hardy knew—Gertrude Stein first told Robert Graves about Majorca. He and Laura Riding moved there in 1929; they built the stone house in Deyá he now occupies and lived there together until 1936, when the Spanish Civil War broke out. He returned ten years later and has lived there ever since. There is an orchard with fifteen kinds of fruit trees, a large vegetable garden, and an English-style lawn of Bermuda grass.

Robert Graves is the author of over one hundred books, besides a number of anonymous rewrite jobs for friends. His most important prose work is The White Goddess, a history of poetic myth—“the language of poetic myth . . . was a magical language bound up with popular religious ceremonies in honor of the Moon goddess, or Muse . . . [and] this remains the language of true poetry—‘true’ in the nostalgic modern sense of the ‘unimprovable original, not a synthetic substitute’”. 

The true poet worships the White Goddess, or goddess of creation; unswerving and absolute devotion to her is the poet's only path. He “falls in love, absolutely, and his true love is for him the embodiment of the Muse.” The present Muse is fifty-two years younger than Graves—“but we are the same age” . . . “I am at the top of my manic cycle because good things are happening to her just now.” She is a classical dancer performing in a far-off city.

At various times during the following interview, he was setting the table, correcting a manuscript, checking references, cutting his nails with an enormous pair of scissors, picking carrots, singing folk songs, and slicing beans. He was not an easy man to keep up with.



ROBERT GRAVES

Do you notice anything strange about this room?

INTERVIEWER

No.

GRAVES

Well, everything is made by hand—with one exception: this 

nasty plastic triple file which was given me as a present. 

I've put it here out of politeness for two or three weeks, 

then it will disappear. Almost everything else is made by 

hand. Oh yes, the books have been printed, but many have been 

printed by hand—in fact some I printed myself. Apart from the 

electric light fixtures, everything else is handmade; 

nowadays very few people live in houses where anything at all 

is made by hand.

INTERVIEWER

Does this bear directly on your creative work?

GRAVES

Yes: one secret of being able to think is to have as little 

as possible around you that is not made by hand.

INTERVIEWER

In The White Goddess, you identified the Muse-poet with the 

Sacred King, who was sacrificed to the Moon-goddess as a 

divine victim, and expressed your belief that the true poet 

must also, in a sense, die for her. In spite of all you've 

survived, do you still hold to this?

GRAVES

Yes. What nearly always happens is that the Muse finds it 

impossible to sustain the love of a poet and allies herself 

with a pretended poet who she knows is not a real one. 

Someone she can mother. I have given a picture of it in a 

poem called “Lack.” The process starts again each time that 

there's a death of love, which is as painful as a real death. 

There's always a murderer about, always a “Lack” character. 

The King or poet represents growth, and the rival or tanist 

represents drought.

INTERVIEWER

Surely long years of service to the Muse are rewarded.

GRAVES

The reward is becoming eventually attached to somebody who's 

not a murderess. I don't want to talk about it because I 

don't want to tempt my luck.

INTERVIEWER

By definition, your pursuit of the Muse cannot bring 

satisfaction. What has it given you?

GRAVES

It has brought me nearer and nearer to the center of the 

fire, so to speak.

INTERVIEWER

Your poems, especially your love poems, get more intense as 

you go on. Is that a function of age or experience?

GRAVES

One gets to the heart of the matter by a series of 

experiences in the same pattern, but in different colors.

INTERVIEWER

In other words, you don't learn anything new, but you get a 

deeper understanding.

GRAVES

That's about it. An understanding of what the poet's ordeals 

are. Love poems must be bounced back off a moon. Moons vary. 

Love a different Muse-woman and you get a different poem.

INTERVIEWER

What about that simple appetite, lust, which you have 

attacked?

GRAVES

Lust involves a loss of virtue, in the sense of psychic 

power. Lust is giving away something that belongs to somebody 

else. I mean the act of love is a metaphor of spiritual 

togetherness, and if you perform the act of love with someone 

who means little to you, you're giving away something that 

belongs to the person you do love or might love. The act of 

love belongs to two people, in the way that secrets are 

shared. Hugs and kisses are permissible, but as soon as you 

start with what's called the mandalot—I invented the word, 

from the Greek; it comes from mándalos (which is the bolt you 

put in the socket) and means the tongue-kiss or by dictionary 

definition “a lecherous and erotic kiss”—these familiarities 

you should reserve for those whom you really love. I'm on 

simple hugs-and-kisses terms with several friends. That's all 

right. But promiscuity seems forbidden to poets, though I do 

not grudge it to any nonpoet.

INTERVIEWER

Can the experience of the Muse give felicity?

GRAVES

Not really. But what does? Felicity and pain always 

alternate. She serves as a focus and challenge. She gives 

happiness. Here I use the English language precisely—hap: 

happening. She gives hap; provides happening. Tranquility is 

of no poetic use. (The first to use Muse in the sense of 

White Goddess was Ben Jonson—then it dropped down into weakly 

meaning self-inspiration of young men.)

After experience of the untranquil Muse one may move on to 

the Black Goddess—for black is positive in the East and 

stands for wisdom. Can a white Muse become a black one, or 

must it be another Muse? That is difficult . . .

INTERVIEWER

They are all about of an age—

GRAVES

As a rule the Muse is one whose father has deserted her 

mother when she was young and for whom therefore the 

patriarchal charm is broken, and who hates patriarchy. She 

may grow to be very intelligent, but emotionally she is 

arrested at about the age of fourteen or fifteen.

INTERVIEWER

What is the Muse's reaction to the poet?

GRAVES

It's embarrassing in a way for a well-known poet to write 

poems to a girl. She may resent being made a part of literary 

history. In France it is different. Many a woman wants to be 

known as the last girl Victor Hugo slept with . . . I'm all 

against literary history. Sometimes that's the reason why a 

“great poem,” one that occurs in all the anthologies, is bad. 

It is usually interesting to examine its history.

INTERVIEWER

You mean it's been manufactured for an event?

GRAVES

Yes.

INTERVIEWER

The White Goddess is a handbook and a shelter behind which 

all questions can be answered. Do you feel the need for a 

final definition of what you're up to?

GRAVES

The White Goddess and The Nazarene Gospel Restored are 

curious: I wrote the first to define the non-Jewish element 

in Christianity, especially the Celtic. And I wrote the 

second, with the help of the late Joshua Podro, to drive the 

Greek and Roman element out of what was a purely Jewish 

event. The curious result was that a special Early Christian 

Society got founded at Cambridge, based on the Nazarene 

Gospel, and various White Goddess religions started in New 

York State and California. I'm today's hero of the love-and-

flowers cult out in the Screwy State, so they tell me: where 

hippies stop policemen in the street and say, “I adore you, 

officer.” Also I get a number of letters from witches' 

covens, requesting flying ointment, magical recipes, and 

esoteric information.

INTERVIEWER

In the “Colophon to Love Respelt” you talk of the battlefield 

being deserted. Who won?

GRAVES

I meant that there was no occasion for further poems on the 

subject . . . The historical sequence of a man's poems has a 

general resemblance to the order in which they are written. 

Yet often one writes a poem a long time before, or long 

after, a thing happens. Autobiography doesn't correspond 

exactly with poetic sequence.

INTERVIEWER

You get the idea for a poem and then life catches up with it?

GRAVES

Or alternatively, you have omitted recording a poetic 

experience sometime, and it occurs later. The words are 

already fixed in the storehouse of the memory. The poem is 

there at the origin, but at the seventh level of 

consciousness, and rises up gradually through each repeated 

revision. The rereading touches off the original hypnotic 

state, but expression is amplified.

INTERVIEWER

In what way amplified?

GRAVES

For example, by the dreams of the night, which are the real 

interpretations in the primitive mind of the events of the 

previous day. A poem is nonetheless present from the 

conception, from the first germ of it crossing the mind—it 

must be scratched for and exhumed. There is an element of 

timelessness. The leading atomic scientist in Australia 

agreed with me the other day that time does not really exist. 

The finished poem is present before it is written and one 

corrects it. It is the final poem that dictates what is 

right, what is wrong.

INTERVIEWER

Why did you not write war poems—of your trench experience in 

World War I like your friend Sassoon, and like Owen?

GRAVES

I did. But I destroyed them. They were journalistic. Sassoon 

and Wilfred Owen were homosexuals; though Sassoon tried to 

think he wasn't. To them, seeing men killed was as horrible 

as if you or I had to see fields of corpses of women.

INTERVIEWER

Your poems are very complete and personal statements. Are you 

not at all reticent about what you reveal?

GRAVES

You tell things to your friends that you don't put into 

print.

INTERVIEWER

But your audience . . .

GRAVES

Never use the word “audience.” The very idea of a public, 

unless a poet is writing for money, seems wrong to me. Poets 

don't have an “audience”: They're talking to a single person 

all the time. What's wrong with someone like Yevtushenko is 

that he's talking to thousands of people at once. All the 

so-called great artists were trying to talk to too many 

people. In a way, they were talking to nobody.

INTERVIEWER

Hence your estimate of the English poets, whom you've 

criticized pretty heavily from the Poetry Chair at Oxford?

GRAVES

There are fifteen English poets—I am speaking precisely—in 

the history of listed literature who were real poets and not 

playing at it.

INTERVIEWER

Would you care to name them?

GRAVES

That wouldn't be polite.

INTERVIEWER

What do they have in common?

GRAVES

A source in the primitive. In the prerational.

INTERVIEWER

As you work at a poem, do you feel that you are in some sense 

matching?

GRAVES

What happens is this—if a hypnotist says, “Look at this 

ring,” and you are hypnotized by looking at the ring, then if 

he produces that ring again any time afterward, you go down. 

So also if you're writing a poem, and you come back to it the 

next day, you're immediately rehypnotized and at it again at 

that level.

INTERVIEWER

Is it the physical circumstance? This room?

GRAVES

No, it's not the ambience. The ambience may help. It's the 

actual draft, which is yourself. That's the hypnotic ring.

INTERVIEWER

And what happens if you don't “go down”?

GRAVES

That happened to me only yesterday. You can't force it 

intellectually. You spoil the poem. You mess it up. When 

you've worked through to the real poetic level, the 

connections webbing together every single word are quite 

beyond intellectual arrangement. A computer couldn't do it. 

You've got not merely sound and sense to deal with but the 

histories of the words, cross-rhythms, the interrelation of 

all the meanings of the words—a complete microcosm. You never 

get it quite right, but if you get it almost right, it 

insulates itself in time. That's why real poems travel.

INTERVIEWER

One feels your poetry has become more and more urgent, 

especially in the love lyrics which begin late.

GRAVES

Don't forget that I began in the Victorian era; I had a lot 

to throw off. My poetic system accords with the Irish of the 

eighth century A.D., which was untinctured by Rome and which 

passed over eventually into Wales. Where did it come from? 

From the East. The correspondence with Sufic poetry is 

immense. That accounts for my interest in Omar Khayyám—a very 

noble poet so mishandled by FitzGerald. Besides, one 

gradually ceases to take critics into account.

INTERVIEWER

Who got you to come to the Balearic Islands?

GRAVES

Gertrude Stein.

INTERVIEWER

What did you think of her?

GRAVES

She had an eye. She used to say she had been the only woman 

in Picasso's life, that she had formed him. Maybe this was 

true; the other females were only round and about.

INTERVIEWER

The poem you've shown me just now, “The Thing to Be Said,” 

seems to sum up so much.

GRAVES

Even in “The Thing to Be Said,” which I am working on now, 

which is about the necessity of first statement and that 

treats obsessive revision as a disease of age, there are ten 

successive versions. To date. Yes. The thing to be said, say 

it.

INTERVIEWER

This immense, abrupt change. The late poetry—

GRAVES

Yes, that came when I was writing The White Goddess. (I wrote 

it in six weeks. It took me ten years to revise it. And I 

about tripled its length.) Suddenly I was answering ancient 

Welsh and Irish questions that had never been answered, and I 

didn't know how or why. It terrified me. I thought I was 

going mad. But those solutions haven't been disproved. Then 

someone sent me an article on the Irish tree alphabet, and 

the footnote referred to Graves but not to me. It was my 

grandfather! And I hadn't even known he had investigated such 

things. I believe in the inheritance of skills and crafts—the 

inheritance of memory. They find now that if a snail eats 

another snail it gets that second snail's memory.

INTERVIEWER

How did you sum up such vast detail into your conclusions?

GRAVES

I didn't. I knew it at the outset, and then checked.

INTERVIEWER

You certainly write Muse poetry and express great contempt 

for the Apollonian, which I take it is the logical or 

utilitarian stuff, but aren't your novels Apollonian?

GRAVES

My writing of prose was always thematically in line with my 

thought. Always myself, I never left that. That was always 

the background. For example, They Hanged My Saintly Billy was 

to show how Victorian England really was: how rotten, how 

criminal in contrast to the received version. I had a couple 

of good characters, too, besides the bad.

INTERVIEWER

You write novels when stimulated by some historical problem. 

How do you go on from there?

GRAVES

I don't know. Some people have gifts, like a friend of mine 

who can balance a glass on his finger and make it turn round 

by just looking at it. I have the gift of being occasionally 

able to put myself back in the past and see what's happening. 

That's how historical novels should be written. I also have a 

very good memory for anything I want to remember and none at 

all for what I don't want to remember. Wife to Mr. Milton—my 

best novel—started when my wife and I were making a bed in 

1943 and I suddenly said: “You know, Milton must have been a 

trichomaniac”—meaning a hair fetishist. The remark suddenly 

sprang out of my mouth. I realized how often his imagery had 

been trichomaniac. So I read all I could find about him and 

went into the history of his marriages. I'd always hated 

Milton, from earliest childhood; and I wanted to find out the 

reason. I found it. His jealousy. It's present in all his 

poems . . . Marie Powell had long hair with which he could 

not compete.

INTERVIEWER

I think you describe that precisely in the novel, when they 

are riding on the heath . . .

GRAVES

He had the schoolmaster's disease. Constipation.

INTERVIEWER

You mean that literally?

GRAVES

Yes! Of course I mean it literally! It shows in all his 

poetry. We know all about what he was given for it. Well, I 

had always smelt something, and then it all came to me more 

or less at once, and I wrote Wife to Mr. Milton. I found out 

a lot of things about him, heaven knows how, which have never 

been disproved.

INTERVIEWER

Did he inherit the constipation?

GRAVES

He was a scrivener's son. He well may have.

INTERVIEWER

How long did I, Claudius take to write?

GRAVES

I, Claudius and Claudius the God took me eight months. I had 

to get the job done quickly because I was £4,000 in debt. I 

got so close to him that I was accused of doing a lot of 

research that I had never done at all.

INTERVIEWER

Did you dictate any of it?

GRAVES

No. I had a typist here in the village, but I didn't dictate. 

If you only use the main sources, and you know the period, a 

book writes itself.

INTERVIEWER

About how many hours per day did it take you?

GRAVES

I don't know. It must have been seven or eight. The story 

came to about 250,000 words in all. I had mortgaged the house 

and didn't want to lose it.

INTERVIEWER

Why did you choose the historical novel?

GRAVES

Well, with that one I had noted in my diary, a year or two 

before, that the Roman historians—Tacitus, Suetonius, and 

Dion Cassius, but especially Tacitus—had obviously got 

Claudius wrong, and that one day I'd have to write a book 

about it. If I hadn't done so, you wouldn't be here drinking 

in this house.

INTERVIEWER

What did you have in mind at the end of Claudius the God? 

There's a distinct change in Claudius. One wonders what you 

were getting at as a novelist.

GRAVES

I didn't think I was writing a novel. I was trying to find 

out the truth of Claudius. And there was some strange 

confluent feeling between Claudius and myself. I found out 

that I was able to know a lot of things that happened without 

having any basis except that I knew they were true. It's a 

question of reconstructing a personality.

INTERVIEWER

There is not much direct source extant, though he wrote 

voluminously.

GRAVES

There's his speech about the Aeduans, his letter to the 

Alexandrians, and a number of records of what he said in 

Suetonius and elsewhere. We know now exactly what disease he 

suffered from: Little's disease. The whole scene is so solid, 

really, that you feel you knew him personally, if you're 

sympathetic with him. The poor man—only now, at last, people 

have begun to forget the bad press he was given by 

contemporary historians. And he's now regarded as one of the 

very few good emperors between Julius Caesar and Vespasian.

INTERVIEWER

In the end, though, he was disenchanted—

GRAVES

He saw he could do nothing. He had to give up.

INTERVIEWER

He disintegrated and became very nearly another Caligula or 

Tiberius . . .

GRAVES

Well, now—Caligula was born bad. Tiberius was a marvelous 

man. But too much pressure was put on him, and he warned the 

Senate of what was going to happen. He foresaw a severe 

psychological breakdown. If you've always been extremely 

clean—always brushed your teeth and made your bed—and you get 

to a point of intolerable stress, you break down and display 

what is called paradoxical behavior: You mess your bed, you 

do the most disgusting things. Tiberius had been noted for 

his chastity and manly virtues, and then he broke down. I now 

feel the greatest possible sympathy for Tiberius.

INTERVIEWER

Weren't you getting at Livy a bit in the novel as a 

manipulator of truth for effect?

GRAVES

It's a sort of habit in my family, you know. My granduncle 

was Leopold von Ranke, the so-called father of modern 

history. He was always held up to me by my mother as the 

first modern historian who decided to tell the truth in 

history.

INTERVIEWER

Did that instigate your quest, the shibboleths you've upset 

to the consternation of many?

GRAVES

You see, there are many people who believe things of which 

they can't get rid. Suddenly they are faced by some strange 

fact—such as that God, in the Holy of Holies, had a wife. My 

friend Raphael Patai has worked it all out in his Hebrew 

Goddess. It's more than they can stand. But you've got to 

admit it.

INTERVIEWER

That God had a wife? Did you really mean that?

GRAVES

Indeed he did. It's in the Talmud. Of course the Jews had 

always kept it rather quiet. At first he was One—but then 

came the division. You've got to find the focal point. God 

was a male deity and the focal point was obviously a woman. 

He couldn't do without one.

INTERVIEWER

How many books have you published?

GRAVES

One hundred and twenty-one—but many of those are revised 

collections. Then I've written books for other people.

INTERVIEWER

Why have you done that?

GRAVES

Because they had something to say, and they couldn't write it 

down.

INTERVIEWER

Have you given up writing fiction?

GRAVES

It might happen again. I doubt it, but I don't know. One 

never knows.

INTERVIEWER

After writing The Reader over Your Shoulder with Alan Hodge 

in 1942—your handbook for writers of English prose—you say 

that your own style changed completely. Why, or rather how?

GRAVES

Whoever thinks about the English language and tries to 

discover its principles, and also pulls a whole lot of 

writers to pieces to show how badly they write, can't afford 

to write badly himself. In 1957 I entirely rewrote Good-bye 

to All That—every single sentence—but no one noticed. Some 

said: “What a good book this is, after all. How well it's 

lasted.” It hasn't lasted at all. It's an entirely new 

product. One of those computer analyses of style couldn't 

possibly decide that my historical novels were all written by 

the same hand. They're completely different in vocabulary, 

syntax, and language level.

INTERVIEWER

Considering this vast output and all the revision, how much 

time do you spend writing? Do you write everything by hand?

GRAVES

Yes. Now let me see, Nazarene Gospel Restored took me two 

years. Now that is eight hundred pages of close writing. Yes, 

it's about—two books a year for fifty years. That's not so 

much. I have nothing else to do. The score this year is six.

INTERVIEWER

Do you find you can remember the vast research you have 

collected?

GRAVES

I know where to look.

INTERVIEWER

Isn't it difficult to be here so far from libraries?

GRAVES

I have never worked in a library.

INTERVIEWER

Where do you get all this information?

GRAVES

I don't know. It comes. I am not erudite. In the normal way 

of being I am not even well read. I am simply well informed 

in certain areas of my interest.

INTERVIEWER

You have to know the dates of history—the spelling of the 

Welsh words—

GRAVES

I've got a Welsh dictionary. I've got quite a big classical 

library.

INTERVIEWER

Would you say the core ideas come first and then you 

research?

GRAVES

One has the whole vision of the thing—and then one just 

checks. Cause may not necessarily ordain effect; it may 

equally be that effect ordains cause—once one has got the 

whole time thing under control.

INTERVIEWER

What do you do exactly?

GRAVES

Revise the manuscript till I can't read it any longer, then 

get somebody to type it. Then I revise the typing. Then it's 

retyped again. Then there's a third typing, which is the 

final one. Nothing should then remain that offends the eye.

INTERVIEWER

This is for prose?

GRAVES

Yes. But that's no proof that in ten years' time it may not 

read badly. One doesn't know about prose at the time.

INTERVIEWER

And poetry?

GRAVES

Sometimes you know: “This is right, this is one of the things 

that stands.” You feel there are a certain number of poems 

that have got to be written. You don't know what they are, 

but you feel: This is one, and that is one. It is the 

relation between jewels and the matrix—the jewels come from 

the matrix, then there's the matrix to prove it. A lot of 

poems are matrix rather than jewels.

INTERVIEWER

What do you mean?

GRAVES

The matrix is partly jewel, partly not jewel. And lots of 

poems are like that. Those are the ones that usually the 

public likes best: ones that are not wholly jewels.

INTERVIEWER

Is that because these poems are transitional between 

generalized views and your personal attitude?

GRAVES

Something like that.

INTERVIEWER

More accessible?

GRAVES

Yes.

INTERVIEWER

Do you still experiment with hallucinogens?

GRAVES

I had two trips on the Mexican mushroom back in 1954 or so. 

None since. And never on LSD. First of all it's dangerous, 

and secondly, ergot, from which LSD is made, is the enemy of 

mankind. Ergot is a minute black fungus that grows on rye, or 

did in the Middle Ages, and people who ate rye bread got 

manic visions, especially Germans. They now say that ergot 

affects the genes and might disorder the next generation. It 

occurs to me that this may explain the phenomenon of Nazism, 

a form of mass hysteria. Germans were rye eaters, as opposed 

to wheat eaters like the English. LSD reminds me of the minks 

that escape from mink farms and breed in the forest and 

become dangerous and destructive. It has escaped from the 

drug factory and gets made in college laboratories.

INTERVIEWER

You have spoken of a vision of total knowledge that you once 

had at twelve—

GRAVES

You probably had a similar vision, and you've forgotten it. 

It needn't be a vision of anything; so long as it's a 

foretaste of Paradise. Blake had one. All poets and painters 

who have that extra “thing” in their work seem to have had 

this vision and never let it be destroyed by education. Which 

is all that matters.

INTERVIEWER

You've just finished a new translation of the Rubáiyát of 

Omar Khayyám. Why did you choose the Rubáiyát rather than the 

work of a purer Sufic poet such as Rumi or Sa'adi?

GRAVES

I was invited to cooperate in the task by Omar Ali-Shah, 

whose family has possessed the original manuscript since A.D. 

1153. That's why. I was in the hospital and very glad of the 

job to take my mind off hospital routine. Khayyám's original 

poem was written in honor of God's love and spiced with 

satires against the Muslim puritans of the day. FitzGerald 

got it all wrong: he believed Khayyám really was a drunkard, 

and an unbeliever, not a man who was satirizing unbelievers. 

It's amazing how many millions have been fooled by 

FitzGerald. Most of them will hate being undeceived.

INTERVIEWER

You have said that the critics now writing about your 

Rubáiyát fail to understand it because they are not Sufis.

GRAVES

As I said, I can take no credit for the job. I worked from a 

literal crib by Omar Ali-Shah, who is a Sufi. Not only a 

Sufi, but his family is in the direct line of descent from 

the Prophet—and they claim that Mohammed was a Sufi and 

delivered this secret doctrine to them.

INTERVIEWER

It seems to me your Khayyám is more clear and incisive 

intellectually, whereas FitzGerald—

GRAVES

FitzGerald, you see, was one of those Irishmen at a time when 

people were ashamed of being Irish and so kept it quiet. And 

he became a sort of dilettante Englishman. And broke with the 

poetic tradition of Ireland, which is one of the strongest in 

the world. I should think after the Persian it is the 

strongest.

INTERVIEWER

You are talking about the original Irish poetic tradition?

GRAVES

There is only one!

INTERVIEWER

You explained to me once that that was originally Sufi—

GRAVES

Before that it was Milesian Greek superimposed on the archaic 

Libyan culture of about 2500 B.C. The Milesians came to 

Ireland via Spain and brought with them the ogham tradition—

which is an early form of alphabet, taking us back toward the 

day when letters originated in the observation of flights of 

cranes, and so on. But Ireland always remained in contact 

with Greek-speaking Antioch and not Rome, which was 

important.

INTERVIEWER

Is the important thing that ogham was preclassical?

GRAVES

That's right. Before Plato. Before the Greeks went wrong. You 

know, the Jews had a saying—“of the ten measures of folly the 

Greeks have nine.” They were all right until about the sixth 

century B.C. By the time of Alexander the Great they'd gone 

to pieces altogether.

INTERVIEWER

In what way?

GRAVES

They tried to decry myth. They tried to put in its place what 

we would now call scientific concepts. They tried to give it 

a literal explanation. Socrates jokes about myths, and Horace 

makes fun of them. When put to it, Socrates could clarify a 

myth in a way that deprived it of all sense. They simply had 

no use for poetic thought. Logic works at a very high level 

in consciousness. The academic never goes to sleep logically, 

he always stays awake. By doing so, he deprives himself of 

sleep. And he misses the whole thing, you see. Sleep has 

seven levels, topmost of which is the poetic trance—in it you 

still have access to conscious thought while keeping in touch 

with dream . . . with the topmost fragments of dream . . . 

you own memory . . . pictorial imagery as children know it 

and as it was known to primitive man. No poem is worth 

anything unless it starts from a poetic trance, out of which 

you can be wakened by interruption as from a dream. In fact, 

it is the same thing.

INTERVIEWER

But where does this itself come from?

GRAVES

From yourself, under the direction of the more-than-you 

formed by your relation with the person with whom you are in 

rapport at the time. If anybody were really observant, he'd 

be able to take a poem and draw a picture of the person it 

was addressed to.

INTERVIEWER

In looking at the beloved, do you then see yourself most 

clearly—as distinct from looking at yourself?

GRAVES

Yes. Otherwise it's not you.

INTERVIEWER

How do you feel about honors and laureateships? Will you 

accept if the laureateship is offered to you?

GRAVES

I don't answer questions about conjectures. I don't want any 

honors, but I wouldn't so much mind being honored for writing 

novels which sell abroad and earn money for England. Writing 

poems is different. To get a C.B.E. for being a poet would be 

absurd. But the government always tries to coax well-known 

writers into the Establishment; it makes them feel educated . 

. . I refuse doctorates because they suggest that one has 

passed some sort of academic test. Accepting the 

Professorship of Poetry at Oxford was different—it's a free 

election.

INTERVIEWER

In your last and most violent lecture at Oxford you said 

there were no poetic standards left. It is rare for you to 

make generalizations of this sort. Do you feel that “pop” 

poetry is inconsistent with dedication to the Muse?

GRAVES

There are no standards of verse-craft left, I think I said. 

Genuine folk songs are welcome, but why those artificial 

songs of protest? There are few now, if any, who go to the 

real root of the thing. Fewer, since Frost and Cummings died.

INTERVIEWER

What about your own poetic influences, apart from the Tudor 

poet Skelton and Laura Riding?

GRAVES

“Influence” is a very loose term. It sounds as though one is 

being dominated by someone. I never wrote anything in Laura 

Riding's style as far as I know. I learnt from her a general 

attitude to things, rather than verse-craft.

INTERVIEWER

Is it that what you get from successive incarnations of the 

Muse?

GRAVES

Yes, but in the form of warnings rather than instructions.

INTERVIEWER

May I ask you about the way you work? You don't have a 

routine, do you?

GRAVES

None. I admit only to a certain sense of priority in things. 

This morning, for instance, I got up at seven. I felt drawn 

to the ash pit where I burn waste paper and sieved out all 

the tins and things which have been mistakenly put there. 

Then I put the ash on the compost heap. Then I soaked the 

carrot patch so that I could thin it out a bit. Then I 

revised my “Monsters” piece.

INTERVIEWER

You write in longhand, on a sort of lectern . . .

GRAVES

That's because I broke my neck once. When the doctor asked me 

how, I couldn't remember until just the other day. It was 

when I was climbing Snowdon in 1914. I was belayed in a gully 

when the leader dislodged a large stone: It fell on my head 

and knocked me out. The other day I had almost exactly the 

same experience and so remembered the occasion. Now my neck 

is—well, I wrote a poem about it: “Broken Neck.”

INTERVIEWER

Does most of your income come from royalties on your novels?

GRAVES

I don't know, really. I never study my royalty returns.

INTERVIEWER

You said you only read for information. What do you read, and 

when do you get time?

GRAVES

I used to read at night; now I go straight to sleep. I don't 

read for pleasure. The other day I had to revise The Nazarene 

Gospel Restored for publication in Hungary, which meant a 

good deal of research.

INTERVIEWER

You said, “I foresee no change for the better in the world 

until everything gets worse.” Well, now it is worse. Can we 

do anything about it?

GRAVES

Poets can't march in protest or do that sort of thing. I feel 

that it's against the rules, and pointless. If mankind wants 

a great big final bang, that's what it'll get. One should 

never protest against anything unless it's going to have an 

effect. None of those marches do. One should either be silent 

or go straight to the top. Once this village was without 

electricity for three months because the local system had 

broken down and the provincial company was scared of putting 

a pylon on the land of an old noblewoman, whose son was a 

Captain-General and who said that the spot was sacred to St. 

Catalina Tomás, the island's patron saint. I went to Madrid 

to see the Minister of Information and National Tourism and 

told him: “The local hotels will be empty this summer for 

lack of electricity.” He kindly informed our Civil Governor 

that the pylon should be put up regardless of the Saint's 

feelings. But it's different if one can't go to the top. I 

regret the war in Vietnam, but marching won't stop it, and 

there is no one person, like our Minister in Madrid, who can 

control this complex situation.

INTERVIEWER

Does this disturb you?

GRAVES

Civilization has got further and further from the so-called 

natural man, who uses all his faculties: perception, 

invention, improvisation. It's bound to end in the breakdown 

of society and the cutting down of the human race to 

manageable size. That's the way things work; they always 

have. My hope is that a few cultural reservations will be 

left undisturbed. A suitable place might be certain Pacific 

Islands and tracts in Siberia and Australia, so that when the 

present mess is over, the race of man can restore itself from 

these centers.

INTERVIEWER

Who will be on the reservations? Who'll decide?

GRAVES

The people who are already there. They should be left. The 

Melanesians, for instance, and the paleo-Siberians.

INTERVIEWER

Has your living here in Deyá, isolated from what you call the 

modern mechanarchic civilization, gradually led to what you 

call handcraft in your poetry?

GRAVES

I once lived here for six years without moving out. That was 

in the years 1930-1936. Didn't even go to Barcelona. Apart 

from that, I've always made a point of traveling. One's got 

to go out because one can't live wholly in oneself or wholly 

in the traditional past. One's got to be aware of how really 

nasty urban life is.

INTERVIEWER

But you take in much less by osmosis than if you were T. S. 

Eliot at the bank?

GRAVES

Obviously I do.

INTERVIEWER

You are constantly revising your collected poems. Why?

GRAVES

I realize from time to time that certain poems were written 

for the wrong reasons and feel obliged to remove them; they 

give me a sick feeling. Only the few necessary poems should 

be kept. There's no mystery about them: If one is a poet, one 

eventually learns which they are. Though, of course, a 

perfect poem is impossible. Once it had been written, the 

world would end.


The Paris Review, Summer 1969