Crossways

An Online Literary Magazine

Notes on Literature as Play

  As far as I can make out, there is only one rule to the game of literature that we can say with any degree of certainty. That rule is play. Play consists of saying much without really saying anything. It is not the job of poetry to clarify. Poetry should suggest and ambiguate. To play with words, to juggle with concepts and ideas is the business of the poet. […]

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Homer’s Feast

I love the works of Homer. They are regarded by most literary historians as being the dawn of Western literature, having been written down probably sometime between 800 and 700 BC. There is a lot of dispute and debate about what we actually have, but surely the most important thing to remember is that what we have is wonderful. The Homer scholar, Eva Brann, has said that in every field […]

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Getting to the Good Stuff: The Art of Creative Writing

They say there is prose and verse and you can have poetry in either. This strikes me as true. Literature is an art, not a science. Living is an art, not a science. This is why the term ‘Arts’ is often associated with, and even interchangeable with, the term ‘Humanities’. The American poet, Jim Morrison, was once asked about the cross he wore around his neck at the Doors’ famous gig […]

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The Reflex: Writing in the Dark

The post is about writing and self-reflexivity or meta-fiction. It seems to me that writing is naturally self-reflexive. Especially creative writing. Why that is I don’t know but it goes back all the way to Homer’s epics and the dawn of Western literature. For those of you who don’t know, meta-fiction is basically fiction about fiction. It draws attention to its own conventions and rules and inner workings. It ‘deconstructs’ […]

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Facing the White Bull: the Discipline of Creative Writing

Anyone who has written a book will know the importance of discipline. Getting up at roughly the same hour every morning and sitting down at the computer to ‘face the white bull’ as D.H. Lawrence called it. Every writer has their own way of doing things. Dark fantasy author, Clive Barker, always writes the first sentence of a new chapter at the end of his working day so’s he isn’t […]

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The Wife’s Tale by Seamus Heaney

This is one of my favourite Seamus Heaney poems. It’s from his 1969 collection, Door into the Dark. I think the key to understanding the poem is the Eleusian mysteries practised by the ancient Greeks. The man in the poem is basically giving the role of the corn goddess, Demeter, to the woman, though she doesn’t know it. It’s a measure of how much he loves her but she is mystified. I think […]

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How to Approach the Classics

Many people have trouble reading the Classics, both ancient and modern. This is because we live in a culture of instant gratification. We are used to  reading passively. The key to understanding literature prior to the age of instant gratification is ‘active’ reading. People must change the way they approach these works. They need to change their mindsets. They need to read actively. Think of all the great literature that […]

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