Sunday, January 11, 2009

Rimbaud and Athill

Yesterday's Irish Times has a review by Colm Tobin of a biography: Rimbaud: The Double Life of a Rebel By Edmund White (Atlantic Books, 192pp. £16.99). Rimbaud (1854 - 1891) remains one of the most influential poets of the nineteenth century. He had his first poem published when he was twelve and gave up writing poetry at twenty.

Where did his talent/genius come from? One factor was certainly hard work. His mother was known for her iron will and saw that her son had talent so she hired a private tutor for him through whom he discovered Greek, Latin and French poetry. "She would punish her sons by making them learn a hundred lines of Latin verse by heart and if they gave an inaccurate recitation, she would deprive them of meals". This seems to bear out the essence of Malcolm Gladwell's ten thousand hours thesis.

To encourage those of us who are older and have come to writing late there is the example of Diana Athill who at the age of 91 took the Costa Books biography award for her memoir Somewhere Towards the End , is the oldest-ever category-winning author in the history of the awards. Loose Leaves in the Irish Times recounts her advice: "Get out of bed and make yourself do something."

I have just learned that one of the UK small poetry magazines, Decanto, will publish a poem of mine, Repentance, in one of their 2009 issues. Delighted!

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