The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

December 3, 2016

December 3, 1944

Craig Raine (December 3, 1944) was poetry editor at Faber and Faber from 1981 t0 1991. Then he assumed the post of professor of poetry at New College Oxford, and after almost twenty years there became emeritus Fellow at New College. Some of his books

The Onion, Memory
, 1978,
A Martian Sends a Postcard Home,
1979,
A Free Translation, 1981,
Rich, 1984,
The Electrification of the Soviet Union,
1986;
History: The Home Movie, 1994;
Clay. Whereabouts Unknown, 1996;
In Defence of T. S. Eliot (essays), 2000

And he wrote novels--
Heartbreak, 2010; and The Divine Comedy, 2012;

The Divine Comedy
is blurbed as "a voyeuristic meditation on sex and insecurity, God and the nature of the human body—its capacity for pleasure and pain, its desires, disappointments, and its many mortifying betrayals." Along these lines is the fact men do not have a bone in their penises. Other animals do. Raine says "the raccoon, gorillas, chimpanzees, the walrus, polar bears, rats, gerbils, jerboas, seals – cats as well as dogs" all do. Ted Hughes was wrong then to assert only dogs had this anatomical feature, as Raine gleefully points out.

In a change of tempo, here is a lovely statement by Raine on what it is he does:

'What the poet does is as ordinary and mysterious as digesting. I question. I break life down. I impose chaos on order. For instance, we think we know how food is ingested, digested, divided into energy and excrement. The neat theory, however, is one thing; control of the process is another; consciousness of the process yet another. Are we aware of protein in the stomach being acted on by pepsin, the appropriate enzyme? Digestion, thinking and breathing are all functions we perform without knowing how we perform them. The body is a dark continent. The mind is another. So I can say very little about what I do. I accept nothing as read. I attack the pretence that we know how things work, whether they happen to be the action of saliva or sexual love from adolescence to old age. This is John Donne on prayer, but prayer as a dissipation rather than single-minded devotion: 'a memory of yesterdays pleasures, a feare of tomorrows dangers, a straw under my knee, a noise in mine eare, a light in mine eye, an any thing, a nothing, a fancy, a Chimera in my braine, troubles me in my prayer.' This sermon was preached in December 1626 and is still a valid prescription for the art I like - art which pays attention, which remembers, which records, which prefers what is actually true to what is merely ideal, which imposes chaos on order.'

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