Friday, February 20, 2009

Poetry Friday -- Sleepers Awake

by John Ashbery

Cervantes was asleep when he wrote Don Quixote.
Joyce slept during the Wandering Rocks section of Ulysses.
Homer nodded and occasionally slept during the greater part of the Iliad; he was awake however when he wrote the Odyssey.
Proust snored his way through The Captive, as have legions of his readers after him.
Melville was asleep at the wheel for much of Moby-Dick.
Fitzgerald slept through Tender Is the Night, which is perhaps not so surprising,
but the fact that Mann slumbered on the very slopes of The Magic Mountain is quite extraordinary—that he wrote it, even more so.
Kafka, of course, never slept, even while not writing or on bank holidays.
No one knows too much about George Eliot’s writing habits—my guess is she would sleep a few minutes, wake up and write something, then pop back to sleep again.
Lew Wallace’s forty winks came, incredibly, during the chariot race in Ben-Hur.
Emily Dickinson slept on her cold, narrow bed in Amherst.
When she awoke there would be a new poem inscribed by Jack Frost on the windowpane; outside, glass foliage chimed.
Good old Walt snored as he wrote and, like so many of us, insisted he didn’t.
Maugham snored on the Riviera.
Agatha Christie slept daintily, as a woman sleeps, which is why her novels are like tea sandwiches—artistic, for the most part.
I sleep when I cannot avoid it; my writing and sleeping are constantly improving.

I have other things to say, but shall not detain you much.
(those other things are here)

Cuileann has the round up this week is at The Holly and the Ivy.


  1. What a fun poem -- and I want to hug that kitty!!

  2. Anonymous1:14 PM

    Ohh, this one's going to keep me thinking for quite a while...

    My favorite lines:

    When she awoke there would be a new poem inscribed by Jack Frost on the windowpane; outside, glass foliage chimed.

    Thanks for sharing this!

  3. A wordless implosion of sleep. Wow.

    And I have to agree about Proust -- much sleeping went on there.

  4. Great poem!
    When I was a senior in high school, I joined Melville in slumber every time I picked up Moby Dick ... Just. Couldn't. Read. It.

  5. This is a good one! Thanks.


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