Sunday, September 1, 2013

'A is for Aphorism' - Melbourne Writers Festival 2013

Andrew Ford, Damon Young and the Joker (check the t-shirt)
Today I spoke with composer and Radio National broadcaster Andrew Ford at the Melbourne Writers Festival.

Our conversation, 'A is for Aphorism', was missing its chair: poor David McCooey had the 'flu. But we threw ourselves into the chat, covering a wide variety of topics.

After playing the aphoristic poem 'Sleep' -- two radically different compositions from Andy and David -- we spoke about the way in which music transforms the text: the intensification and narrowing of meaning. We discussed the rhythm of language, and the ways in which miniatures -- from Proust's bonsai to haiku to aphorisms -- can evoke immensities of memory and mood. We also had a great chat, with some help from Heidegger (on my part), about mood: the ways in which the world comes forth from within a mood -- or not at all.

At the book-signing table
I read out a couple of my aphorisms, alongside Nietzsche's. I also spoke about the epigrams of Tom Farber, in his The End of My Wits. Andy showed me Peter Rose's Crimson Crop, which devoted two pages to some clever (and funny) one-liners.

(Also check out the prolific aphoristic play of poet and translator George Szirtes.)

One interesting point was the bravery of the aphorism: its vulnerability to reinterpretation, but also its power to shock or surprise. We also talked about the difference between slogans and aphorisms: the first reactionary, the second progressive.

All in all, a helluva lot packed into a short hour. Very aphoristic, actually.

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