beckett

Tatters of song: Beckett's "mirlitonnades"

Barry Schwabsky for the Brooklyn Rail: "Chronologically, Beckett’s poetry can be roughly dived into three phases: the thirties, when he produced 25 to 27 poems (the dating of a few is ambiguous); the postwar years (6 to 8 poems dated 1946-48), and then the 70s and 80s, when in a few spurts he produced some 50 poems, notably the 37 brief French poems he called “mirlitonnades”. A mirliton is a kazoo, so these are, rather than Wallace Stevens’s “Asides on the Oboe,” asides on a kazoo. Vers de mirliton is doggerel but this sequence is among Beckett’s best work as a poet. But the big transition came in the gap between the first two periods—that is, with the war. In a conversation with the writer Charles Juliet he spoke of a sudden revelation experienced in 1946 on a trip to Ireland: “Until that moment I used to think I could trust knowledge, that I needed to be intellectually equipped. Then everything collapsed.” It was then that he began writing without the gaudy surfaces that had armored his early poetry."

Not mister, not Sam, but Beckett

Beckett remembers Joyce -- And I brought him home drunk one night, but I won't go into that. He drank a lot but in the evenings only. I remember a party. He was a great man for anniversaries. Every year he would celebrate his father's anniversary, "Father forsaken, forgive thy son." On that occasion, he would give me a note, in francs. I don't know how many francs it would be. A note. To give to some poor down-and-out in memory of his father. Towards the end of the year, in December, the date of his father's birth was celebrated and commemorated every year and I was given on several occasions, when I was available, this note to give to some down-and-out in memory of his father. "New life is breathed upon the glass," etc.