''The lullaby is the spell whereby the mother attempts to transform herself back from an ogre to a saint.''James Fenton (b. 1949), British poet, critic. "Ars Poetica," no. 7, Independent on Sunday (London, March 11, 1990).
''The writing of a poem is like a child throwing stones into a mineshaft. You compose first, then you listen for the reverberation.''James Fenton (b. 1949), British poet, critic. Ars Poetica, no. 22, Independent on Sunday (London, June 24, 1990).
''Imitation, if it is not forgery, is a fine thing. It stems from a generous impulse, and a realistic sense of what can and cannot be done.''James Fenton (b. 1949), British poet, critic. "Ars Poetica," no. 47, Independent on Sunday (London, Dec. 16, 1990).
''It is not what they built. It is what they knocked down.James Fenton (b. 1949), British poet, critic. German Requiem (1981).
It is not the houses. It is the spaces between the houses.
It is not the streets that exist. It is the streets that no longer exist.''
''It has to be displayed, this face, on a more or less horizontal plane. Imagine a man wearing a mask, and imagine that the elastic which holds the mask on has just broken, so that the man (rather than let the mask slip off) has to tilt his head back and balance the mask on his real face. This is the kind of tyranny which Lawson's face exerts over the rest of his body as he cruises along the corridors.... He doesn't look down his nose at you, he looks along his nose.''James Fenton (b. 1949), British poet, critic. New Statesman (London, July 23, 1976). Referring to former Chancellor Nigel Lawson.
''Those who actually set out to see the fall of a city ... or those who choose to go to a front line, are obviously asking themselves to what extent they are cowards. But the tests they set themselvesthere is a dead body, can you bear to look at it?are nothing in comparison with the tests that are sprung on them. It is not the obvious tests that matter (do you go to pieces in a mortar attack?) but the unexpected ones (here is a man on the run, seeking your helpcan you face him honestly?).''James Fenton (b. 1949), British poet, critic. repr. In All the Wrong Places (1988). "The Fall of Saigon," no. 15, Granta (Cambridge, England, 1985).
''Saigon was an addicted city, and we were the drug: the corruption of children, the mutilation of young men, the prostitution of women, the humiliation of the old, the division of the family, the division of the countryit had all been done in our name.... The French city ... had represented the opium stage of the addiction. With the Americans had begun the heroin phase.''James Fenton (b. 1949), British poet, critic. repr. In All the Wrong Places (1988). "The Fall of Saigon," no. 15, Granta (Cambridge, England, 1985).
''One does not become a guru by accident.''James Fenton (b. 1949), British poet, critic. Times (London, Aug. 9, 1984). Referring to playwright Samuel Beckett.
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This is the wind, the wind in a field of corn.
Great crowds are fleeing from a major disaster
Down the green valleys, the long swaying wadis,
Down through the beautiful catastrophe of wind.
Families, tribes, nations, and their livestock
Have heard something, seen something. An expectation
Or a gigantic misunderstanding has swept over the hilltop
Bending the ear of the hedgerow with stories of fire and sword.