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Learning to Draw / A History Paperback – September 21, 2011
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'The poems, rather than acting as an extended narrative (which is what I'd at first assumed they would do) interlace, so that the structure is like an evolving web. What is at stake here is a history, but history being a fluid thing, is never going to appear the same no matter how often the survivors tell their tales. With each new piece of information the whole is altered: not just by addition, but by complication.' - Laurie Duggan
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The cover (a King drawing/painting) is the marker for the cards being dealt here. For any of us fortunate enough to have been following this extraordinary and evolving living organism of a writing it comes as no surprise how much is brought to the table and the flow of living in on and about the process of how we come out of memory/learning/HISTORY and how much is shapes and shakes us to the bone. This is what Basil King has proposed for almost 60+ years now! Learning to Draw makes it very clear what he is up to... he brings it together here. The book is a deck of cards and can be read starting at any point and it tells the same story and moves through the same landscape but changes the angle of entry and the map of the landscape.
King has learned to write as learned to draw: with a gut and deep connection to life and the struggle that that entails and a deep brilliant and some times startling intelligence. What is always amazing is how knowledgeable and deeply informed he always is and how sure the course of the engagement remains. BUT even more to the point: the writing is deeply charged and musical; and fun and often funny! It is poetry but finally it does not require any academic niche. Like King's painting and drawing it breaks out and demands its own place. It is this that often makes it hard for academics to find a way to deal with this work. Once it is fully accepted they will tell you/us why is so important... BUT for now it is simply just WONDERFUL and deeply moving
Charles Olsen -- one of King's teachers and starting points (one of the cards...) proposed a writing like this BUT could never get clear enough of his roots in "literary" and historical position and teaching... he got muddled most of the time (in some very deep sense "afraid". KING breaks through and moves comfortably with everything he's learned and with the confidence of the great painter he is. This is Projective Verse but much more it is in the bone and flesh of the things we make and make us. Olsen was too tied up;d Robert Duncan manage to do it but with too much cover and careful intention. King simply moves through this with a natural line and draws in all the pure delight of a great soloist improvising and shaping and presenting the familiar in a new and charged moment.
The very special thing is that this is pure and simple a beautiful book and something worth having and knowing and learning.
--ps: The section on the Twin Towers is just THE BEST WRITING ON THIS subject that has yet been done.