Tag Archives: English

Transit to Scorpio

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Transit to Scorpio [Amazon, Abebooks, Local Library] by Alan Burt Akers, part of the Dray Prescot series.

Akers Transit to Scorpio

Transit to Scorpio is the first of dozens of sword-and-planet novels by Alan Burt Akers (nom de plume of Kenneth Bulmer) set on the planet Kregen in the binary star-system of Antares (Alpha Scorpii). The scorpion figures as a symbol and a portent throughout the story, beginning with the death of the hero’s father from a scorpion sting.

The book is certainly better than some Burroughs pastiche I’ve read, although it keeps rather rigorously to the formula. Akers makes his alien princess a cripple at the her first meeting with the protagonist, which is an interesting choice. As in other sword-and-planet milieus, manipulations by superhuman agents are responsible for the narrator’s travels between Earth and Kregen. In this case, they are called the “Star Lords,” and their attributes and motives are left entirely unspecified. 

There’s an overt allusion to John Norman’s Gor books, in the form of a continent called Gah that is reported to host gender relations of the Gorean type. But that’s just peripheral detail, in this volume anyhow. The issue of slavery is addressed squarely, though. Unlike Norman’s late 20th-century academic Tarl Cabot who has never encountered slavery on Earth, Bulmer’s hero Dray Prescot is from 18th-century Earth, and learned to buckle his swashes in a nautical career. He is familiar with the mercantile slave industry, and antagonistic to it. (Note the repeating meter of “John Carter” in the names of the heroes. No other is permitted!) His initial aversion to lethal violence fades quickly in the course of the story. 

On the whole, the book was a quick and pleasant read. The prose is palatable, with a little bit of affectation that seems to suit the narrating character’s 18th-century origins, and the occasional seeming-anachronism stemming from the fact that he has returned to Earth periodically, well into the 20th century. The scorpion omen and some avian signs seem to be related to the Star Lords, but that whole dimension is left opaque, and it is clear that Bulmer intended this to be the first of many linked novels. I’ll probably read more from this series.

My Business Is to Create

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews My Business Is to Create: Blake’s Infinite Writing [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Eric G Wilson, part of the Iowa Series in Creativity and Writing.

Wilson My Business Is to Create

In My Business Is to Create, Eric G. Wilson provides a score of linked meditations on the creative process, homilies on the work and works of William Blake. The result is a slender but inspiring book in which the contraries of writing and criticism, interpretation and creation, are brought into fruitful coincidence.

Each of the essays in the volume highlights anecdotes and apposite quotes from other writers, from Nietzsche to Adrienne Rich, to the point where sometimes it seemed like there were too many voices in play. Wilson’s view of Blake seems to be a robust one, and while it is certainly informed by extensive familiarity with other readers of Blake, it didn’t seem to need the intrusion of further “authorities,” especially given the personal and reflective tone of the study. 

My Business Is to Create contains numerous biographical passages, and it should be enjoyable as an introduction to Blake, as well as a reflection on his ideas about creativity and vision, and counsel to writers and other artists about how to put those ideas into play. 

Together with the Leveller social heresy about humanity’s “right to choose its rulers, rather than to rule,” Milton advocates for religious heresy (Gk. hairesis, “choice”) – where believers are required to give a reasoned account of their beliefs – an idea which is fundamental to his poetics of choice.

David Williams, Milton’s Leveller God [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library]

Hermetic quote Williams Miltons Leveller God social heresy right to choose rulers religious heresy believers required reasoned account beliefs poetics choice

Lark in the Morning

Lark in the Morning: The Verses of the Troubadours, a Bilingual Edition by Robert Kehew, with both French and English, translations by Ezra Pound, W D Snodgrass and Robert Kehew, a 2005 paperback from University of Chicago Press, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Robert Kehew Lark in the Morning from University of Chicago Press

“Although the troubadours flourished at the height of the Middle Ages in southern France, their songs of romantic love, with pleasing melodies and intricate stanzaic patterns, have inspired poets and song writers ever since, from Dante to Chaucer, from Renaissance sonneteers to the Romantics, and from Verlaine and Rimbaud to modern rock lyricists. Yet despite the incontrovertible influence of the troubadours on the development of both poetry and music in the West, there existed no comprehensive anthology of troubadour lyrics that respected the verse form of the originals until now.

Lark in the Morning honors the meter, word play, punning, and sound effects in the troubadours’ works while celebrating the often playful, bawdy, and biting nature of the material. Here, Robert Kehew augments his own verse translations with those of two seminal twentieth-century poets—Ezra Pound and W. D. Snodgrass—to provide a collection that captures both the poetic pyrotechnics of the original verse and the astonishing variety of troubadour voices.” — back cover


“Now when I see the skylark lift
His wings for joy in dawn’s first ray
Then let himself, oblivious, drift
For all his heart is glad and gay,
Ay! such great envies seize my thought
To see the rapture others find,
I marvel that desire does not
Consume away this heart of mine.”
—from “The Skylark” by Bernart de Ventadorn, trans. W D Snodgrass