Peter Robinson (see pages 303–304 in Geary’s Guide; Peter also did some translations from the Italian for the book) is back with a new collection of aphorisms, Spirits of the Stair (Shearsman Books). Robinson’s first aphoristic collection, Untitled Deeds in 2004, was inspired in part by his experience teaching in Japan and in part by the euphemism-infested realm of public discourse. In the evocative language of the publisher’s blurb for Spirits of the Stair: “Finding weapons of mass destruction in the speechifying of politicians, and the toxicity of pension plan promises, feeling chilled by global warming, and hot under the collar, the poet found no other respite than to reach for his notebooks. What came from them were wrung-out dishcloths and acupuncturists’ needles, sound bites that chew on what they eschew, salves for old saws, and less-is-more morsels.” These aphorisms are savory slices of life, lip-licking slivers of literary sushi, delightfully delivered from only half-way down the stairs, from where they ring unerringly true. (Sorry for the purple prose, but that publisher’s blurb really got to me…) The current volume is an enlarged and extended selection, which includes all of the aphorisms from Untitled Deeds plus a lot more. Here is a seductive sampler, as chosen by Robinson himself:
In any evolving pattern or series it’s the elements that appear not to fit which will prove the most significant.
To hear the Christian Fundamentalists talk you’d think they were born again yesterday.
A charm offensive: an offensive charm.
The unexamined life is not worth living. The over-examined life is unendurable.
The aphorist’s palliative care: the relief of pain through the careful insertion of innumerable short, sharp needles.
By all means aspire to the stars, but try not to suck up to them.
I would ask the Churches if they couldn’t try to be a little more ecumenical with the truth.
Ah life: an aphorism waiting to happen.