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Planetary Motions
, published by Giant Steps Press, is now available on Amazon for $14.95.

Spoor of Desire: Selected Poems
is available for $16.00 from FootHills Publishing, P.O. Box 68, Kanona NY 14856 or see

Tourist Snapshots was available from Randy Fingland's CC Marimbo, P.O. Box 933, Berkeley CA. CC Marimbo has, unfortunately ceased publishing, though I still have a few copies to spare.

Dada Poetry: An Introduction was published by Nirala Publications. It may be ordered on for $29.99 plus shipping. American buyers may order a copy from me for $23 including shipping.

Each book is available from the author William Seaton. Write

A categorized index of all work that has appeared on this site is available by looking under the current month in the Blog Archive section and selecting Index.

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Literature Blogs
Literature blog

Friday, September 1, 2023


The index has grown to the point of becoming unwieldy, leading me to offer first a brief sketch of its contents.

For the most part the site contains literary criticism with topics ranging around the globe and through the centuries. There are also other essays, translations, travel stories, a few memoirs, a few political comments. With rare exceptions (mostly early) I do not post my poetry here.

In the literary essays I am willing to discuss virtually anything. This site is strong on literary theory, the idea of the avant-garde, ancient Greek, medieval European, and Asian literatures, and includes a series of treatments of blues songs as poetry.

Some of the essays are technical and include academic jargon, probably indigestible to a lay reader. Others are directed toward a general audience. Perhaps the most accessible are those in the Every Reader’s Poets series (section 5G below) which assume no background knowledge. 

The index now features hypertext connections. Simply click on any title below to read it.

Though this listing serves, I think, a clear purpose, not every posting falls easily into the categories. One essay might equally be placed under literary theory or medieval texts while another might fit under memoir, politics, or travel. Translations with comment might be either criticism or translation. Poke around a bit.

The categories are:

1. speculative, familiar, performance pieces, and other essays

2. literary theory

3. Greek texts (and a few Latin)

4. medieval European texts

5. other criticism
A. 16th-19th century
B. 20th century to the present 
C. Asian texts
D. songs
E. Notes on Recent Reading
F. Rereading the Classics
G. Every Reader's Poets

6. translation

7. poetry

8. politics

9. memoirs

10. travel

1. Speculative, familiar, performance pieces, and other essays
Agnostic Credo and Vita (October 2015)
Confidence Games (August 2022)
Contronyms (March 2019)
Cookbooks (April 2014)
Dead Reckoning (February 2011)
Deer (December 2012)
Documents of the first Surreal Cabaret (March 2012)
Documents of the second Surreal Cabaret (June 2012)
Documents of the third Surreal Cabaret (October 2013)
Documents of the fourth Surreal Cabaret (July 2014)
Documents of the fifth Surreal Cabaret (February 2015)
Notes on Pan (June 2014)
Oedipus and the Meaning of Polysemy (July 2011)
The Subversive Wit of Jerry Leiber (December 2022)
"The Three Ravens" (August 2013)
Trinidadian Smut (April 2016)
Truckin' (November 2014)
The Verbal Dance of the Blues (September 2020) 
“Walkin’ Blues” [Son House] (December 2011)

E. Notes on Recent Reading
Notes on Recent Reading [Melville, Greene, and Whalen] (September 2011)
Notes on Recent Reading 2 [Crane, The Crowning of Louis, Thornlyre] (October 2011)
Notes on Recent Reading 3 [Kipling, San Francisco Mime Troupe, Lynn’s Tao-te-ching] (November 2011)
Notes on Recent Reading 4 [Sarah Scott, de La Fayette, Wharton] (January 2012)
Notes on Recent Reading 5 [The Deeds of God in Rddhipur, Burney, Cooper] (January 2012)
Notes on Recent Reading 6 [Jewett, Addison, Crabbe] (February 2012)
Notes on Recent Reading 7 [Nabokov, Austen, Grettis Saga] (April 2012)
Notes on Recent Reading 8 [Bakhtin, Lewis, Brown] (May 2012)
Notes on Recent Reading 9 [Plutarch, Tacitus, Williams](June 2012)
Notes on Recent Reading 10 [Voltaire, France, Dryden](July 2012)
Notes on Recent Reading 11 [Wright, Kerouac & Burroughs, Gilbert] (August 2012)
Notes on Recent Reading 12 [Huxley, Norris, Dōgen](September 2012)
Notes on Recent Reading 13 [Mirabai, Wood, Trocchi] (November 2012)
Notes on Recent Reading 14 [Algren, Hauptmann, Rolle] (January 2013)
Notes on Recent Reading 15 [Hemingway, Orwell, Gaskell]{February 2013}
Notes on Recent Reading 16 [Howells, Ford, Mann] (April 2013)
Notes on Recent Reading 17 [McCarthy, Chang, Snorri](July 2013)
Notes on Recent Reading 18 [Radcliffe, Stendhal, Erasmus](October 2013)
Notes on Recent Reading 19 [Powers, Zhang Ji, Vietnamese folk song] (February 2014)
Notes on Recent Reading 20 [Rowe, Stevenson, Issa] (May 2014)
Notes on Recent Reading 21 [Fussell, Mahfouz, Watts] (August 2014)
Notes on Recent Reading 22 [Waugh, Belloc, Okakura] (October 2014)
Notes on Recent Reading 23 [Naipaul, Dinesen, Spillane] (January 2015)
Notes on Recent Reading 24 [Fielding; Izumo , Shōraku, and Senryū; Plath] (June 2015)
Notes on Recent Reading 25 [Baskervill, Gissing, Capote] (July 2015)
Notes on Recent Reading 26 [Tuchman, Premchand, Cocteau] (November 2015)
Notes on Recent Reading 27 [Forster, Sackville-West, Capote] (January 2016)
Notes on Recent Reading 28 [Verne, Waley, Hurston] (March 2016)
Notes on Recent Reading 29 [Achebe, Jewett, Villiers de l'Isle-Adam] (October 2016)
Notes on Recent Reading 30 [Bradford, Scott, Marquand] (April 2017)
Notes on Recent Reading 31 [Marlowe, Trollope, p'Bitek] (August 2017)
Notes on Recent Reading 32 [Morrison, Cary, Kawabata] (October 2017)
Notes on Recent Reading 33 [Tourneur, Peacock, Greene] (December 2017)
Notes on Recent Reading 34 [Hawthorne, Huncke, Bentley] (January 2018)
Notes on Recent Reading 35 [Scott, Norris, Jacobs] (August 2018)
Notes on Recent Reading 36 [Norris, Rexroth and Laughlin, Sand] (November 2018)
Notes on Recent Reading 37 [Waley, Wharton, London] (January 2019)
Notes on Recent Reading 38 [London, Vonnegut, Cather] (June 2019)
Notes on Recent Reading 39 [Aristophanes, Machiavelli, Braddon] (September 2019)
Notes on Recent Reading 40 [Saunders, Adichie, Radhakrishnan] (January 2020)
Notes on Recent Reading 41 [McCarthy, Priestley, Ehirim] (July 2020)
Notes on Recent Reading 42 [Bulgakov, Tedlock, Wlliams] (October 2020) 
Notes on Recent Reading 47 [Colette, Alegria, Xenophon] (April 2023)

Menus (August 2021)
My Most Politically Active Year (February 2011)
Nova Academy (March 2011)
Pestering Allen [Ginsberg] (March 2012)
Poetry on the Loose (September 2011)
A Scholar's Debut (October 2012)
Sherman Paul (August 2016)
Suburbanite in the City (November 2010)
Tim West (March 2013)
Vignettes of the Sixties (October 2019)
VISTA Trains Me (June 2011)

10. Travel 
Arrival in Nigeria (August 2015)
Acadiana [Lafayette, Louisiana] (May 2010)
An Armenian Family in Bordeaux (December 2014)
Carnival [Portugal] (May 2012)
Cookie Man [Morocco] (October 2011)
Creel (October 2010)
Dame Fortuna in Portugal (May 2012)
Dinner with Mrs. Pea [Thailand] (April 2013)
Election Day in Chichicastenango (January 2012)
An Evening in Urubamba (July 2011)
Favored Places (July 2019)
Festival in Ogwa [Nigeria](January 2011)
Fictional Destinations (April 2020)
On the Ganges' Shore (August 2013)
The Guru of Guinness (July 2016)
Haarlem (July 2010)
Hitchhiking in Algeria (September 2010)
Hitchhiking in France (January 2014)
Hungarian Food (December 2010)
Introduction to Tourist Snapshots (June 2010)
Jemaa el Fna (December 2010)
Knee-deep in History [Vietnam, Cambodia] (February 2014)
Najibe’s Stories (September 2011)
Nigerian Names and Vehicle Slogans (March 2011)
A Palm Wine Shack [Nigeria] (December 2011)
Portraits from a Floating World: Anonymous (October 2016)
Portraits from a Floating World: Najibe and Sandro (February 2010)
Portraits from a Floating World: Gahlia and Jack (June 2010)
Portraits from a Floating World: Leslie Spector and Pa’ahssyzy (August 2010)

Heine’s “Rückschau” and “Weltlauf”



The German texts of the poems and quoted prose are appended.


1.  Heine’s “Rückschau” 


A Look Back


I have smelled every smellable scent

that the kitchen of earth can present.

I’ve taken all pleasures I could,

just like a hero would,

drunk coffee and gobbled down cake,

known many fine girls for love’s sake,

worn a silk vest and a very fine cloak

with money jingling in my poke.

I rode on a horse like Gellert the Great;

I had more than a house, I had an estate!

On fortune’s green field I’ve often reclined

while golden sunrays on me shined.

A laurel wreath round my brow one would find

inspiring new dreams to be born in my mind,

dreams of fine roses and unending May.

So blissful it was then to me each day,

addicted to twilight and idle as sin!

Roast pigeons just saw my mouth and flew in!

An angel appeared and from out of his gown –

a vintage Champagne for me to drink down!

These, though, were visions, just bubbles of soap,

which burst.  Now I lie on a wet grassy slope.

Rheumatism has seized all my limbs

and my soul is so sad, it with shame overbrims.

Every joy and every delight

I have paid for with harsh acrid spite.

I’m soaked in the bitterest gall,

while bedbugs do bite and crawl.

Beset by every black grief,

I find I’m a liar, I find I’m a thief.

Each affluent booby and dry old maid

must be begged if I’m to be paid.

I’ve now grown so tired of dashing around,

I’m ready to lie in my grave in the ground.

For now, my Christian friends, good-bye!

It’s quite understood, we’ll meet in the sky. 



    This poem, though high-spirited, is anything but frivolous.  It appeared in Romanzero, Heine’s last book, written from his sick-bed with the knowledge that he would not recover.. 

     I translated this primarily for the fun of the couplets, many of which are constructed with the care of a stand-up comedian.  Punchlines arrive as regularly as the surf.  While maintaining these clanging insistent rhymes, I have jazzed up the rhythmic patterns (for the most part keeping a four-beat line of variable length) to avoid a sing-song tone.  The rhymes still create an impression of a certain jauntiness, which should not distract readers from Heine’s graver implications.  One may gather a hint of this darker tone from the title of one of the chapters in Adorno’s Notes to Literature: “Heine the Wound.”

     The irony that begins with naïve hyperbole, which comes to seem mere bravado as it is undercut and eventually all but inverted by bedbugs and illness and dependence on unworthy others.  The poet’s élan vital drained, he is fatigued with life, ready to leap into the grave.  Yet at the same time, he is a spirited observer of his own position and able to toss off an ironic greeting for the close, the hollow Christian promise of pie in the sky.  His supposed conversion serves as an example of the “begging” to which the author is reduced, yet he remains afloat in the sea of circumstance through artful and defiant words.  If he cannot eliminate life’s pains and injustices, he can at any rate make fun of them.



ii.  Heine’s “Weltlauf”


     This poem, also from Romanzero, provides economic analysis boiled down to the bare minimum.  In a society in which worth is measured by wealth, further success inevitably goes to those who have no need of it, while those in penury stand no chance.  As another poet put it “Them that's got shall get/ Them that's not shall lose/ So the bible said and it still is news.”

     In the French introduction to Lutetia Heine asserted his simple and radical belief that “all people have the right to eat.”  He proceeded to a righteous condemnation of capitalism.  “The old social order has long been judged and condemned.  Let justice prevail!  May the old society be shattered in which innocence always loses, where cynicism flourishes, where people exploit their fellow man!  May the old way be destroyed from the very base with its whitewashed graves, filled with lies and injustice.”


The Way of the World


If someone’s got a lot you know what’s next:

the money rolling in will never cease.

The man with very little at the start

will never find his wealth increase.


And if you haven’t anything at all,

you may as well be buried ‘neath the clay.

The right to live belongs only to those

who have the cash to pay their way.












Ich habe gerochen alle Gerüche

In dieser holden Erdenküche;

Was man genießen kann in der Welt,

Das hab ich genossen wie je ein Held!

Hab Kaffee getrunken, hab Kuchen gegessen.

Hab manche schöne Puppe besessen;

Trug seidne Westen, den feinsten Frack,

Mir klingelten auch Dukaten im Sack.

Wie Gellert ritt ich auf hohem Roß;

Ich hatte ein Haus, ich hatte ein Schloß.

Ich lag auf der grünen Wiese des Glücks,

Die Sonne grüßte goldigsten Blicks;

Ein Lorbeerkranz umschloß die Stirn,

Er duftete Träume mir ins Gehirn,

Träume von Rosen und ewigem Mai —

Es ward mir so selig zu Sinne dabei,

So dämmersüchtig, so sterbefaul —

Mir flogen gebratne Tauben ins Maul,

Und Englein kamen, und aus den Taschen

Sie zogen hervor Champagnerflaschen —

Das waren Visionen, Seifenblasen —

Sie platzten — Jetzt lieg ich auf feuchtem Rasen,

Die Glieder sind mir rheumatisch gelähmt,

Und meine Seele ist tief beschämt.

Ach, jede Lust, ach, jeden Genuß

Hab ich erkauft durch herben Verdruß;

Ich ward getränkt mit Bitternissen

Und grausam von den Wanzen gebissen;

Ich ward bedrängt von schwarzen Sorgen,

Ich mußte lügen, ich mußte borgen

Bei reichen Buben und alten Vetteln —

Ich glaube sogar, ich mußte betteln.

Jetzt bin ich müd vom Rennen und Laufen,

Jetzt will ich mich im Grabe verschnaufen.

Lebt wohl! Dort oben, ihr christlichen Brüder,

Ja, das versteht sich, dort sehn wir uns wieder.





Hat man viel, so wird man bald

Noch viel mehr dazu bekommen.

Wer nur wenig hat, dem wird

Auch das Wenige genommen.


Wenn du aber gar nichts hast,

Ach, so lasse dich begraben —

Denn ein Recht zum Leben, Lump,

Haben nur die etwas haben.





The passage from the introduction to Lutetia in German is, in the original, “dass die Menschen alle das Recht zu essen haben.  Sie ist schon seit langer Zeit gerichtet, verurteilt, diese alte Gesellschaft.  Möge ihr Gerechtigkeit widerfahren!  Möge sie zertrūmmert warden, diese alte Welt, wo die Unschuld zu Grunde ging, wo der Cynismus gedieh, wo der Mensch durch den Menschen exploitiert wurde!  Mögen sie von Grund aus zerstört warden, diese ūbertūnchen Grabstätten, wo die Lüge und die Unbilligkeit residierten!”