Sunday, July 4, 2010

Learning from your mistakes

Dear Christopher,
Thank you for your letter. No, you were wrong. I did not write: 'the ports have names for the sea' but 'the poets have names for the sea'. However, as so often before, the mistake seems better than the original idea, so I'll leave it.'

W H Auden, Letters from Iceland (1967), p. 25.

I think the lesson is to make more mistakes, or at least to know when to let them in:

Journey to Iceland

And the traveller hopes: "Let me be far from any
Physician"; and the ports have names for the sea;
The citiless, the corroding, the sorrow
And North means to all: "Reject!"

And the great plains are for ever where the cold fish is hunted
And everywhere; the light birds flicker and flaunt;
Under the scolding flag the lover
Of islands may see at last,

Faintly, his limited hope; and he nears the glitter
Of glaciers; the sterile immature mountains intense
In the abnormal day of this world, and a river's
Fan-like polyp of sand.

(W H Auden, Selected Poems, p. 46)