At at Royal Society Lecture by Iain Sinclair on Wednesday evening, he quoted the above. The words serve as a touchstone for much of his writing – and for the many literary journeys he has undertaken. It reminded me of the blog I posted while I was in New England on Thoreau, Emerson, Alcott and Hawthorne. I wrote about how I felt them speaking to me as I walked around Concord and as I sat down to work on my novel. They and their writing are alive and their words weave between my own.
Sinclair’s latest book, American Smoke, traces The Beat Poets and looks at some wonderful and unexpected influences, such as that of Dylan Thomas, on luminaries like Ginsberg. Every generation believes that it writes the world anew, that it’s movement is radical and fresh and untethered from what came before. But we all have spiritual fathers and mothers, a mental landscape we form through our reading and experience of the world, a landscape which influences what we write and how we write and, in turn, brings to life and ‘assists the imagination of the dead’ – it continues their work.