Chris Arthur

Life
1940- [Christopher John Arthurs]; b. Belfast; grew up in Co. Antrim; worked as a nature warden at Lough Neagh; went to university in Scotland; worked as TV researcher and schoolteacher; lectured at Edinburgh Univ. and St Andrews, Scotland; moved to Wales, 1989; lectures at Lampeter University; admired author of contemplative essays and and winner of awards incl. Theodore Christian Hoepfner Award from Southern Humanities Review in 2004; poet and essayist; issued Irish Nocturnes (1999), Irish Willow (2002) and Irish Haiku (2005), and Irish Elegies (2009), and Words of the Grey Wind: Family and Epiphany in Ulster (2009), all essay collections; contribs. to The American Scholar, Descant, Irish Pages, The Literary Review, The North American Review, The American Scholar, Northwest Review, The Threepenny Review, Contemporary Review, Southern Humanities Review [SHR], South-west Review, The Centennial Review, Orion, Hotel Amerika, New Hibernian Review, ABEI Journal [Brazil], and An Sionnach

[ There is a Chris Arthur website. ]

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Works
  • Biting the Bullet: some personal reflections on religious education (Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press 1990), [192]pp. 
  • A rationale for Religious Communication [Centre for Theology and Public Issues, University of Edinburgh, Discussion Paper, 4] (University of Edinburgh 1988), 30pp.
  • The Globalization of Communications: Some Religious Implications (Switzerland/London: World Association for Christian Communication [1998]), [6], 69pp [11 essays with discussion questions [No. 12].  
  • Spiritual perspectives for the 21st century [The Akegarasu Haya Prize] Matto City, Japan: The Akegarasu Haya Prize Selection Committee [1986]), q.pp.
  • Irish Nocturnes (The Davies Group 1999).
  • Irish Willow (2002).
  • Irish Haiku (Davies Group; Barnes & Noble 2005), 258pp.
  • Words of the Grey Wind: Family and Epiphany in Ulster, foreword by J. W. Foster (Belfast: Blackstaff Press 2009).
  • Irish Elegies (Palgrave Macmillan 2009), 196pp.
  • On the Shoreline of Knowledge (Davies Group 2012).
 

See also Law and Marxism: A General Theory towards a critique of the fundamental juridical concepts, by Evgeny B. Pashukanis, trans. from German by Barbara Einhorn, ed. and intro. by Chris Arthur (London: Ink Links Ltd 1978), 195pp.

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Bibliographical details

Irish Nocturnes (The Davies Group 1999). CONTENTS - Substitute Psychometry; Ne Obliviscaris; Kingfishers; Invasions; Meditation on the Pelvis of an Unknown Animal; The Empty Heart; The Last Corncrake; Under Siege; Herdings; Facing the Family; A Paper Star for Brookfield; Walking Meditation; Going Home.

Irish Willow (2002). CONTENTS: Foreword - Falling Through; Willow Pattern; On the Face of It; Table Manners; The Cullybackey Fox-Weasel; Takabuti’s Tears; Walking Water; Transplantations; Handscapes of the Mind; Taxidermy; Atomic Education; Train Sounds; A Tinchel Round My Father .

Irish Haiku (Davies Group; Barnes & Noble 2005), 258pp. CONTENTS: Foreword - Beginning by Blackbird; Obelisk; Safety in Numbers; Miracles; What Did You Say?; How to See a Horse; Getting Fit; Witness; Water-Glass; Malcolm Unravelled; Swan Song.

Words of the Grey Wind: Family and Epiphany in Ulster, foreword by J. W. Foster (Belfast: Blackstaff Press 2009). CONTENTS: Introduction: The Infinite Suggestiveness of Common Things; Kingfishers; Ferrule; Meditation on the Pelvis of an Unknown Animal; Linen; A Tinchel Round My Father; Table Manners; Swan Song; Train Sounds; Witness; Miracles; Mistletoe; Room Empty; Waxwings.

Irish Elegies (Palgrave Macmillan 2009), 196pp. CONTENTS. Foreword: The Willow is Green, the Flower is Red; (En)trance; Rosary; On Not Being Who You Think You Are; Bookmarks; Wisdom’s Garden; How’s the Form?; Thirty-six Views, None of Mount Fuji; Falling Memory; Broken Flags; Object Lesson on Qualia with No Mention of This Term; Essay on the Esse; Last Words.

On the Shoreline of Knowledge (Davies Group 2012). Contents: Introduction - Going Round in Circles; Chestnuts; Lists; Looking Behind 'Nothing's' Door; Pencil Marks; Kyklos; Level Crossing; Absent Without Leave, Leaving Without Absence; Relics; When Now Unstitches Then and is in Turn Undone; Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Briefcase; The Wandflower Ladder; A Private View; Zen's Bull in the Tread of Memory.

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Criticism

Reviews incl. Irene Gilsenan Nordin, ‘The Uncatchable Mystery of Being: Chris Arthur’s Irish Willow’, Nordic Irish Studies, 2, 1 (2003), pp.144-46; Danielle Jacquin [review of Irish Willow], in Etudes Irlandaises, 28, 2 (2003), pp.179-80; Eóin Flannery [review], in Irish Studies Review, 12, 1 (2004) pp.120-21; Denis Sampson, in Canadian Journal of Irish Studies, 30, 1 (2004), pp.86-87; Mairtin Howard, ‘The Otherworld and the here and now: An Introduction to religious themes in Chris Arthur’s essays’, Studies in Religion/Sciences Religieuses, 33, 1 (2004), pp.71-89; Bryan Coleborne, in Australian Journal of Irish Studies, 4 (2004), pp.343-44; Eoin Flannery, ‘Everyday Epiphanies’, in The Irish Book Review, 1 2 (2005), p.44; Luci Collin Lavalle, ‘Vistas Within Vistas - The Meditative Essays Trilogy by Chris Arthur’, in Brazilian Journal of Irish Studies, 7 (2005), pp.281-86; Frances Devlin-Glass, Australasian Journal of Irish Studies, 6 (2006/7), pp. 139-44; Honor O’Connor, in Irish University Review, 37, 2 (2007), pp.574-77; Madeleine Beckman, in The Literary Review], 51, 4 (2008), pp.241-43;Elizabeth Dodd [review of Irish Elegies and Words of the Grey Wind], in Southern Humanities Review, 45, 1 (2011), pp.103-07 [available as pdf - online]; Eóin Flannery, ‘So many destinations in one place’: Chris Arthur's Words of the Grey Wind: Family and Epiphany in Ulster and Irish Elegies, [review] in Irish Studies Review, 19, 4 (2011), pp.433-36 [available online]; Patrick Madden, ‘Is Chris Arthur Making Us Smarter?’, in Fourth Genre, 14, 1 (2012), pp.207-211 [available as pdf - online]; ... &c.;

... the foregoing and others are given, several with links, on the Chris Arthur website - online.

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Commentary
J. W. Foster, Foreword to Words of the Grey Wind (2009): ‘[…] The movement of Arthur’s mind is one of exfoliation. His modus operandi, which after a few essays the reader begins with pleasure to anticipate, is a measured departure from a particular object, incident, word or memory, often commonplace but sometimes highly personal and sometimes intrinsically poetic- ferrule, table, mistletoe, swan’s wing, one afternoon’s occurrence - into its ramifying implications, symbolisms and meanings. An extended metaphor is often the required ignition. The pursuit of the subject is a “long foray”, to borrow an oxymoron from Seamus Heaney, and exemplifies not only the parsings, propositions and interrogations of analytic thought, but also its reservations, denials and reassertions, until, oddly, the essay’s stages of argument seem to exist simultaneously, even though points along the way have been decisively made and conclusions reached. The alertly cognitive becomes something akin to reverie without loss of alertness or cognition. He may have used the term ’nocturne’ for one of his titles, but “fugue” seems closer to the development of an Arthur essay. The net result is metaphysical: Arthur’s acute inquiry is accompanied all the while by an awareness that nothing, be it argument or the stuff of the world, comes to final rest. [/…/] Ireland, of course, has produced its quota of essayists, from Oliver Goldsmith through (among others) Thomas Davis, Robert Lynd, Thomas Kettle, Stephen Gwynn and Filson Young to Hubert Butler. But if Lynd can be regarded as the Irish exponent par excellence of the English essay, it’s clear that Arthur belongs to some other tradition, if he is not sui generis. His thought-processes are too unconfined, his subjects at once too spacious and narrowly focused, his procedure too conceptually chaste, and his intention too severely tasking, for the English essay. His writing has some of the curiosity of Ciaran Carson’s prose books, with their lodes of charming arcana, but does not have Carson’s almost metaphysical wit. One thinks instead of Octavio Paz or Gaston Bachelard, at times of a soberer and longer-winded Borges. But this is trawling the academic net, as Seamus Heaney once remarked of such critical activity. If an Irish affinity must be sought, then the poetry of Michael Longley, with its finely-spun lyrical procedures, moral presence and its almost Eastern sensibility, comes to mind. In any case, Arthur’s essays reveal a rarefied and rare, if not unique intelligence, and this selection from Blackstaff Press is a cause for congratulation and celebration.’ [End; given on the Chris Arthur website - online; accessed 02.06.2010.]

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Quotations
Nocturnes (1999): ‘These nocturnes are rooted in the same parts of Ireland as I am. They took shape where I was born and grew up. Inevitably, they derive much of their tone and colour from the places, people and events that constitute my background. To the extent that writing has a voice, they speak with the same accent whose inflection and intonation mark every word I utter. I hope this provides sufficient commonality to justify gathering them together as a book. But though the Irish dimension does indeed provide a linking thread, under-running all the different themes with the same familial bloodline, the nocturnes are the outcome of many intermarriages, brief encounters and unexpected alliances, which often take them far away from their ancestral roots. Kinship does not rule out distance, difference, or diversity, as I hope the pages that follow will illustrate. The ground covered in them, if it does not sound too grandiose, belongs to the human tribe, rather than to some little County Antrim clan, even if the universal issues are addressed in an Ulster accent; even if the points of departure are often minutely local.’ ([p.1.])

Irish Haiku (2005): ‘Instead of any words at all, I would rather start with a blackbird singing in a County Antrim garden. Whether at dawn or dusk is of no matter, so long as the light is minimal enough to veil the detail of the landscape, still the restless eye, so fixing attention on the liquid resonance of this clear-sung scale, letting it, if only for a moment, hold consciousness spellbound in delight at the pure perception of this ancient lilting music. Sounding such a tuning fork might help to counter the expectations that attend beginnings, those most artificial of literary devices. Beginnings promise the order and progression that we crave. Their wordy lifelines suggest the existence of sufficient anchorage to reel ourselves towards habitable meanings from whatever fixed points of apparent genesis they seem to offer. They give the impression that sentences can be so ordered as to still the oceans of complexity and mystery that underlie us, subduing them into linear solidity and the believable fiction of logical progression from A to Z. But language falls upon the waters like autumn leaves spangling the blackness of a miles-deep pool with a patina of reds and golds, creating only the illusion of a surface we might walk upon. The beginnings it can be used to craft provide no more than a film over what is fathomless ... A blackbird's solitary singing should not create any expectations of what comes next, what went before. Like a clear bell in a meditation hall, it just punctuates the silence, focusing the mind on what passes before it now, this moment that will never come again.’ [p.1])

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Reference
The author’s website at www.chrisarthur.org contains poems and prose extracts as well as biographical information, details on his writing method and photographs of assorted materials.

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