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Book Reviews

Everywhere Being Is Dancing: Twenty Pieces of Thinking

by Robert Bringhurst

Poet, philosopher, translator, linguist, critic, typographer, ethnographer – Robert Bringhurst is a rare sort of person: an independent scholar and a non-specialist. As such, he is just the sort of voice we should be listening to if we are seriously interested in fixing what’s broken in the world. Everywhere Being Is Dancing provides the perfect opportunity to take heed.

In these essays, covering 30-odd years of writing and thinking, Bringhurst discusses a wide range of topics, from literature, myth, and translation (included are brilliant translations that Bringhurst himself has done of Parmenides and of Navajo poet Charlie Mitchell’s poetry), to visual art and typography, pre-Socratic philosophers, and modern-era oral poets. But Bringhurst would balk at any assertion that these are discrete areas of knowledge. The central theme of this book is the unity of things organic and human-made – and Bringhurst preaches what he practises, urging us to discard the false demarcations between poetry and philosophy, between ethics and aesthetics, art and nature, theory and practice.

For Bringhurst, poetry, following Aristotle, is not a generic matter of lines of verse on a page, but “a constituent or property of being” that is not the exclusive domain of humanity. This might sound hokey – and to a small degree it becomes so at times in this book – but Bringhurst is too rigorous, serious, and grounded a thinker to lapse into the new-age eco-vagaries peddled by many of his contemporaries. And while he advances certain ideas and aesthetic values with passion and conviction, he is too responsible to propound any of his theories – such as the simultaneous development of metrical verse and industrial agricultural society – as dogma. His thinking is moral, but not moralistic.

Above all, Bringhurst advocates doing everything we do with care and attention, and is himself a fine exemplar. Much of the content in this book is poetry in his sense of the word – which is the only definition truly worth keeping on board.