Poetry News

More Christmas lights are not the answer

By Harriet Staff

Need something to keep yourself going through the long, dark winter?

The Guardian is here to help you turn that seasonal affective disorder upside down. Accompanying a post on why so many writers choose to work at night, the "Darkness in Literature" quiz tests your knowledge of all things nocturnal in poetry and prose and just might make you feel a little more favorable toward only getting three hours of sunlight daily. To help you prep, Matt Shoard has provided some examples of putting the dark to work:

Joyce lay on his stomach, with huge blue carpenters' pencils and a bright white coat to reflect light. Proust lined his bedroom walls with cork so he could sleep through the Paris day and write at night. Kafka wrote The Judgment in a waking nightmare between 10pm and 6am. "Writing is a deeper sleep than death," he wrote to Felice Bauer. "Just as one wouldn't pull a corpse from its grave, I can't be dragged from my desk at night."

Of course it's not all cork and corpses; allow the first question to lighten things up a bit:

  1. Which Renaissance musician composed this shadow-loving lyric? “In darkness let me dwell, the ground shall sorrow be,/The roof despair to bar all cheerful light from me; The walls of marble black, that moist'ned still shall weep;/My music, hellish jarring sounds, to banish friendly sleep.”
    1. John Dowland
    2. John Farmer
    3. William Byrd
    4. Thomas Tallis

Okay, so that didn't really work. But next time you find yourself cursing the end of daylight savings time, comfort yourself with the thought that some of your favorite writers are gearing up for their most productive season.

Originally Published: December 22nd, 2010