Lexicon : Sophia Nugent Siegal

“As poets and as readers we are both the users and the transmitters of this lexicon. Today we need to keep adding not subtracting meaning, remembering not forgetting, to connect ourselves to the chain that ultimately joins all cultures.”

Sophia Nugent-Siegal

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CONVERSATION with SophiaWittgenstein famously concluded his Tractatus with the memorable comment: “Whereof we cannot speak, thereof we must remain silent”.

Unlike Ludwig, Sophia, in whose memory this site is maintained, did not accept “remaining silent” as a viable intellectual option—not because she thought ultimate meaning any more expressible than did Wittgenstein, but because she thought the battle was necessary.

Heroic, doomed to failure, absolutely essential.

Read on …

Easter 2022

Easter 2022 It is Easter Sunday in a world that has forgotten what that means. Two thousand and twenty two years ago, the women went to the tomb of Jesus to anoint his body with sweet-smelling unctions, to tend his fleshly being as those who love and honour their dead seek to do, and the tomb was empty. The tomb was empty. Most of us have listened to the words so often we have forgotten the meaning. How convenient. So easy to dismiss, for we are all materialists now, aren’t we? Matter is matter. Dead is dead. And yet, and

Visions

Visions One of the poems Sophia wrote in her last year of life has gained added resonance in recent times. As the world has increasingly “slipped into the crazy timeline” (in the words of a perceptive friend), this poem reads like a warning. From the wry opening stanza, with its ironic referencing of Oppenheimer and the Baghavad-Gita, to the scathing judgement of its final lines, it seems to map out the lethal combination of hubris, folly and malignancy in which we find ourselves. For here we are,“gods of grinning skulls and black empty screens”, sleepwalking into catastrophe. Plague, famine, war—day

April 17th, 2022|Tags: , , , , |

Reaching into Silence

Reaching into Silence “Words,” says T.S. Eliot in Four Quartets, “after speech, reach/ Into the silence.” No matter how imperfect, how incomplete or broken are the tools we use to get there (as Eliot states: “Words strain/ Crack and sometimes break, under the burden”), the dance between time and stillness is where we find ourselves. Words reach into the silence, into the stillness. Searching, failing, searching again. Yes, Sophia understood this. It was central to what she believed. You must seek the truth and you must speak it. You will fail and then you will begin again. All beauty is

Eight Roses

Eight Roses There were eight roses in the bouquet upon Sophia’s tomb today, eight lovely, ivory-white roses. Eight years ago today, Sophia died. She had thought about her death. In her usual clear-eyed way, she had considered the possibility of it. I know what she thought. I know too what Sophia would wish to say to us about it. She has signposted the way. In a note I found amongst her papers, Sophia specified the readings for her funeral. One was from Tolstoy’s War and Peace. (Tolstoy was probably the novelist Sophia admired and loved most.) It was the passage

Christmas Greetings

Christmas Greetings It’s Christmas, and in a strange time. I am reminded of the world of Narnia that Sophie loved so much as a small child, in particular of the story of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, in which a cruel witch holds the land of Narnia in thrall. Under her terrible dominion, Narnia has become a place in which it is “always winter, and never Christmas.” Our own world has, for two years now, lived under Covid’s evil spell, with its seemingly no-end-in-sight narrowing of the lives of billions to the limits of a disease. For us,

December 26th, 2021|Tags: , , , |

Sophia’s Poem: Self-Portrait as a Reflection

Sophia’s Poem: Self-Portrait as a Reflection In lips over a waterfall, Nathan observes that: “only the photographs were left to take the difficult questions”. Since Sophia’s death, I have asked quite a few of those difficult questions. In some strange but powerful way, however, it is Sophia herself who always answers them. A few months before she died, Sophia wrote the following poem. In it, she is confronting the thought of her own death (so small a poem for so fearfully large a theme). It is, as she says, a self-portrait. One can see Sophie in it. It draws on

November 10th, 2021|Tags: , , |

Nathan Shepherdson: The Artist’s Order

Nathan Shepherdson: lips over a waterfall Nathan’s poem for Sophia’s Notebook, lips over a waterfall, has now been printed, packed and sent off in precious postal packs worldwide. What a labour of love this has been!  It has involved quite a journey across these Covid-haunted years to bring this beautiful thing into the world. Nathan has written a delicate, intricate and subtle series of 22 poems (one for each year of Sophia’s life)—22 densely packed, visually rich 3-line poems set together in meaningfully ordered disorder. The 22 poems have been printed in 22 signed and numbered boxed sets (some of

July 30th, 2021

July 30th, 2021  It is July 30th once again, Sophia’s birthday. Sophia would be 30 this year. Thirty. It is an inconceivable number, inconceivable that it must come and go without her, inconceivable that so many birthdays have come and gone likewise. Thirty. Yet it is the sweet-faced girl who looks out at us from images of her that Sophia will now forever be. Perhaps there is an unlikely fittingness to this—for though Sophia (like the owls in the poem she dedicated to Gershon) seemed to intuitively understand “time’s/ Discordant music,” she also somehow lived outside it. Sophia used to

Poem by Sophia for Gershon

Poem by Sophia for Gershon... I have been visited by owls lately (sometimes beside the road, sometimes flying overhead or in front of me, once sitting quietly on the roof spine, head cocked to one side, watching me). People in the ancient world would have seen these as visitations (and perhaps they are!), so it seems only fitting to accompany Gershon's poem for Sophia with the poem she dedicated to him when she was 14, Apotheosis as an Owl. Apotheosis as an Owl (for Gershon) Birds are always flying, Even on their backs As they search for the moon in

Gershon’s Poem for Sophia

  Poem by Gershon Maller for Sophia... Gershon Maller, dear friend and mentor of Sophia, has had a poem dedicated to her published in Text: https://textjournal.scholasticahq.com/article/23503-text-poetry-april-2021 Sophia, who shared many long conversations over good coffeee with Gershon about Plato and poetics, Wittgensgtein and Wallace Stevens, language and meaning, events from history or all things otherworldly, would be delighted! To be a poet, Sophia said in a poem she wrote as a 13-year-old, is to be "a verb in a world/ Of nouns." This was the grammar of being she lived vividly in every perception, in every thought, in every moment of her

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