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

Welcome to Lexicon

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 …

July 30th 2022

July 30th 2022 It is Sophia’s birthday today. Her presence in this world was a gift. She is, and ever will be, a joy and a gift always. Swallows There were swallows at the cemetery today In winged canticle above me Each loop and circuit a shout of joy For the heaven that holds them So much blue, it enters the eyes and lives there afterwards With its song of sky and wings and light without and within That the swallows sing I wish I could give you the swallows Here, in this place, where the dead lie Single and

Everything a Symbol

Everything a Symbol It was the Feast of the Ascension recently in the calendars of both the Western and Eastern branches of the Christian Church. Always on a Thursday and celebrated 40 days after Easter, this is the day on which Christ is described in the New Testament as ascending into heaven before the eyes of his first century followers. How wonderfully, gloriously strange! But we live in an age in which the concept of quantum entanglement (in other words, that at the quantum level the behaviour of a particle can have an instantaneous and measurable impact on another at

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

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