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“It takes a lot of sometimes painful self-realization to figure out what that message is in the first…”

“It takes a lot of sometimes painful self-realization to figure out what that message is in the first place. It was one of the greatest adventures of my life, figuring out who I was in order to figure out who my artist-self was.”

- What I Have to Say: Cheryl Jacobs Nicolai | The Define School
Apr 17

“Our business is to see what we can do with the English language as it is. How can we combine the old…”

Our business is to see what we can do with the English language as it is. How can we combine the old words in new orders so that they survive, so that they create beauty, so that they tell the truth? That is the question.

And the person who could answer that question would deserve whatever crown of glory the world has to offer. Think what it would mean if you could teach, if you could learn, the art of writing. Why, every book, every newspaper would tell the truth, would create beauty.



- Virginia Woolf, who drowned on March 28, 1941, on the art of language and the beauty of words in the only surviving recording of her voice. (via explore-blog)
Apr 14

“For language to have meaning there must be intervals of silence somewhere, to divide word from word…”

“For language to have meaning there must be intervals of silence somewhere, to divide word from word and utterance from utterance. He who retires into silence does not necessarily hate language. Perhaps it is love and respect for language which imposes silence upon him.”

- Thomas Merton, “Disputed Questions” (via litverve)
Apr 9

INTERVIEWER: Wordsworth spoke of growing up “Fostered alike by beauty and by fear,” and he put fearful experiences first; but he also said that his primary subject was “the mind of Man.” Don’t you write more about the mind than about the external world?

INTERVIEWER: Wordsworth spoke of growing up “Fostered alike by beauty and by fear,” and he put fearful experiences first; but he also said that his primary subject was “the mind of Man.” Don’t you write more about the mind than about the external world?

BARTHELME: In a commonsense way, you write about the impingement of one upon the other—my subjectivity bumping into other subjectivities, or into the Prime Rate. You exist for me in my perception of you (and in some rough, Raggedy Andy way, for yourself, of course). That’s what’s curious when people say, of writers, This one’s a realist, this one’s a surrealist, this one’s a super-realist, and so forth. In fact, everybody’s a realist offering true accounts of the activity of mind. There are only realists.
Apr 8

“A man would do well to carry a pencil in his pocket, and write down the thoughts of the moment….”

“A man would do well to carry a pencil in his pocket, and write down the thoughts of the moment. Those that come unsought are commonly the most valuable, and should be secured, because they seldom return.”

- How we work: Francis Bacon, Elizabethan polymath - rodcorp
Apr 7

“Without discomfort your comfort becomes your main weakness. Change is uncomfortable and discomfort…”

“Without discomfort your comfort becomes your main weakness. Change is uncomfortable and discomfort is necessary for change. Change is possible, but it is never easy and it is never comfortable.”

- The Virtue of Discomfort - Jacob Lund Fisker
Apr 1

“There are two birds in your head, raven and crow, and only one of them is yours. A ghost and a robot…”

There are two birds in your head, raven and crow, and only one of them is yours. A ghost and a robot doing battle, singing like telephones, the phone is ringing, a headache word. You are dancing with the birdcage girl, banging your head against a cage that isn’t there. You want to say yes: yes to the bathtub, yes to the gumdrops, no to the laughing skullheads.

The holes in this picture are not flowers, they are not wheels, and the phone is ringing ringing, a headache word, it’s ringing for you. This is in the second person. This is happening to you because I don’t want to be here. Is there anything I won’t put words around? Yes, there is.



- Richard Siken, opening two paragraphs to “Black Telephone,” from the “Editor’s Page" of Spork (No. 1.3, Winter 2001-2002)
Mar 31

“Readmill has just posted an official confirmation of yesterday’s acquisition story. They now belong…”

“Readmill has just posted an official confirmation of yesterday’s acquisition story. They now belong to Dropbox, and the new owner is going to shut down Readmill.”

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It’s Official: Dropbox Buys Readmill, Will Shut it Down in 3 Months - The Digital Reader

Another day, another app in my toolbox dies. It’s enough to make a forward thinking lit/tech geek very cautious about investing any serious time or effort in the next big app that comes along…

Mar 30

Stands to reason. Beyond itooamoxford.tumblr.com, there’s…



Stands to reason. Beyond itooamoxford.tumblr.com, there’s also itooamsoas.tumblr.com and wetooarecambridge.tumblr.com, capturing the experiences of “students of colour”. Most of the images give pause. Every now and then, one of them hits particularly hard.

Mar 28

“The point is to get your work done, and your work is to change the world.”

“The point is to get your work done, and your work is to change the world.””

- James Baldwin
Mar 27

So I’m really very into the Quantified Self movement, although I’m not quite a QS…

So I’m really very into the Quantified Self movement, although I’m not quite a QS data-meister. I’ve owned a few wearables— a Fuelband (which died late last year) and an UP band (which died recently, sniff), and I’ve usually always got some kind of tracking experiment going on. I’m currently making use of Reporter, Oda, Moves and a few Numbers spreadsheets to track the highs and lows of my daily activity. That said, perhaps the most accurate indication for my mood and productivity is my web-based output. When I’m firing on all cylinders, the writing happens, blog posts flow, and pictures get taken. When I’m manic, the creative outputs drop off, one by one, and yet it’s such a soul-warming thing to write, to capture a beautiful image… it’s exactly what I need when buried under a seemingly infinite pile of things to do.

The weather’s changing (for the better) here in London, and though I’m currently still manic, the compulsion to get the camera out is returning. I’m dusting off my photoblog and the Flickr account (member since 2005!) and hoping to crank out a few new images in the not too distant future. I’ve just scanned through my most recent memory active card, and I’ve come across a backlog of images that haven’t yet seen the light of day, largely drawn from the poetry events I’ve supported/managed/run over the past couple of years.

Franklyn Rodgers once challenged me to do more documentary work. I think I’d like to do more along these lines. More to capture some sense the worlds I find myself living and working within.

So, back to the camera.

Mar 26

Roman Mars — This is Radio This, for no real reason other than…



Roman Mars — This is Radio

This, for no real reason other than the fact that I’m a stalwart listener of 99% Invisible…

Mar 25

(via Amen…)



(via Amen…)

Mar 24

Person of colour? Ever identify with the label of…



Person of colour? Ever identify with the label of “other”? You need to see I, Too, Am Oxford.

I took a quick trip through the archives today, and it moved me in ways I didn’t expect. So much that resonates with my own school experience, and other experiences since. Simple idea, powerful collective statement.

Mar 13

How to Convert a Nonbeliever

INTERVIEWER: You describe seemingly fantastic events in such minute detail that it gives them their own reality. Is this something you have picked up from journalism?

GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ: That’s a journalistic trick which you can also apply to literature. For example, if you say that there are elephants flying in the sky, people are not going to believe you. But if you say that there are four hundred and twenty-five elephants flying in the sky, people will probably believe you. One Hundred Years of Solitude is full of that sort of thing. That’s exactly the technique my grandmother used. I remember particularly the story about the character who is surrounded by yellow butterflies. When I was very small there was an electrician who came to the house. I became very curious because he carried a belt with which he used to suspend himself from the electrical posts. My grandmother used to say that every time this man came around, he would leave the house full of butterflies. But when I was writing this, I discovered that if I didn’t say the butterflies were yellow, people would not believe it.
Mar 10

“Such a small, pure object a poem could be, made of nothing but air, a tiny string of letters, maybe…”

“Such a small, pure object a poem could be, made of nothing but air, a tiny string of letters, maybe small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. But it could blow everybody’s head off.”

- Mary Karr, from Lit: A Memoir (Harper, 2009)
Mar 8

“The writer should never be ashamed of staring. There is nothing that does not require his [or her]…”

“The writer should never be ashamed of staring. There is nothing that does not require his [or her] attention.”

- Flannery O’ Connor (via apoetreflects)
Mar 7

“For me, the writing life doesn’t just happen when I sit at the writing desk. It is a life lived with…”

“For me, the writing life doesn’t just happen when I sit at the writing desk. It is a life lived with a centering principle, and mine is this: that I will pay close attention to this world I find myself in. ‘My heart keeps open house,’ was the way the poet Theodore Roethke put it in a poem. And rendering in language what one sees through the opened windows and doors of that house is a way of bearing witness to the mystery of what it is to be alive in this world.”

- Julia Alvarez, quoted in 1998 in The Writer magazine, with the quotation republished in “Great Writing Tips from 125 Years of The Writer,” in the magazine’s April 2012 issue. (via apoetreflects)
Mar 6

RIP Harold Ramis, via The Believer (http://the.blvr.org/Nuwq3s)

THE BELIEVER: You had that great line in your New Yorker profile, “Sometimes what people perceive as my smile is a grimace of pain.”

HAROLD RAMIS: That about sums it up. But part of my smile is also about how absurd it all is. I think I got in touch with that absurdity quite young. Sometimes it’s hysterical irony and sometimes it’s a painful irony. Life has all of these contradictory feelings and contradictory results. People spend their whole lives struggling to get what they think they want, and even if they get it, they find that it’s either not what they wanted, or it comes with so many unwanted consequences. We’re always shut off from pure joy.
Mar 5

“All things pass, and it feels like the time of the blog has in some sense passed too. Who has time…”

“All things pass, and it feels like the time of the blog has in some sense passed too. Who has time to write, when you can pump out status updates which let your friends and family know exactly what you’re thinking and doing at any moment? And why bother to think through what you’re going to say and express in in a few hundred words, when really all anyone cares about is the pithy headline, the punchy hook. “This blog is 12 years old. The reason it’s still here will surprise you.””

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“This blog is 12 years old. The reason it’s still here will surprise you.” | Technovia

I’d like to believe that personal/individual blogging is still a popular form of expression, but I certainly appreciate the sentiment of the extract above (and the entire article). Who needs to think their way through a long-form piece of writing when they can reblog1 something that’s popped up on a dashboard (“me too!”) or tap out a 140 character statement of the moment and move on?

I started blogging in the early noughties, inspired by Josh Santangelo of Endquote.com, the first blogger I can remember reading with any regularity. Josh wrote about his hopes and aspirations, loves and losses, and all the messiness of his inner thought and experience. I was a bright-eyed wannabe writer with a penchant for the web, confessional poetry and any other writing that gave me insight into the inner workings of people I didn’t know. But Endquote was less an opportunity to practise voyeurism, more a reminder of the way that emotive writing can show us how different we are from the other people we share the planet with, and yet how un-alone.

Last time I checked, the Endquote.com I knew was gone, replaced by a generic (professional) holding page. Checking again today, I find that Endquote is now a Tumblr property, complete with images of sharply styled young women, selfies, nods to sartorial inspiration and Soundcloud embeds. I miss the old Endquote (though I wonder if the writing as it was would have the same impact on me now) but this new iteration is still Josh. An absolutely contemporary expression of self.

The personal blog, as it existed, isn’t exactly dead, but it’s probably not the dominant form of expression it once was. That said, long live the blog.23


  1. Nothing against reblogging here. Reblogging may as well be the new common intertextuality. 

  2. This started out as a much longer piece. Honestly. I’d love to say I edited it down from flabby imperfection, but the truth is I committed the schoolboy error of drafting the original through a web back-end in Safari on an iPad, while switching between tabs, as if taunting the god of all things technological to swallow everything I’d written. Which s/he did. D’oh. 

  3. Could be just me, but it looks like Tumblr doesn’t like Markdown footnotes. Grrr. 

Mar 4