Hello. I’m Jacob Sam-La Rose. I’m the author of Breaking Silence and Communion. My working hours are distributed between poetry, literature in education, experiments with creative technology and community architecture. I exist in a number of different places online— this site serves as an aggregator, an overview of the various different strands of my web-based activity. Get in touch if you’d like to know more about any of my work.
“It’s a subtle difference, but that’s the whole point: English is an awfully subtle instrument. A dictionary that ignores these little shades is dangerous; in fact in those cases it’s worse than useless. It’s misleading, deflating. It divests those words of their worth and purpose.”
– In recent conversation about dictionary use with one of the young poets I’m tutoring, I came back to this post about the power of a good dictionary and, in particular, Webster’s 1913 edition. True, Webster’s defines American English, and I have yet to settle on a similarly enlivening British English equivalent, but the thought of a dictionary as a living repository rather than a graveyard is an appealing one.
In recent conversation about dictionary use with one of the young poets I’m tutoring, I came back to this post about the power of a good dictionary and, in particular, Webster’s 1913 edition. True, Webster’s defines American English, and I have yet to settle on a similarly enlivening British English equivalent, but the thought of a dictionary as a living repository rather than a graveyard is an appealing one.
I’ve been talking about Breaking Silence through a number of school visits recently, and taking the opportunity to reference the influence of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man on the collection. Came across this photo feature through the kind of serendipity that makes the internet worthwhile…
“In the swerve into some new possibility of mind, a poem with a window stops to look elsewhere, drawing on something outside of its self-constructed domain and walls. A window can be held by a change of sense realms or a switch of rhetorical strategy, can be framed by a turn of grammar or ethical stance, can be sawn open by an overt statement or slipped in almost unseen. Whether large or small, what I am calling a window is recognized primarily by the experience of expansion it brings: the poem’s nature is changed because its scope has become larger.”
The Song of the Earth, Jonathan Bate (Picador, 2000)
“There is only one passion which satisfies man’s need to unite himself with the world, and to acquire at the same time a sense of integrity and individuality, and this is love. Love is union with somebody, or something, outside oneself, under the condition of retaining the separateness and integrity of one’s own self.”
– Erich Fromm
“I’d like for us to learn to have a more generous and kind understanding of what it means to have a successful life, one that is not about individual accumulation of goodies, but actually about the transformation of communities. It’s bathed in humility. And it’s practical.”
– Omid Safi, via swissmiss | A Successful Life
Because sometimes you need to be in the presence of something that reminds you of how small you actually are.
“This one strikes at the heart of today’s culture and into the value of an empty mind — free from busyness and distractions. Martin believes that when you have an empty mind, you can see things when they come into it. Imagine the freedom of an empty mind — one not bound by to-do lists, meetings, work and the other muck we dump into it. When the mind is full our attention revolves around the meaningless. And yet attention is perhaps the most valuable thing we have.”
– Agnes Martin on The Secret of Happiness, via Farnam Street Blog
“Man, sometimes it takes you a long time to sound like yourself.”
“The impulse to create begins — often terribly and fearfully — in a tunnel of silence. Every real poem is the breaking of an existing silence.”
– Adrienne Rich (b. May 16, 1929) on writing, freedom, and how silence fertilizes the human imagination (via explore-blog) [Breaking Silence never had its own Tumblr site, but every now and again I see something like this…]
Adrienne Rich (b. May 16, 1929) on writing, freedom, and how silence fertilizes the human imagination (via explore-blog)
[Breaking Silence never had its own Tumblr site, but every now and again I see something like this…]
Mary Oliver’s instructions for living a life.
Two or three times in my life I discovered love.
Each time it seemed to solve everything.
Each time it solved a great many things
but not everything.
Yet left me as grateful as if it had indeed, and
thoroughly, solved everything.
Filed under: Mary Oliver
“Writing for pleasure, like reading for pleasure, is essentially volitional, intrinsically motivated, writer-directed and choice-led; it has meaning making at its core. Writing that we require from children that is formally assessed is not child-led and may well have the reverse effect, such that the major purpose becomes pleasing the teacher and passing tests, and a preoccupation with form rather than substance. There is a pressing need to attend to children’s ideas, their generation, incubation and contemplation, as well as to appropriate grammatical knowledge.”
– Tessa Cremin, via Writing for pleasure? – Teachers as Writers
“More and more I find that salvation lives in that small space between what happens to me and how I react.”
– (via howitzerliterarysociety)
1: If you don’t know Shantell Martin, go find out more.
2: I’ve been clearing through my Pocket and Instapaper archives. On the one hand, the amount I’ve mindlessly accumulated in both accounts is daunting. Dear past self— why hoard so!? Infomania much? On the other hand, the ability to dive in and pull out a random gem is quite beautiful. Dear past self— thank you.
3: I’ve found it interesting to export an archive of saved web content and take a look at my fascinations, obsessions and curious interests. A 10,000 foot view of my drivers. Poetry, technology, pedagogy, the impacts of social media and new technology on consumption and creativity… analog photography, digital photography, sci-fi, cyberpunk, fitness, cycling, and more… If I were a true Quantified Selfer, maybe I’d extract meaning from my Instapaper CSV file in some visually stunning way. A heat map of interests, perhaps. A timeline of keywords. Barcharts of the sites I tend to grab content from (NYTimes, 99u, Poetry Foundation, to name a few). The idea of such visualised data is appealing (to me at least), but don’t hold your breath.
4: I love Shantell Martin’s presentation style here. Beyond the “gimmick” (and I don’t use that word pejoratively) of working with a tablet in this way to move around a single document and zoom in on specific parts of it to interactively hook into whatever she’s saying at any point in her presentation, it strikes me that she’s managed to find a way of bringing her tools and processes to a ubiquitous task (presentation), offering meaning and value while staying true to her idiosyncracies and practices. Her presentation style seems to be very much a natural extension of what she does as an artist. Keywords/hashtags: integrity, authenticity.
“This is an age of divorce. Things that belong together have been taken apart. And you can’t put it all back together again. What you do is the only thing that you can do: you take two things that ought to be together and you put them back together. Two things, not all things! That’s the way the work has to go. You make connections in your work… That’s what we do, we people who make things. If it’s a stool or a film or a poem or an essay or a novel or a musical composition, it’s all about that. Finding how it fits together and fitting it together.”
– Wendell Berry, via (Austin Kleon)
I cried reading this, because this is how I read poetry.
“The self-critical part of ourselves that Freud calls the super-ego is remarkably narrow minded. It has an unusually impoverished vocabulary. And it is, like all propagandists, relentlessly repetitive. It doesn’t, as they say, do us justice. “It is cruelly intimidating,” Lacan writes of the obscene super-ego, “and it never brings us any news about ourselves.” There are only ever two or three things we are endlessly accusing ourselves of, and they are all too familiar— a stuck record, as we say, but in both senses. The super-ego is reiterative. It is the stuck record of the past.”
– Adam Philips, Against Self-Criticism, via the London Review of Books Podcast
This is the part of the job that doesn’t get talked about a lot, not least because it’s hard to talk about, but also because it doesn’t involve Productivity and Goals and The Magic Of Writering and The Grand Statement and all that good stuff in interviews. Sure, we all talk about the important Staring At The Wall And Farting Around time, but it’s also about sifting through the shitpile at the back of your head and deciding if you actually have anything to say. Any idiot can recycle the monomyth and plug in a setting and a handful of blank characters, but that’s not the same as having something to say: about the world, life, a thing, even yourself. I have a whole folder of loose ideas that dried up and got thrown in the folder because they and I turned out to have nothing to say about anything – they were just collections of cogs and levers. And by that, I mean probably eight to ten dead ideas, written up and filed, for every one that gets published.
It’s a moronic way to work. Some of my books only speak to me, I’m sure. It’s just the only way to work that I know.
– Warren Ellis (via Orbital Operations)