“You want to be in a spot where you can respond to the world. If an idea hits you, then you can do it…”
- Frank Chimero on The Great Discontent (TGD)
“The author suggests that, in this world of limited attention spans, the serious writer may have to…”
Uh, comeback? I know poetry isn’t considered a “mainstream” concern, but comeback? Hm.
Victoria Chang, via The Believer Logger: Colin Winnette in Conversation with Victoria Chang
“For years I’ve maintained a personal credo that I’ll give pretty much any person starting out in our…”
Yes. I value my time in a different way now— it’s a more of a challenge to stay on top of all the demands— but I still do my best to support emerging literature professionals and poets wherever I can, above and beyond any of the formal relationships, roles or initiatives that I’m paid for. I’m least responsive when it comes to Facebook messages; direct email is best, but please forgive if it takes a minute for me to respond.
Also: yes. I’d be happy to hear that the people I’ve had any kind of positive impact on pay that impact forward, that they go on to support others in similar ways. You never know (unless told), but you can hope. And believe. And carry on, regardless.
“These days I write more than I code, but one of the things I miss about programming is the coder’s…”
These days I write more than I code, but one of the things I miss about programming is the coder’s high: those times when, for hours on end, I would lock my vision straight at the computer screen, trance out, and become a human-machine hybrid zipping through the virtual architecture that my co-workers and I were building. Hunger, thirst, sleepiness, and even pain all faded away while I was staring at the screen, thinking and typing, until I’d reach the point of exhaustion and it would come crashing down on me.
It was good for me, too. Coding had a smoothing, calming effect on my psyche, what I imagine meditation does to you if you master it. In his study Zen and the Brain, neuroscientist James H. Austin speaks of how one’s attention will shift into “a vacancy of utmost clarity, a space so devoid of the physical self.””
Ah. Coding. *nostalgia
“Ending his talk, Cramer has an important question for the audience: why do publishers tend to stick…”
Yes to innovation and exploring the freedoms (or new limitations?) afforded by new formats. That said, as put forward earlier in the same article: “most publishers are small, have low budgets and could not maintain these standards on a continuous basis as software quickly needs upgrading.”
What’s the kindest thing you almost did? Is your fear of insomnia stronger than your fear of what awoke you? Are bonsai cruel? Do you love what you love, or just the feeling? Your earliest memories: do you look though your young eyes, or look at your young self? Which feels worse: to know that there are people who do more with less talent, or that there are people with more talent? Do you walk on moving walkways? Should it make any difference that you knew it was wrong as you were doing it? Would you trade actual intelligence for the perception of being smarter? Why does it bother you when someone at the next table is having a conversation on a cell phone? How many years of your life would you trade for the greatest month of your life? What would you tell your father, if it were possible? Which is changing faster, your body, or your mind? Is it cruel to tell an old person his prognosis? Are you in any way angry at your phone? When you pass a storefront, do you look at what’s inside, look at your reflection, or neither? Is there anything you would die for if no one could ever know you died for it? If you could be assured that money wouldn’t make you any small bit happier, would you still want more money? What has been irrevocably spoiled for you? If your deepest secret became public, would you be forgiven? Is your best friend your kindest friend? Is it any way cruel to give a dog a name? Is there anything you feel a need to confess? You know it’s a “murder of crows” and a “wake of buzzards” but it’s a what of ravens, again? What is it about death that you’re afraid of? How does it make you feel to know that it’s an “unkindness of ravens”?
“In order to have faith in his own path, he does not need to prove that someone else’s path is wrong.”
- Paulo Coelho (via psychleanings)
“Art, be it poetry, music, sculpture, puppetry—the whole of it, inspires change on a personal level…”
- A NORMAL INTERVIEW WITH JAMAAL MAY | The Normal School: A Literary Magazine
James Victore (by Like Knows Like)
Lots of love for this series, but this particular feature on James Victore resonates. Maybe it’s the story of the artist-educator. Maybe it’s the James Joyce quote: “In the particular lies the universal”, with which I can push the poets I work with for more specificity (always more specificity…)
Or maybe it’s the acknowledgement of the need to connect with what your real drivers are and create the work that NEEDS to be created. I’ve said it to a couple of people already, but I’ve hit that five year bar. I’ve come upon a natural life cycle— every five years, I work through my project list and remove the things that are no longer in line with my current purpose. The last cull happened in 2009, so I’m about due. Make the work that NEEDS to be made. Sounds like a good driver to me…
PAUL MULDOON: I believe so. Poetry is still too often perceived as being too difficult for the common man. That’s partly because we expect to be able to read poetry without being educated in it. We don’t have the same expectations of astrophysics, aeronautical engineering, algebra or even making a passable avgolemono.
THE: What advice would you give to your younger self?
PAUL MULDOON: Don’t give up the piano lessons.
THE: What are the best and worst things about your job?
PAUL MULDOON: I have several jobs but, in terms of the teaching, I consider it a privilege to work with students. I can’t bear teachers who complain about their jobs. More often than not, they’ve no idea how lucky they are. I know it’s a truism, but I definitely learn from my students. I sometimes teach translation, for example, and I have been introduced by my students to whole swathes of literature I simply wouldn’t have known about.
- MESS : Douglas Kearney : Harriet the Blog : The Poetry Foundation
Thomas Merton, from New Seeds of Contemplation
Dear Self: so yeah, today’s a birthday. You’re doing the smart thing, paying down on the sleep debt you’ve accrued for the past week or so (20 hours of shut-eye over six nights? Seriously?), reflecting on the time that’s passed since the last time you were here, thinking on how you might invest the next 365 days. Time to remember all the steps you take towards your better self. Today’s theme is rededication. But don’t spend all afternoon. The sun’s shining, and the skies are blue— invitation to get outside and soak it all in. Or, as Merton says, join the general dance.
“The challenge is to revise and rewrite long after the original excitement over the piece has faded,…”
If you’re holed up in your room, staring at your computer screen, resolutely building an Elvis of your own, I salute you. If you’ve ever gotten so sick of working on a particular project you couldn’t bear to even look at it for a week, or a month or a year, but one day you sighed, cracked your knuckles and hauled yourself off the sofa to start that fourth draft, I salute you.”
In the same paragraph, Updike also says “Had poetry paid as well as fiction, I would have written more of it.”
"I think poetry has really rather connived at its own irrelevance and that shouldn’t happen, because it’s the most delightful thing," said Paxman. "It seems to me very often that poets now seem to be talking to other poets and that is not talking to people as a whole."
His words come as official figures show a decline in poetry sales. Five years ago, in 2009, sales of poetry stood at £8.4m. By 2013, they had fallen to £7.8m, according to Nielsen BookScan.
Michael Symmons Roberts, a poet who has both won and judged the Forward prize, said that Paxman’s proclamation was “not without foundation in terms of the symptoms – it would be stupid for poets to say poetry is as dominant as the novel” – but he disagreed with Paxman’s diagnosis.
"Poetry doesn’t have the currency in our culture that novels and films have – people who would be embarrassed not to have read the latest Julian Barnes or Martin Amis are not the slightest bit embarrassed not to have read the latest John Burnside or Carol Ann Duffy. But I don’t believe it’s quite good enough to say this is a problem of poets and poetry – it’s far more complex," said Roberts.”
Paxman is also quoted as saying that poetry should “aim to engage with ordinary people much more”. Surely, the notion of whether poetry engages adequately with “ordinary people” depends on the poetry you’re actually considering? Maybe what’s required here is a spotlight on engaging, challenging work that engages with the kind of ordinary people Paxman is referring to? That such work exists is not the question, rather where it can be found, and how it is celebrated/valued, particularly in relation to other works. Which essentially reduces to the question: who determines what “poetry” is, or more accurately, who determines which (of the various different forms of) poetry receives accolades and prestige?
“The written word is weak. Many people prefer life to it. Life gets your blood going, and it smells…”
- Annie Dillard (via John Estes)
“Nature is full of branches because if you want to be close to a lot of space with minimal increase…”
Nature is full of branches because if you want to be close to a lot of space with minimal increase in your own volume, your best bet is a structure that forks and sub-forks. This is how birds make wings: they send out a bone with a little quick tissue and feather roots, and from them grow rachis, and from them grow barbs, and from them grow barbules, and from them grow barbicels, between which the gaps are so small that air doesn’t bother trying to get through, and the bird has made something the shape of an airfoil without having to fill it with heavy meat. Branching is also how plants fill out their space in the air to collect sunlight and CO2, and underground to find solid nutrients. The structures of your nervous, respiratory, and circulatory systems are similarly manifold.
But the principle is deeper than life itself. It’s how rivers work: though we don’t ascribe intent, a river needs to approach every part of its basin in the sense that erosion will make it grow streams and rivulets until it does. It doesn’t even have to be water. Fluid dynamicists use the phrase viscous fingering to describe this kind of structure in their domain.
In fact, apparently in some sense it might be deeper than physics, because – assuming MLC is true – the Mandelbrot, a piece of abstract math, has some desire-less need to connect its infinite brood.”
This isn’t “poetry”. And yet it is. New definition: poetry = an indeterminable number of ways to pay attention to and fall in love with the world and all it’s truths, half-truths and lies.