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Media, poetry, articles, art, videos and random nuggets that tickle me.

A (Brutal and Beautiful) Love Story

"A coyote ate a three-year-old not far from here.”

“Yeah?”

“My uncle told me.”

“Huh.”

“He said, ‘Don’t leave those babies outside again,’ as if I already had.”

“Had you?”

“Come on.” An answer less precise than no.

“Why’s he monitoring coyote activity up here?”

“Because.”

“Because?”

“It’s irresistible.”

“Really?”

A wild dog with a tender baby in its jaws disappearing into the redwoods forever. My uncle’s so good at imagining things, he makes them real. “Yeah. It’s just what he does, a habit.” Or a compulsion.

“I don’t get it.”

But I do. Every real thing started life as an idea. I’ve imagined objects and moments into existence.

Continue...

I had to read this three times and it became more brilliant each time

From In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust:

Next to this central belief which, while I was reading, would be constantly reaching out from my inner self to the outer world, towards the discover of truth, came the emotions aroused in me by the action in which I was taking part, for these afternoons were crammed with more dramatic events than occur, often, in a whole lifetime. These were the events taking place in the book I was reading. It is true that the people concerned in them were not what Françoise would have called "real people." But none of the feelings which the joys or misfortunes of a real person arouse in us can be awakened except through a mental picture of those joys or misfortunes; and the ingenuity of the first novelist lay in his understanding that, as the image was the one essential element in the complicated structure of our emotions, so that simplification of it which consisted in the suppression, pure and simple, of real people would be a decided improvement. A real person, profoundly as we may sympathize with him, is in a great measure perceptible only through our senses, that is to say, remains opaque, presents a dead weight which our sensibilities have not the strength to life. If some misfortune comes to him, it is only in one small section of the complete idea we have of him that we are capable of feeling any emotion; indeed it is only in one small section of feeling any emotion either. The novelist's happy discovery was to think of substituting for those opaque sections, impenetrable to the human soul, their equivalent in immaterial sections, things, that is, which one's soul can assimilate. After which it matters not that the actions, the feelings of this new order of creatures appear to us in the guise of truth, since we have made them our own, since it is in ourselves that they are happening, that they are holding in thrall, as we feverishly turn over the pages of the book, our quickened breath and staring eyes. And once the novelist has brought us to this state, in which, as in all purely mental states, every emotion is multiplied ten-fold, into which his book comes to disturb us as might a dream, but a dream more lucid and more abiding than those of which come to us in sleep, why then, for the space of an hour he sets free within us all the joys and sorrows in the world, a few of which only we should have to spend years of our actual life in getting to know, and the most intense of which would never be revealed to us because the slow course of their development prevents us from perceiving them. It is the same in life; the heart changes, and it is our worst sorrow; but we know it only through reading, through our imagination: in reality its alteration, like that of certain natural phenomena, is so gradual that, even if we are able to distinguish, successively, each of its different states, we are still spared the actual sensation of change.

Boundless

From The Faraway Nearby by Rebecca Solnit

Pain serves a purpose. Without it you are in danger… The disease (leprosy) strangles nerves, kills off feeling, and what you cannot feel you cannot take care of: not the disease but the patient does the damage. You begin nicking, burning, bruising, abrading, and otherwise wearing out your fingers, toes, feet, hands, and then losing them… The nerveless part of the body remains alive, but pain and sensation define the self; what you cannot feel is not you; what you cannot feel you do not reality take care of; your extremities become lost to you. Pain protects. You flinch, you blink, tears flow. With leprosy, you might stop blinking, so your eyes go dry, or you rub them too hard and scar the cornea, or fail to notice some injury at all. Thus blindness is a common consequence of the disease… If the boundaries of the self are defined by what we feel, then those who cannot feel even for themselves shrink within their own boundaries, while those who feel for others are enlarged, and those who feel compassion for all beings must be boundless. They are not separate, not alone, not lonely, not vulnerable in the same way as those of us stranded in the islands of ourselves, but they are vulnerable in other ways. Still, that sense of the dangers of feeling for others is so compelling that many withdraw, and develop elaborate stories to justify withdrawal, and they forget that they have shrunk.

Swelling and Ebbing Currents

I'm too alone in the world, yet not alone enough 

to make each hour holy.

I'm too small in the world, yet not small enough 

to be simply in your presence, like a thing—

just as it is.

 

I want to know my own will

and to move with it.

And I want, in the hushed moments

when the nameless draws near,

to be among the wise ones—

or alone.

 

I want to mirror your immensity.

I want never to be too weak or too old

to bear the heavy, lurching image of you.

 

I want to unfold.

Let no place in me hold itself closed,

for where I am closed, I am false.

I want to stay clear in your sight.

 

-Rainer Maria Rilke (From Book of Hours 1.12-13)

I believe in all that has never yet been spoken

I want to free what waits within me

so that what no one has dared to wish for

may for once spring clear

without my contriving

 

If this is arrogant, God, forgive me,

but this is what I need to say.

May what I do flow from me like a river,

no forcing and no holding back,

the way it is with children.

 

Then in these swelling and ebbing currents,

these deepening tides moving out, returning,

I will sing you as no one ever has,

streaming through widening channels

into the open sea.

 

 

Don't Not Read This

The poet Mark McCain received an e-mail, which had been sent to numerous American poets, inviting him to sign a “poetition” requesting that President Barack H. Obama pardon Edward Snowden. The request took the form of a poem written by Merrill Jensen, whom Mark knew to be twenty-eight years old, a full nine years his junior. The poem-petition rhymed “Snowden” with “pardon.” And “pardon” with “Rose Garden.” And “Rose Garden” with “nation.” And “nation” with “Eden.” It rhymed—or, as Mark preferred to put it, it echoed—“Putin” and “boot in” and “Clinton” and “no disputing.” “Russia” echoed “U.S.A.”; and “U.S.A.” “Thoreau”; and “Thoreau” “hero.”

Mark forwarded the e-mail to the poet E. W. West. He wrote:

Am I crazy to find this enraging?

Within seconds Liz wrote back:

No.

They arranged to have coffee that afternoon.

Continued...

These are the books I read this year

So many celebratory and beautiful and important and heartbreaking things here. But perhaps the most life-changing of these titles for me was My Struggle by Knausgaard. I read the first four volumes in as many weeks and was totally swept away by them. It felt like climbing into someone else's brain. I loved what I found there—his prose is masterful in its intimate simplicity. My Struggle is a six-volume memoir about a guy writing a six-volume memoir—nothing special happens—but somewhere in the cracks of this ordinary life and these ordinary words I caught a glimpse of the transcendent. 

Love And Other Ways Of Dying - Michael Paterniti
The Unbearable Lightness Of Being - Milan Kundera
A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius - Dave Eggers
The Sympathizer - Viet Than Nguyen
Prodigal Summer - Barbara Kingsolver
The Lacuna - Barbara Kingsolver
My Struggle Volume 1 - Karl Ove Knausgaard
My Struggle Volume 2 - Karl Ove Knausgaard
My Struggle Volume 3 - Karl Ove Knausgaard
My Struggle Volume 4 - Karl Ove Knausgaard
Purity - Jonathan Franzen
The Art Of Cruelty - Maggie Nelson
The Argonauts - Maggie Nelson
Maud's Line - Margaret Verble
The Faraway Nearby - Rebecca Solnit
The Widow Basquiat - Jennifer Clement
Basquiat: A Quick Killing In Art - Phoebe Hoban
Giovanni's Room - James Baldwin
Crime And Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
The Slade House - David Mitchell
Breakfast At Tiffany's - Truman Capote
Astragal - Albertine Serrazin
Between The World And Me - Ta-Nehisi Coates
Bluets - Maggie Nelson