“The thing about life in the real world is, all your hopes and dreams and desires and feelings are trapped inside you. Reality doesn’t care — it’s stiffly, primly indifferent to your inner life. But in a fantasy world, all those feelings can come out. When you cast a spell, you use your desires and emotions to change reality. You reshape the outer world to look more like your inner world. You have demons in your subconscious? In a fantasy world those demons can get out, where you can grapple with them face to face. The story I was telling was impossible, and I believed in it more than I believed in the 10,000 entirely reasonable, plausible things I’d written before. Fantasy is sometimes dismissed as childish, or escapist, but I take what I am doing very, very seriously. For me fantasy isn’t about escaping from reality, it’s about re-encountering the challenges of the real world, but externalized and transformed. It’s an emotionally raw genre — it forces you to lay yourself open on the page. It doesn’t traffic in ironies and caveats. When you cast a spell you can’t be kidding, you have to mean it.”—
so far, it has raised over 10 million dollars… and counting. my mom has spent every single day of her life for the past three decades trying to get this kind of attention and funds for this disease.
i don’t care if it’s a stupid gimmick. i don’t care if people are just doing this because it’s trendy or because they want pats on the back. i don’t care if it’s the new harlem shake. i don’t care if for the rest of my life, when i talk about ALS, i have to say “you know, the ice bucket disease.”
please, everybody, please keep pouring buckets of ice over your heads. please keep donating money. please keep talking about this.
I’ve seen a number of posts on the internet speaking out against the ice-bucket thing, and how the challenge has little to do with the disease. And then: this. Go read the whole post for the full story.
And: “…there’s value to playing around and seeing what I can do when I’m not trying to please. And there’s value to knowing that I’m utterly free, free as empty space, and I don’t have to be cautious, don’t have to be serious, don’t ever, ever have to be anybody else’s idea of poetry.”
“Despite hand-wringing at each technological turn — radio, the Internet — the future will be much like the past. Artists will sell some things but also give some things away. Change may be troubling for those who crave less ambiguity, but the life of an artist has never been filled with certainty.”—Jonathan Lethem, "The Ecstasy of Influence" (via monicawendel)
“When people say they want to “get fit”, what they mean is that they want to adapt their bodies to a different environment or set of demands. But from this perspective, you can’t “get fit” in order to change the way you live — you have to change the way you live if you are adapt to something else. The psychological dimension between the brain and the body is a huge factor here: add an extra twenty pounds and your body reacts by infusing you with a lethargic attitude that prompts you to wallow in Candyland. But get accustomed to an exercise-induced endorphin rush and you’ll feel miserable if you don’t get your daily dose! You can never eliminate the reciprocal patterns of thinking that influence your behaviour — but you can significantly influence them. More precisely: you can only shape who you are by shaping the variables that you must adapt to. Therefore, “getting fit” is simply forcing your body to create new feedback loops of adaptation.”—
This. “The big question is: what are you adapting to?” All of those other changes in your life/career/output (etc) you want to manifest? What variables do you need to shape in order to adapt accordingly?
“First and foremost, you do not have to live up to or emulate the lives of any of your predecessors. But at the very least, you should know about them. You will have your own life, interests, and ideas of what you want or do not want in life. Do what you enjoy doing. Be honest with yourself and others. Don’t think of satisfying anyone: your elders, peers, government, religion, or children who will come after you. Develop meaningful ideals, and become conscious of others, their existence, and their lives.”—Yuri Kochiyama - Consciousness Is Power
“We tend to repeat as teachers what we’ve learned as students. We also tend to perform in the classroom the practices that make us feel effective in the short term—after all, we’re evaluated after just 15 weeks, whereas what we’re hoping to produce is a classroom full of lifetime writers. How do we know that our practices were effective when our students are done with their training and we send them out in the world to be working writers?”—
Pause for thought. So much of the time we have in workshops is short term, near field. There’s often a sense that there must be something demonstrable by the end of the workshop. There must be a poem. There must be some quantifiable deliverable. These are expectations that are either manifested through us (as facilitators meeting the brief/objectives defined by whoever it is that commissioned us to lead the workshop/lesson), or that we’ve internalised. After all, how else do we know that the idea or concept we were trying to encourage our students/participants to approach through whatever challenge we set them has been taken on? Nothing wrong with a bit of rigour— the challenge to turn in an initial draft in a relatively short period, particularly if it comes within a programme designed to support the development of a writing discipline. That said, different writers have differing levels of discipline— some of my recent experiments in facilitation have been around creating experiences that challenge emerging writers to do more, while at the same time trying to respect different writing practises. As Madden channels Martone in the post quoted above, the ultimate goal is that each of the writers I work with will continue to write, regardless, a long time into the future…
“There is no secret to creativity besides possessing a habitual work ethic. But damn. Sometimes, it’s just hard as hell. Here we are, fortunate enough to possess hands that can harness magic to turn nothing in to something.”—From 'Pseudo-Structures' by Frank Chimero
Eliezer Yudkowsky was once attacked by a Moebius strip. He beat it to death with the other side, non-violently.
Inside Eliezer Yudkowsky’s pineal gland is not an immortal soul, but another brain.
Eliezer Yudkowsky’s favorite food is printouts of Rice’s theorem.
Eliezer Yudkowsky’s favorite fighting technique is a roundhouse dustspeck to the face.
“I’m a writer, and don’t get me wrong: To publish a plain ol’ book that people actually want to read is still a solid achievement. But I think Markus Persson and his studio have staked out a new kind of achievement, a deeper kind: To make the system that calls forth the book, which is not just a story but a real magick manual that grants its reader (who consumes it avidly, endlessly, all day, at school, at night, under the covers, studying, studying) new and exciting powers in a vivid, malleable world.”—
“None of the bones here remember what bodies
they belong to. It is a hard thing to realize that each of
the bones once loved as we do, and harder even to say it.”—From ‘Prayer’ by Richard Jackson, via So Much Joy It Hurts
If you follow me on any of my other various channels, you’ll know I’m currently in Philadelphia, checking in with Brave New Voices— an (THE?) annual youth poetry festival. I came over for it last year, when it was in Chicago, and although I’ve been involved in youth poetry and/or youth slam initiatives for a very long time now (15+ years? Nobody’s keeping count, right?) it was inspiring to see. I travelled back to London with a mind full of the desire to push things harder in the UK, to really make a difference… then got back into the grind and didn’t really live up to the revolutionary zeal I’d managed to muster through my travels. Sure, I manage an independent youth poetry community, I’ve inherited a spoken word education programme, I maintain a long-running poetry course at the Barbican, I mentor emerging poets, I still teach on an ad hoc basis, and I have my fingers in many more pies within the sector, but every now and then I have moments like this where I step back and ask what it’s all worth. Whether the work I’m doing is really having the impact I want it to. And: whether I’m doing a good enough job of communicating the vision and getting people on board.
For now, I’m simply celebrating the opportunity I’ve had thus far this week to gain some perspective. Soon enough, I’ll be back in grind mode, trying to maintain the balance between the 40,000 foot view and the attention to minutiae that keeps everything moving forward.
“If poetry students don’t read broadly, why should anyone else? They read only their contemporaries, no interest in the past as present. Every writing program or conference should offer refresher zones—reading without writing for a brief or long while. Fill up the well if you want to be a writer. We live in an age where you can celebrify yourself instantly. You can pimp yourself in poetry or fiction overnight—anybody can publish anything now because of the Internet. With no critical standards and little reading, we aren’t talking about imaginative writing anymore. We’re talking about a cottage industry and the creation of artifacts and trinkets. The solitude of the writing experience—solitude that reads and converses with the great dead—seems an enemy of technology. Though, finally, I don’t believe this is true. There are poets of all ages who are not threatened by technology but do not have to use it as a club—in both senses of the word.”—Paris Review – An Interview with Carol Muske-Dukes, Alex Dueben
“So much of becoming a writer is called finding one’s voice, and it is that; but it seems to me it is also finding something—some tenor, or territory, or mode, or concern—you can never abandon. For some it is a genre like comics. For some, it is a fascination with metaphysics or misfits or marriage. Not that you don’t have other interests; but there must be some hat you would not willingly take off. It is the thing that gives a writer, “b.s. artist” that he or she is, at some level the chutzpah to drop the “b.s.” It is the source of his or her “authenticity”—this sense that however imaginative the work, the writer has a real stake in it, that he or she is driven by some inner necessity.”—“What Comes of All That,” from Tiger Writing, Gish Jen (via John Estes)
“I don’t think I spend a lot more time writing than other writers. But I do think that when I was a young writer with two young kids, I learned that whatever time I could get, even if it was just a few minutes, was valuable. I don’t spend time ramping up and ramping down like a lot of writers I know. I don’t check to see if anything is new on the Internet. I don’t have to spend time sharpening my special magical pencil made from wood taken from the deck of the Titanic. I don’t have to brew my cup of coffee and balance it just right to write. I don’t have to be writing in my precious little handmade notebook that I bought in Bolivia from the Aymara people. I don’t have to be sitting at my desk looking out at the birds in the backyard and wait for the song of the lark for inspiration to strike. Instead, if I have fifteen minutes, I write for a full fifteen minutes. I try to live my life in such a way that when those minutes come I can take advantage of them wherever I am and whatever I have to write with—computer, phone, pen, pencil, etc.—and take advantage of them fully, and I think the idea of being committed to doing that has actually, somehow, made it work.”—The Believer Logger: 5X5: BRIAN EVENSON
““as computers get better at thinking like us and shaping our behavior,” Leon Neyfakh wrote, “they can also be rewired to spring us free.” @YouAreCarrying is proof of that maxim and replaces usefulness with creativity. Just as the Surrealists deployed the “Exquisite Corpse” to spark their imaginations, Vestal sees a similar purpose. “It helps kickstart people’s imagination,” Vestal says. “How do I get to this point where I have an aspirin, a subatomic drive and the Elven sword of antiquity?” There is no answer, but the indiscernibility is part of @YouAreCarrying’s mission. It’s a prompt to ponder and encourages one to solicit others for feedback. “People want to share what they’re carrying,” Vestal says. “It’s like opening up a present on Christmas day.” And what a strange and glorious Christmas that must be.”—
“Race was naive enough to think that dyeing her hair was enough to alter the pigment of her name, the nature of her shadow. She tried lime green to generate more zest, a fiery red to suggest deep-seated passions, even black, for that laid back retro look. But nothing changed. People walked past her on the street, eyes averted, clasping their gaudy shopping bags watchfully. In school she sat in the corners, hoping to blend in with the cracked paint. Her lovers continued to call her by other names when making love. In the dark, and in the throes of ecstasy, they claimed, everyone looked the same. It was easy to be confused, Race was not convinced. She felt different inside, a place where moonlight could not reach. She tried using a microscope, a DNA test, her rose-tinted glasses, but could not figure out why the softly pulsing engine of her being remained invisible to her. Did she not have a name? A history? And did she not buy her own clothes with money she earned the same way as everyone else? Disappointed, Race realised that her should was not the sum of her choices, nor her genes a composite of caresses and strokes leading up to her conception. She envied her friends, the purity of their obliviousness, how they wore their hair casually long and streaked with gold, gleaming against their skin beneath, gleaming agains their skin, beneath which the blood coursed, without question, like a final answer. She wondered if she peeled back their flesh, unhinged the bone, eased apart the knotted sinews, whether she should also find nothingness there: a space worn away in the shape of their own silence; what colour it must be.”—
“Technology has made different kinds of poets out of us. Together we sing ghost songs. We have haunted mouths, and speaking flesh. Together we imagine impossible things that I can write, but not make. Together we make things that I cannot imagine. We barter noisily like grandmothers. Because I am a writer, and trade in poetry, so I tempt technology to do the same.”—Jools Gilson-Ellis
“You want to be in a spot where you can respond to the world. If an idea hits you, then you can do it in some form…you don’t need permission from anyone to do awesome things. All you need is the time and space to work on 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 parcel out his or her writing into shorter sections or volumes, in order for anything like the eloquent and verbose reading of prior eras to remain. An idea worth considering: could this trend toward short reads give rise to a deeper appreciation of poetry in the future? It’s thought-provoking and often mind-taxing, true—but it’s short. Or at least, some of it is. It would be interesting to see whether poetry makes a comeback in the future.”—
“I am always reading, always, and tons of things at once. I wouldn’t say I’m a voracious reader, though. I never finish books that fast, because I’m always reading so many things at once. I dip in, dip out, dip back in, sometimes never dip back in… I think my brain is full of collisions and that’s how I like to read and process information. I’m always comparing things and I think I do that subconsciously when I’m reading books of poetry.”—
“For years I’ve maintained a personal credo that I’ll give pretty much any person starting out in our field 30 minutes of my time, if they have the wherewithal to come and ask for it. (Don’t all ask at once, now.) Usually that means a phone call or an email exchange. Sometimes I’ll meet for coffee, given my schedule and availability. I certainly don’t feel compelled to help out every person who comes my way looking for advice, and I tailor my response to the query (a thoughtful email gets a better reply than a tweet) but I make a genuine effort to say “yes” to people who are just starting out. A few years ago I described this policy to a colleague. I remember him saying “I would never do that, it doesn’t seem like it would be worth it.” Not everything in our professional lives is a transaction, scrutinized and evaluated against how much it costs us, how much someone should pay. Not every teaching relationship must be formalized—a mentoring opportunity, a coach, an internship. Not every investment of time has to be “worth it.” Sometimes you just have a brief conversation with someone because—why not? You never know what will come of it. I can’t thank the guy who took the time to meet me for coffee. But I can pay it forward by trying to help other people in a small, vanishingly insignificant way. And if some day, I help someone in a way that changes the very course of their life? I might never even know. The payback I would want isn’t one billable hour or a free sandwich or even their grateful thanks. I don’t even care if they remember my name. I’d rather they pick up the phone and talk to some future 23-year-old when she asks.”—
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 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.”
“Ending his talk, Cramer has an important question for the audience: why do publishers tend to stick to the traditional formats of publishing even when they move to e-publishing? He gave the example of poetry books. Traditionally, poetry is published as poetry volumes because it is the only economical way of printing, distributing and selling it. With e-publishing however, it is possible to sell single poems. The same is true for exhibition catalogues. He gave the recent example of Stedelijk Museum, the Dutch contemporary art museum. It would have made no sense to publish its 200-page collection highlights catalogue as one e-book. But e-publishing makes it possible to turn each monographic chapter on an individual artwork into a mini-epub of its own, and to allow readers to choose what they want to explore and read.”—
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.”
Two-Minute Personality Test by Jonathan Safran Foer
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”?
“Art, be it poetry, music, sculpture, puppetry—the whole of it, inspires change on a personal level rather than a global one. This is important because the individual is the whole. The creation of art argues that people are connected, ideas are connected, the past and future are connected by this moment. Meanwhile, exploitation of the poor, drone strikes that kill hundreds of children, slavery, genocide, land theft—these are all acts that depend upon convincing large groups of usually well-meaning people that “they are not us.” Dean Young once said, “The highest accomplishment of the human consciousness is the imagination, and the highest accomplishment of the imagination is empathy.” Poetry, along with every other art, is a tool for teaching and expanding empathy. Violence and injustice cannot endure empathy.”—A NORMAL INTERVIEW WITH JAMAAL MAY | The Normal School: A Literary Magazine
THE:You once said: “For whatever reason, people, including very well-educated people or people otherwise interested in reading, do not read poetry.” Is this still true?
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.
“The more we persist in misunderstanding the phenomena of life…the more we involve ourselves in sadness, absurdity, and despair. But it does not matter much, because no despair of ours can alter the reality of things, or stain the joy of the cosmic dance which is always there. Indeed, we are in the midst of it, and it is in the midst of us, for it beats in our very blood, whether we want it to or not. Yet the fact remains that we are invited to forget ourselves on purpose, cast our awful solemnity to the winds, and join in the general dance.”—
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, and to create a finished product that—in spite of all the tinkering—evokes that same sense of excitement and discovery in the reader. To accomplish this magic feat takes determination that borders on the pathological, like some guy in Moose Udder, Maine who builds a fifty-foot Elvis sculpture with empty Red Bull cans.
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.”—
“I would not call poetry’s present marketplace position a “failure,” since no contemporary poet expects to make a living by it. He or she teaches, rather, or has an independent income. While making my living elsewhere, I have never stopped writing and reading poetry, as the exercise of language at its highest pitch.”—