Archive for the ‘Commonplace Book’ Category

The secret of it all, is to write in the gush, the throb, the flood, of the moment – to put things down without deliberation – without worrying about their style – without waiting for a fit time or place. I always worked that way. I took the first scrap of paper, the first doorstep, the first desk, and wrote – wrote, wrote…By writing at the instant the very heartbeat of life is caught.

Walt Whitman

(with thanks to John Winokur’s always excellent Advice to Writers site.)

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Only one thing remained reachable, close and secure amid all losses: language. Yes, language. In spite of everything, it remained secure against loss. But it had to go through its own lack of answers, through terrifying silence, through the thousand darknesses of murderous speech. It went through. It gave me no words for what was happening, but went through it. Went through and could resurface, ‘enriched’ by it all.

Paul Celan, 1958

…you owe it to your readers to set yourself the most difficult challenge that you have some hope of being equal to. With every book, you have to dig as deep as possible and reach as far as possible. And if you do this, and you succeed in producing a reasonably good book, it means that the next time you try to write a book, you’re going to have to dig even deeper and reach even farther, or else, again, it won’t be worth writing.

Jonathan Franzen, from Farther Away

(and see James Santel’s excellent review of Farther Away)

“We may feel bitterly how little our poems can do in the face of seemingly out-of-control technological power and seemingly limitless corporate greed, yet it has always been true that poetry can break isolation, show us to ourselves when we are outlawed or made invisible, remind us of beauty where no beauty seems possible, remind us of kinship where all is represented as separation.” —Adrienne Rich (1929-2012)

Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. …(It)… is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.

— Anne Lamott

(Thanks to Advice for Writers for this fine quotation.)

Endurance

Posted: Thursday, January 19, 2012 in Commonplace Book, Poetry, Uncategorized
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A profusion of pink roses being ragged in the rain speaks to me of all gentleness and its enduring.

William Carlos Williams

Once I pass’d through a populous city imprinting my brain for future
use with its shows, architecture, customs, traditions,
Yet now of all that city I remember only a woman I casually met
there who detain’d me for love of me,
Day by day and night by night we were together–all else has long
been forgotten by me,
I remember I say only that woman who passionately clung to me,
Again we wander, we love, we separate again,
Again she holds me by the hand, I must not go,
I see her close beside me with silent lips sad and tremulous.

— Walt Whitman

Listening to the Dream

Posted: Friday, January 13, 2012 in Art, Commonplace Book
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The writer is always tricking the reader into listening to the dream. – Joan Didion

The First Priority

Posted: Tuesday, January 10, 2012 in Art, Commonplace Book
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…the writer must be intelligent and disinterested and above all he must survive.

–Hemingway

Two or Three Great and Simple Images

Posted: Sunday, November 27, 2011 in Art, Meaning
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‎”A man’s work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover, through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened.” —Albert Camus

(Your editor, of course, wishes Camus had not insisted the masculine pronoun; otherwise, this quotation was too good not to post.)