A Writer's Ruminations

Art has to be a kind of confession. I don’t mean a true confession in the sense of that dreary magazine. The effort it seems to me, is: if you can examine and face your life, you can discover the terms with which you are connected to other lives, and they can discover them, too — the terms with which they are connected to other people. This has happened to every one of us, I’m sure. You read something which you thought only happened to you, and you discovered it happened 100 years ago to Dostoyevsky. This is a very great liberation for the suffering, struggling person, who always thinks that they are alone. This is why art is important. Art would not be important if life were not important, and life is important. Most of us, no matter what we say, are walking in the dark, whistling in the dark. Nobody knows what is going to happen to them from one moment to the next, or how one will bear it. This is irreducible. And it’s true for everybody. Now, it is true that the nature of society is to create, among its citizens, an illusion of safety; but it is also absolutely true that the safety is always necessarily an illusion. Artists are here to disturb the peace. They have to disturb the peace. Otherwise, chaos.

— James Baldwin, in an interview in 1961 (via steadfastinexile)

Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes;
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.

—William Shakespeare, from “Ariel’s Song

Behind my cheerfulness
breathes the grief

Behind the grief
stands my amazement

beyond cheerfulness and grief

and beyond all
what was
what is and
what will be.

Rose Ausländer, “Amazement II" (translated by AnnaMaria Begemann and elana levy)

Happy 123rd birthday Zora Neale Hurston (7 January 1891 - 28 January 1960)

Happy 123rd birthday Zora Neale Hurston (7 January 1891 - 28 January 1960)

To work deliberately in the form of the fragment can be seen as stopping or appearing to stop a work closer, in the process, to what Blanchot would call the origin of writing, the centre rather than the sphere. It may be seen as a formal integration, an integration into the form itself, of a question about the process of writing. It can be seen as a response to the philosophical problem of seeing the written thing replace the subject of the writing. If we catch only a little of our subject, or only badly, clumsily, incoherently, perhaps we have not destroyed it. We have written about it, written it and allowed it to live on at the same time, allowed it to live on in our ellipses, our silences.

— Lydia Davis, “Form as Response to Doubt” (via mttbll)

It’s just after midnight. I’m reading Winter Trees by Sylvia Plath and listening to Max Richter’s “Memoryhouse” and that feels like the perfect way to start 2014.

And we, too, had a relationship—
Tight wires between us,
Pegs too deep to uproot, and a mind like a ring
Sliding shut on some quick thing,
The constriction killing me also.

—Sylvia Plath, from “The Rabbit Catcher”

It was a place of force—
The wind gagging my mouth with my own blown hair,
Tearing off my voice, and the sea
Blinding me with its lights, the lives of the dead
Unreeling in it, spreading like oil.

—Sylvia Plath, from “The Rabbit Catcher”

Is there no great love, only tenderness?
Does the sea

Remember the walker upon it?
Meaning leaks from the molecules.
The chimneys of the city breathe, the window sweats,
The children leap in their cots.
The sun blooms, it is a geranium.

The heart has not stopped.

—Sylvia Plath, from “Mystic”

I am not good. I am not virtuous. I am not sympathetic. I am not generous. I am merely and above all a creature of intense passionate feeling. I feel—everything. It is my genius. It burns me like fire.

—Mary MacLane, I Await The Devil’s Coming