Before my reading yesterday, I sat there and sat there and sat there (nervous, sitting through my nerves, the life of nerves, the work of nerves) waiting for my turn to read and thinking about how I now know there are things we can only say to each other, about each other, about living, in writing. That we can only respond to certain things in writing. And how we can only know and recognize certain things when they’re written down. And even once we’ve learned those things about someone, about something, we can only retain and access that knowledge as a feeling in writing. How writing is an interstice of knowing that we enter in/through writing. And when the page isn’t there we are somewhere else, again; with our knowledge, with our understanding, with our feelings. How we go back to not-knowing, not-feeling. Again. How this used to bother me and bother me, how it isn’t enough, shouldn’t be the only way, but how I now know at least we have this.

Masha Tupitsyn

I had a classmate once who did three beautiful things and died. One of them was a story of a folk who found fire and then went wandering in the gloom of night seeking again the stars they had once known and lost; suddenly out of blackness they looked up and there loomed the heavens; and what was it that they said? They raised a mighty cry: “It is the stars, it is the ancient stars, it is the young and everlasting stars!”

—W.E.B. DuBois, from “Criteria of Negro Art

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)

(via dorkdweeb-deactivated20140630)

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)

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)