more on hope

Resignation and cynicism are easier, more self-soothing postures that do not require the raw vulnerability and tragic risk of hope. To choose hope is to step firmly forward into the howling wind, baring one’s chest to the elements, knowing that, in time, the storm will pass.

― Desmond Tutu

to love inappropriately, to be ambitious, to simply want more.

J. and I walk to the edge of Chinatown and back. Our bellies are full from wine and pasta. It’s nighttime; the city stinks of summer, and we revel in it. I can’t stop thinking about how it’s already the end of summer. How will we survive the next winter? I am never ready for the cold. J. says, “Honestly, I think the worst thing is feeling lonely while you’re in a relationship.”

I nod, watching the headlights paint the corners of Bowery as the cars turn.

***

A tall guy with yellow lens sunglasses appeared next to me. The sun had already set. Do you dance? he asked, leading me towards the less crowded interior of the pier.

I liked that he modified the way he led turns to account for the wooden slats of the piers underneath my shoes. Turn AND turn AND turn. The pauses were one thing, and more so, the attention to and anticipation of the pauses made the thing.

***

I ran three miles along the river’s edge. On Being’s meditative cadence chanted at me, and Krista brings up Rabindranath Tagore’s quote: “We read the world wrong and say that it deceives us.”

***

I’m responding to K. about the things we talked about last night. “I’m too sensitive. Maybe I want too much. I should be okay with things as they are. I just need to stop bringing things up.”

“Don’t let yourself be gaslit,” K. warns.

The theme of hunger is everywhere.

In the New York Times today: Who’s Afraid of Claire Messud?

‘‘Women aren’t supposed to want stuff,’’ she said. ‘‘They’re not supposed to have high emotions.’’ Recently she went to a party where all the women were skinny and all the men were overweight. ‘‘For the men, it’s perfectly acceptable to be a person of appetites,’’ she said. ‘‘You’re in midlife, you’re at the peak of your professional moment.’’ Again, she slipped into character. ‘‘ ‘Pour me a glass of wine and give me a steak!’ ’’ The women, by contrast, were nibbling crackers and drinking seltzer. ‘‘There should be no shame in appetite,’’ she said, her voice rising. ‘‘There should be no shame in anger. There should be no shame in love. There should be no shame in wanting things.’’

‘‘If it’s unseemly and possibly dangerous for a man to be angry,’’ she said, ‘‘it’s totally unacceptable for a woman to be angry.’’

[Ferrante’s] work quietly seethes at the idea that a woman needs to be ‘‘likable’’ — or that a man should be the judge of her likability. More than that, it offers a space for women to be, as she puts it, ‘‘appetitive’’: to love inappropriately, to be ambitious, to simply want more.

The True American

Robert Pogue Harrison, The True American:

We are the most godless and most religious, the most puritanical and most libertine, the most charitable and most heartless of societies. We espouse the maxim “that government is best which governs least,” yet look to government to address our every problem. Our environmental conscientiousness is outmatched only by our environmental recklessness. We are outlaws obsessed by the rule of law, individualists devoted to communitarian values, a nation of fat people with anorexic standards of beauty. The only things we love more than nature’s wilderness are our cars, malls, and digital technology. The paradoxes of the American psyche go back at least as far as our Declaration of Independence, in which slave owners proclaimed that all men are endowed by their creator with an unalienable right to liberty.

Notes on writing

(a brief summary of) things I’ve learned so far today:

On writing every day: Serious runners run regularly. Writers should try to write daily to get to the story. Do what you need to get to the story (even if it means throwing away 800 words of exposition) and then commit yourself to the form you choose. Once you commit, you’ll need to make more choices within that.

On being deliberate: Poetic lyricism operating at the expense of clarity needs to be deliberate. But probably, you should be clear anyway.

On the reassurance that it’s okay that I gain a lot of inspiration from the poems I read: “Literature is a conversation between writers that crosses the boundaries of genre and time.”

On practicing fluency in multiple genres: The more genres you master, the more freedom you gain no matter what you write. (I liken this to dance: the more forms of dance you master, the more freedom you gain no matter what kind of dance you end up doing.)

On when to write myself into a poem: Poetry is a last resort — in the sense that when you realize you cannot express something in any other way, a poem will be the thing you can turn to. If we don’t have a name for a thing, a poem can help name it.

Ocean Vuong is interviewed by Yen Pham for LitHub and speaks about speaking from the point of view of someone else:

In writing poems like this, Vuong seeks “not necessarily to speak for anyone, but to offer a rendition—in a way a phantom—of what could have been . . . Every attempt to speak is also a grieving of the voice that never arrived.” Speaking for someone who never spoke is also a way of paying homage to the absurdism and surrealism of the myriad mythologies that inspire him, tales which “ignore all rational sense” because they come out of a “nonsensical” world. “I think I stand firmly as an inventor and a mythmaker.”

He also talks about winning prizes in writing:

“Competition, prizes and awards are part of a patriarchal construct that destroys love and creativity,” he recently told The Creative Independent. “If you must use that construct, you use it the way one uses public transport. Get on, then get off at your stop and find your people. Don’t live on the bus, and most importantly, don’t get trapped on it.”

Stephen Burt writes on Literary Style and the Lessons of Memoir:

Yet experiments in the genre continue, many of them, like Maggie Nelson’s breakthrough book, “The Argonauts,” from 2015, intimately connected to the drive toward new forms, and the use of fragments and white space, in contemporary poetry. These memoirs take cues from prose poems and lyrical essays, like those in Claudia Rankine’s “Citizen.” They also use the devices of poetry—interruption, compression, extended metaphor—to pay book-length attention to individual real lives, and, not coincidentally, they come from independent publishers known for their poets and poems.

postscript

I was also reminded that:

– it’s very handy to stash emergency jamón ibérico in the fridge.
– Vietnamese pho is delicious even in the summertime.
– the sky is the color of sapphire only at a very specific time of day; therefore, describing it as such should only be used when you really mean it.

lucky peach

“We suffer each other to have each other a while.”

“I don’t mind suffering as long as it’s really about something. I don’t mind great luck, if it’s really about something. If it’s the hollow stuff, then there’s no gift, one way or the other.”

― Li-Young Lee

I did not mind the heat that clung to our skin and the humidity that made the air gasp for breath. I did not mind the hollow cough that scooped into the insides of my lungs. I did not mind the aching sun, a voyeur peering in through the skylight.

I sat on the ground in front of the chair, head bowed before you. Our hearts islands, the usual bridge nowhere to be seen.

And yet I have minded too much, I thought. I dove back into the wreck when the treasures are what appear now in front of me. What I should have said is: I don’t mind suffering as long as it’s really about something. What I should have said is: I don’t mind suffering if it means we can have each other a while. Suffering and love are both temporary; which lasts longer?

What does forgiveness weigh as it sinks out of reach, and what color is it when finally it floats? The rain broke free from the sagging clouds and waltzed across the windowpanes. Your eyes opened. Adriatic blue.