Posts in: 2019s


On Poetry and Bullshit

Lawrence Ferlinghetti just turned 100 yesterday, on what would have been my father’s 95th birthday, and I find myself thinking about where I started as a writer and as a person. I began writing poetry as a teenager but I didn’t take it very seriously until a teacher showed me some of Ferlinghetti’s poems outside of class. Many other poets have since accreted in the subsequent three decades, of course, but Ferlinghetti’s influence — along with Cummings, Stevens, Plath, Bishop, Rilke — is batholithic.

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So sorry that Sixth Chamber closed for good today.

Here are two bookmarks. One is from the mid 90s, the other from the late 90s. These two are from my envelope of on-deck bookmarks. Many more are scattered throughout my library, tucked in books, waiting to be rediscovered.

two bookmarks from Sixth Chamber Used Books in St Paul MN

Facts & Opinions

“You can argue opinions, but you can’t argue facts.” This may, under some limited set of circumstances, be a true statement, but it assumes that a fact is something that we would all agree on if only we were sufficiently informed. But facts are a byproduct of context. Facts are not discrete packets of truth, sharply defined and clearly demarcated from their surroundings. And a fact which we can all agree upon is the most useless and least interesting fact of all.

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Hannah Arendt (via):

Just as terror, even in its pre-total, merely tyrannical form ruins all relationships between men, so the self-compulsion of ideological thinking ruins all relationships with reality. The preparation has succeeded when people have lost contact with their fellow men as well as the reality around them; for together with these contacts, men lose the capacity of both experience and thought. The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (i.e., the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (i.e., the standards of thought) no longer exist.




On Creative Longevity

It seems that two qualities are necessary if a great artist is to remain creative to the end of a long life; he must on the one hand retain an abnormally keen awareness of life, he must never grow complacent, never be content with life, must always demand the impossible and when he cannot have it, must despair. The burden of the mystery must be with him day and night. […]

[The artist] must be shaken by the naked truths that will not be comforted. This divine discontent, this disequilibrium, this state of inner tension is the source of artistic energy. Many lesser poets have it only in their youth; some even of the greatest lose it in middle life. Wordsworth lost the courage to despair and with it his poetic power. But more often the dynamic tensions are so powerful that they destroy the man before he reaches maturity.

–Humphrey Trevelyan, from his introduction to the 1949 edition of Goethe’s autobiography, Truth and Fantasy from My Life

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