I have the following text clip saved to an area on my phone, and I sometimes read it when I’m having a bad day. It’s from Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov.
“…I believe that you are sincere and good at heart. If you do not attain happiness, always remember that you are on the right road, and try not to leave it. Above all, avoid falsehood, every kind of falsehood, especially falseness to yourself. Watch over your own deceitfulness and look into it every hour, every minute. Avoid being scornful, both to others and to yourself. What seems to you bad within you will grow purer from the very fact of your observing it in yourself. Avoid fear, too, though fear is only the consequence of every sort of falsehood. Never be frightened at your own faint-heartedness in attaining love.”
Funny thing: I first heard (note: heard not read) the quote above in the film Surviving Desire by Hal Hartley. When I was in my early 20’s. Many people have a favorite filmmaker. I discovered Hartley in 1997 when I saw the film Henry Fool, then I tried to get my eyes on everything he had ever done. To this day Hartley is my favorite film maker.
I have a non-romantic fantasy about being able to somehow put Hal Hartley and Adam Phillips together in, and have them just hang out for a week, and see what happens.
I just read an interview with John Ashbery done by The Paris Review in 1983. Like most of the interviews TPR does I enjoyed reading this one a lot.
One of my favorite bits was when Ashbery is talking about his past, and how he read Proust when he was a young man at university. Ashbery says that he was “shocked by” the reading. Here’s what is said next:
Being a philistine who’s never read Proust (time is difficult for me to manage… and my attention often wanders), Ashbery’s reply makes me very curious about Proust’s work in a way that nothing before has. Maybe someday…
I just ordered the book The Hatred of Poetry (US) (CA) (UK) by Ben Lerner.
From the description of the book:
No art has been denounced as often as poetry. It’s even bemoaned by poets: “I, too, dislike it,” wrote Marianne Moore. “Many more people agree they hate poetry,” Ben Lerner writes, “than can agree what poetry is. I, too, dislike it and have largely organized my life around it and do not experience that as a contradiction because poetry and the hatred of poetry are inextricable in ways it is my purpose to explore.”
In this inventive and lucid essay, Lerner takes the hatred of poetry as the starting point of his defense of the art.
The book sounds incredibly interesting to me, and I really can’t wait to get it in the post.
I wish that I could say I was familiar withLerner’s work, but I’ve never read a word that he has written. There is certainly a part of me that is excited, and hopeful, that discovering Lerner’s work for the first time will be a thrill.
I shall post things here after the book arrives and I’ve started to read it.
I’m sitting in my parked car, about to head to a meeting, and because I’m early I’ve decided to read some poetry by Mary Oliver on my phone. (I don’t know how Mary Oliver would feel about her poems being read on a phone screen…. part of me suspects she would not approve.)
I was reading the poem DOGFISH in the collection Dream Work (US) (CA) (UK).
I read the following, and then stopped. I laughed a bit as the lines sunk into my conscious mind.
Earlier in the same poem was this line. I liked it a ton, but it did. It make me laugh.
Both of these are great examples of how a good prom (good writing really) can do so much with so very little.
The video below is the video that I’ve watched more than any other video on YouTube. I admire Adam Phillips ability to express himself via both the spoken and written word. It seems to me that he is usually saying very interesting things that make me consider things in a different light.
For those of you who might be interested, here’s a link to an interview with Adam Phillips via The Paris Review. Here are some good bits from it…
The interviewer had described what he thinks Phillip’s style of writing is. Phillips replied…
I’m sure what you’re saying is true—it sounds true. My experience of doing it is I just write it. One’s style is like one’s smell—because you can’t smell it, you need other people to tell you about it.
Later talking about the importance of having good conversations…
Because in your mind, you’re mad. But in conversation you have the chance of not being. Your mind by itself is full of unmediated anxieties and conflicts. In conversation things can be metabolized and digested through somebody else—I say something to you and you can give it back to me in different forms—whereas you’ll notice that your own mind is very often extremely repetitive. It is very difficult to surprise oneself in one’s own mind. The vocabulary of one’s self-criticism is so impoverished and clichéd. We are at our most stupid in our self-hatred.
There are lots of great things in the interview. If you give it a read I hope you enjoy it as much as I did…. or that you enjoy it more than I did, that would be nice as well.
There is lots of bad poetry, and I think that can make people forget that there is also good poetry. The poetry of Stephen Dunn is great poetry. Take for instance the following words, and the impact they have:
She said to her friend: I want
all the fire one can have
without being consumed by it.
To be without some of the things
you want, a wise man said,
is an indispensable part of happiness.
I was going to comment on these words, but after reflecting on that idea I’ve decided to just let them speak to you in whatever way they speak to you, free of my own subjective experience of making them mean something to me.
I will say that I hope you read more of Stephen Dunn’s poems.
Both of the quoted lines above come from the prom The Snowmass Cycle. The rest of that poem can be read here. I originally read it in New and Selected Poems 1974-1994. Links to buy said book: (CA) (US) (UK).