I enjoyed every minute of listening to Jason Gay describe what it feels like to stumble into regular adulthood. It felt like having a long conversation with a friend who makes you laugh, not by trying to be funny, but simply by describing ordinary life in all its messiness.
"When someone you love walks through the door, even if it happens five times a day, you should go totally insane with joy."
What happens when, just for a moment, we stay with our pain, our fear, our doubt, our discomfort, our grief, our broken heart, even our numbness, without trying to change it, or fix it, or numb ourselves to it, or get rid of it in any way? What happens when, even when we feel like leaving, abandoning the moment for the promise of a future salvation, we stay, sitting with the raw, unfiltered, boundlessly alive life-energy that is simply trying to express right now?
~ Jeff Foster
"Because I write poetry, I can sit down and write things that I don’t have proof of, or even know the end of the sentence. I can feel around and nobody gets hurt, right? It’s a poem. And so I wrote this poem out of grief and an attempt to make it very plain to myself, the argument that I’d come up with."
~ Jennifer Michael Hecht
“There is always what will turn out to be the life we led, and the life that accompanied it, the parallel life (or lives) that never actually happened, that we lived in our minds, the wished-for life (or lives): the risks untaken and the opportunities avoided or unprovided.” ~ Adam Phillips
"When I go, I hope someone grabs hold of me. But I have to promise I’m grabbing hold of who's gone before." ~ Dario Robleto
"What happens when, just for a moment, we stay with our pain, our fear, our doubt, our discomfort, our grief, our broken heart, even our numbness, without trying to change it, or fix it, or numb ourselves to it, or get rid of it in any way? What happens when, even when we feel like leaving, abandoning the moment for the promise of a future salvation, we stay, sitting with the raw, unfiltered, boundlessly alive life-energy that is simply trying to express right now?" ~ Jeff Foster
"Poetry does seem to be especially good at certain things. For example, we are all going to die. Poetry can help us live with that. Poems are made of words, nothing but words. The particulars in poems are like the particularities, the personalities, that distinguish people from one another. Poems are easy to share, easy to pass on, and when you read a poem, you can imagine someone's speaking to you or for you, maybe even someone far away or someone made up or someone deceased. That's why we can go to poems when we want to remember something or someone, to celebrate or to look beyond death or to say goodbye, and that's one reason poems can seem important, even to people who aren't me, who don't so much live in a world of words."
- "LIKE: A speculative essay about poetry, simile, artificial intelligence, mourning, sex, rock and roll, grammar, romantic love," by Stephen Burt, The American Poetry Review, January/February 2014
- "Poetry’s Cross-Dressing Kingmaker," by Mark Oppenheimer, The New York Times, September 14, 2012
Beyond junk bonds and oil spills,
beyond the collapse of Savings and Loans,
beyond liquidations and options on futures,
beyond basket trading and expanding foreign markets,
the Dow Jones industrial average, the Standard
& Poor’s stock index, mutual funds, commodities,
beyond the rising tide of debits and credits,
opinion polls, falling currencies, the signs
for L. A. Gear and Coca Cola Classic,
the signs for U.S. Steel and General Motors,
hi-grade copper, municipal bonds, domestic sugar,
beyond fax it and collateral buildups,
beyond mergers and acquisitions, leveraged buyouts,
hostile takeovers, beyond the official policy
on inflation and the consensus on happiness,
beyond the national trends in buying and selling,
getting and spending, the market stalled
and the cost passed on to consumers,
beyond the statistical charts on prices,
there is something else that drives us, some
rage or hunger, some absence smoldering
like a childhood fever vaguely remembered
or half-perceived, some unprotected desire,
greed that is both wound and knife,
a failed grief, a lost radiance.
Excerpt from "The Trauma of Being Alive," by Mark Epstein, The New York Times, August 3, 2013:
"I like to say that if we are not suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, we are suffering from pre-traumatic stress disorder. There is no way to be alive without being conscious of the potential for disaster. One way or another, death (and its cousins: old age, illness, accidents, separation and loss) hangs over all of us. Nobody is immune. Our world is unstable and unpredictable, and operates, to a great degree and despite incredible scientific advancement, outside our ability to control it...
...The willingness to face traumas — be they large, small, primitive or fresh — is the key to healing from them. They may never disappear in the way we think they should, but maybe they don’t need to. Trauma is an ineradicable aspect of life. We are human as a result of it, not in spite of it."
See also: Epstein, M. (2013). The trauma of everyday life.
From Letters of Note, Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2012:
In June of 1945, Arline Feynman — high-school sweetheart and wife of the hugely influential physicist, Richard Feynman — passed away after succumbing to tuberculosis. She was 25-years-old. 16 months later, in October of 1946, Richard wrote his late wife the following love letter and sealed it in an envelope. It remained unopened until after his death in 1988.
(Source: Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman)
October 17, 1946
I adore you, sweetheart.
I know how much you like to hear that — but I don't only write it because you like it — I write it because it makes me warm all over inside to write it to you.
It is such a terribly long time since I last wrote to you — almost two years but I know you'll excuse me because you understand how I am, stubborn and realistic; and I thought there was no sense to writing.
But now I know my darling wife that it is right to do what I have delayed in doing, and that I have done so much in the past. I want to tell you I love you. I want to love you. I always will love you.
I find it hard to understand in my mind what it means to love you after you are dead — but I still want to comfort and take care of you — and I want you to love me and care for me. I want to have problems to discuss with you — I want to do little projects with you. I never thought until just now that we can do that. What should we do. We started to learn to make clothes together — or learn Chinese — or getting a movie projector. Can't I do something now? No. I am alone without you and you were the "idea-woman" and general instigator of all our wild adventures.
When you were sick you worried because you could not give me something that you wanted to and thought I needed. You needn’t have worried. Just as I told you then there was no real need because I loved you in so many ways so much. And now it is clearly even more true — you can give me nothing now yet I love you so that you stand in my way of loving anyone else — but I want you to stand there. You, dead, are so much better than anyone else alive.
I know you will assure me that I am foolish and that you want me to have full happiness and don't want to be in my way. I'll bet you are surprised that I don't even have a girlfriend (except you, sweetheart) after two years. But you can't help it, darling, nor can I — I don't understand it, for I have met many girls and very nice ones and I don't want to remain alone — but in two or three meetings they all seem ashes. You only are left to me. You are real.
My darling wife, I do adore you.
I love my wife. My wife is dead.
PS Please excuse my not mailing this — but I don't know your new address.
Pre-order the Letters of Note book, out May 2013.
Excerpt from "Joy," by Zadie Smith, The New York Review of Books, Jan. 10, 2013:
We were heading toward all that makes life intolerable, feeling the only thing that makes it worthwhile. That was joy. But it’s no good thinking about or discussing it. It has no place next to the furious argument about who cleaned the house or picked up the child. It is irrelevant when sitting peacefully, watching an old movie, or doing an impression of two old ladies in a shop, or as I eat a popsicle while you scowl at me, or when working on different floors of the library. It doesn’t fit with the everyday. The thing no one ever tells you about joy is that it has very little real pleasure in it. And yet if it hadn’t happened at all, at least once, how would we live?
. . .
The writer Julian Barnes, considering mourning, once said, "It hurts just as much as it is worth.". . . What an arrangement. Why would anyone accept such a crazy deal? Surely if we were sane and reasonable we would every time choose a pleasure over a joy, as animals themselves sensibly do. The end of a pleasure brings no great harm to anyone, after all, and can always be replaced with another of more or less equal worth.
someone is dressing up for death today, a change of skirt or tie
eating a final feast of buttered sliced pan, tea
scarcely having noticed the erection that was his last
shaving his face to marble for the icy laying out
spraying with deodorant her coarse armpit grass
someone today is leaving home on business
saluting, terminally, the neighbours who will join in the cortege
someone is paring his nails for the last time, a precious moment
someone’s waist will not be marked with elastic in the future
someone is putting out milkbottles for a day that will not come
someone’s fresh breath is about to be taken clean away
someone is writing a cheque that will be rejected as ‘drawer deceased’
someone is circling posthumous dates on a calendar
someone is listening to an irrelevant weather forecast
someone is making rash promises to friends
someone’s coffin is being sanded, laminated, shined
who feels this morning quite as well as ever
someone if asked would find nothing remarkable in today’s date
perfume and goodbyes her final will and testament
someone today is seeing the world for the last time
as innocently as he had seen it first