inspiration

Never Give Up

Remarks by Naval Admiral William H. McRaven, ninth commander of U.S. Special Operations Command at the University of Texas at Austin Commencement on May 17, 2014:

Start each day with a task completed.

Find someone to help you through life.

Respect everyone.

Know that life is not fair and that you will fail often, but if take you take some risks, step up when the times are toughest, face down the bullies, lift up the downtrodden and never, ever give up—if you do these things, then next generation and the generations that follow will live in a world far better than the one we have today and—what started here will indeed have changed the world—for the better.

Poetic or Sad of Beautiful

"My poems tend to be about being a middle-aged, middle class, straight, white guy living in middle America. I'm thinking, how do I become one of the great mass of people who sort of, well, keeps America's cars clean and lawns mowed? Exploring ways in which that is poetic or sad or beautifulthat's really exciting to me."  

~ George Bilgere

Poet - George Bilgere from Cleveland Arts Prize on Vimeo.


Bilgere, G. (2014). Imperial. Pittsburgh, Pa. : University of Pittsburgh Press. (library, Amazon.com)

A Poetry Workshop that Changed My Life

"In 1987, I dropped out of Gonzaga and followed a high school girlfriend to Washington State University (it's called Wazoo). And by complete chance, I enrolled in a poetry workshop that changed my life. On the first day, the teacher, Alex Kuo, gave me an anthology of contemporary Native poetry called Songs from this Earth on Turtle’s Back. There were poems by Adrian C. Louis, a Paiute Indian, and one in particular called “Elegy for the Forgotten Oldsmobile.” If I hadn’t found this poem, I don’t think I ever would have found my way as a writer. I would have been a high school English teacher who coached basketball. My life would have taken a completely different path."

~ Sherman Alexie, from "The Poem That Made Sherman Alexie Want to 'Drop Everything and Be a Poet'," by Joe Fassler, The Atlantic, October 16, 2013

More...

Native American poet and author Sherman Alexie on reservations, alcoholism and Chief Wahoo.

Changing The World

"So here’s the thing about changing the world. It turns out that’s not even the question, because you don’t have a choice. You are going to change the world, because that is actually what the world is. You do not pass through this life, it passes through you. You experience it, you interpret it, you act, and then it is different. That happens constantly. You are changing the world. You always have been, and now, it becomes real on a level that it hasn’t been before."

Joss Whedon, from his commencement address during Wesleyan's181st Commencement Ceremony. 

People Talk Themselves Out of Responding

"I can never imagine how someone would fall in love with poetry and stop reading poems. But I think that people often talk themselves out of a bit of responding, which is just as important as collecting."

~ Naomi Shihab Nye, from the 2010 Poets Forum

The Sky
by William Stafford

I like it with nothing. Is it
what I was? What I will be?
I look out there by the hour,
so clear, so sure. I could
smile, or frown—still nothing.

Be my father, be my mother,
great sleep of blue; reach
far within me; open doors,
find whatever is hiding; invite it
for many clear days in the sun.

When I turn away I know
you are there. We won't forget
each other: every look is a promise.
Others can't tell what you say
when it's the blue voice, when
you come to the window and look for me.

Your word arches over
the roof all day. I know it
within my bowed head where
the other sky listens.
You will bring me
everything when the time comes.

Living Life Without False Illusions

whosafraidPhoto: Amy Morton, Carrie Coon, Madison Dirks and Tracy Letts
Credit: Michael Brosilow

“There was a saloon—it's changed its name now—on Tenth Street, between Greenwich Avenue and Waverly Place, that was called something at one time, now called something else, and they had a big mirror on the downstairs bar in this  saloon where people used to scrawl graffiti. At one point back in about 1953 . . . 1954, I think it was—long before  any of us started doing much of anything—I was in there having a beer one night, and I saw ‘Who's Afraid of Virginia  Woolf?’ scrawled in soap, I suppose, on this mirror. When I started to write the play it cropped up in my mind  again. And of course, who's afraid of Virginia Woolf means who's afraid of the big bad wolf . . . who's afraid of living life without false illusions. And it did strike me as being a rather typical university, intellectual joke.”

~ Edward Albee, from "Edward Albee, The Art of Theater No. 4," by William Flanagan, The Paris Review, Fall 1966

Encouraging Urges

feather by cschubert18

The Trouble with Poetry
by Billy Collins, from The Trouble with Poetry

The trouble with poetry, I realized
as I walked along a beach one night —   
cold Florida sand under my bare feet,
a show of stars in the sky —  

the trouble with poetry is
that it encourages the writing of more poetry,
more guppies crowding the fish tank,
more baby rabbits
hopping out of their mothers into the dewy grass.

And how will it ever end?
unless the day finally arrives
when we have compared everything in the world
to everything else in the world,

and there is nothing left to do
but quietly close our notebooks
and sit with our hands folded on our desks.

Poetry fills me with joy
and I rise like a feather in the wind.
Poetry fills me with sorrow
and I sink like a chain flung from a bridge.

But mostly poetry fills me
with the urge to write poetry,
to sit in the dark and wait for a little flame
to appear at the tip of my pencil.

And along with that, the longing to steal,
to break into the poems of others
with a flashlight and a ski mask.

And what an unmerry band of thieves we are,
cut-purses, common shoplifters,
I thought to myself
as a cold wave swirled around my feet
and the lighthouse moved its megaphone over the sea,
which is an image I stole directly
from Lawrence Ferlinghetti —  
to be perfectly honest for a moment — 

the bicycling poet of San Francisco
whose little amusement park of a book
I carried in a side pocket of my uniform
up and down the treacherous halls of high school.

Listen to the Music of the Traffic in the City

“The song written by an Englishman about an American city whose promise of togetherness really yields loneliness sung by a white Parisian woman everyone thought was black.”

~ From “Pop Music: Songs that Cross Borders,” Radiolab, April 21, 2008

When you're alone and life is making you lonely
You can always go - downtown
When you've got worries, all the noise and the hurry
Seems to help, I know - downtown
Just listen to the music of the traffic in the city
Linger on the sidewalk where the neon signs are pretty
How can you lose?

The lights are much brighter there
You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares
So go downtown, things'll be great when you're
Downtown - no finer place, for sure
Downtown - everything's waiting for you

Don't hang around and let your problems surround you
There are movie shows - downtown
Maybe you know some little places to go to
Where they never close - downtown
Just listen to the rhythm of a gentle bossa nova
You'll be dancing with him too before the night is over
Happy again

The lights are much brighter there
You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares
So go downtown, where all the lights are bright
Downtown - waiting for you tonight
Downtown - you're gonna be all right now

[Instrumental break]

And you may find somebody kind to help and understand you
Someone who is just like you and needs a gentle hand to
Guide them along

So maybe I'll see you there
We can forget all our troubles, forget all our cares
So go downtown, things'll be great when you're
Downtown - don't wait a minute for
Downtown - everything's waiting for you

Downtown, downtown, downtown, downtown ...

 

Undervaluing What We Can’t Measure

“Just in the way that I'm inspired by books and magazines of all kinds, conversations I have, movies, so I also think, when I put visual work out there into he mass media, work that is interesting, unusual, intriguing, work that maybe opens up that sense of inquiry in the mind, that I'm seeding the imagination of the populace. And you just never know who is going to take something from that and turn it into something else. Because inspiration is cross-pollinating. So a piece of mine may inspire a playwright or a novelist or a scientist, and that in turn may be the seed that inspires a doctor or a philanthropist or a babysitter. And this isn't something that you can quantify or track or measure. And we tend to undervalue things in society that we can't measure.”

~ Marian Bantjes, from “Intricate Beauty by Design,” TED Talks (February 2010)

To Be Able to Sing

An excerpt from a Radiolab conversation between Jad Abumrad and musician Juana Molina (May 4, 2009):

Juana: I usually feel that the sounds tell me what to do with them. Every sound has its own behavior. I’m just feeling like a driver of those sounds. Little by little, my ridiculously small universe becomes huge. Anything that has a note or a rhythm, you can make music with.

Jad: Are you inspired more by a thought, like I want to say something?

Juana: No. Never! There’s absolutely nothing that I really want to say.

Jad: Really?

Juana: Really.

Jad: Well, you have lyrics sometimes.

Juana: Most of the times.

Jad: So when the song pops into your head and you develop it, you’re not thinking of  a story per se.

Juana: No. Never.

Jad: But you put the story on afterwards, why?

Juana: In order to be able to sing.

Un Día

Un día voy a cantar las canciones sin letra y cada uno podrá imaginar si hablo de amor, de desilusión, banalidades o sobre platón.

One day I will sing the songs with no lyrics and everyone can imagine for themselves if it's about love, disappointment, banalities or about Plato.

To Map Out the World

Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly discussing The Toon Treasury of Classic Children’s Comics with Michael Silverblatt on KCRW’s Bookworm (February 4, 2010).

Francoise Mouly: Kids aren’t necessarily — the way we imagine they might be — looking for escape and fantasy. Actually, the seven year old, the eight year old, is eager for a way to map out information — to map out the world. And that’s part of the reason why comics appeal to them. Because they are a very instinctive way to structure information…As Art has often referred to it, it’s a story made manifest spatially. You have a very instinctive way to understand narratives and to understand character’s emotion…It gives you cues. It is in and of itself a medium that kids can use to understand all other kinds of visual information – much more than watching television or playing video games…They can go back to the same story and read it over and over again. And also because it’s done by one person — it’s drawn by hand — it inspires them to want to make comics.

Art Spiegelman: What makes this a real treasury rather than just a bunch of product put together in four hundred pages of offering [is that] so much of this is written and drawn by the same person…And here when we’re looking at Walt Kelly and Sheldon Mayer and, to a degree, John Stanley and certainly Carl Barks, they were really able to enter and make a whole world themselves. Really act it out, draw it, and write it. So you’re really throbbing inside one person’s brain. And to have that many brains presenting fully realized worlds, you feel it when you’re looking through these stories. They have a kind of urgency in their own way…These characters are a lot more complex than Spider Man. Little Lulu is so much more richer than Peter Parker.

The Purpose of Human Life

Jane Campion in conversation with Elvis Mitchell on The Treatment (September 16, 2009):

“What I was struck by when I read the story was how emotionally powerful it was for me. It wasn’t just the sadness, it seemed to tell the whole story of the yearning heart. But also this other thing elevated by Keats who — only twenty-five —dying, yet he had already realized something that seems to be, I think, contingent on us all to discover which is the purpose of human life — somehow to realize your consciousness and to value it. And I think in the way he explored it philosophically in his letters to his friends and in his poetry he was aware, he did listen, and I felt I learned such a lot from the story in that way.”

“If you read Louise Bourgeois, she talks about women and waiting. Her family mended tapestries and she was a great sewer and I like sewing, too. I collect women’s embroidery of tablecloths and things like that. I’ve got quite a big collection. I often give them as gifts because I find there’s enormous pathos for me in that a woman can spend all this time embroidering this thing that you’re never going to get the money back on, it’s got no immediate return, but it’s satisfying to them. I find it’s like the woman’s place in this world. It’s moving to me the way that they’re happy to make these beautiful things for other people to enjoy with no commercial return. None.”

Séraphine

Be ardent in your work and you will find God in your cooking pots.

~ St. Teresa of Ávila

Séraphine Louis

"Séraphine Louis, known as Séraphine de Senlis (Séraphine of Senlis) (1864–1942), was a French painter in the naïve style. Self-taught, she was inspired by her religious faith and by stained-glass church windows and other religious art. The intensity of her images, both in colour and in replicative designs, are sometimes interpreted as a reflection of her own psyche, walking a tightrope between ecstasy and mental illness." [Wikipedia]

The Seeking Blind

The Winter Sun “People who are destabilized by historical forces are more intelligent than the secure ones who have got the formulas in place. The safety of received tastes and opinions, confirmed in furniture and inherited artworks, stops the true brain, the brain of the seeking blind. When people are uprooted and insecure, their tables are alive with conversation of prophets—philosophy, music, literature, god. But when the people are safe, the repetition of a formula goes around and around.”

~ Fanny Howe, from The Winter Sun: Notes on a Vocation