words, words, words

Grist for the mill. More here.

“In art, I think that outrage might lead me to the page, but it has to go sit down somewhere else when I’m writing a poem, because — I really do believe this — a good poem isn’t going to be the result of the certainty that drives emotions like anger and outrage. If I know I’m right, and they are wrong, my poem is going to be a tract. But if I can say, what are the weird spaces that are under-imagined? What are the areas where I either am already perpetuating something that is part of what I envision as the problem, or what are the imagined spaces I can enter into where I have to get uncomfortably close to that problem? That’s where something really, I think, interesting starts to happen. I might finish a poem and see something differently. It doesn’t necessarily change the sense of outrage that I might also feel, but it’s illuminated something that feels productive.”

Tracy K. Smith, interviewed in On Being

"In literature we glimpse, at times, the fulfillment of our nature, cast in the imaginative genius of great art, and continuing to persuade us of the value and ultimate truth of the theological enterprise as a seeking for utterance of the divine mystery as it is known and felt in our experience."

- David Jasper, The Study of Literature and Religion

We must do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living. We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian-Darwinian theory, he must justify his right to exist. So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors. The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living.

- Buckminster Fuller"The New York Magazine Environmental Teach-In" by Elizabeth Barlow

"...translation of dead languages is often seen in much more simplistic, instrumentalist ways than translation of living languages; students who are in second year Ancient Greek may be encouraged to think of what they’re doing as learning “to translate,” as opposed to learning to understand. The original text is seen as a problem to which a clunky “literal” translation is a solution; as if there were a “right answer” to what it means, and it’s something ugly in English, even if the original is beautiful. This false thinking isn’t encouraged in the same way for living languages. This set of misunderstandings also encourages a blindness about the social issues; if translators just write “what it means,” and that’s easy, then it doesn’t matter who does it."

- Emily Wilson

“Humans are tuned for relationship...The eyes, the skin, the tongue, ears, and nostrils—all are gates where our body receives the nourishment of otherness…Today we participate almost exclusively with other humans and with our human-made technologies. It is a precarious situation, given our age-old reciprocity with the many-voiced landscape. We still need that which is other than ourselves and our own creations. The simple premise of this book is that we are human only in contact, and conviviality, with what is not human.” 

- David Abram, The Spell of the Sensuous

"But what stays in my mind, as the very picture of terror, is the scene in the drug store, when the Jets sing a song called "Keep Cool, Man." I think I have never heard or seen anything more frightening. (It goes without saying that I think the music so brilliant I have no words to use for it.) I found that a sort of indicator of madness: the mad obsession with nothing, the nerves insanely and constantly stretched--with no way to rest, no place to go; the emptiness of the undirected minds, whose only occupation could be violence and a terrible macabre play-acting. If a man can be nothing, he can pretend to be a hoodlum and feel like a somebody. I couldn't breathe, watching and hearing that; it looks to me like doom, as much as these repeated H-bomb tests, with the atmosphere of the world steadily more and more irrevocably poisoned. I think that drug store and the H-bomb tests are of the same family."

- Martha Gellhorn, letter to Leonard Bernstein after seeing West Side Story

"To appear always deeply concerned for the good of the State, yet to be concerned with nothing but self-interest; to assemble and say nothing; to pretend vast secrecy where there is nothing to conceal; to shut yourself up in your quarters, and mend your pen or pick your teeth while your servants inform the waiting crowd you are too busy to be approached—this, with the art of intercepting letters and excusing the poverty of means by the importance of the ends—this is the whole mystery of politics, or I am an idiot."

- Beaumarchais, The Marriage of Figaro

brutal harmony

"Tesnohlidek’s novel is no fairy tale. It presents a world of not-so-innocent animals living out their short lives in brutal harmony alongside a world of longer-lived humans who are no less brutal, scarcely more intelligent, and a good deal less happy. Neither Tesnohlidek’s animal nor human world is an ideal one, but it is his genius that he is able to lead his readers to an acceptance and final understanding of nature’s grand design, just as he has led his hero, the forester Bartos."

— Robert T. Jones, in a 1985 afterword to The Cunning Little Vixen