Miracle. All of it.

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I was born in the afternoon of March 14, when a fault opened deep below Bucharest. The inky tips of seismographic recording needles trembled as the tectonic blow rolled through the Carpathians toward Kiev and Moscow, gradually receding. The face of the world was distorted, as if in a fun-house mirror: avalanches fell from mountains, asphalt roads buckled, railroad tracks turned into snakes. Flags shook on flagpoles, automatic guns rang out in arsenals, barbed wire across state borders broke under the strain; chandeliers in apartments and frozen carcasses in meat processing plants swung like metronomes; furniture on upper floors swayed and scraped. The thousand-kilometer convulsion of the earth’s uterus gave a gentle push to the concrete capsules of missile silos, shook coal onto the heads of miners, and lifted trawlers and destroyers on a wave’s swell.

My mother was in the maternity ward, but her contractions had not started. The tectonic wave reached Moscow, shook the limestone bedrock of the capital, ran along the floating aquifers of rivers, gently grasped the foundations and pilings; an enormous invisible hand shook the skyscrapers, the Ostankino and Shukhov towers, water splashed against the gates of river locks; dishes rattled in hutches, window glass trembled. People called the police—“ our house is shaking”—some ran outside, others headed straight for the bomb shelters. Of course, there was no general panic, but this was the first time since the German bombing that Moscow reeled …

Mother worked at the Ministry of Geology and was part of a special commission that studied the causes and consequences of natural disasters…When the maternity ward was shaken by a gentle wave from the center of the earth, my mother was the only person to understand what was happening, and the unexpectedness of it, the fear that the earth’s tremor had pursued her and found her in the safety of Moscow and induced her into labor. The earthquake was my first impression of being: the world was revealed to me as instability, shakiness, the wobbliness of foundations. My father was a scholar, a specialist in catastrophe theory, and his child was born at the moment of the manifestation of forces that he studied, as he lived, without knowing it, in unison with the cycles of earth, water, wind, comets, eclipses, and solar flares, and I, his flesh and blood, appeared as the child of these cycles.

~ Sergei Lebedev, from Child of an Earthquake in “The Year of the Comet


Notes:

  • Photo: Caitie @ ktnewms  (via A Joyful Journey)
  • Post Inspired by Albert Einstein’s quote: “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
  • Related Live & Learn Posts: Miracle. All of it.

They’re almost sacred. Words…Head. Heart. Pen and paper.

welder

Mining Poems or Odes won the BAFTA Scotland award for best short documentary in 2015. It’s 11 minutes long. You will say you don’t have time. Save the link and come back to it. It’s that good. His accent, his passion, his story, the cinematography – all hypnotic.

“The Scottish poet Robert Fullerton is a former shipyard welder who was an apprentice when he found his love of books thanks to his mentor. Like its subject, Mining Poems or Odes finds beauty in language and in the docks of Glasgow Fullerton’s thoughts on mining and lyrical readings of his poetry with scenes from the Govan shipyard’s distinctly working-class milieu.”

Here’s a large chunk of excerpts from the documentary:

[Read more…]

300 Arguments

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It takes x hours to write a book and some percentage of x hours to wish I were a different writer, writing a different book.
____

A great photographer insists on writing poems. A brilliant essayist insists on writing novels. A singer with a voice like an angel insists on singing only her own, terrible songs. So when people tell me I should try to write this or that thing I don’t want to write, I know what they mean.
____

I don’t write long forms because I’m not interested in artificial deceleration. As soon as I see the glimmer of a consequence, I pull the trigger.
____

My least favorite received idea about writing is that one must find one’s voice, as if it’s there inside you, ready to be turned on like a player piano. Like character, its very existence depends on interaction with the world.
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Slowly, slowly, I accumulate sentences. I have no idea what I’m doing until suddenly it reveals itself, almost done.

~ Sarah Manguso, excerpts on writing from her new book titled “300 Arguments” (February 7, 2017)


Inspired by brainpickings:

I learned that, to be a writer, one has first got to be what he is, what he was born…. You had only to remember what you were.

~ William Faulkner, Essays, Speeches & Public Letters


Related Posts: Sarah Manguso

Riding Metro North. Back, With My Narcotic.

train

You’ve proven yourself wrong again. You thought you found it.

Peace in fragments.

Years with your obsession: chewing on snippets of poems, skimming blog posts, ripping through headlines looking for morsels, and stacks of the partially read and unfinished hanging on your conscience.

No rhythm. No groove.  A Cow, standing in place, regurgitating partially digested food.

Me and Mick:

I can’t get no satisfaction, I can’t get no satisfaction
‘Cause I try and I try and I try and I try
I can’t get no, I can’t get no…

There’s no peace in fragments.

But, I’ve found what was lost. [Read more…]

the great bull with its fierce eye, its head raised, its four hooves planted on the summit, at the edge of the abyss

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In painting his portrait, I paint that of his stock — our century, our dream, ourselves and our companion with the bleeding feet: Joy. Not the gross joy of the soul that gorges itself in its stable, but the joy of ordeal, of pain, of battle, of suffering overcome, of victory over one’s self, the joy of destiny subdued, espoused, fecundated… And the great bull with its fierce eye, its head raised, its four hooves planted on the summit, at the edge of the abyss, whose roar is heard above the time. […]

If he cannot do this in the world of facts, he wills it in the world of art; everything becomes for him a field on which to deploy the battalions of his thoughts, his desires, his regrets, his furies, his melancholies. […]

The hammer is not all: the anvil also is necessary. Had destiny descended only upon some weakling, or on an imitation great man, and bent his back under this burden, there would have been no tragedy in it, only an everyday affair. But here destiny meets one of its own stature, who “seizes it by the throat,” who is at savage grips with it all the night till the dawn — the last dawn of all — and who, dead at last, lies with his two shoulders touching the earth, but in his death is carried victorious on his shield; one who out of his wretchedness has created a richness, out of his infirmity the magic wand that opens the rock.

~ Romain Rolland, on Beethoven’s struggle with his loss of hearing at 28 in Beethoven the Creator

 


Notes:

It could not even see or hear. It simply smelled and tasted and touched its world

snail-elizabeth-tova-bailey

I finished this book a month ago and it hasn’t left my consciousness. Who would have thought a book about a snail would have so captured my attention, and held it for so long.  Here’s the book summary from Amazon:

“While an illness keeps her bedridden, Bailey watches a wild snail that has taken up residence on her nightstand. As a result, she discovers the solace and sense of wonder that this mysterious creature brings and comes to a greater under standing of her own confined place in the world. Bailey becomes an astute and amused observer, providing a candid and engaging look into the curious life of this underappreciated small animal…told with wit and grace, The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating is a remarkable journey of survival and resilience, showing us how a small part of the natural world illuminates our own human existence and provides an appreciation of what it means to be fully alive.”

And here’s a few memorable passages:

“…I observed without thinking, looking into the terrarium simply to feel connected to another creature; another life was being lived just a few inches away.”

“By day, the strangeness of my situation was sharpest: I was bed-bound at a time when my friends and peers were moving forward in their careers and raising families. Yet the snail’s daytime sleeping habits gave me a fresh perspective; I was not the only one resting away the days. The snail naturally slept by day, even on the sunniest of afternoons. Its companionship was a comfort to me and buffered my feelings of uselessness.”

“…my snail could not see the moss over which it glided or even the plants it climbed. It could not see the trees, nor the stars overhead. It could not hear birdsong at daybreak, nor the midnight howls of coyotes. It could not even see or hear its own kin, let alone a predator. It simply smelled and tasted and touched its world.” [Read more…]

Is there any other way?

why-poetry

Excerpts from A Few Questions for Poetry by Daniel Halpern:

Why Poetry? Well, yes. Most books of poetry sell a couple of thousand copies, at best. So in a quantitative sense, what’s the point of supporting it? […]

A question I often ask myself is why so many people (and we’re now talking about millions of people) turn to poetry for all important rites of passage — weddings, funerals, toasts, tragedies, eulogies, birthdays. . . . Why? Because the language of poetry avoids the quotidian — but the best poetry simultaneously celebrates the quotidian. Language that’s focused in such a way that true meaning and emotion is redolent in the air. The poet W.S. Merwin once said: “Poetry addresses individuals in their most intimate, private, frightened and elated moments . . . because it comes closer than any other art form to addressing what cannot be said. In expressing the inexpressible, poetry remains close to the origins of language.”

Why poetry? I sent out a few emails to see what various people had to say. The poet Louise Glück, on the subject of book sales, wrote back, “The books may not sell, but neither are they given away or thrown away. They tend, more than other books, to fall apart in their owners’ hands. […]

[Read more…]

pop a beautiful sentence in my mouth and suck it like a fruit drop

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My education has been so unwitting I can’t quite tell which of my thoughts come from me and which from my books, but that’s how I’ve stayed attuned to myself and the world around me for the past thirty-five years. Because when I read, I don’t really read; I pop a beautiful sentence in my mouth and suck it like a fruit drop, or I sip it like a liqueur until the thought dissolves in me like alcohol, infusing brain and heart and coursing on through the veins to the root of each blood vessel.

Bohumil HrabalToo Loud a Solitude

 


Photo: forkandbeans.com via mouthwateringvegan

He is running, running, running

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He is running, running, running. And it’s like no kind of running he’s ever run before. He’s the surge that burst the dam and he’s pouring down the hillslope, channelling through the grass to the width of his widest part. He’s tripping into hoof-rucks. He’s slapping groundsel stems down dead. Dandelions and chickweed, nettles and dock. This time, there’s no chance for sniff and scavenge and scoff. There are no steel bars to end his lap, no chain to jerk at the limit of its extension, no bellowing to trick and bully him back. This time, he’s further than he’s ever seen before, past every marker along the horizon line, every hump and spork he learned by heart. […]

He is running, running, running. And there’s no course or current to deter him. There’s no impulse from the root of his brain to the roof of his skull which says other than RUN.

~ Sara Baume, from the Prologue of Spill Simmer Falter Wither (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015)


Ray, a 57-year-old loner on Britain’s southern coast, adopts a one-eyed terrier. You can guess what happens next: Ray falls head over heels in love and is soon organizing his life around One Eye’s walks and feedings…Ray falls deeper under the spell of the damaged but joy-filled dog who has transformed his “squat, vacant life” and renewed his interest in his surroundings…This lovely book seems destined to become a small classic of animal communion literature, fervently handed along among friends and family…Early on, Ray asks himself a question that anyone whose life has been changed by a pet will recognize: “What did I use to do all day without you? Already I can’t remember.”

~ Sam Sacks, from his book review of Spill Simmer Falter Wither


One of NPR’s Best Books of 2016.  See NPR book review: For A Young Irish Artist And Author, Words Are Anchored In Images

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

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But it’s not odd to me. Actors are storytellers. And storytelling is the essential human art. It’s how we understand who we are. I don’t mean to make it sound high-flown. It’s not. It’s discipline and repetition and failure and perseverance and dumb luck and blind faith and devotion. It’s showing up when you don’t feel like it, when you’re exhausted and you think you can’t go on. Transcendent moments come when you’ve laid the groundwork and you’re open to the moment. They happen when you do the work. In the end, it’s about the work.

~ Bryan Cranston, A Life in Parts


Related Post: Bryan Cranston – Breaking Good

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