Why this?

The occasional poem of my own and a generous helping of work by others that I find inspiring. Site is named for a beloved book by one of my favorite writers, Italo Calvino, whose fanciful work lights--and delights--my soul.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Keep the channel open

There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and there is only one of you in all time. This expression is unique, and if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium; and be lost. The world will not have it.

It is not your business to determine how good it is, not how it compares with other expression. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open.

No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.

--Martha Graham

The idealized America

"The idealized America envisioned by Hirsch--one shored up by the deliberate revival of old and new traditions--would be one in which poems were part of the civility and pleasure of the dining table, in which guests and hosts staged impromptu readings, in which poems could usefully and naturally be worked into a conversation about any thing at all. Is such a culture so far from possible?" --Tony Hoagland

The function of poetry

"In central Ohio, I met the town librarian of a small town; he has, he told me, on his own, started memorizing poems. What poems? I asked. Wallace Stevens and Jane Kenyon. Standing under the giant dusty cottonwoods in the town park, he recited Jane Kenyon's 'Happiness' to me. It was beautiful. Any practicing poet who believes that small ceremony of art was a fluke, or insignificant, or who thinks that Kenyon's poem isn't part of the tribal treasure, is fooling him- or herself. A little hardship, a little sickness, a little mourning, a little failure, a lost job or broken marriage will quickly clarify for us the function of poetry. Vale of tears, oh unreal city; dark world. Meet poetry." --Tony Hoagland 

Minor threatening to become major

"One of my fiction writer friends says that, in the process of working on a novel, his minor characters are always threatening to become major characters, and that his major character is always threatening to become a minor character. In other words, the process of storytelling is a seething, fermenting, somewhat unstable business. Such unwieldy shifts in proportion are also common, maybe even more common, in the making of poems--where a luminous image or statement can stage a coup d'etat at any moment, disrupting the apparent agenda of the poem; where any digression can become more interesting than the main thematic line. It is often hard to keep the poetry train on the tracks, and the willfulness of doing so is often death to a poem. Art requires strange collaborations between decisiveness and surrender." --Tony Hoagland

We inherited the page in a dream

"With every poem and page a poet is choosing a relation to the language we have used, are using, and may use in the future. We inherited the page in a dream, and we will, mostly, write words that have been written before, in the same sequences, echoing the poems that we have read and heard. That is not, in fact, insignificant work. For better or worse, the responsibility is upon us. We are maintaining, renovating, and maybe sometimes adding to the size of the world we live and speak in. It's ours." --Tony Hoagland