"Stop worrying about your identity and concern yourself with the people you care about, ideas that matter to you, beliefs you can stand by, tickets you can run on. Intelligent humans make those choices with their brain and hearts and they make them alone. The world does not deliver meaning to you. You have to make it meaningful, and decide what you want and need and must do. It's a tough, unimaginably lonely and complicated way to be in the world. But that's the deal: you have to live; you can't live by slogans, dead ideas, clichés, or national flags. Finding an identity is easy. It's the easy way out."
- Zadie Smith
"There are moments when a kind of clarity comes over you, and suddenly you can see through walls to another dimension that you'd forgotten or chosen to ignore in order to continue living with the various illusions that make life, particularly life with other people, possible."
- Nicole Krauss
"Astonishing" is an epithet concealing a logical trap. We're astonished, after all, by things that deviate from some well-known and universally acknowledged norm, from an obviousness we've grown accustomed to. Now the point is, there is no such obvious world. Our astonishment exists per se and isn't based on comparison with something else."
- Wisława Szymborska
Walking through a field with my little brother Seth
I pointed to a place where kids had made angels in the snow.
For some reason, I told him that a troop of angels
had been shot and dissolved when they hit the ground.
He asked who had shot them and I said a farmer.
Then we were on the roof of the lake.
The ice looked like a photograph of water.
Why he asked. Why did he shoot them.
I didn't know where I was going with this.
They were on his property, I said.
When it's snowing, the outdoors seem like a room.
Today I traded hellos with my neighbor.
Our voices hung close in the new acoustics.
A room with the walls blasted to shreds and falling.
We returned to our shoveling, working side by side in silence.
But why were they on his property, he asked.
- David Berman
"What is life? Thoughts and feelings arise, with or without our will, and we employ words to express them. We are born, and our birth is unremembered and our infancy remembered but in fragments. We live on, and in living we lose the apprehension of life. How vain is it to think that words can penetrate the mystery of our being. Rightly used they may make evident our ignorance of ourselves, and this is much."
- Percy Bysshe Shelley
The Reverse Side
The reverse side also has a reverse side - Japanese proverb
It's why when we speak a truth
some of us instantly feel foolish
as if a deck inside us has been shuffled
and there it is - the opposite
of what we said.
And perhaps why as we fall in love
we're already falling out of it.
It's why the terrified and the simple
latch onto one story,
just one version of the great mystery.
Image & afterimage, oh even
the open-minded yearn for a fiction
to reign things in -
the snapshot, the lie of the frame.
How do we not go crazy,
we who have found ourselves compelled
to live with the circle, the ellipsis, the word
not yet written.
- Stephen Dunn
What Goes On: New & Selected Poems
a poet reflects
"It seems to me that the desire to make art produces an ongoing experience of longing, a restlessness sometimes, but not inevitably, played out romantically, or sexually. Always there seems something ahead, the next poem or story, visible, at least, apprehensible, but unreachable. To perceive it at all is to be haunted by it; some sound, some tone, becomes a torment - the poem embodying that sound seems to exist somewhere already finished. It's like a lighthouse, except that, as one swims towards it, it backs away."
- Louise Glück
Proofs and Theories
The room was suddenly rich and the great bay-window was
Spawning snow and pink roses against it
Soundlessly collateral and incompatible:
World is suddener than we fancy it.
World is crazier and more of it than we think,
Incorrigibly plural. I peel and portion
A tangerine and spit the pips and feel
The drunkenness of things being various.
And the fire flames with a bubbling sound for world
Is more spiteful and gay than one supposes -
On the tongue on the eyes on the ears in the palms of one's
There is more than glass between the snow and the huge roses.
- Louis MacNeice
"A great verse can have a great influence on the soul of a language. It awakens images that had been effaced, at the same time that it confirms the unforeseeable nature of speech. And if we render speech unforeseeable, is this not an apprenticeship to freedom? Contemporary poetry has introduced freedom in the very body of the language. The poetic image becomes a new being in our language, expressing us by making us what it expresses; in other words, it is at once a becoming of expression, and a becoming of our being."
- Gaston Bachelard