Posted by Jennifer Michael Hecht on September 16, 2011 at 02:32 PM in Jennifer Michael Hecht, The Lion and the Honeycomb | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Spider, spider, spinning tight
against the darkness of the night,
what inspired geometry
is wonder at your web from me?
On what different leads or lies
could my sympathies arise
if, instead of these aspire,
I had but gone out there entire?
In the purpose of your art
twist the neurons of my heart.
For having lost a rhythm’s beat,
I dread my hand and drag my feet.
What the knowing? What the chain?
In what furnace burns my brain?
Where’s the Advil? What’s to grab?
I’ve got your heartthrob in my bag.
When I, as witness, turn from spears
to fat and lean, bread, pills and tears,
and spider winding, watched by me.
And nature’s this made all of we.
Spider, spider, knitting white
‘gainst the blackness of the night
what freaky strange geometry
could frame our sweet-ass symmetry?
Posted by Jennifer Michael Hecht on August 27, 2011 at 11:20 AM in Jennifer Michael Hecht, The Lion and the Honeycomb | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
Yes, I'm still here. My block broke off Brooklyn and fell into the ocean so we have been sailing for months in the squall so that is why I've seemed so quiet.
Or some other unzipping. I unpack and redo the picking.
This is just an octavian post card (little august). Giving myself again good counsel. Cultivate your garden ardently. Hard love any respite in the fruiting yard. White eggplant is the name of a seed, the plant dreams purple flowers and out bloop eggs.
The pepper grow green then pipe up red. Here all the absurd fruits huddle up against the august sun.
Went to Vegas. Went to camp. Back in Brooklyn. Sent articles in, sent in some chapters.
Posted by Jennifer Michael Hecht on August 13, 2011 at 12:01 AM in Jennifer Michael Hecht, The Lion and the Honeycomb | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
So I've been meaning for like a lifetime to start a blog called Poetic Atheism, a term I made up after I wrote Doubt: A History, in large part from thinking -- and in part from talking to Americans and other people about what religion and secularism and atheism mean to them. Humanist atheist religious groups taught me a lot (that religion is good sometimes when you take out the supernatural) and also I learned a lot from the 6000 years of cultural history of humanity (spotty but still good for the whole first two of those millennia): that art and love are the real and sufficient answer to the otherwise horrible fact of the abyss, death, and the non living world of the universe, vast mostly empty and cold and sometimes very hot but rarely warm, rarer still warm-blooded, and rare but I think not too to rare, sentient as me you and the whales.
Hey if you feel like it please comment here or on my new Poetic Atheism site, or somewhere as it makes me feel more stitched in to the fabric of humanity, and if I don't get help with that, I drop a stitch and may under stress unravel my valiant previous efforts at order and tapestry. Or, as usual, just buy a book! So I can eat and buy ink!
Don'k kill yourselves and I shall return to encourage you again.
Posted by Jennifer Michael Hecht on July 09, 2011 at 04:39 PM in Jennifer Michael Hecht, The Lion and the Honeycomb | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
I've been busy (good hard) writing and (good hard) living, truly sorry I haven't been posting, I'll start again when things lighten up elsewhere. Here now I just need to place a strong but short sweet and aching little memorial.
I heard yesterday a friend has passed away, she was a wonderful being named Ronni Leopold. She loved poetry without writing it! (Well limericks she did). We were never so close but she was a real, true, blue green red yellow orange friend and it is a sad shock to lose her. What a light of life she had, like wow, full blown lights-on alla time was Ronni. Like a wonderwheel. She greived with me (with us) the loss of Rachel and the loss of Sarah with whom we all once drank and smoked and ate and wept and rhymed and had a good old bad grrl time in New York City and wonderful elseswhere's Tupelo sometimes took us up and down the East Coast.
If you knew her too, folks in the Tupelo Press poetry world would have, and others, send a word to me here if you want, or in a private fb message or email, if you want. Anyway, I dedicate my heart’s song today to Ronni Leoplold great soul and lover of poetry, I did think I would see you again my friend and now I will see you always in my mind’s heart and my heart's brightest eye. Thanks for your goodness and friendship and love – and goodbye.
To the rest of the world, the yet living, my friends: Stay with us dear friends, more soon, much love.
most sincerely yours,
Posted by Jennifer Michael Hecht on July 08, 2011 at 01:39 PM in Jennifer Michael Hecht, The Lion and the Honeycomb | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
I could eat a horse's heart.
As any years-long member of an art or science can say, as any partner in any longstanding marriage could say, as any smarty with a heart who has worked and lived in America in these last few decades could say, as anyone who birthed (or hardmade/hardwon child) and raised children could say, as anyone from a family can say - I have eaten the equivalent of a horse's heart, and I like seeing it done on screen by a stunning, blond blindsiding frontside Force-of-will kaleesi with eyes like my day's peak and piqued and picked and peaked high.
Oh Their God, the whole show is so good I can't take it.
I love ALL the characters, and also want to kill them all with my hands and daggers and swords, and also have sex with, um, most of them. Have a mug of beer with the rest. Maybe a little cuddle. A little play sword-fight with Needle. A smirking kiss from Mayor Carcetti? Chest butt with Eddwd. No leg ride wit the sweet recently disabled kid, Bran, I think, yes Bran (don't remember this line or name if you haven't seen the series yet, it might slightly spoil one small thread). I'd like a sewing circle with the redhead little princess to be. I'd like to slap Joffre and teach him how to make his elders a cup of tea. I'd like to have klingon sex with with kalisee and her horse chieftain. Learn medicine from that dirty sheep lady, she's got pot, you know she's holding at least pot and some pain pills. Trade barbs with the imp, he'd like me and when he tired me out I could probly outrun him. Glad the blond shrill prick got a metal hat. The fat king makdes (spoilerminded tense mash) me feel bloated. Love Lady Cat. Love Needle girl. Love Sam on the wall fat coward but observant and smart. Love the wolves. Love the bastard. Love the whores, poetic. Think it's funny that Jamie and Cqueen are pretty much the only one's we've seen actually have a good fuck. Love the blood. Love the honest depiction of family as a snakepit of conquest and incest and horror and murder and soul murder, and also the place of loyalty, and trust, and fun, and hope, and companionate despair. Love the iron chair.
Game of Thrones. Don't kill yourself and I shall return to encourage you again. There is no God but we have ALL of his attributes in Humanity and we must cultivate faith in ourselves and humanity, cultivate it, nurture it, struggle to have faith in ourselves and in humanity, struggle to bring that faith into being.
Posted by Jennifer Michael Hecht on June 13, 2011 at 01:57 PM in Jennifer Michael Hecht, The Lion and the Honeycomb | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
I could eat a horse's heart.
As any partner in any 10 year marriage could say, as any smarty with a heart who has worked and lived in America in these last few decades could say, as anyone who birthed and raised children could say - I have eaten the equivalent of a horse's heart, and I like seeing it done on screen by a stunning blond force-of-will with eyes like my day's best high.
Oh Their God the whole show is so good I can't take it.
I love ALL the characters, and also want to kill them all with my hands and daggers and swords, and also have sex with, um, most of them.
Game of Thrones.
Posted by Jennifer Michael Hecht on June 13, 2011 at 01:29 PM in Jennifer Michael Hecht, The Lion and the Honeycomb | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
In my first poetry book, The Next Ancient World, there is a poem called Naked, in which I talk about being so crazy with rage and shame (that's what we are crazy with, when we are crazy) that I feel like going outside naked.
I'm thinking of it today because of this Naked Man in the News. It is worth a look, my friend. Not safe for work.
And here, read this.
The reason you so often in literature have a naked woman
walk out of her house that way, usually older, in her front garden
or on the sidewalk, oblivious, is because of exactly how I feel right now.
You tend to hear about how it felt to come upon such a mythical beast,
the naked woman on the street, the naked man in a tree, and that makes
sense because it is wonderful to take the naked woman by the hand
And know that you will remember that moment for the rest of your life
because of what it means, the desperation, the cataclysm of what it takes
to leave your house naked or to take off your clothes in the tree.
It feels good to get the naked man to come down from there by a series
of gentle commands and take him by the elbow or her by the hand and lead
him to his home like you would care for a bird or a human heart.
Still if you want instead, for once, to hear about how the person came to be
standing there, naked, outside, you should talk to me right now, quickly,
before I forget the details of this way that I feel. I feel like walking out.
I think of Yossarian in his tree in Catch 22:
Yossarian went about his business with no clothes on all the rest of that day and was still naked late
the next morning when Milo, after hunting everywhere else, finally found him sitting up a tree a
small distance in back of the quaint little military cemetery at which Snowden was being buried.
Posted by Jennifer Michael Hecht on May 11, 2011 at 04:19 PM in Jennifer Michael Hecht, The Lion and the Honeycomb | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
So one of the reasons they knew that following the couriers had led them to an important place -- beyond that it was oversized for the area and very well defended -- was that it had no internet. Someone rich enough for such security would have had internet, unless this was a place that was trying to hide.
That is, its hiddenness from the grid made it suspicious.
It's like when police profilers realize that they are being so cleverly screwed with that they are able to ID the unsub/doer as expolice.
If you outsmart me I go look for you at Harvard, Mensa, and NASA, and eventually you just show up for a meeting.
When hiding, don't overhide. Of course this has important parallels for life and poetry. Whatever you are doing, try doing a different amount of it. Make a real effort!
Good. Don't kill yourself and I shall return to encourage you again.
PS Maybe I over-identify but I am presently wearing a tiara, holding my birth certificate, and twirling a gun over my head. Been a hell of a week.
Posted by Jennifer Michael Hecht on May 02, 2011 at 05:04 PM in Jennifer Michael Hecht, The Lion and the Honeycomb | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
Hi. I can’t believe I am back here in the twenty-first century writing to you guys. I’ve thought of you a skillion times over the decades and I am laterally shivering to be back here at my desk in Old Brooklyn keyboarding you.
21st Century-Jennifer is up at Harvard giving a talk. I’m visiting from 2111, where my students have convinced me to do a Timeback100 with you guys.
In 2088 the Portuguese Michigans came out with a time visiting machine that allowed the visited time to see the visitors, with the visited time forgetting the whole experience days later and time proceeding unchanged. The 3001 model allowed some remembering and reality changed, we lost some good people, and the whole thing was outlawed.
My Steg student had access to one and is so enraged by this chapter in his textra book that he brought it in and since I have one of the last original poetic licenses, I decided to do it and risk radical dislocation and possible disappearance. I mean, what are the odds that we’d have both the machine and the license and an idea worth trying? And what are the odds we’ll disappear?
This was my Steg student’s idea and I’m trusting it, but of course he didn’t tell me exactly how to say it. So it is tough, but here goes.
For ten years after President Obama, the first, shows the birth certificate the thing is sort of a nonevent, it helps him win his second term and then is forgotten. Then starting in 2024 the Papers movement actually starts around a similar issue with President Green but takes all its images and really its energy around this incident in 2011 with Obama’s papers being shown.
If there is any explanation for what happened in the 30s, it begins here, with this act, with the meaning and humiliation and rebellion of what became both the Show Me Your Papers movement, and Papers Please. And in all fairness it also started the Cage Age Rage Page Events which has been the source of everything wonderful about the second half of the 21st and this first ten years of 2100.
But my Steg says the 2030s and their aftermath is to be avoided if possible and we are going to try. I’m going to start with an excerpt from the textra book.
The history of Papers Federal must begin in 2011, ten years after First Bombing and ten years before the Great Landing – two things which are often forgotten and must not be. The country was still thinking in terms of skin color (black, white, brown) and categories like asian, african american, hispanic, and jew. Some early subclubs and Rebrownings included Old Brooklyn, whole areas of Prequake California, and many of the unfederated universities that dotted the country until the 2050s.
This was also when the money corporations were at their zenith, just before the seeds of their collapse are sown in the Landing, and some of these money corporations also resembled the subclubs that would eventually become Blend Times and the whole Darker phenomenon. Still, in most food halls, whole sections of diners would clump up according to self-identified categories of the type described above. Even in the most mixed communities, photographs clearly show that in restaurants most tables were taken by a single one of these categories, though age and gender was as often mixed as not.
Then on April 27, 2011 sitting first-term President Obama the Father made public his Papers (then called birth certificate, which is where the term Birthers comes from).
This gesture was the catalyst that changed the world. Historians have argued over the real significance of the publication of the Papers, but there is no way to deny that this is the moment that people stopped accepting the racism and individualism of the previous century.
Well, I’m not sure how much good quoting the textra is going to do. Let me try to put it in terms that make sense to us, where I come from, in my time. Here goes. Before the Landing, humans had for a few centuries been festering in a bad feedback loop of outsiderism based on age, skin shade, tits or pricks, and the various cults, even still some ultra prims like gods born of virgins.
Posted by Jennifer Michael Hecht on April 27, 2011 at 04:38 PM in Jennifer Michael Hecht, The Lion and the Honeycomb | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
I am sad about losing Paul. Paul Violi lived as a good man, while he lived. He was everything you want in a textual mensch. It wasn't what you knew about him, it was what he knew about you. You go someplace poetic, he's there and it's like somebody put a nice sun at the bar for you to go tan at. He gave galloping reading, met with apes and featherless birds once a week if they wanted and smoked. He was going to smile at you, sideways and squinting always squinting from I suppose his congenitally vivid view of time's descending thumb. Grinned at it. Grinned at you. My friend Mary, who I’ve known and snuck through life with since I’m 17, took a course with Paul years ago, and we went together to one of his readings and talked to him after. Then five years ago I started teaching where he was, at the New School, and met him again. You probably knew him better than I did, but I just wanted to say I have a memory of he and I saying a line from “On First Looking Into Chapman’s Homer” at each other which we both knew because we both felt the rough of life and also found beauty in it that makes you say “Well shut my mouth,” or instead, “Then felt I like some watcher of the skies when a new planet swims into his ken; or like stout Cortez, when with eagle eyes he stared at the Pacific and all his men looked at each other with a wild surmise, silent, upon a peak in Darien.” A man doesn’t need to live long, he just needs to have lived standing upon a peak in Darien, which is in Central America, where Balboa (whose name doesn’t scan like buzz buzz Cortez does), led a bunch of European dudes for the first time ever to the Pacific Ocean. Paul Violi saw that ocean, and even sailed it mightily and with great salt. A great turn on the stage of existence. I’d say you’ll be missed but since you are haunting my headspace at the moment that wouldn’t strictly be true. More like I can’t shake you. Traveled continents and realms of gold. I’d have preferred to watch him get old but I’m damn glad we had him. Ah, philosophy fails again. I hate this losing and may even miss some appointments and try having a fit about it. We loved you. It is a heartache to lose old friends. Which goes double for one with such a mind for histories and conversation.
Posted by Jennifer Michael Hecht on April 06, 2011 at 06:15 PM in Jennifer Michael Hecht, The Lion and the Honeycomb | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
My recent post (which followed up this post) drew a comment that defended Tony Hoagland's poem, "The Change," and this is the response I found myself writing in the small hours of this morning. I hope you can dig it. I know that you can. To wit.
After a 130 thousand years of all human beings living in the south of Africa, some few were pressured by food shortage to head north into Europe. Far from the equatorial sun, the palest of them survived best because only their skin let in enough ultraviolet to make Vitamin D. After a long time of not much, they found that their land held the largest deposits of iron on the planet. This iron made them very powerful. It made for plows, swords, armor, and later, guns. That happened in the past 10 thousand years.
Only a few hundred years ago, the pale ones “discovered” the continent they had left ages ago. In Europe they were used to fighting each other for land, metal, money, and workers, and here they found these goods undefended by swords, guns, or horsemen. The people they found had very different markers of culture, such that each seemed uncultured to the other. The pale ones wanted to steal the land, metal, money, and workers and not much was stopping them beyond morality. They got past the morality by using their own pale skin as a marker for quality, which they backed up by lamenting the absence of salad forks on the African continent, and then they stole everything they wanted. They treated the human beings there as animals. The palies did not have the gall to drag the humans back to Europe and treat them like animals right in the towns where they had preached equality to the rich and powerful. They only did it in places without a history of preaching equality because they had no history other than the extermination of the people who had lived their until recently. There, or rather, here, in America, they set up an institution that now disgusts anyone who learns of it. Its cruelties were unthinkable.
It was only abolished about 150 years ago. The only thing that we have lost in losing the idea of pale skin as a marker for superiority is a childish delusion not worthy of humanity. Physically, biologically, there is no such thing as race. Scott and Bob differ as much in their DNA as do Bob and Darnell. A hundred years ago, in New York, Italian and Irish immigrants fought each other on street corners and disowned Vincenzo for falling in love with Meghan. Cartoonists drew the Irish as if their race was as far removed from white America as an albino baboon, all large-browed, stub-nosed, and stupid. But economics changed and populations changed and the fact that these two groups were both largely Catholic and immigrated in the same era soon made them allies and eventually no racial difference was seen between these two “peoples.” When race difference disappears it disappears so completely that we forget that it was ever there, and therefore we also forget that race difference disappears.
Posted by Jennifer Michael Hecht on March 04, 2011 at 11:20 AM in Jennifer Michael Hecht, The Lion and the Honeycomb | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
Can I just say? I'm not mad at Tony Hoagland for writing a racist poem. I like a lot of Tony Hoagland's poetry. And someone has likened his faux pas in this poem as him having spinach in his teeth, which Claudia Rankine has merely pointed out, and which requires merely that he say oh, excuse me, and attends to his toilette. I'm okay with that.
Alls I want to do is make sure some white person (Jewish girl) on the intenest says very clearly, I don't feel this way at all. I don't feel more us v them with Black people than I do as a New Yorker with New Jerseyans, and I married one of them, a Hobokenite! Odds are, given our friends and neighbors, one of my two small children will marry a brown person and I will have tan grandchildren. Also true for many other Americans living in happening towns. The future is ours together and it is mocha baby, cope with it. Drink it in. Add some booze. Turn up the music. Dance. You are allowed to write whatever you want but if you make my girlfriends uncomfortable I'm going to bother you about it. And if they leave because they feel freaked by the bad vibe, I'm going with them.
ps Did you just come in? I'm talking about this.
pps I don't know Claudia Rankine though I think we met after a reading she gave once.
ppps Even though I don't know her, it means a lot to me that she doesn't leave the room. Whenever I try to deal with the "where are all the women at" and "where are all the brown people at" problem, and my efforts are not well received, I tend to back off into oblivion. So I worry that others, too, will "leave the room", just wander off and pay attention to the parts of life that don't make you fight for crumbs. So I'm putting up a little flag that says I agree with you, for what it's worth, what that poem says is gross and for many many white people (insert blur quotes) not at all true.
Posted by Jennifer Michael Hecht on March 02, 2011 at 03:00 PM in Jennifer Michael Hecht, The Lion and the Honeycomb | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
How I have missed you. And what obstacles I have had to defeat in order to at last rearrive here, panting, on the grass. Well, but, I’ve had mental adventures of which you will be the beneficiaries, so don’t mug. Or rather do, because I know it means you missed me.
I’ve been buzzy with otter projects, actual agents and actual editors wanting to see pages and rewrites too, but am now released by the holding pattern of stopping and waiting (and waiting), and so am at last writing to you.
Life has time for kids, time for sleeping, time for watching Firefly on Netflix, plus 30 Rock and American Idol, and time for work. Writing to you comes out of time for work, because there’s no other time for it to come out of. Granted I sometimes see Millionaire Matchmaker without having written to you, but rarely. Usually these are the only priorities that supersede you. So sorry you’ve been so long supersed. I’m trying to save the world with rhetoric. It’s ex/hilarating /hausting.
Dudes, in one of my secret societies (I only have one, but I’m trying to confuse future forensics) (I confess this here because once, someone else in my secret society mentioned that they had other secret societies and it hurt my feelings, and I didn’t want to hurt the feelings of any of my cosocietans, should they happen to read this.) I said something and then some other guy said something obnoxious and so then I said something smartassy and the cosocietans really liked what I said. Want to know it? It was this: “Well what you said stung/k, but…” They liked that I goed stung/k. Isn’t following one thought to the next ex/hilarating /hausting? Anyway, the backslash locution at the end of the above paragraph made me think of that other one, stung/k. They are a shorthand usable by a culture that silent-reads its quips, so they needn’t be pronounceable.
Posted by Jennifer Michael Hecht on February 28, 2011 at 10:44 AM in Jennifer Michael Hecht, The Lion and the Honeycomb | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
I should make myself a cup of tea before starting this. Wait, okay? Okay I’m back. I also looked at some stuff on Facebook before starting in again. Considered a game of Bejeweled Blitz but powered through the craving and here I am, just where I want to be, leaning into the mouth of this gun-metal pipe to tell some things to your much endeared conch shell ear, elsewhere likewise pressed against. Coo-coo you, are you home? I’m here.
This hilariously named period we now inhabit, the Spring Semester, I have returned to my what’s the matter Alma Columbia to teach a poetry seminar which I invented for them and offered among a spectrum of courses all the others of which I have taught before, but not this one. It’s Poets and Their letters. This poet got the letters p, h, and d there, and it is an freak storm of the heart to be back there now, across the quad from the history department, talking about Keats and watching College Walk Philip with snow. Fill up.
Also, I’ve been teaching Keats a long time now (and he’s still mistaking Cortez for Balboa!), sneaking him into the curriculum through 14 years as a history professor (tenured by the time I left, my friends. remember, if your going to leave a sure thing paycheck, do it right before the economy collapses) and then hot and heavy each of the five years teaching poetry at the New School MFA program, but never before had I thought to say Read the six great odes at home and come in and we’ll talk about them as if they were the rich felt petals of one six-petalled flower – nurtured by the man whose name was writ on water. Let’s read the six as if they were all that was left you from a bygone parent whom you lost so young you can barely remember the odor of home.
So we did, in this order: “To Autumn” we read together on day one, to rev their motors, then yesterday in class: "Ode on Melancholy," "Ode to a Nightingale," "Ode to Psyche," "Ode on a Grecian Urn," and "Ode on Indolence.”
I’d also had them read at home, btw, and not for nothin’: “On First Looking into Chapman's Homer” “When I Have Fears That I May Cease To Be” “This Living Hand” and “Why Did I Laugh Tonight.” These we didn’t yet get to in class but I think they steep the scene of the odes as a flower in a swamp-deep green that helps it to be seen.
Your hot breath discovers my face and says, Nu, Hecht, was there something to learn?
Jew ever notice we call the diminuative a “little pisher” and the long in the tooth an “alta cocker?” Five thousand years of culture and everybody’s in the bathroom. Well, it was a long drive.
Anyway, right, what I learned from the odic bloom. Well, endings are good too, even though they break your heart, they are voluptuous and full and also, face it, half the time they’re all we’ve got. Also, deep pain and deep pleasure seem to come together, and it is hard to squash a grape for the juice by just the strength of your tongue, but you won’t die of thirst while you're trying. Next, timeless feelings and the fanciful imagination are both great escapes from the nettled woes of life, but they are both just shy of fully and steadily convincing, they waver out of sight and into hearing. Next, to hell with writing about love or war, I build a temple in my brain to liturgize the life of the mind. Finally, not to give those two hunks of perfection a shortened shrift, but if it's simple, it's simple. Kiss and stop working.
So, look, the Poetry Brothel is going to do an offsite show at the AWP (the Associated Writers and Writer’s Programs big annual conference, in DC this time, this weekend) and John and I are going to go down and be part of it, I pervertedly as myself, stage named The Professor, and my husband as Jack Chance, the MC. Click "events" here. Or do a search for it or me on this long busy page AWP .
It’s at The Gibson, 2009 14th Street NW, Washington, DC, Thursday night 8pm to 1 am, and costs fifteen bucks, but, you know, bring more. Show up and I will oracularly privatize your omens in exchange for a skinflint’s hint of some government mint. Also, possibly on Thursday afternoon and certainly on Friday morning to evening I shall be hanging around the lobby and bar saying hi to poets who say hi to me. Be that poet. I shall be me. Free talisman to anyone who works the poe-verb tintinnabulation into their meetin' greetin' me. Serious as a dog star, I will have talismen in my pocket and will be happy to see you.
Okay, as always, Do not kill yourself. Listen to Peggy Lee, when she’s done with romancin’ (If that’s all there is my friends, then let’s keep dancin’. Let’s break out the booze and have a ball. If that’s all. There is.)
Oh, ps, my big book Doubt: A History, which made me the minor famous atheist that I am today, is being translated again, this time into Arabic! Eep. Well, ya got one life, might as well mix it up a little. Je t’embrasse.
Also, you should rent Examined Life from Netflix, it's by Astra Taylor who I linked you to last post talking about unschooling, it's a great movie on philosophy. Seriously, check out this piece of it here. Starts with Cornel West quoting Yeats. You're gonna love it.
Posted by Jennifer Michael Hecht on February 02, 2011 at 03:08 PM in Jennifer Michael Hecht, The Lion and the Honeycomb | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
This is beginning to seem like kind of a lot of snow. Am I wrong? I grew up around these parts and it seems to me when I was a kid there were a lot of winters in which there was this much snow, but that might have been situational as at the time I was very much shorter.
The philosopher tells us to remember to factor in changes in perspective, the meteorologist tells us we've smoke-stacked our planet right out of whack, which is whack; the poet tells us the world in dark and white is something pleasing,but then, it is worth considering that the poet almost never has to shovel.
I'm enjoying Mirov's posts and am inspired to send you off in my directions, linkily speaking. On music try Jace Clayton. Check out Astra Taylor on unschooling in this video! Listen to Benjamin Walker's Too Much Information. I like everything artist Peggy Nelson does. And, as always, you should so be going to the Poetry Brothel (yes that's me in the photo).
Okay, I love all you arty philosophical freaks and insist that you keep up all your bad behavior. I wish I could say more but have suit up to go pick up the kiddies in the blizzie. If you need more of me, read the old posts or buy a book! They're cheap! And it cheers me up when they appear to be selling. Yes, like all pets, I'm that petty. Don't kill yourself and I shall return to encourage you again. OTG* there is a lot of snow on my tree jewelry.
*Oh Their God. In my house when someone sneezes, we say "einstein". wink.
Posted by Jennifer Michael Hecht on January 26, 2011 at 02:15 PM in Jennifer Michael Hecht, The Lion and the Honeycomb | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
I’ve missed you! It’s been almost a month since I last posted, I guess I needed a rest from even my pleasures. But here I am, back and ready to exhaust myself anew.
So what's shakin'? Same old around here. I've been named one of the 25 most influential living atheists. To which I say, "You call this living?" No, but seriously folks. It is super fun, and brings new readers (hi new readers!) but oddly does not come with a large cash award. So I remain beholden to poetry for my amusement. I thought today I'd try to unravel some thoughts on time travel, or rather, as it is more commonly noted, some thoughts on history.
There is nothing stranger you can do to your mind than to give it history. Take Rosalie, for instance. She is walking through a village early morning in England and looking at the charming houses and ingratiating streams. She walks a long time as the grey sky mists and clears to blue, and back to grey and misty. Rosie's okay and her good shoes are holding up too. She smells the world and feels it in her belly. Her mind is rattling around in there, wondering what it’s doing here, but the rest of her is feasting on the moment.
Now Rosie goes into a café and starts reading the big grey book on the counter beside her, a history of this same town in which she’s been wandering. The sky starts storming outside, inside they seem glad to have her, so she gets comfortable and lunch hours go by.
By the time the sky gets light again, it is already getting dimmer, past tea, before dinner, and she heads out to snake the streets home to her hostel. But now she knows everything about Battersea. Why is Battersea inland, for instance? Because it used to be on the coast but the sea was so brutal in its marauding erosion that the townspeople picked up and left, stopped in a quiet place just south of London and named their dry new encampment with the old wet name they’d always known. Much later Bertrand Russell would deliver, here, one of his most powerful and influential speeches on the purposes of man under the godless heavens.
As Rosie walks homeward the aspect of the natives changes. Now she everywhere sees the odd pluck it must require to lift yourself up and all your neighbors and redirect your browser to another world, inland, and name it Battersea again. Battersea forever.
The human mind, I think, has two modes: Present and Historical. Both are good. In the first you are an animal, in the second, just a god. The first smells baking bread. The second knows this is the same bread Henry the Fifth smelt just before he dealt his quiverblow against the fearsome French, who were all man and five times as many but their arrows, ahem, fell short. Englishmen now in their beds have wished they’d been there to see it for centuries now. Englishmen, for Chrissake, get out of bed already.
Let’s make the village a concept and do this again. Rosalie is an agnostic. She has heard the argument that no one can prove a negative and believes it. Then she wanders into a café and reads a big book on doubt as she waits out the rain. Now she knows that the term agnosticism was invented only a hundred years ago by Thomas Henry Huxley, and has no intellectual pedigree to speak of. Huxley made it up having read about Skepticism, which is a philosophically robust proposition that asks how we can know anything at all, given the limitations of our minds and our tiny, animal perspective. Skepticism is thousands of years old and has been brilliantly explored in every age. Agnosticism is the logic of Skepticism applied to only one question, the question of whether one particular people’s imagined idea of the supernatural actually exists.
To be sensible, either you are a Skeptic about all things, which allows you to be a profoundly interesting thinker but does not allow you to claim to know anything about the world; or you are a rationalist, which means you gather evidence, try to minimize your cultural bias, and make conclusions. If you make your decisions by rationalism, you can certainly say that an idea is not to be considered as at all valid if it has no evidence to argue for it being true. In Skepticism I have to allow that possibly all of life is happening in the dream of a cosmic elephant; in rationalism, I do not. It is philosophical nonsense to take Skepticism and apply it to one belief. In rationalism, it is possible to rule on the validity of a conjecture that has no evidence.
Huxley made up agnosticism because he wanted to leave room for people to be atheists but still keep a line of hope. But that is massively wrong-headed. When people confront the truth they get used to it and see that it is not so bad. So there is no afterlife. Big deal. Life is enough. When you are dead, you are so dead that nothing should matter to you about it. When you are alive, you’re alive. Every moment is so huge, there is so much of it, and we take in so little of it. You want more life at the end? You’re hardly using the life you have now. None of us are. We already have more than we can handle. Your job is to try to know the present and the past, to expand into the now, in part by knowing what was.
Some people get on a plane to change where they are but you can transform your surroundings as well as your inner world with just a touch of new knowing.
Having researched and written Doubt: A History and The Happiness Myth I find myself in a land unexpected. Richer and twisty. Aware of how an inland people still braves battering by the sea. History emancipates and reconfigures so the way home looks different than the way we’ve just been.
Russell’s speech (in 1927) was “Why I Am Not a Christian,” and it was published and republished and for several generations it was a downright sacred text for those flying their kite with nothing but wind and skill. For more on that and a thousand other inspirations, see Doubt: A History and The Happiness Myth.
It was, btw, over the Battersea Power Station that Pink Floyd floated their pig on the wing. On the Animals cover (1977). Life, friends, is boring. That’s why John Berryman drank so much, so much of the time. His mother was right too: Ever to admit you are bored means you have no inner resources. I admit now that, like everyone else, I have no inner resources. By contrast though, I have quite a lot of outer resources, and not always in the tankard. With history hissing gory about the storied past, and the smell of the bread, baking in one’s olfactoric imagination, it begins to be possible to still the spinning day down to something distillable, and store it, and become your own oracle.
Rosalie notices that everything has changed, but that she, in some ways, at least, is the same, and has kept her name. It’s still me. It's still Rosalie. It's still Battersea. It’s still you too, and since it is, you need to know your history. It makes the run from the gun to the sun a lot more fun.
Alright, I love you, as you know. Don't kill yourself and I shall return to encourage you again.
Posted by Jennifer Michael Hecht on January 17, 2011 at 05:34 PM in Jennifer Michael Hecht, The Lion and the Honeycomb | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
I saw the eclipse video here and thought I'd show you what I saw too.
A few nights ago I brought my canon out to shoot the moon get shy. It was baby dentist time (tooth hurty) in the am and I was up anyway. It was beautiful, it didn’t go dark like if the moon is in front of the sun, instead it went reddish as it passed through the shadow of the earth. The only tripod I had was two feet aground and elbows on a barbeque, so there are none that are all too stable. It’s hard not to play with that once you see what the moving moon looks like – alive! - in the preview screen. I put up some more pics on Dear Fonzie.
In our regret we remember that the key to a thing is to get a sense of its humor. A game player gets to know the joke of a game, the load of its dice, what it likes to give you right after it has given you an extra life.
There is part of the story where she still doesn’t realize something, but comes to be aware there is something that needs remembering. I am supposed to remember something big. The problem of my life. I know what I’m trying to stop forgetting, but I can’t remember it. Life is a detective story with a pacing problem. Days scream through long minutes and there are days of long phases even in the midst of change.
Change is arresting, stops us in its tracks. We are not in a rational world, ticking with a clock's tock. We escape by enacting our attention. We look closely at a coffee drop on the desk settling into a nickel-size spill that won’t change again on its own aside from a slow evaporation, draining to the center, retellable only in poetry or time-lapse photography. You’re in your chair. Everything is real. There are planets and equations, there are explanations. Benadryl works because it is a vascoconstrictor, inhibiting the vascodialator effects of histamine. Noon is noon. Imagination, the wild mind, doesn’t alter any of it.
Yet noon is not noon everywhere at once. The wild mind alters all of it. You are not at your desk. You are in the coffee drop, just spilled, bouncing in concentric circles, and even now, in the midst of all this action and reaction you are also stopping to fear what is coming, the drying, and also long for it. The endless stillness on the desk top. A slow ascent into the air. A sticky ring adheres to the desk’s surface. The rest will rise into the room, the clouds. Midday rolls around the planet like phases of the moon. That’s the humor of it. The humor of my catastrophe is forgetting and remembering that I forget. Pecking at remembering as peek-checking at a pocket picture book. Noon is not noon everywhere at once, it rolls around like the phases of the moon.
What was I saying? I’d like to hire someone else to forgive my trespassers, but not you. You, my friend, have been through quite enough. Have a nice cup of coffee and accept my congratulations on the happy return of the season with you in it, still punching with the rolls. I’ll let Carl Sandberg play us out…
Was ever a dream a drum
or a drum a dream?
Can a drummer drum a dream
or a dreamer dream a drum?
The drum in a dream
pounds loud to the dreamer.
Now the moon tonight over Indiana
is a fire-drum of a phantom dreamer.
Nice, right? Don't kill yourself and I shall return to encourage you again.
ps tree jewelry looks nice on an icy night. new pics of beaded trees also soon on dear fonzie, for all you avid decorative naturists. For all you decorative naturalists, nice ink but put some clothes on, it's cold out there.
Posted by Jennifer Michael Hecht on December 22, 2010 at 01:05 PM in Jennifer Michael Hecht, The Lion and the Honeycomb | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
It's a rainy sunday, all the clay tree jewelry I made for the tree out my window is whipping around in the stormy air. Much of it is essentially of pancake dimensions so spins in the wind.
I wrote to you Friday, and I usually write you every two or three weeks lately, so I'll just explain by saying that if this stage of my life has taught me anything it is do it when it's hot, and when it's not, don't even try. Also, I signed off saying that I'd tell you something later, so that left a pregnant pause. (Can we start a reality show called I Didn't Know it was a Pregnant Pause! It could be about the awkwardly officious.)
But what were we talking about? Ah yes. I promised you my poem in answer to C DdA's.
It's become the leap off point for my grand campaign. Campaign title-wise, I've been noodling around with "pro-living." It is a campaign against suicide. I don't mean end of life care suicide, I mean screw-this despair suicide.
As I said here the other day, an old friend killed herself in 2007. I wrote the below poem sometime after that, speaking to myself as much as to others. Then this past Christmas another old friend (also friends with the first) took her own life. I needed to post something to the community we all shared, poetry in America, but I didn't want to just post the poem, because over the two and a half years I'd come to see that people could read a lot of varied things from the poem, which is good for a poem, but not good for an open letter or a manifesto, which is what I wrote instead. Since than, this past year, I've been researching this subject and thinking about what it all means. Oddly, I still believe everything in the poem, but with much more context. Anyway here's my poem.
The No Hemlock Rock
Don’t kill yourself. Don’t kill yourself.
Don’t. Eat a donut, be a blown nut.
That is, if you’re going to kill yourself,
stand on a street corner rhyming
seizure with Indonesia, and wreck it with
racket. Allow medical terms.
Rave and fail. Be an absurd living ghost,
if necessary, but don’t kill yourself.
Let your friends know that something has
passed, or be glad they’ve guessed.
But don't kill yourself. If you stay, but are
bat crazy you will batter their hearts
in blooming scores of anguish; but kill
yourself, and hundreds of other people die.
Poison yourself, it poisons the well;
shoot yourself, it cracks the bio-dome.
I will give badges to everyone who’s figured
this out about suicide, and hence
refused it. I am grateful. Stay. Thank
you for staying. Please stay. You
are my hero for staying. I know
about it, and am grateful you stay.
Eat a donut. Rhyme opus with lotus.
Rope is bogus, psychosis. Stay.
Hocus Pocus. Hocus Pocus.
Do not kill yourself. I won’t either.
From this distance I'm just charmed to see how much I equate interesting rhymes with abandonless bliss.
I'm bringing all this up because December gets to be a difficult season for a lot of people and sometimes the blue comes out of the blue. So be prepared for it. Get through it to rue another day. The open letter/ manifesto is easy to find online. Well, I guess I'll link to it, I just fear seeming a barker on something too somber to bark for, but what can I say? I want you to stay. And I want you to have something ready to say if someone you love starts teetering near the neighborhood abyss. Say, We need you desperately.
ps The Boston Globe asked to publish a (slightly cleaned up) version, here, if you prefer.
pps While waiting to be seen by a professional, fill a notebook with color.
There are a lot of ways to tell a story and one way is that sometime after my friend SH took her life I was teaching Elizabeth Bishop’s Collected Poems in the MFA Program at the New School and happened upon Bishop’s translations of the Carlos Drummond de Andrade’s great poem, “Don’t kill yourself.” It made my brows raise because I hadn’t quite ever thought of just saying, “Don’t kill yourself,” and furthermore, saying it twice. Stacey recently posted it on this site, but here it is in full again.
Don’t Kill Yourself
Carlos, keep calm, love
is what you’re seeing now;
today a kiss, tomorrow no kiss,
day after day tomorrow’s Sunday
and nobody knows what will happen
It’s useless to resist
or to commit suicide.
Don’t kill yourself. Don’t kill yourself!
Keep all of yourself for the nuptials
coming nobody knows when,
that is, if they ever come.
Love, Carlos, tellurian,
spent the night with you,
and now your insides are raising
an ineffable racket,
saints crossing themselves,
ads for better soap,
a racket of which nobody
knows the why or wherefore.
In the meantime, you go on your way
You’re the palm tree, you’re the cry
nobody heard in the theatre
and all the lights went out.
Love in the dark, no, love
in the daylight, is always sad,
sad, Carlos, my boy,
but tell it to nobody,
nobody knows nor shall know.
Is that a great poem or what? The first time I read it I loved the lines that I loved but I was sorry it said what it says instead of what I wanted it to say.
Drummond de Andrade will never be considered a truly great poet because his last name is too long and hard to remember, but he did have a way with words. He’s a Brazillian poet, lived from 1902 to 1987 and here, in this poem, he is in what Liz Lemon on 30 Rock would call a Relationship Lizastrophe, a heart-storm tizzy having had an actual encounter with another human creature (of which there are nearly 7 billion, but all of them oddly alone). Can I translate this poem to prose for us? It says:
Carlos, me, stop freaking out. You’ve been kissed. Maybe you’ll get another kiss tomorrow, maybe not, ad infinitum. Nothing can be done about this exciting series of possibilities. The only way to stop it would be to kill yourself, so do not do that. Just stay and hope for more kisses, even sex.
You are freaking out because you have spent the night feeling enraptured by love, a common thing in the world. (The word “tellurian” just means earth-thing, thing of the earth.) Your insides are going nuts with panic and emotion, also pretty normal. The feelings and hormones and thoughts going on my head right now are a cacophony, like a symphony of prayers, old record players, Catholic signs and wonders, commercials for soap and better living. There’s no way to make any sense of this racket inside.
Meanwhile you are walking around town, looking normal but with such a banged up heart that you are identifying with every passing tree. When someone lets out one of those moans that might be anything, might just be the sigh of sitting down, it’s such a relief. “Oh!” someone cries out and you agree. “Oh,” me too. And the lights go out in the theater. Me too.
Carlos is alone and says to himself that love, especially in the light of day, is always sad, and it is true, but it is not all that is true, and he knows it, calling himself a boy to hint that someone too young to know is trying to know, while nearby, also inside the poet, is the sublime and graceful knowing. See what he says, in the last lines? “tell it to nobody, nobody knows nor shall know.” He’s closing the poem there, tucking his scarf into his overcoat. But also he’s counseling himself to keep the crazy hidden, keep the despair hidden, he says, "Hide it" but he’s telling us.
He knows it's safer to keep it to himself, but he still manages to get it on paper and hand it out across the century to me, and I can take it and I can say thank you Carlos Drummond de A…. I wish I could remember your name. I get stuck on the Andrade part.
Now friends, what I wanted the poem to say was less, “Self, don’t flee from feeling, even though it is so scary that you almost feel like running off a ledge,” and more, “Friends, selves, countrymen of the realms of gold, sisters of outrageous despair, Don’t kill yourselves.”
I wanted to say: We have to talk to each other. We broken. We need to keep drinking tea or wine and tell each other the one thing we don’t have to trance out to hear: I was there. It sucked. It was insane, the things I said to myself to stay sane. You too? Got a hot hot brain from coping too long all up in your head alone? Don’t kill yourself. Come over and drink coffee or beer with us and tell us. The people who do not ever feel this way pity us. Maybe you don’t want to be pitied, but I’m ready to accept that being someone who has a hard time feeling okay is often awful, as awful as other awful things, and that’s how it is for me, so pity away, ye normals, and freaks come sit by me.
That’s not what I ended up writing in my poem. But I’ll tell you more about that later.
Posted by Jennifer Michael Hecht on December 10, 2010 at 01:46 PM in Jennifer Michael Hecht, The Lion and the Honeycomb | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Well now, isn’t winter arriving apace? My son asks me which is the first season. Good question, kid. It’s one of the very few sets we don’t call out for alpha and omega, seasons. Should we order it so everything gets born at the start, feasts, gleans, and blows apart? Or let’s mix it up so we are born in the white snow and the rest of life is a revelation of relief.
Today’s got a blue and white mottled sky, really light and bright on spots of the white, elsewhere a few bits gun metal. The gun metal is dull and very high on the window, when I look at it my eyeballs are raised in a way that tugs on the back of my brain and makes me feel a luxurious physical sense of the onset of crying without the least actual crying. Writing that has made me laugh. Now more of the sky is getting gunny and it’s become entirely funny.
Two days ago in class we did Frank O’Hara, I tell them to get the collected and I give a list of ones not to miss. Then whichever ones come up in class we talk about. It’s incredibly fun. This one is coming to mind right now. It’s an early one and most of the stuff that goes on in most of his poems are not herein on display, all those newspapers and movie stars, jazz songs, the exact time and the weather, but there is already the backswing of the phrasing and the secret sorrow placed casually on a coaster on a marble table top. (“I will get off the 4:19 in Easthampton/ at 7:15 and go straight to dinner/ and I don’t know the people who will feed me”)
It’s got a tonguey title, sorry to say. Just call it When I was a child. or Imagine!
When I was a child
I played by myself in a
corner of the schoolyard
I hated dolls and I
hated games, animals were
not friendly and birds
If anyone was looking
for me I hid behind a
tree and cried out "I am
And here I am, the
center of all beauty!
writing these poems!
There you have it. As I’ve previously advised, if you are losing your mind, or even just getting tired of following it around the room, describe something. Then you too can be at the center of all beauty.
Happy Hanukah! Here’s something I wrote for the New York Times about Hanukah, a lively discussion follows. I think you have to be a subscriber to see it, sorry about that.
Take it easy on yourself you magnificent coconut.
PS This past Sunday we took the kids to the top of the Empire State so they could see how high up some things are, how low the rest, and how big the world is. In the first picture, above, we looked down. Now look up. xox
Posted by Jennifer Michael Hecht on December 03, 2010 at 02:58 PM in Jennifer Michael Hecht, The Lion and the Honeycomb | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
This poem was first published in the New York Times, having been commissioned by them, on the theme.
Thanksgiving was my birthday this year
and I find two holidays in one is not
efficient. In fact, barely anything gets
done; neither the bird nor the passage
of the year is digested. Luckily, Black
Friday offers new pleasures while remaining
a stolen day; a day after. There is shopping,
the streets, or the hilarious malls, but I will
stay home with the leftovers and use
the time to rethink, turkey leg in hand like
a king. Pumpkin pie, solid soup of
pummeled end-of-summer. Chestnuts and
sausage chunks from stuffing plucked
regally, like an ape leisurely denuding
a blueberry bush of its fruit. Maybe I mean
Cleopatra’s teeth accepting red grapes from
a solicitous lunk of nubility. Same image.
The hand feeds, the mouth gets fed. You
too? Mother ate turkey in the maternity?
Imagine, you not-born in late Novembers,
if every few years a bird adjoined your
candles. Think, too, who comes to eat
that bird. Those whose faces look like
yours; those nearly-yous and knew you
whens; those have your same ill eases.
How’s the sciatica? Fine, how’s yours?
The world is old. Cleopatra might
have liked Black Friday. It’s as engaging
as a barge with a fast gold sofa. She also
might have liked aging. At least preferred
it to the asp. Yellow leaf patterned
sunlight dazzles the wall with its dapple.
It’s all happening now, as I write. This is
journalism. No part of the memoir
is untrue. Though I probably will
go to the mall, if everyone else goes.
I've posted this poem a few years running now, roundabout this time of year, with various additional information (poem's origin story) (last year, with a dose of thanksgiving courage). Eat good. Don't worry.
Posted by Jennifer Michael Hecht on November 25, 2010 at 10:07 AM in Jennifer Michael Hecht, The Lion and the Honeycomb | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
Still giving a lot of thought to dapple. It has dawned on me that beyond the biology of aesthetics, the dapple is ample in meaning. It is a little madness of indecision, of mood swing, or a beating heart in endless battle. It has dusked on me that all is opinion. I do no longer believe that all is opinion.
Tonight in class we are going to talk about Marcus Aurelius's Meditations, one of the greatest books, and Aurelius says a lot of things and sometimes their opposite but one thing he does say an especially lot is "All is opinion." All is not opinion.
There is plenty that seems objective that is, in fact, opinion. The ways we live, as Montaigne advised us, are just too close a match with the way people around us live for there to be any other explanation for why we choose to live this way.
But what Aurelius was talking about was heartache, depression, grief, despair, and disappointment. He called himself a Stoic and Stoicism had long claimed and developed the idea that we could think our way out of the pains of living. There were lots of different ways they used to reframe life so it didn't hurt so much. The big idea was that you are part of the giant machine of humanity and the universe and you shouldn't be taking so seriously the specifics of what happens to little you. Stuff's gonna happen. Roll with it. Aurelius tries to cheer up his own blue self, and you, thusly:
For with what art thou discontented? With the badness of men? Recall to thy mind this conclusion, that rational animals exist for one another, and that to endure is a part of justice, and that men do wrong involuntarily; and consider how many already, after mutual enmity, suspicion, hatred, and fighting, have been stretched dead, reduced to ashes; and be quiet at last.-
But perhaps thou art dissatisfied with that which is assigned to thee out of the universe.- Recall to thy recollection this alternative; either there is providence or atoms… and be quiet at last.- …
But perhaps the desire of the thing called fame will torment thee.- See how soon everything is forgotten, and look at the chaos of infinite time on each side of the present, and the emptiness of applause, and the changeableness and want of judgment in those who pretend to give praise, and the narrowness of the space within which it is circumscribed, and be quiet at last.
Consider that the whole earth is a point, and how small a nook in it is this thy dwelling, and how few are there in it, and what kind of people are they who will praise thee.
This then remains…all these things, which thou seest, change immediately and will no longer be; and constantly bear in mind how many of these changes thou hast already witnessed. The universe is transformation: life is opinion.
I quote this in such length because I think it is wonderful and kind of hilarious. I love "endurance is part of justice" and I love "what kind of people are they who will praise you."
"Either there is providence or atoms" means either the universe has meaning or it is all just atoms, either way is fine. Why does stating this make it fine? I think because what we imagine by default is a meaningful universe that is temporarily in chaos, which makes us panic. Whereas saying that it is either meaningful, in which case all's well, or it is material and doesn't matter, in which case nothing can really be wrong because it doesn't matter.
But of course, it feels like it matters, and the feeling like it matters matters.
I wrote something here: a few months ago that has been rolling around in my mind: "The idea is to try to let yourself feel what is happening to you, which, as the philosophers have told us, may as well be all in your head, and as the poets have told us, isn't."
I think there's something true in this, that poetry in particular and art in general is about how, in fact, all is not opinion, though it may seem to be by every available logic. That an older guy, an emperor, might be trying to calm you down from across the vast gap of two thousand years (he died in the year 189), is itself something that matters and that is beyond opinion.
As dapple demonstrates though, depending on who we are and at what point in our lives we are presently lingering, we are all in the process of learning lessons on opposite sides of this swinging truth: the terrible importance is an illusion, and also, your life is deep with worth and consequence.
I'm posting more dapple on Dear Fonzie, if you want to come visit. Endurance is a part justice. Courage!
See you next time.
Posted by Jennifer Michael Hecht on November 10, 2010 at 02:26 PM in Jennifer Michael Hecht, The Lion and the Honeycomb | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
There are lots of songs and poems that talk about how melancholia can crash suddenly the world on top of your head and crush you to bed, but only a few remind us that joy too can do the like, arrive for nothing and as the cobra strikes. Here's a little bit of Yeats from his Vacillation, about which I have regaled you before.
My fiftieth year had come and gone,
I sat, a solitary man,
In a crowded London shop,
An open book and empty cup
On the marble table-top.
While on the shop and street I gazed
My body of a sudden blazed;
And twenty minutes more or less
It seemed, so great my happiness,
That I was blessed and could bless.
We don't know what will make us blaze but we can find clues
here: solitary but in a crowd, looking for nothing, lingering over a beverage.
Failing the arrow-falls of random bliss, consider this bear in the city
I caught only as he had passed.
I haven't been posting over on Dear Fonzie in recent months, but recently revived, on dapple. Here's another photo dose of dapple, also from Halloween last Sunday. That's Mario and Luigi racing off between a riot of shadow and leaves.
Late Weds night I got an email asking me to fill in for Christopher Hitchens at an event at the Jewish Center on 86th street, about The Relevancy of the Ten Commandments. A flattering request. I don't go on about the Commandments in my books (Doubt: A History, for instance) but found I had lots to say about it and much enjoyed the conversation. I, somewhat comically given the location, argued against their relevance. "If you want to put something religious on the courthouse at least say something interesting," said I, having not planned to. "Cite Ecclesiastes instead, 'The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but time and chance happen to them all.'" It was a special experience, I just really liked the people. It's funny how an autumn city night can harbor a little wonder. The event was arranged by David Hazony who has a new book on the subject.
Well, I just wanted to drop in and light a little candle in the pumpkin of your heart. Don't kill yourself and I shall return to encourage you yet again.
Posted by Jennifer Michael Hecht on November 05, 2010 at 06:23 PM in Jennifer Michael Hecht, The Lion and the Honeycomb | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
The smitten rock that gushes,
The trampled steel that springs:
A cheek is always redder
Just where the hectic stings!
Mirth is mail of anguish,
In which its cautious arm
Lest anybody spy the blood
And, "you're hurt" exclaim
I say it's odd because I'm not crazy about the middle stanza and can't help but flinch when the poem's final rhythm hinges on the rhyming of "cautious arm" with "hurt exclaim." But I like "mirth is a mail of anguish" very much.
Here's her deeper poem on the hiding and knowing of pain and its consolations.
I measure every grief I meet
With analytic eyes;
I wonder if it weighs like mine,
Or has an easier size.
I wonder if they bore it long,
Or did it just begin?
I could not tell the date of mine,
It feels so old a pain.
I wonder if it hurts to live,
And if they have to try,
And whether, could they choose between,
They would not rather die.
I wonder if when years have piled--
Some thousands--on the cause
Of early hurt, if such a lapse
Could give them any pause;
Or would they go on aching still
Through centuries above,
Enlightened to a larger pain
By contrast with the love.
The grieved are many, I am told;
The reason deeper lies,--
Death is but one and comes but once
And only nails the eyes.
There's grief of want, and grief of cold,--
A sort they call 'despair,'
There's banishment from native eyes,
In sight of native air.
And though I may not guess the kind
Correctly yet to me
A piercing comfort it affords
In passing Calvary,
To note the fashions of the cross
Of those that stand alone
Still fascinated to presume
That some are like my own.
One of the million things I cherish about this poem is the "piercing comfort it affords" to try to know and bear, for a moment, in contemplation, the burdens of others, and to thereby be less alone, suffering, and less absorbed by one's own suffering. "There's grief of want and grief of cold" and "a sort they call despair," and there's being separate from what your heart knows as home, right there in front of you but no longer yours -- "banishment from native eyes in sight of native air."
I love too that those "that stand alone" though they yet stand alone, are not singular, but are many, and therefor are not alone. The crackle of being alone in such good company is why this poem starts little brushfires on the red, Martian deserts of the heart.
To read more interviews between the voices in my head in the museum of my muse, see here.
To look at my books, see these.
To see a Radio Freethinker write-up of that LA conference on Secular Humanism I took part in a few weeks ago, see there.
I had a great time at the New School reading last night, thanks to everyone who showed up. It was really great to see so many friends. Thanks to David Lehman for the invitation and the great job moderating.
Well friends, bleaders, poets, and other travelers in the realms of gold, you know what I am going to say. Which is bear up! Courage. I speak especially to those standing alone in impossible inner situations, feeling the cool autumn air press down from outer space and trying not to name the chill too often, or too well. The advice is small and simple. Don't fall in the well. It is not your fault and you are doing fine. Rake a leaf a day and call it lucky.
Don't kill yourself and I shall return to encourage you again.
ps. Here's me against tonight's pink sky, taken by John, just for you.
Posted by Jennifer Michael Hecht on October 20, 2010 at 07:09 PM in Jennifer Michael Hecht, The Lion and the Honeycomb | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark
from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman
THE RULE OF THUMB
Ringfinger was nervous
when they learned
that Hand might succumb
to the rule of Thumb.