(from the cover of A Public Space Issue 12 (Winter 2011) 002-noemie-goudal-theredlist

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How It Happens 

The sky said I am watching
to see what you
can make out of nothing
I was looking up and I said
I thought you
were supposed to be doing that
the sky said Many
are clinging to that
I am giving you a chance
I was looking up and I said
I am the only chance I have
then the sky did not answer
and here we are
with our names for the days
the vast days that do not listen to us

— W.S. Merwin

Someone asked John Cheever, “What’d you learn from Hemingway?”

“I learned not to blow my head off with a shotgun.”

DREAMS

Trying to recall the plot
And characters we dreamed,
What life was like
Before the morning came,
We are seldom satisfied,
And even then
There is no way of knowing
If what we know is true.
Something nameless
Hums us into sleep,
Withdraws, and leaves us in
A place that seems
Always vaguely familiar.
Perhaps it is because
We take the props
And fixtures of our days
With us into the dark,
Assuring ourselves
We are still alive. And yet
Nothing here is certain;
Landscapes merge
With one another, houses
Are never where they should be,
Doors and windows
Sometimes open out
To other doors and windows,
Even the person
Who seems most like ourselves
Cannot be counted on,
For there have been
Too many times when he,
Like everything else, has done
The unexpected.
And as the night wears on,
The dim allegory of ourselves
Unfolds, and we
Feel dreamed by someone else,
A sleeping counterpart,
Who gathers in
The darkness of his person
Shades of the real world.
Nothing is clear;
We are not ever sure
If the life we live there
Belongs to us.
Each night it is the same;
Just when we’re on the verge
Of catching on,
A sense of our remoteness
Closes in, and the world
So lately seen
Gradually fades from sight.
We wake to find the sleeper
Is ourselves
And the dreamt-of is someone who did
Something we can’t quite put
Our finger on,
But which involved a life
We are always, we feel,
About to discover.

“My mother couldn’t tell a story if she had a gun to her head, but she was a master of the one-liner. David Foster Wallace once called her and said, I’m going to marry your daughter. He’d been hospitalized for depression, and she said, Didn’t you just get let out of somewhere? I mean, God, Mother! Or when she was dying, one of her boyfriends showed up at the hospital and the nurse said, Your husband’s here, and she said, He must look like hell—he’s been dead twenty years. She always said the thing you wish you’d said.”
Read more here.

“[I]n general ours is a civilization in which the very word ‘poetry’ evokes a hostile snigger or, at best, the sort of frozen disgust that most people feel when they hear the word ‘God’. If you are good at playing the concertina you could probably go into the nearest public bar and get yourself an appreciative audience within five minutes. But what would be the attitude of that same audience if you suggested reading them Shakespeare’s sonnets, for instance? Good bad poetry, however, can get across to the most unpromising audiences if the right atmosphere has been worked up beforehand.”  – George Orwell holding a samurai sword

Read more here.

george-orwell.large blog

“[D] rug use among artists is the catastrophic and incredibly obvious mistake of looking for the right thing, illumination, in the wrong place—as if the chemical contained what was necessary, when all along it is within us, obviously. The problem is it takes a lifetime of discipline to access that state of illumination—it must be sought, found, then constantly maintained—and with drugs at first you get the impression that it’s something you can turn on and off with a switch. But it is understandable—the world is so awful, and artistic aspirations go so against the grain of things as they are, it is natural to despair, in the midst of so much ugliness and chaos, of finding any other way to enter that other state, that other place of illumination. And the other horrible problem is that it sometimes really works, initially—if it didn’t work, to some degree, it wouldn’t be such a problem. ” — Franz Wright