[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] scrapofpaper
"I meet a lot of people who claim to be writers. They like to identify with the images and lifestyle and assumptions that go along with being a writer, but they don't actually do any serious writing. Writing poems or stories as catharsis or therapy--to vent or get something off your chest--is not the same as writing poetry or short stories professionally. Writing can be enjoyable and is one of many forms of self-help, but that doesn't mean that you're born to be a writer. You might sew a button on your shirt, but you're not a tailor; you might cook dinner for your family, but you're not a chef; you might play golf for fun, but you're not on the PGA tour or in charge of a golf course.

"This is where the disparity begins--the dueling identities. If you're an administrative assistant in your day job, and you are not actively advancing your career, and you write a few poems a year in your spare time, you are not a writer. Identifying with being a writer only brings you further from the life you are living. As each day passes, you think about how you're not doing what you should be doing, you begin to become depressed because you're too busy worrying about living a fantasy life someday and paying no attention to the life you have right now. Wanting to change careers and taking action to make that happen is one thing; hoping that some miracle will occur that will change everything for you is a path to depression and anxiety."
--Jem Matzan


"You cannot work too hard at poetry. People are bad at it not because they have tin ears, but because they simply don't have the faintest idea how much work goes into it. It's not as if you're ordering a pizza or doing something that requires direct communication in a very banal way. But it seems these days the only people who spend time over things are retired people and prisoners. We bolt things, untasted.

"It's so easy to say, 'That'll do.' Everyone's in a hurry. People are intellectually lazy, morally lazy, ethically lazy...All the time. When people get angry with a traffic warden they don't stop and think what it would be like to be a traffic warden or how annoying it would be if people could park wherever they liked. People talk lazily about how hypocritical politicians are. But everyone is. On the one hand we hate that petrol is expensive and on the other we go on about global warming. We abrogate the responsibility for thought and moral decisions onto others and then have the luxury of saying it's not good enough.

"At its best poetry engages with the realities of existence. That's why it's so grown up. It's the absolute opposite of this Disney idea that if you dream hard enough you can get anything--that's so manifestly not true. Good art has a skull showing. We just need to knuckle down and produce it.

"I don't like this idea that mankind is meant to feel wicked for existing. And that's what religious people often make one feel. They think we should spend our time either apologising to God for being what we are, or praising him for making us what we are. I mean, what kind of God would need to be praised all the time? If we meet a human being like that we rapidly find them an appalling bore. And if we have to apologise to the creator of the universe, too, that's mad. Atheists also feel the need to apologise to nature: 'Oh, I'm so sorry that I behave like a man. And that's so unfair on poor squirrels and mice and things.' Bollocks, you know. Tree frogs don't get up in the morning and say, 'Oh dear, I should have been a better tree frog.' One has to be reasonable about it. And to recognise that we've done many good and remarkable things. We may have created a lot of landfill sites, but we've also produced King Lear and Don Giovanni and the Parthenon. Wonderful things, beautiful."
--Stephen Fry


"Pieces"

"Listen to the shooting," he said. "Can you hear it? It's hammering on us like rain."
— Omar, a protestor in Homs.


The world is wrong and I am wrung,
a bell of cloth dripping salt
into an earth too broken for roots.
I am a jumble, I am a heap,
a tangle of wires crosspurposed
and my voice is glass
and my voice is in the earth
and the rain is made of metal and mortar
and fire scorns water thin as air and the heat
melts skin. The world is wrong
and I am stung, I am raw to this wasp-air's buzz
to these teeth stacked like walls
against words, against tongues,
and I would tell these sons of men
something so shiningsharp that they would sing with it
hold the sun in a cup of their hands
but this glass voice breaks in my throat
and I would speak swallows with clear wings
to scrape an augury against the sky in splinters
but no one speaks glass.

My grandmother is a country I would know
It is her name, her voice I hear
when I read this gold-cloth word
this sand-gold word, this sun-bright word
with its vowels askew in my alphabet,
this word of riches and gates, of grapes and roads,
of layers and music and dust. It is my grandmother's name
I hear breaking beneath numbers
beneath 200
beneath rain that heaves through bodies like grief
beneath forty-eight
and nineteen, and eighteen.

I will not speak of my name.

I will not speak of your countries
of this language we share
that is not glass. I will not speak
of your smoke
and your silence
and the bullets stitching purpose to our backs.

My voice is in pieces
I cannot swallow.
But if you would hear it
I will put a sliver in your eye
slide it stinging into place.
It is glass. See through it.
Change.
--Amal El-Mohtar


"A Sleepless Night"
April, and the last of the plum blossoms
scatters on the black grass
before dawn. The sycamore, the lime,
the struck pine inhale
the first pale hints of sky.
An iron day,
I think, yet it will come
dazzling, the light
rise from the belly of leaves and pour
burning from the cups
of poppies.
The mockingbird squawks
from his perch, fidgets,
and settles back. The snail, awake
for good, trembles from his shell
and sets sail for China. My hand dances
in the memory of a million vanished stars.

A man has every place to lay his head.
--Philip Levine


"Under One Small Star"
My apologies to chance for calling it necessity
My apologies to necessity if I'm mistaken, after all.
Please, don't be angry, happiness, that I take you as my due.
May my dead be patient with the way my memories fade.
My apologies to time for all the world I overlook each second.
My apologies to past loves for thinking that the latest is the first.
Forgive me, distant wars, for bringing flowers home.
Forgive me, open wounds, for pricking my finger.
I apologise for my record of minuets to those who cry from the depths.
I apologise to those who wait in railway stations for being asleep today at
five a.m.
Pardon me, hounded hope, for laughing from time to time.
Pardon me, deserts, that I don't rush to you bearing a spoonful of water.
And you, falcon, unchanging year after year, always in the same cage,
you gaze always fixed on the same point in space,
forgive me, even if it turns out you were stuffed.
My apologies to the felled tree for the table's four legs.
My apologies to great questions for small answers.
Truth, please don't pay me much attention.
Dignity please be magnanimous.
Bear with me, O mystery of existence, as I pluck the occasional thread from
your train.
Soul, don't take offense that I've only got you now and then.
My apologies to everyone that I can't be everywhere at once.
My apologies to everyone that I can't be each woman and each man.
I know that I won't be justified as long as I live,
since I myself stand in my own way.
Don't bear me ill will, speech, that I borrow weighty words,
then labor heavily so that they may seem light.
--Wislawa Szymborska


"Crow on the Beach"
Hearing shingle explode, seeing it skip,
Crow sucked his tongue.
Seeing sea-grey mash a mountain of itself
Crow tightened his goose pimples.
Feeling spray from the sea's root nothinged on his crest
Crow's toes gripped the wet pebbles.
When the smell of the whale's den, the gulfing of the crab's last prayer,
Gimletted in his nostril,
He grasped he was on earth.

He knew he grasped
Something fleeting
Of the sea's ogreish outcry and convulsion.
He knew he was the wrong listener unwanted
To understand or help--

His utmost gaping of a brain in his tiny skull
Was just enough to wonder, about the sea,

What could be hurting so much?
--Ted Hughes


"The Fish"
I caught a tremendous fish
and held him beside the boat
half out of water, with my hook
fast in a corner of his mouth.
He didn't fight.
He hadn't fought at all.
He hung a grunting weight,
battered and venerable
and homely. Here and there
his brown skin hung in strips
like ancient wallpaper,
and its pattern of darker brown
was like wallpaper:
shapes like full-blown roses
stained and lost through age.
He was speckled and barnacles,
fine rosettes of lime,
and infested
with tiny white sea-lice,
and underneath two or three
rags of green weed hung down.
While his gills were breathing in
the terrible oxygen
--the frightening gills,
fresh and crisp with blood,
that can cut so badly--
I thought of the coarse white flesh
packed in like feathers,
the big bones and the little bones,
the dramatic reds and blacks
of his shiny entrails,
and the pink swim-bladder
like a big peony.
I looked into his eyes
which were far larger than mine
but shallower, and yellowed,
the irises backed and packed
with tarnished tinfoil
seen through the lenses
of old scratched isinglass.
They shifted a little, but not
to return my stare.
--It was more like the tipping
of an object toward the light.
I admired his sullen face,
the mechanism of his jaw,
and then I saw
that from his lower lip
--if you could call it a lip
grim, wet, and weaponlike,
hung five old pieces of fish-line,
or four and a wire leader
with the swivel still attached,
with all their five big hooks
grown firmly in his mouth.
A green line, frayed at the end
where he broke it, two heavier lines,
and a fine black thread
still crimped from the strain and snap
when it broke and he got away.
Like medals with their ribbons
frayed and wavering,
a five-haired beard of wisdom
trailing from his aching jaw.
I stared and stared
and victory filled up
the little rented boat,
from the pool of bilge
where oil had spread a rainbow
around the rusted engine
to the bailer rusted orange,
the sun-cracked thwarts,
the oarlocks on their strings,
the gunnels--until everything
was rainbow, rainbow, rainbow!
And I let the fish go.
--Elizabeth Bishop
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