Who, the city asks, are you, for real? And then to throw you off, gives you such choice. Each neighborhood’s composed of different types, from which you learn and mimic walking by. Some dress like you, or how you’d like to look. You recognize the brands and garment cuts; the burdens carried, chosen or assigned, and how these change the body’s postured mien.
Beneath these likenesses lurk darker kin, or rather darker skin neath other looks. And heavier burdens, worn-out clothes, and labor’s race to wear body out, you know?
It’s not surprising that they guess, although it kills you every time they nod “hello”.
8:26 pm • 5 April 2014
They’ll only lead to anger, pen and paper. No, it’s futile trying to capture scenes of love. Like this one: Like this couple at this bar, too animated, move too quick to draw. The way her dangling legs tap on the stool. His tapping pencil fiberglass baton. They alternate, one leans in, one leans back, both pairs of elbows grounding light-borne weight.
Their clothing asks: Well, are they on a date? She’s dressed up in sophisticated black. But as he brings her dinner and a drink, he carefully preserves his work-night whites.
She takes her sweater off, her shirt is grey: a silk-knit tee too soft to draw or say.
8:13 pm • 5 April 2014 • 1 note
Dear Mr. Hemmingway,
Hello. Perhaps you have some writerly advice. Let’s say your subject’s history. It’s dull. And serious. Say, a Boston Puritan, a character that’s pretty anti-fun. What if you get it, and you understand. How then would you advise to write these lives—take them, but not yourself, too seriously?
And, will you, for dessert, maybe agree to mimic young Nick Adams’ cooking skills: The perfect taste of ripe blueberries (Right?!), but in a jam: what more is there to add?
Oh, can your big, two-hearted river speak through time, down this divided creek?
7:57 pm • 5 April 2014
WH Auden’s poetry assignment to his students at the 92nd St Y, 1956. (via the Twitters)
11:57 pm • 2 April 2014 • 37 notes
Of all the scenes to capture, you get most, and hope to post them later, at least some. This, friends, is what we call a “#latergram”. Example: what you saw in Amsterdam, that rave. It was so epic, worth the trip. As well it ought. That’s why, you said, you went. Still, posting them’s like boasting. “Gauche, you know?”
Meanwhile, composing verse is also slow, since stuff just happens. Life gets in the way. So many encounters, worth preserving words, with little chance to opt out or to pause.
In this way, verse, like photos, is a drag to living, and a flashy way to brag.
and D.L. and A.D.
3:49 pm • 1 April 2014
17. Mint Juleps
"They’re mostly made of Bourbon, first of all. Then pick some mint leaves. Pound them in the hand. Pour out a little simple syrup next, and maybe sparkling water. Tonic? No. That’s really all there is. Now, shake it up. Line three mint-garnished glasses in a row."
"How precious! Token Derby souvenirs!"
"Pour evenly. Leave breathing room."
These lessons far exceed mere spirits. Lucky—to toast these gracious hosts who know Kentucky.
10:42 am • 29 March 2014
So many poems exist about The End. A lot of verse reminds you that you die. You see death everywhere as time goes on, a virus that outlives its passing host. The certain end gives off a whitish sheen. Sure, fine. But really, what’s the rush? The mortifying symptoms, too, remain: dumb aches, dull pains, for instance. Do these pass?
And still, there’s ugliness, it’s yellow-green. Pale blotches linger low around your mouth. Your face turns red behind them when you talk. Your story has no end. You close your eyes.
The silent nurse, she nods. She writes these down. They’ll fade, but maybe stain these sheets and gown.
10:01 am • 28 March 2014
Alli understands the some of the important subtleties of being an adult. She understands, for example, the important wastefulness of disposable cotton makeup remover rounds. Sure, they prove that finally, after twenty-some-odd years of trying to absorb normative gender practices, wearing makeup, taking it off (the whole ritual of public performance and private self-care) has finally taken hold. Sure. This is a major part of the purchase. But maybe more importantly, it’s a surprising and affirming pleasure to spend earned money on disposable little puffballs good for one use and then thrown away. It’s like paying for cable, or owning two proper kitchen appliances, one of them a waffle iron.
2:01 pm • 5 March 2014
14. Tour Guide
Hannah used to visit extended family in Brooklyn before it was hip. Actually, she used to visit her family in Brooklyn before hip was hip. But they moved and it’s been a while, so she she probably wouldn’t be able to make any relevant recommendations.
But Philadelphia, on the other hand, is full of fun, cool places to hang out, to pleasantly pass the time. The historical sites are cool too. Overrated? The cheesesteaks. Maybe? But ask her about Virginia. She’ll begin the tour from her family home. She’ll take you to the diners, the coffee shops, the used bookstores, the state parks, even the video store, one of the last existing institutions, surely, where the staff know their patrons. With lesser detail, but with equivalent enthusiasm, she’ll describe the neighboring city and its worthy sites.
11:47 pm • 4 March 2014
13. A Culture of Reading
Don James remarks that one of the major surprises in moving north from Atlanta was the visibility of a reading public, a Culture of Reading, he calls it. He remembers observing how, on mass transit, passengers frequently brought reading material with them, usually books. As a literary historian, he noted with joy that here and there someone might be reading a nineteenth century novel. It’s just not the same in the South, he said, at least not in Atlanta. There’s a sense here of the formative value of literature, the idea that reading books cultivates in the reader a care for civic character. Of course, it’s not just books, but the book is an exemplary unit of comprehensively sustained narrative or idea. Tweets, for instance, don’t quite work in the same way. There, the text that’s being consumed shapes a different sort of reader, one looking for more immediate knowledge, or for swifter access to information. Overall, he observed, we read more than ever before in history.
11:41 pm • 4 March 2014
12. Treading Water
Sometimes a metaphor can give expression to an otherwise ineffable feeling yet still be, pragmatically, worth very little.
It’s not a long distance relationship. Neither is she really an “ex,” though. Emmanuel sighs that the conditions of their relationship are detailed and a lot of work to explain. Some friends advise a more complete and a more explicit commitment; others advise cutting off contact entirely. Some, encouraging him to decisive action, offer the following analogy: You’re like a shipwrecked sailor who, instead of swimming to one nearby island, or to another nearby island, chooses to tread water indefinitely, putting off the inevitable. Emmanuel says it’s not a totally inaccurate way to describe his feelings, sometimes. The implications for the future though, are, upon scrutiny, just as vague as what the metaphor implies about his past.
2:01 pm • 4 March 2014
Allison’s writing a paper on an adaptation of a Sherlock Holmes short story, from text to film. In Doyle’s narrative, there’s minimal erotic tension between Holmes and the female antagonist. Each acknowledges the intellectual sophistication of the other; they part ways; the photograph is safe. In the movie, their relationship is teased out to a more elaborate flirtation. Allison observes that their more easily evident erotic desires makes these film characters appear more human. Crossing 33rd street, stepping over the ice slush onto the curb, Allison continues. At the same time their visible intimacy is conditioned by individually successful performance of an almost inhuman level of smartness and prettiness. So it goes both ways.
10:02 am • 4 March 2014
Speaking of innovations on campus, this one and others, Dennis remembers the recent opening of a new library at the University of Chicago. He described the impressive aesthetics of the compact edifice, how a single-story building could look so organic among other more or less built-up and manicured campus facades. The thing about this library was that all the books were stores in an underground storage space directly beneath the edifice. You’d enter the building, fill out a digital form, and the machine would look into itself; like a car factory or an Amazon warehouse, it would retrieve the book for the reader with incredible speed. It’s all very high tech. “The book is dead,” observed Dennis. “You’ve built a masoleum.” His tour guides—among them the architect—weren’t very pleased at his remark.
9:12 pm • 3 March 2014
"Do you ever have moments—not moments, more like periods—where technology seems to be conspiring against you so pervasively that you wonder whether you’re in the wrong for trying to complete any given task? Say you need to send a document, and the printer runs out of toner, then paper, then it won’t quite save or upload." And on and on. "And you don’t even really want to be sending that sucky document in the first place, too, y’know?" Mercury retrograde notwithstanding, Kelly’s description of this comically difficult episode suggested to her the possibility that at moments like these, the inertia transcends any given agent—human or computer—and instead is a quality that belongs to a system in which both humans and computers participate. It’s a curious thought experiment—makes it easier to calm the frustration. But isn’t the frustration what makes us most different from computers in the first place?
2:01 pm • 3 March 2014
The major difference between a theological approach to God and a phenomenological approach, explains Hector, is that theology explains God to those who already believe, while phenomenology begins with an “as if” that presumes unbelief, or at least, skepticism. That insulation, while perhaps, perhaps, limiting the ultimate proximity the human subject will experience with God, also offers an avenue to perform respect for the God that compels such curiosity or desire. It allows approach without presuming that human actions have any effect on God or God’s will. According to some scholars, this is the kernel of sacrilege—actions performed with the expectation that God will respond. If, as in Hector’s account, phenomenology engages with the divine through on the hypothetical register, maybe phenomenology is the more respectful of the two.
10:02 am • 3 March 2014