Writing

February 15, 2020

I only want to write. And there’s no college for that except life.

Dodie Smith
I Capture the Castle

To me, short stories and plays are very similar in their constraints, actually. They both require extreme economy: there’s not as much room for expansiveness as there is in a novel. You need to get as much use out of everything as possible.

It’s actually really hard for me to switch back and forth between novels and short stories. The short story mode is too dense for a novel; it becomes exhausting to the reader. Novels need a little more breathing room and a little more room for repetition and reinforcement. They may be read over a period of weeks, as opposed to half an hour, and so much of what you’re doing in a novel has to be robust enough to stand up to that sort of break in the experience. Novels have room for more engineering, more failsafes and several engines! Short stories are more like the World War II fighter plane, the Zero: They do one thing and they do it as efficiently as possible, without much tolerance for error.

Elizabeth Bear
Interview with Jude Griffin 26th May 2015

inhale books

February 11, 2020

People read for a multiplicity of reasons. Nearly forty years in, I can tell you why I inhale books like oxygen: I’m grateful for my one life, but I’d prefer to live a thousand – and my favourite books allow me to experience more on the page than I ever could in my actual life.

Anne Bogel
I’d Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life

equal the experience

December 24, 2019

Poetry is an orphan of silence. The words never quite equal the experience behind them.

Charles Simic
The Uncertain Certainty: Interviews, Essays, and Notes on Poetry

As in the tales of Grimm and Perrault [Tsvetaeva] suggests that it is the fear, the delight in our fear, we enjoy, a delight we cannot enjoy in reality since we fear for our skin. Conversely, Tsvetaeva tells us, a fairy tale that doesn’t frighten is not a fairy tale. It is terror that transports us to the place where Dostoyevsky was transported when he was condemned to death, this most precious place, the most alive, where you tell yourself you are going to receive the axe’s blow, and where you discover, by the axe’s light, what Kafka made Moses say: How beautiful the world is even in its ugliness. It’s at this moment, as Blanchot would say, that “we see the light.” It’s at this moment, in extremis, that we are born and enjoy the strange things that can happen during such a dangerous, magnificent, and cruel experience as losing a relative while still in the freshness of childhood or youth. We feel, to our unspeakable horror, something that is incredibly odd: on the one hand an infinitely greater loss than the one we feel when we are of a mature age, and on the other, an unavowable joy – difficult to perceive – that is simply the joy of being alive. The pure joy of feeling that I am not the one who is dying.”

Hélène Cixous
The School of Dreams
Three Steps on the Ladder of Writing

There are books which we read early in life, which sink into our consciousness and seem to disappear without leaving a trace. And then one day we find, in some summing up of our life and our attitudes towards experience, that their influence has been enormous.

Anais Nin
On Truth and Reality
In favour of the Sensitive Man

where it could lead

July 9, 2019

I’ll have some idea or see something or an event will strike me in a certain way. I’ll string it along immediately and think of where it could lead and where it could go. I think of a story.

Daniel Handler
Lemony Snicket shares inspiration, advice for storytelling
The Stanford Daily 10th October 2013

orphan of silence

February 9, 2019

Poetry is an orphan of silence. The words never quite equal the experience behind them.

Charles Simic
The Uncertain Certainty: Interviews, Essays, and Notes on Poetry

Magic & Poetry

February 1, 2019

Because dreams do have something to do with magic, and I believe in magic as the main source of poetry. We create entire worlds in our dreams – full of people we’ve never seen, places we’ve never been to – that seem to echo and reverberate with worlds and memories that we’ve never experienced.

Orson Welles
This is Orson Welles

Temptation

December 15, 2018

A poem for Brigid on Imbolc:

Call yourself alive? Look, I promise you
that for the first time you’ll feel your pores opening
like fish mouths, and you’ll actually be able to hear
your blood surging through all those lanes,
and you’ll feel light gliding across the cornea
like the train of a dress. For the first time
you’ll be aware of gravity
like the thorn in your heel,
and you’ll shoulder blades will ache for the want of wings.
Call yourself alive? I promise you
you’ll be deafened by dust falling on furniture,
you’ll feel your eyebrows turning into two gashes,
and every memory you have — will begin
at Genesis.

Nina Cassian
Translated by: Brenda Walker & Andrea Deletant