Metaphor isn’t just decorative language. If it were, it wouldn’t scare us so much. . . . Colourful language threatens some people, who associate it, I think, with a kind of eroticism (playing with language in public = playing with yourself), and with extra expense (having to sense or feel more). I don’t share that opinion. Why reduce life to a monotone? Is that truer to the experience of being alive? I don’t think so. It robs us of life’s many textures. Language provides an abundance of words to keep us company on our travels. But we’re losing words at a reckless pace, the national vocabulary is shrinking. Most Americans use only several hundred words or so. Frugality has its place, but not in the larder of language. We rely on words to help us detail how we feel, what we once felt, what we can feel. When the blood drains out of language, one’s experience of life weakens and grows pale. It’s not simply a dumbing down, but a numbing.

Diane Ackerman
An Alchemy of Mind: The Marvel and Mystery of the Brain


March 30, 2020

Lovers are always waiting. They hate to wait; they love to wait. Wedged between these two feelings, lovers come to think a great deal about time, and to understand it very well, in their perverse way.

Anne Carson
Eros the Bittersweet; Now Then

If a writer of prose knows enough about what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of the iceberg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water.

Ernest Hemingway
Death in the Afternoon


July 30, 2019

I cannot tell you. It is difficult for a woman to define her feelings in language that is chiefly made by men to express theirs.

Thomas Hardy
Far From The Madding Crowd

Poetry is the lonely, radical, precious expression of a single life. The singularity of the unique human soul who must cry out. Because of love, because of wounds, because of injustice, because of hunger, because of exile and migration, because of dispossession of every kind, because we have lost someone we love and cannot bear that loss, because night comes on and we are alone.

Anne Michaels
Infinite Gradation

In Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, humans enhance the drudgery of their noxious worlds by dialling into a device called the “Penfield Mood Organ.” They have reached the point where they can’t experience their own emotions without the aid of an interface. When Deckard’s wife awakes in the morning, she feels nothing whatsoever but she has a vague sense of depression, so she punches a number into the mood organ, like a jukebox, and the organ channels the emotion into her. That she chooses a negative emotion attests to how detached humans have become from their feelings. Feeling depressed is almost a novelty. Deckard admits to dialling into the mood organ more often than he’d like. His number is 481 and it projects “an awareness of the manifold possibilities open to me in the future.” Or hope . . . albeit through a surrogate.

Alex Lyras
More real that real: Philip K Dick’s visionary posthumanism

keepers of the unsayable

March 31, 2019

If poets are the keepers of the unsayable, then silence, not language, is a poet’s natural element, the realm where the unsayable lives. Poets fetishize silence as much as words; they are disturbed and comforted by the sounds that interrupt it. This is what John Keats means by Negative Capability, his notion of a poet’s basic qualification, the need for ‘being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact & reason.’ This a fancy way of describing ambivalence, also a basic qualification for a poet, the ability to passionately hold two opposing feelings at once. Poets need ambivalence in order to acknowledge the unsayable and speak nonetheless. The hidden subject of all poems is the silence that surrounds them, the things that can’t be, that will never be said; a real poem points to everything beyond it.

Craig Morgan Teicher
Ars Poetica: Origin Stories

the poems that I like most

February 21, 2019

I never quite believe it when poets say that they’re not writing out of their own feelings, and when that is the case, I tend not to be terribly interested in what they’re doing.

I don’t mean to say that they are writing bad poems, but those aren’t the poems that I like most. The poems I most like are where the engine is a very emotional one, where the warmth of strong feeling is very powerfully present in the thing that is being given to us. I think poetry is a rather emotional form and when it isn’t that, I’m not very interested in it.

Andrew Motion
Top 10 tips for being a successful poet


January 18, 2019

Writing is in some way being able to sit down the next day and go through everything you wanted to say, finding the right words, giving shape to the images, and linking them to feelings and thoughts. It isn’t exactly like a social conversation because you aren’t giving information in the usual sense of the word or flirting or persuading anyone of anything or proving a point; it’s more that you are revealing something whole in the form of a character, a city, a moment, an image seen in a flash out of a character’s eyes. It’s being able to take something whole and fiercely alive that exists inside you in some unknowable combination of thought, feeling, physicality, and spirit, and to then store it like a genie in tense, tiny black symbols on a calm white page. If the wrong reader comes across the words, they will remain just words. But for the right readers, your vision blooms off the page and is absorbed into their minds like smoke, where it will re-form, whole and alive, fully adapted to its new environment. It is a deeply satisfying feeling.

Mary Gaitskill
Inside the writer’s mind

Delightfully Sticky Chaos

August 3, 2017

3rd August

Mood today: ash-grey.

I seek for something beyond the shadow of a translucent tear. Obscurity, perhaps? Or extinction forever? Why don’t you chose?

We should be silent if silence makes us happy. Our love should not be spoken of because words are lies. Speech is a betrayal of self. It should be enough just to look at each other and hold each other’s gaze –

Your eyes seen in a dream like this one, seem huge to me. Haunted by night and its many ambiguities. In these eyes, your secret eyes, only the unreal exists. They contemplate invisible beauties and not me –

We must love. Must feel. We are here to be engulfed, to taste danger, risk hurt. And when we’re betrayed, abandoned, wounded or left broken, then we should sit and listen to the apples falling from the tree in the night. Count them if you will. Those apples falling in heaps around you, their sweetness rotting into the ground – that is the true meaning of life!

Yes, yes, it’s true. I’m a collector of beautiful moments. Remember walking naked into the sea at midnight? All those wonderful stars overhead and the sound of the waves breaking over the beach. And our laughter, the four of us, when the policeman flashed his torchlight at us from the pier. Magical that moment.