Hold It All

Philosophy/Poetics/Politics

Category: Reading

How Refreshing!

Unlike critics and “language” poets, I have no agenda at all: I read books.

–Eliot Weinberger, Written ReactionPoetics, Politics, Polemics

Liz, Here’s Another Work to Add to the Wisdom Literature List

But the whole teaching, the “way” contained in these anecdotes, poems, and meditations, is characteristic of a certain mentality found everywhere in the world, a certain taste for simplicity, for humility, self-effacement, silence, and in general a refusal to take seriously the aggressivity, the ambition, the push, and the self-importance which one must display in order to get along in society.
Thomas Merton, The Way of Chuang Tzu

The Good News of Giving and Receiving Books, 6.26.2017

Ten years ago, because of a Social Justice theology class, I got to know Melissa Banerjee, a Bengali-American.  It made sense to me to give her a hardback edition of the The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna.  Later on, after staying several weeks in India, she brought back to me Letters of Swami Vivekananda, Ramakrishna’s foremost disciple. Melissa inscribed the book this way: “Dr C., Hope this brings  you a small ‘piece’ of the peace I experienced at Sri Ramakrishna’s Mission and Math at Belur, Kolkata.”

This selection of Vivekananda’s letters  range from 1888 to 1902, and address members of his community as well as  Westerners eager to learn more about Indian spirituality.   The following is a small sample  of passages I noted of the swami’s observations, advice, exhortation, and insight…

On the Buddha: His greatness lies in his unrivaled sympathy. 18

Have faith in yourselves, great convictions are the mothers of great deeds.  64

Every soul is a sun covered over with clouds of ignorance, the difference between soul and soul is due to the difference in density of these layers of clouds.  69 Read the rest of this entry »

Cultivating Avidity

Books of poetry will teach you more than your mentor or professor or the well-known poet you have traveled to a conference to work with. Reading is like food to a writer; without it, the writer part of you will die—or become spindly and stunted. If you’re afraid that reading will make you less original, don’t be. Failing under the spell of—or reading against—other writers is part of what will lead you to your own work. Reading in the long tradition of poetry shows you what has lasted, and those poems are there to learn from. Reading your contemporaries shows you what everyone else is up to in your own time, so you can map the different directions of the art. There’s never one route to poetry, one style. Reading widely will help you see this….  You need to soak up as many books as you can. Even the one you don’t like can teach you something. If you were a painter, you’d spend time looking at works of art from every period in history….

–Kim Addonizio, Ordinary Genius: A Guide for the Poet Within, pages 93, 95.

Reading Leads to Writing

1.

Yesterday I was rereading Chilean poet Nicanor Parra’s After-Dinner Declarations, which I first read in 2013, and came across this page with my scribbles:

2.

In Dear Layla Welcome to Palestine, these scribbles became this chapter:

Postcard from Gaza/1

Dear Layla

I’d rather be preoccupied with your daily routine
Than be occupied with this occupation
At least for ten minutes

Write me when you have a second
Tell me the names of the bones I use
In the process of writing you this postcard

Doc Schimmel

The Good News of Rereading, 4.2.2017

Tasha Rutledge and I had class together when she was a freshman at SLU in 2007. We read The Book of Mev in that class, and many years later she told me she reads it once a year to re-instill a sense of urgency in her life.

Books

I’m discussing Svetlana’s Alexievich’s Secondhand Time with Lori Hirst and Helen Houlle later today. One of the fascinating threads in this oral history is the emphasis on books in Soviet culture…

 

My mother wasn’t alone, all of her friends were like this, too–the first generation of Soviet intelligentsia who had grown up on Chernyshevsky, Dobrolyubov, Nekrasov … on Marxism … Could you imagine my mother sitting down and embroidering something or going out of her way to decorate our house with porcelain vases or little elephant figurines … Never! That would be a pointless waste of time. Petit bourgeois nonsense.  The most important thing is spiritual labor… Books… You can wear the same suit for twenty easts, two coats are enough to last a lifetime, but you can’t live without Pushkin or the complete works of Gorky. You’re part of the grand scheme of things, there’s a grand scheme… That’s how they lived…

In tenth grade, I had an affair. He lived in Moscow. I went to see him, we only had three days. In the morning, at the station, we picked up a mimeographed copy of Nadezhda Mandelstam’s memoirs, which everyone was reading at that time. We had to return the book the next day at four in the morning. Hand it off to someone on a train passing through town. For twenty-four hours, we read without stopping–we only went out once, to get milk and a loaf of bread. We even forgot to make out, we just handed the pages to one another. All of this happened in some kind of fever, a stupor… Read the rest of this entry »

A Writer and His Readers

And nothing would make me happier than having made it possible for some of my readers to recognize their own experiences, difficulties, questionings, sufferings, and so on, in mine, and to draw from that realistic identification, which is quite the opposite of an exalted projection, some means of doing what they do, and living what they live, a little better.

–Pierre Bourdieu, Sketch for a Self-Analysis

pierre-bourdieu

Libraries

A big library really has the gift of tongues
and vast potencies of telepathic communication.
Northrop Frye

claire-in-the-library

Wilder Love by April Ulinski

Started rereading The Book of Mev last night. Partially because I needed her reminder that being academic does not mean being disengaged from the world

and from the people behind all those ideas.

Also because I wanted to be near Mev
Though I have never known her.

Thank you for sharing her,
And thank you for sharing you
And the love between the two of you

love draws new dimensions of us love comes to surprise us
Out of our small safe place
Into the wild home we didn’t even think to ask for.

Maybe love is wilder when it is not just for us
But the community too
And loss is love’s coda.

“Do this in remembrance of me”

 

april-u