Hold It All

Philosophy/Poetics/Politics

Category: Writing

The Good News, 3.8.2017

I once asked Mayuko and Minami (both in my fall 8 a.m. MWF Humanities class) if they had heard of Sei Shōnagon (清少納言). Of course they had!  They had read her years ago in school.  I only recently made acquaintance with SS through Meredith  McKinney’s translation for Penguin.

Reading her renowned Pillow Book, I thought of Allen Ginsberg’s maxim, “If we don’t show anyone, we’re free to write anything”:  

At times I am beside myself with exasperation at everything, and temporarily inclined to feel I’d simply be better off dead, or am longing to just go away somewhere, anywhere, then if I happen to come by some lovely white paper for everyday use and a good writing brush, or white decorated paper or Michinoku paper, I’m immensely cheered, and find myself thinking I might perhaps be able to go on living for a while longer after all.  212 Read the rest of this entry »

The Good News, 3.5.2017

The Good News is … Natalie Long has a working title for a memoir to come—
Wander, Work, Eat, Agitate

natalie-explaining
Natalie discussing how a Community Bill of Rights challenges an unjust legal structure that elevates corporate “rights” over a community’s rights

The Good News, 3.3.2017

The Good News is … In 2016 Lindsey Trout Hughes took three on-line writing classes with me, and—to her surprise and my delight— embraced her poetic vocation. She has graced me with  epic emails, and scintillating postcards, notes, and texts. And most recently, she has shared a full draft of a play (she’s an actor by trade).  What to do in these nefarious times? Give birth. Thus practiceth Lindsey.

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Tyler Caffall and Lindsey Trout Hughes, Bonneville Theater Company, NYC, 11.8.2016

Arundhati Roy: The Right To Be Sentimental

Right around the time in spring 2012 I finished Dear Layla Welcome to Palestine for Nima Sheth on the occasion of her graduation from medical school, I came across a book of interviews with Arundhati Roy, and particularly appreciated the following:

I’m not here to tell stories that people want to hear. I’m not entering some popularity contest. I just say what I have to say, and the consequences are sometimes wonderful and sometimes not. But I’m not here to say what people want to hear. 61

Failure attracts my curiosity as a writer. Loss, grief, brokenness, failure, the ability to find happiness in the saddest things—these are the things that interest me. 75 Read the rest of this entry »

A More Lively Mode

I read James Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson in the summer of 1999. At the time I was gathering materials for what eventually became The Book of Mev.  The following passage from Boswell left its mark on me in that project…

Wherever narrative is necessary to explain, connect, and supply, I furnish it to the best of my abilities; but in the chronological series of Johnson’s life, which I trace as distinctly as I can, year by year, I produce, wherever it is in my power, his own minutes, letters, or conversation, being convinced that this mode is more lively, and will make my readers better acquainted with him, than even most of those were who actually knew him, but could know him only partially; whereas there is here an accumulation of intelligence from various points, by which is character is more fully understood and illustrated.

 

Take the Long View

I once wrote for a magazine:  I made a calculation, that if I should write but a page a day, at the same rate, I should, in ten years, write nine volumes in folio, of an ordinary size and print.

–Dr. Samuel Johnson, quoted in Boswell’s Life.

Good News Variations: A Spring Writing Course 2017

Since mid-November, I’ve had exchanges with numerous  people who were consumed with dread at so much bad news in the news.   One afternoon, while walking in the Central West End, I was reminded of a poem by Vietnamese Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh that begins:  “The good news they do not print. The good news we do print. We have a special edition every moment, and we need you to read it.”   It occurred to me then that  a gathering of friends focused on these “special editions” would be a constructive use of time and energy.

This spring, join us to read, write, and circulate good news. Each week I will provide short, succinct reflections—from poets, activists, teachers, contemplatives, artists — on this theme and its variations, and we will together come up with writing topics to explore. Each session will provide  time for individual writing, paired exchanges, and a group forum. We will also have a course blog where we can post our writings and discover what others see as good news.

We meet eight consecutive Wednesdays, from March 8 to April 26, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:15 at New City School (5209 Waterman Boulevard 63109). Chris Wallach is hosting us in her first-grade classroom, and the school library may also be an option.  Tuition is $160. Read the rest of this entry »

She Should Have Won the National Book Award

But then I think
What do these awards mean
They gotta serve somebody

I’ve checked the libraries
It’s her only book
On this—or any— subject

Why should the luminaries and guardians honor her
Which is to say honor our victims
Because that’s what she did Read the rest of this entry »

A Key to Understanding the Table of Contents to “Dear Layla Welcome to Palestine” from Our Friend Fellini

Do you like stories in which nothing happens, too?
Well, in my film everything happens … OK?
I’m putting everything in … Even the Sailor doing a tap dance.

–8 1/2

8-12-ending

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

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