In reading “The Dirt on the Universe,” by Lisa López Smith, I feel I’ve found a friend: This is probably the closest rendering I’ll see in this life of my own rather confused sense of both physics and theology. If you, too, are buried in domestic chaos and lingering questions regarding quantum entanglement, you’ll probably enjoy this essay.
“I thought I could memorize enough facts to stay composed in debates and not cry after one glass of wine when my brother says we can all just go to Mars.“
That’s Natasha Rao in “What It Was Like” from the American Poetry Review. I relate to these lines so, so much–not in the sense that my brother talks like that, fortunately. But in the general sense of preparing for conversations in this way, fruitlessly.
Right now, David Kirby’s direct-statement style and his willingness to speak the brutal truth are all I want in a poem. Thanks to the New Orleans Review for putting “Art is Not Therapy” where I could find it.
The numinous, the transcendent, the cosmic—these are like trauma, in that they occur in a constant state of immediacy. Even to say “constant” is to introduce, then capsize, an image of time as a steady line, which, let’s face it, was a leaky vessel from the start. The numinous, the transcendent, the cosmic—they are everywhere. Now. They transcend daily understandings of space and time: They are spacetime. This is going to make choice of verb tense real tricky. So just give up on making sense in any practical terms right now, or just give up on getting any sleep. Once you start placing words in sequence to be read over linear time about mysteries that swamp the idea of time, you are already sunk. In the best possible way.
Poet James Wright, in a letter to poet James Dickey, discussing and quoting poet Stanley Kunitz on August 12, 1958:
“Do you happen to know Stanley Kunitz’s poems? He hasn’t had a wide reputation, but I like him tremendously. I’m going to review his newly published Selected Poems for Sewanee. I really think you would like his poems, and I think I’ll type a couple of them for you on a separate sheet of paper, so that you can see what he’s like. For a long time, virtually unnoticed and yet enduring, he’s been writing poems of real agony and love in a kind of lost and transient underground of the American jungle of academies and businesses. I think that the appearance of his Selected Poems is inspiring. It shows that defeat, though imminent for all of us, is not inevitable. He wrote to me recently, since I know him slightly–and you might like his concluding words: “it would be sweet, I’ll grant, after all these years to pop up from underground. America, it’s true, either spoils you with success of withers you with neglect. What other morality has the artist but to endure? The only ones who survive, I think, beyond the equally destructive temptations of self-praise and self-pity, are those whose ultimate discontent is with themselves. The fiercest hearts are in love with a wild perfection.” Those words mean much to me. Please write. –Yours, Jim
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While many students are still waiting to hear where they will be accepted, some students I have worked with on college applications do have their good news in hand already. Good news has come from Point Loma Nazarene University, the University of Pittsburgh, and McMaster University, among others. Fingers crossed as more acceptances roll in!
On February 16, I had the honor to give a poetry reading as part of the Poetry in Davis series, held at the lovely Natsoulas Gallery in downtown Davis. While there, I read a new piece containing the lines, ” . . . who gladly / roast dessert upon an oleander spear”–and people laughed. Not just one person: plural people. Because more than one person in the room knew that oleander is so poisonous that it’s dangerous just to roast your marshmallows on it. Maybe you, reader, also know this? But it was a delightful surprise to get a laugh in response to a joke I thought I was only amusing myself with. Further proof that a town with this many master gardeners in it is the town for me. I love it here.
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