Friday, April 30, 2010

"Miracles are to come" ... Poetry Friday, Volume Four!

Okay so this might technically be Prose Friday this time around...there is too much good prose out there that is so incredible it could be considered poetry... so I'm changing things up a bit for our last Poetry Friday. For those of who have hung in there through each post, or shared poetry of your own, or just been all-around enthusiastic about my poems as I've posted them, I thank you. You're all awesome.

First up is some aphorisms from James Richardson. What are aphorisms, you ask? They are usually quick-witted statements or sentences that make an observation about philosophy, morality, or the meaning of life. These are collected from two of Richardson's books, the first being the aptly titled "Vectors: Aphorisms and Ten-Second Essays," and his more recent book with yet more aphorisms, entitled "Interglacial: New and Selected Poems and Aphorisms." I highly recommend both books; see for yourself why.

Selected aphorisms by James Richardson:

What you give to a thief is stolen.

Despairs says I cannot lift that weight. Happiness says, I do not have to.

Failure is freedom.

Of all the ways to avoid living, perfect discipline is the most admired.

Why would we write if we'd already heard what we wanted to hear?

Path: where nothing grows.

Do we return again and again to our losses to get back what we had or lose what remains?

Patience is not very different from courage. It just takes longer.

Easier to keep changing your life than to live it.

The saints and sinners say the same thing about life: Only for a moment.

The tyrant has first imagined he is a victim.

No matter how much I lend it, life owes me nothing.

Birds of prey don't sing.

What clings to good moments, or labors to repeat them? Not happiness, which is what lets you let them go.

Stand watch over your peace and you will be peaceless.

Singing is a way of remembering to breathe.

If the sky falls you get to see what's behind it.

The wounds you do not want to heal are you.

Impatience is not wanting to understand that you don't understand.

Time heals. By taking even more.

I could explain, but then you would understand my explanation, not what I said.

What exhausts imagination is fear of exhausting it. The gods detest hoarders, giving nothing to those who do not trust them to give.

I lie so I do not have to trust you to believe.

So many miracles that we only notice the ones that keep on not happening.

Anger has been ready to be angry.

What I hope for is more hope.


Amazing, aren't they? Right then, next up is one of the most amazing speeches you will ever read. When William Faulkner was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1950, most people were very curious to hear what he was going to say because he was well-known for hating having to give speeches. The ideas he spoke of in his acceptance speech astonished the entire world with their beauty and truth, and yes, optimism - things that were very badly needed in the 50's.

William Faulkner: Nobel Prize Speech
Stockholm, Sweden
December 10th, 1950

I feel that this award was not made to me as a man, but to my work--a life's work in the agony and sweat of the human spirit, not for glory and least of all for profit, but to create out of the materials of the human spirit something which did not exist before. So this award is only mine in trust. It will not be difficult to find a dedication for the money part of it commensurate with the purpose and significance of its origin. But I would like to do the same with the acclaim too, by using this moment as a pinnacle from which I might be listened to by the young men and women already dedicated to the same anguish and travail, among whom is already that one who will some day stand where I am standing.

Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it. There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only one question: When will I be blown up? Because of this, the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat. He must learn them again. He must teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid: and, teaching himself that, forget it forever, leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed--love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice. Until he does so, he labors under a curse. He writes not of love but of lust, of defeats in which nobody loses anything of value, and victories without hope and worst of all, without pity or compassion. His griefs grieve on no universal bones, leaving no scars. He writes not of the heart but of the glands.

Until he learns these things, he will write as though he stood among and watched the end of man. I decline to accept the end of man. It is easy enough to say that man is immortal because he will endure: that when the last ding-dong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking. I refuse to accept this. I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet's, the writer's, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet's voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.

(That, right there, THAT speech - that is why I write. I read it in high school and something flickered on in my heart and it has yet to burn out. To this day, this speech makes me cry every single time I read it. And not just because I'm hormonal, shut up. )


Finally, because I love this guy to death and I don't care that he's over-quoted and every other hipster has a tattoo of a line from one of his poems: e.e. cummings makes my heart soar. He truly does. And the only thing that came close to competing with the brilliance of his poems was his reluctant but still mind-blowing introductions to the books of his poems, which his publishers often insisted he write. So without further ado, here's his intro to one of his books:

Introduction by ee cummings from New Poems

The poems to come are for you and for me and are not for mostpeople-- it's no use trying to pretend that mostpeople and ourselves are alike. Mostpeople have less in common with ourselves than the squarerootofminusone. You and I are human beings; mostpeople are snobs. Take the matter of being born. What does being born mean to mostpeople? Catastrophe unmitigated. Socialrevolution. The cultured aristocrat yanked out of his hyperexclusively ultravoluptuous superpalazzo,and dumped into an incredibly vulgar detentioncamp swarming with every conceivable species of undesirable organism. Mostpeople fancy a guaranteed birthproof safetysuit of nondestructible selflessness. If mostpeople were to be born twice they'd improbably call it dying--

you and I are not snobs. We can never be born enough. We are human beings; for whom birth is a supremely welcome mystery, the mystery of growing: which happens only and whenever we are faithful to ourselves. You and I wear the dangerous looseness of doom and find it becoming. Life, for eternal us, is now and now is much too busy being a little more than everything to seem anything, catastrophic included.

Life, for mostpeople, simply isn't. Take the socalled standardofliving. What do mostpeople mean by "living"? They don't mean living. They mean the latest and closest plural approximation to singular prenatal passivity which science, in its finite but unbounded wisdom, has succeeded in selling their wives. If science could fail, a mountain's a mammal. Mostpeople's wives could spot a genuine delusion of embryonic omnipotence immediately and will accept no substitutes.

-luckily for us, a mountain is a mammal. The plusorminus movie to end moving, the strictly scientific parlourgame of real unreality, the tyranny conceived in misconception and dedicated to the proposition that every man is a woman and any woman is a king, hasn't a wheel to stand on. What their synthetic not to mention transparent majesty, mrsandmr collective foetus, would improbably call a ghost is walking. He isn't a undream of anaesthetized impersons, or a cosmic comfortstation, or a transcendentally sterilized lookiesoundiefeelietastiesmellie. He is a healthily

complex, a naturally homogenous, citizen of immorality. The now of his each pitying free imperfect gesture, his any birth of breathing, insults perfected inframortally millenniums of slavishness. He is a little more than everything ,he is democracy; he is alive: he is ourselves.

Miracles are to come. With you I leave a remembrance of miracles: they are somebody who can love and who shall be continually reborn, a human being; somebody who said to those near him, when his fingers would not hold a brush "tie it to my hand"--

nothing proving or sick or partial. Nothing false, nothing difficult or easy or small or colossal. Nothing ordinary or extraordinary, nothing emptied or filled, real or unreal; nothing feeble and known or clumsy and guessed. Everywhere tints childrening, innocent spontaneous, true. Nowhere possibly what flesh and impossibly such a garden, but actually flowers which breasts are among the very mouths of light. Nothing believed or doubted; brain over heart, surface: nowhere hating or to fear; shadow, mind without soul. Only how measureless cool flames of making; only each other building always distinct selves of mutual entirely opening; only alive. Never the murdered finalities of wherewhen and yesno, impotent nongames of wrongright and rightwrong; never to gain or pause, never the soft adventure of undoom, greedy anguishes and cringing ecstasies of inexistence; never to rest and never to have; only to grow.

Always the beautiful answer who asks a more beautiful question

Have a fantastic weekend, guys...


Joker_SATX said...

Ok, these are pretty cool. I enjoyed them!

Jmarls80 said...

I've ADORED these posts this month...thank you! I'd never knowingly encountered aphorisms, and you've just opened an entirely new world to me. And that ee cummings? Directly in the gut. Gah! Thank you.

Wine and Words said...

This was great. So much to chew on. Each aphorism could be fully explored...but alas...I must work. It will have to wait.

Marion said...

OMG, Phoenix, what an awesome, meaty post! Are you sure you're not a Southern Belle? :-) I worship at the feet of Faulkner and also e.e. cummings. Truly, you have outdone yourself in this post. I had never read the Faulkner speech or the cummings intro. Thank you, from the bottom of my poet-heart for sharing these. Love & Blessings!!

Anonymous said...

That Faulkner speech is fantastic. I've never read that before. What a brilliant writer he was, and I wonder what it must feel like like to be that great of a communicator. Thanks so much for sharing this.

ellie said...

intersting finds. Faulkner has always been one of my favorites. I like his characters the most though. and e.e..yeah, its funny how I felt about his poetry the first time I read it..compared to now. I like his capability in making me see if from fresh perspectives when I read it from different times in my life.

Purple Cow said...

There's too much brilliance here...can there ever be too much?

Thanks for sharing!

Barbara said...

The aphorisms were amazing and so true! Loved the sky falling one.

A lovely post as usual...filled with thought-provoking and extremely moving prose.

Carissa said...

barbara literally said what I was going to write! good thing I read hers before I wrote mine or else I'd seem like a copycat! haha. but really, I was going to say thanks for sharing and this was thought-provoking as usual. I especially liked the aphorisms. each one is brilliant, to be sure, but my favorites are

"Path: where nothing grows"

"Singing is a way of remembering to breathe"

and "Time heals. By taking even more."

all so true!

p.s. I'd love for you to meet Hazel next time we hang out! if you think you are ready for all that hyper-ness... it's surprising how much energy a 10 lb dog can have! :)

Jo said...

This is a truly awesome post! I've already read it twice!
The!! And the e.e. cummings intro....amazing.

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