Another Season of Seeing
21 September 2023 | 1:15 am

There are some thoughts/quotations that just get more and more true:

“To look at something is such a wonderful thing of which we still know so little.”

That’s Rilke.

And summer was full of looking and seeing and exquisitely ordinary mornings. Wondering what the plot is….

There Are Mornings

by Lisel Mueller

Even now, when the plot
calls for me to turn to stone,
the sun intervenes. Some mornings
in summer, I step outside
and the sky opens
and pours itself into me
as if I were a saint
about to die. But the plot
calls for me to live, be ordinary,
say nothing to anyone.
Inside the house,
the mirrors burn when I pass.

The plot has been all over the place in a certain way. I keep the book White Ink on my desk that contains this quotation:

“At this moment I am in a period of uneasiness because I have to rethink my existence: I have too many demands placed on me and I feel threatened. Really, next year, I am going to try to withdraw a bit but now I am getting into a system of contradictions which is painful for me….”

And that’s Hélène Cixous, who later in the same book says, “No need to hope. On the other hand, one should resist the temptation of weariness and discouragement…”

So yes, no need to hope but on the other hand hope.

And aren’t we always really rethinking our existence? Don’t we all have too many demands? Isn’t there always next year? And the contradictions??? Yes of course they are always at play.

The thing about the plot of an ordinary life is that it’s only revealed slowly and partially even to the one living it!

I sometimes laugh when I think back to my NY post and declaring 2023 to be the year of my ALL. This year, and it’s only September, has already exceeded expectations. I’m looking forward honestly to January when I can write down the plot of this past year, and call forth the next. (Carefully, very carefully….)

But also, don’t worry, it seems with every amazing thing that’s happened, there’s been a balance check. But I still believe in the unsaid, (a post I wrote in 2017), I still believe in the words of Nicole Brossard who says, “You have to be insane to confide the essential to anyone anywhere except in a poem.” 

Still, life is wonderful, still life is wonderful……My book on that subject and the art life will be coming out in January, and I remain very proud of it. More on that soon…..

In the meantime, our garden season is coming to a close, the poetry of fall is upon us. I will be spending a week away on a project I will be talking more about when I’m back….(you can tune in on Instagram if you like :) ). Thanks for being here…..


September 20, 2023

3 Books for September
5 September 2023 | 10:08 pm

I’m always reading something but I’m probably worse than ever at floating from book to book to book…and so on. This is not a bad method in so far as comparing ideas, and seeing how one mind sparks off another. It means it takes quite long to actually complete a book, though!

The first volume I read lately in one sitting and then re-read in another was the very delightful book of poems by Sarah Salway, titled Learning Springsteen on my Language App. (If you’ve been here a while you’ll know immediately why this was an insta-buy). The title poem is as delightful as I was hoping, but there are many memorable poems and lines. I’ll talk about one of them, and let you have the fun of reading the rest. In “She did her best” the line comes from a grave stone, and the poem thinks through how that might not be how the speaker would like to be remembered. She says, “It’s important to discuss how we want / to be remembered…” So many devoted and beloveds, all well and good, for sure. The poem ends beautifully:

finding always in the act of writing
the truth: a simple gravestone,
to die with all my words used up but one —


(This reminded me of a post from a while back now referencing Amy Krouse Rosenthal for whom MORE was a word of note).

The book by Salway was a delight, and I’ll leave you with the opening to the first poem in the book, “A Dictionary of How to Live Properly,” because it’s SO relatable!

It’s alway out on loan but I know it must exist
because I can spot everyone who’s read it,

and then others, like me, who still hope
to rise to the top of the waiting list. Sometimes

when I’m in the library, I’ll pause by the gap
in the shelf where it should be sitting.

Like, yah, I’m just never getting that book, am I? :)

Next, I’ve been following the Daily Stoics guy on Instagram for a while and decided to re-read Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations (translated by Robin Hard) which Rob had tucked away on his art studio shelves. He’d dog-eared a few things and underlined some stuff, and then, so had I. In this re-reading though, I really found a lot of stuff that spoke to me, so there is yet another fresh layer of underlining.

“Given the material that is granted to you, what is the soundest thing that can be done or said?”

“The art of living is more like the wrestler’s art than the dancer’s in this regard, that it must stand ready and firm to meet whatever besets it, even when unforeseen.”

“When you want to gladden your heart, think of the good qualities of those around you…”

And lastly, this gem:

“To what purpose, then, am I presently using my soul? Ask yourself this question at every moment…”

I personally have very limited energy right now (I’m sure I’m not alone) and so I need to really just focus down and expend my energy with care. The meditations helped me think a few things through, and I’m glad I re-read them.

The last book I love so much I almost don’t want to share it, haha! But we all know that would be terrible karma! So here you go:

To Photograph is to Learn How to Die by Tim Carpenter is fucking great. Like, it slayed me. It’s everything I wanted in a book right now — philosophical thoughts on photography, with reference to writers, poets, photographers, just a whole swack of thinkers and dreamers and people looking, seeing, connecting stuff up. I love the way he writes it — layers and threads and digressions and bits and lovely pieces. It’s a book to think with, to think things through. It’s elegant and persistent and dexterous. Does that say anything? enough? If you love photography, taking photos, or just looking at photos, or if you enjoy seeing how an artist thinks, this book is for you. One day I’ll take a photo of all my dog-ears and underlinings in this one. On page 11, he simply says, “It feels lucky to have you here.” And really, every book should say that.

I just feel that so profoundly. Such a messed up time, and we’re all tired and some friends are suffering physically and mentally, and also intertwined, financially. Our compassion for each other is askew, it sort of has to be right? We’ve been through a lot and we’re pretending our hearts out that all is well because we need to to keep finding and seeing beauty in the world and to just keep the freak afloat. It’s actually amazing, how people are surviving, shining, in amidst all the trauma. And yah, sometimes we’re just trying our best, too, trying not to end up buried and gone. Trying to use our souls as best we can, remembering the good qualities of those around us. Doing what we can with what we have, remembering to give what grace we can.

Anyway, as Tim Carpenter says, it feels lucky to have you here.

September 5, 2023

A Whole Life in Every Day
1 September 2023 | 11:19 pm

There is a poem in Adam Zagajewski’s last book of poems, Asymmetry. For a while I couldn’t read the book, and then it called, became as clear as a bell, inviting me in. Saying what I needed to hear at the exact right time. Which is what poems miraculously do! (When the humans in your life aren’t giving you what you need, telling you what you need to hear, pro tip: you will often find this in a poem).

In a review in World Literature Today, Magdalena Kay said this:

“These poems know that they are governed by a tangled logic. They also, crucially, realize that human life is not always governed by any perceptible logic and do not try to explain the inexplicable to their readers. This is one of the most gratifying aspects of Zagajewski’s work—it does not pretend to know every secret, to have every answer. Despite the poet’s defenses of ardor, seriousness, and high art, he never lectures or condescends to us, never holds himself above our own human level. 

The poems in Asymmetry are among Zagajewski’s best: precise yet grand, contemporary yet timeless, suffused with emotion yet not maudlin, and never self-satisfied. If this is the poet’s late style, we can only wish there will be more.”

What author doesn’t dream of having these words said about them? “Precise yet grand.”

In his “Orange Notebook” he writes:

“Last night, new ideas, notes, music.
Morning — a wasteland.

A whole life is contained in every day. It must
squeeze through the day, like a young cat awkwardly exiting a tree.”

And later in the same poem:

“Josef Czapski frequently advised me: when you’re having a bad day, paint
a still life.”

It’s the time of year for making still lifes, anyway, isn’t it? The flowers won’t last much longer. Bring some in, make a still life won’t you? Then make your way to the couch.

There’s a short poem I love to read at this time of year by the Italian writer Patrizia Cavalli (translated here by Gini Alhadeff):

“We’re all going to hell in a while.
But meanwhile
summer’s over.
So come on now, to the couch!
The couch! The couch!”

It’s the time of year, give or take, creature of habit that I am, when I take a look at Rilke. And also, yearly, I do tend to share this by Rilke:

“Do not believe that the person who is trying to offer solace lives his life effortlessly among the simple and quiet words that might occasionally comfort you. His life is filled with much hardship and sadness, and it remains far behind yours. But if it were otherwise, he could never have found these words.”

As dear Kimmy Beach always says, everybody has something, you know? Life is not easy; life is not hard. All of life is transformation, ebb and flow. Things are good, things are not good. Rinse and repeat. One day there are notes and poems, such music! as AZ says, but in the morning, crumbs, a dreary wasteland. So if your day isn’t going the greatest, if there are crumbs, and dust, remember you can always paint (or photograph or write a poem about or really just look at) a still life. I’ve always found it helps.

September 1, 2023

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