The morning I got up to begin this book I coughed. Something was coming out of my throat: it was strangling me. I broke the thread which held it and yanked it out. I went back to bed and said: I have just spat out my heart.
There is an instrument called the quena made of human bones. It owes its origin to the worship of an Indian for his mistress. When she died he made a flute out of her bones. The quena has a more penetrating, more haunting sound than the ordinary flute.
Those who write know the process. I thought of it as I was spitting out my heart.
Only I do not wait for my love to die.
— Anais Nin. House of Incest, 1936.
they thought that writing had
something to do with
the politics of the
they were simply not
in the head
to sit down to a
and let the words bang
they didn’t want to
they wanted to
— Charles Bukowski. between races. from The Last Night of The Earth Poems.
“But love really is there. It has no shape, no face, no name. But it really is there. It came the way all love comes, after the end of time — the end of death, the end of fear.”
— Christian Bobin, It no longer frightens you, from his collection of lyric essays I Never Dared Hope for You.
This living hand, now warm and capable
Of earnest grasping, would, if it were cold
And in the icy silence of the tomb,
So haunt thy days and chill thy dreaming nights
That thou would wish thine own heart dry of blood
So in my veins red life might stream again,
And thou be conscience-calm’d–see here it is–
I hold it towards you.
— John Keats, written circa 1819. published 1898.
“I keep a hotel room in which I do my work – a tiny, mean room with just a bed, and sometimes, if I can find it, a face basin. I keep a dictionary, a bible, a deck of cards and a bottle of sherry in the room. I try to get there around seven, and work until around two in the afternoon … Maybe after dinner I’ll read to [my husband, Paul du Feu] what I have written that day. He doesn’t comment. I don’t invite comments from anybody but my editor, but hearing it aloud is good. Sometimes I hear the dissonance; then I try to straighten it out in the morning.”
— Maya Angelou.
“Style is a very simple matter: it is all rhythm. Once you get that, you can’t use the wrong words. But on the other hand here I am sitting after half the morning, crammed with ideas, and visions, and so on, and can’t dislodge them, for lack of the right rhythm. Now this is very profound, what rhythm is, and goes far deeper than words. A sight, an emotion, creates this wave in the mind, long before it makes words to fit it; and in writing (such is my present belief) one has to recapture this, and set this working (which has nothing apparently to do with words) and then, as it breaks and tumbles in the mind, it makes words to fit it. But no doubt I shall think differently next year.”
— Virginia Woolf
writing to Vita Sackville-West
16 March 1926.
*from the introduction to Ursula Le Guin’s A Wave In The Mind
“The true artist is not proud, he unfortunately sees that art has no limits; he feels darkly how far he is from the goal; and though he may be admired by others, he is sad not to have reached that point to which his better genius only appears as a distant, guiding sun.”
— Beethoven, 1812, age 41.
We mistake so many monstrous things for strength and this to me is very dangerous. To label something strong and powerful for the wrong reasons. To call anything less than love and humility “strong” is to call weakness strength. It is to put our trust in what is false, unreal, incompetent and incapable of providing protection, inspiration, life.
With all that is happening in my country, the turmoil, manipulation and shame that has infiltrated the very fabric of our existence as a free nation, what I am most afraid of is our collectively losing our grasp on the truth. The truth of who we are, what we stand for, what we desire to become.
In these radical times what is threatened most is our own minds, our ability to think for ourselves, to break away from the hype. Where can we turn to trust anyone or anything?
We must become the most fundamental of truths.
We must search ourselves to uncover the love in the light and the darkness and we must hold tight to what we know. If it is not humble it is not strong. This we know. This one simple truth unblinds us, this simple truth would bring the world to its knees in praise of gentleness and compassion if we would only practice what we know to be true.
Only as much as we can trust ourselves and one another can we build anything at all.
Now is the time for art and writing and creativity which cuts to the very bones of the truth.
This is our work.
This has taken me some time to sink into, to make peace with.
Learning over and over that in creativity we must allow for all things to emerge through us. To teach us, to reveal us, to open us to the pleasant and the unpleasant without and within.
There will be darkness and light, sorrow and ecstasy, struggle and bliss, stumble and flight.
We must be still and allow for all of it.
We must, with integrity and grace, allow for death and for life.