Margaret Atwood writing The Handmaid’s Tale in Berlin, 1984.
(These days, her desk looks like this)
Can I get used to it day after day
a little at a time while the tide keeps
coming in faster the waves get bigger
building on each other breaking records
this is not the world that I remember
then comes the day when I open the box
that I remember packing with such care
and there is the face that I had known well
in little pieces staring up at me
it is not mentioned on the front pages
but somewhere far back near the real estate
among the things that happen every day
to someone who now happens to be me
and what can I do and who can tell me
then there is what the doctor comes to say
endless patience will never be enough
the only hope is to be the daylight
“The entire area from the road out has been leached away and blown to kingdom come, along with every palm tree, liana, monkey and snapping turtle in the region; now it’s a wasteland, and all because of the road, because somebody wanted to get from here to there without tears.”
[A]nd the world
Whirls green on a string, then
The leaves go quiet, wink
From their own shade, secretly.
Keep still, just a moment, leaves.
There is something I am trying to remember.
Robert Penn Warren, from “2. Deciduous Spring,” in section II “Love: Two Vignettes” of “Delight,” Tale of Time: Poems 1960-1966, in The Collected Poems of Robert Penn Warren, ed. John Burt (Louisiana State University Press, 1998)
As a psychiatrist and a neuroscientist who studies creativity, I’ve had the pleasure of working with many gifted and high-profile subjects over the years, but Kurt Vonnegut—dear, funny, eccentric, lovable, tormented Kurt Vonnegut—will always be one of my favorites. Kurt was a faculty member at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in the 1960s, and participated in the first big study I did as a member of the university’s psychiatry department. I was examining the anecdotal link between creativity and mental illness, and Kurt was an excellent case study.
Why do we think our metaphors will save us? The world is only itself. Time is just our way of imagining it. At least the bee has ultraviolet vision to see everything we can’t. We have to light our dark spaces with the sputtering matches of our words.”
—Richard Jackson, from “About this Poem,” from Out of Place: Poems (The Ashland Poetry Press, 2014)
J.D. Salinger | “Hapworth 16, 1924" | The New Yorker | June 19, 1965
Citizens of our languages, we act as citizens do, participating, reforming, accepting the rituals and celebrating their alteration, occasionally even voting for new rules and rulers. No words are entirely untranslatable; none are entirely transparent. A pragmatic view of how words work is the only view of them that accounts for our persistent tiny triumphs and sudden comic errors. Sometimes they obscure; sometimes they’re plain; often they fail us. When the wild strawberries are in season, you hope you find the words to get them on your plate. When the beans come, you eat the beans.
Dave Smith, closing lines to “In the Yard, Late Summer, from Floating on Solitude: Three Volumes of Poetry (University of Illinois Press, 1996)