John Updike On Speaking And Writing

BD3A768F-D76B-43B6-839D-9882F995D965John Hoyer Updike (March 18, 1932 – January 27, 2009)

My father thought that I had too many words to get out all at once. So, I didn’t speak very pleasingly, but I never stopped speaking or trying to communicate this way, and I think the stuttering has gotten better over the years. I have found having a microphone is a great help, because you don’t have to force your voice out of your throat, just a little noise will work. You write because you don’t talk very well, and maybe one of the reasons that I was determined to write was that I wasn’t an orator, unlike my mother and my grandfather, who both spoke beautifully and spoke all the time.

Margaret Fuller On Mankind

B62B4214-31BA-4CB2-911A-97EB1BE1554FMargaret Fuller (May 23, 1810–July 19, 1850)

This country needs… no thin Idealist, no coarse Realist, but a man whose eye reads the heavens, while his feet step firmly on the ground, and his hands are strong and dexterous for the use of human implements… a man of universal sympathies, but self-possessed; a man who knows the region of emotion, though he is not its slave; a man to whom this world is no mere spectacle or fleeting shadow, but a great, solemn game, to be played with good heed, for its stakes are of eternal value.

Mark Strand On Being A Witness

40577F04-1984-43C6-A1F9-BACFA672475CMark Strand (April 11, 1934–November 29, 2014)

We’re only here for a short while. And I think it’s such a lucky accident, having been born, that we’re almost obliged to pay attention. In some ways, this is getting far afield. I mean, we are – as far as we know – the only part of the universe that’s self-conscious. We could even be the universe’s form of consciousness. We might have come along so that the universe could look at itself. I don’t know that, but we’re made of the same stuff that stars are made of, or that floats around in space. But we’re combined in such a way that we can describe what it’s like to be alive, to be witnesses. Most of our experience is that of being a witness. We see and hear and smell other things. I think being alive is responding.

 

An essay about Mark Strand and being a witness appears here.

Margery Williams On What Is Real

016E55DC-50D1-490E-9ED6-1EB54B1F8683Margery Williams (July 22, 1881 – September 4, 1944)

“What is ‘Real?” asks the rabbit.

“Real isn’t how you’re made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you.”

“Does it hurt?” asks the rabbit.

“Sometimes,” answered the Skin Horse. “Generally by the time you are ‘Real,’ most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all because once you are ‘Real,’ you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

Louise Gluck On Walking At Night

7da4c-img_2282Louise Gluck (April 22, 1943 -)

Now that she is old,
the young men don’t approach her
so the nights are free,
the streets at dusk that were so dangerous
have become as safe as the meadow.

By midnight, the town’s quiet.
Moonlight reflects off the stone walls;
on the pavement, you can hear the nervous sounds
of the men rushing home to their wives and mothers; this late,
the doors are locked, the windows darkened.

When they pass, they don’t notice her.
She’s like a dry blade of grass in a field of grasses.
So her eyes that used never to leave the ground
are free now to go where they like.

When she’s tired of the streets, in good weather she walks
in the fields where the town ends.
Sometimes, in summer, she goes as far as the river.

The young people used to gather not far from here
but now the river’s grown shallow from lack of rain, so
the bank’s deserted–

There were picnics then.
The boys and girls eventually paired off;
after a while, they made their way into the woods
where it’s always twilight–

The woods would be empty now–
the naked bodies have found other places to hide.

In the river, there’s just enough water for the night sky
to make patterns against the grey stones. The moon’s bright,
one stone among many others. And the wind rises;
it blows the small trees that grow at the river’s edge.

When you look at a body you see a history.
Once that body isn’t seen anymore,
the story it tried to tell gets lost–

On nights like this, she’ll walk as far as the bridge
before she turns back.
Everything still smells of summer.
And her body begins to seem again the body she had
as a young woman, glistening under the light summer clothing.