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As I prepare the various components of my doctoral application package, it seems fitting that I should once again post this passage by Mary Shelley, born on this day in 1797.

 

I cannot describe to you my sensations on the near prospect of my undertaking.  It is impossible to communicate to you a conception of the trembling sensation, half pleasurable and half fearful, with which I am preparing to depart.  I am going to unexplored regions to ‘the land of mist and snow’ […].  You will smile at my allusion; but I will disclose a secret.  I have often attributed my attachment to, my passionate enthusiasm for, the dangerous mysteries of ocean, to that production of the most imaginative of modern poets.  There is something at work in my soul, which I do not understand.

 

Leonid Pasternak

Leonid Pasternak

Words can bang around in your head

Forever, if you let them and you give them room.

I used to love poetry, and mostly I still do,

Though sometimes “I, too, dislike it.” There must be

Something real beyond the fiddle and perfunctory

Consolations and the quarrels—as of course

There is, though what it is is difficult to say.

The salt is on the briar rose, the fog is in the fir trees.

I didn’t know what it was, and I don’t know now,

But it was what I started out to do, and now, a lifetime later,

All I’ve really done. The Opening of the Field,

Roots and Branches, Rivers and Mountains: I sat in my room

Alone, their fragments shored against the ruin or revelation

That was sure to come, breathing in their secret atmosphere,

Repeating them until they almost seemed my own.

We like to think our lives are what they study to become,

And yet so much of life is waiting, waiting on a whim.

So much of what we are is sheer coincidence,

Like a sentence whose significance is retrospective,

Made up out of elementary particles that are in some sense

Simply sounds, like syllables that finally settle into place.

You probably think that this is a poem about poetry

(And obviously it is), yet its real subject is time,

For that’s what poetry is—a way to live through time

And sometimes, just for a while, to bring it back.

 

~ From “Ninety-Fifth Street” by John Koethe

 

"Personification of Time in a Flower Garland" by Carstian Luyckx, 1650

“Personification of Time in a Flower Garland” by Carstian Luyckx, 1650

Melusina

My recent reading has caused me for some reason to remember myself as I was when a young girl, reading high Romances and seeing myself simultaneously as the object of all knights’ devotion—an unspotted Guenevere—and as the author of the Tale.  I wanted to be a Poet and a Poem, and now am neither.

 

~ From Possession by A. S. Byatt, born on this day in 1936

 

"The Beguiling of Merlin" by Sir Edward Burne-Jones, 1874

“The Beguiling of Merlin” by Sir Edward Burne-Jones, 1874

If you stuff yourself full of poems, essays, plays, stories, novels, films, comic strips, magazines, music, you automatically explode every morning like Old Faithful.  I have never had a dry spell in my life, mainly because I feed myself well, to the point of bursting.  I wake early and hear my morning voices leaping around in my head like jumping beans.  I get out of bed to trap them before they escape.

 

~ Ray Bradbury, born on this day in 1920

 

"Am Morgen" ("In the Morning") by A Rötting, 1840

“Am Morgen” (“In the Morning”) by A Rötting, 1840

Glimmer Train’s Very Short Fiction Contest is currently accepting fiction submissions up to 3,000 words until midnight on August 31.  This opportunity is open to all writers and all themes.  As always, submissions must be original, unpublished fiction.  Glimmer Train does not publish poetry, fiction for children, or novel excerpts unless they read like complete stories.  Multiple submissions are accepted.

The first place winner will receive $2,000, publication in Glimmer Train Stories, and ten copies of that issue.  The second and third place winners will receive $500 and $300, respectively.  Results will be announced in the November 1 bulletin.  For more information or to submit your work, visit the website at http://www.glimmertrain.org/pages/guidelines/very_short_fiction_guidelines.php.

Good luck!

 

issue97_current_cover_450x675

 

One face looks out from all his canvases,

One selfsame figure sits or walks or leans:

We found her hidden just behind those screens,

That mirror gave back all her loveliness.

A queen in opal or in ruby dress,

A nameless girl in freshest summer-greens,

A saint, an angel—every canvas means

The same one meaning, neither more nor less.

He feeds upon her face by day and night,

And she with true kind eyes looks back on him,

Fair as the moon and joyful as the light:

Not wan with waiting, not with sorrow dim;

Not as she is, but was when hope shone bright;

Not as she is, but as she fills his dream.

 

                                       ~ Christina Rossetti

 

"The Artist and His Model" by Carl Schweninger (1854-1912)

“The Artist and His Model” by Carl Schweninger (1854-1912)

Kafka on Books

Altogether, I think we ought to read only books that bite and sting us.  If the book we are reading doesn’t shake us awake like a blow to the skull, why bother reading it in the first place?  So that it can make us happy, as you put it?  Good God, we’d be just as happy if we had no books at all; books that make us happy we could, in a pinch, also write ourselves.  What we need are books that hit us like a most painful misfortune, like the death of someone we loved more than we love ourselves, that make us feel as though we had been banished to the woods, far from any human presence, like suicide.  A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us. 

 

"Lesendes Mädchen" by Franz Eybl, 1850

“Lesendes Mädchen” by Franz Eybl, 1850

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