Love Close at Hand

Absence sharpens love and nearness strengthens it - with books as with the rest of us. And I’ve got a number of books close at hand …

- Gina Berriault, The Tea Ceremony


An officer in from North Africa is astonished that my "buggers of masquisards" as he calls them express themselves in a tongue whose sense escapes him, his ear being unalienable to “speaking in images.” I point out to him that argot is only picturesque whereas the tongue in usage here is due to the wonderment communicated by creatures and things in the intimacy with which we continually live. 

- Rene Char, Leaves of Hypos

Anne Carson on Candor

If you are not the free person you want to be, you must find a place to tell the truth about that. To tell how things go for you. Candor is like a skein being produced inside the belly day after day, it has to get itself woven out somewhere ... the point is not to find a reader, the point is the telling itself. 

- Anne Carson, Float

Francis Bacon: The Pulsations of a Person

When I look at you across the table I don't only see you, I see a whole emanation which has to do with personality and everything else ... the living quality ... all the pulsations of a person ... the energy within the appearance ... And to put that over in a painting mans that would appear violent in paint. We nearly always live through screens - a screened existence. And I sometimes think when people say my work is violent that from time to time I have been able to clear away one or two of the screens. 

- Francis Bacon, Painter, as quoted in Float by Anne Carson

Specialize in Your 1%

From now on specialize; never again make any concession to the ninety-nine parts of you which are like everybody else at the expense of the one which is unique.

- The Unquiet Grave, Cyril Connolly

C. D. Wright's Simple Music

… I made
simple music
out of sticks and string. On side B of me,
experimental guitar, night repairs and suppers
such as this. 

- from Our Dust, C. D. Wright


I put one foot in front of the other as if it were my last. This is my task, my chosen lot. 

- C. D. Wright, “And the Last Shall Be First”

Only the Philosopher Knows How to Live

He knew how to hide rather than how to live ... Let a man retire and the common crowd will think of hum as leading a life apart, free of all cares, self-contented, living for himself, when in fact not one of these blessings can be won by anyone other than the philosopher. He alone knows how to live for himself: he is the one, in fact, who knows the fundamental thing, how to live. 

- Seneca, Letters from a Stoic, Letter LV

Composed of Scents, Silence

What makes me paint with incredible passion is an emotional totality composed of scents, silence; it's the impression, when I paint outside, of making love with nature. 

- from an interview with photographer and painter Jacques Henri Lartigue, age 91

Thousands, yet, Just One More

I have thousands of pictures of the snow from since I was little. I woke up at six thirty (this morning), I shivered in the cold, but I took my photos, I was happy. I have this thing inside me that never lets me be. People ask me if I'm bored. Can you imagine ... 

- from an interview with photographer and painter Jacques Henri Lartigue, age 91

Home: Inexhaustible

Beginning with Sartoris I discovered that my own little postage stamp of native soil was worth writing about and that I would never live long enough to exhaust it ...

- William Faulkner, Paris Review Interview

Trust and the Creative Process

Ms. Tippett: You talk about the “part of the psyche that works in concert with consciousness and supplies a necessary part of the poem—a heart of the star as opposed to the shape of the star, let us say—exists in a mysterious, unmapped zone: not unconscious, not subconscious, but cautious. . .you're saying that the writer has to be kind of in courtship with this...
Ms. Oliver: Yes.
Ms. Tippett: ...elusive, essential, but elusive, cautious, as you say, cautious part. And that if you turn up every day, it will learn to trust you.
Ms. Oliver: Yes, yes, yes, yes. I remember that.
Ms. Tippett: This is a very practical way about talking about something that's quite...
Ms. Oliver: That trust is very important ...
Ms. Tippett: And that's the creative process.
Ms. Oliver: That is the creative process. 

- from On Being, "Listening to the World," an interview with Mary Oliver

Janus, Backwards

… the statue of Janus is a useless waste, the truth is that after forty years of age we have our real face on the back of our heads, looking desperately backwards … but what is memory if not the language of feeling, a dictionary of faces and days and smells which repeat themselves like the verbs and adjectives in a speech, sneaking in behind the thing itself, into the pure present, making us sad or teaching us vicariously until one’s self itself becomes a vicar, the backward looking face opens its eyes wide, the real face slowly becomes dim as in old pictures and Janus is sufficiently any one of us … We must establish ourselves in the present once more. 

- Julio Cortazar, Hopscotch 

The Ritual is the Cab

I begin each day of my life with a ritual: I wake up at 5:30 A.M., put on warmers, my sweatshirts, and my hat. I walk outside my Manhattan home, hail a taxi, and tell the driver to take me to the Pumping Iron Gym at 91st Street and First Avenue, where I work out for two hours. The ritual is not the stretching and weight training I put my body through each morning at the gym; the ritual is the cab. The moment I tell the driver where to go I have completed the ritual.

- Twyla Tharp, The Creative Habit

Art: By the Alone for the Alone

O sacred solitary empty mornings, tranquil mediation - fruit of book-case and clock-tick, of note-book and armchair; golden and rewarding silence, influence of sun-dappled plane-trees, far-off noises of birds and horses, possession beyond price of a few cubic feet of air and an hour of leisure! This vacuum of peace is the state from which art should proceed, for art is made by the alone for the alone, and now this cerulean atmosphere which we should all be able to take for granted, has become an unattainable end. 

- Cyril Connolly, The Unquiet Grave

The Bricoleur

How I loved to stuff myself with the unripe, 
the unready, the rough and ragged greens of undigested thought … 
Bricoleur is what I am. Collector of scraps: sappy, juicy, 
unraveling, precipitous. Fragments I yearn together … 

- from the poem "Bird: A Memoir' by Susan Mitchell, Erotikon