I dare you to be a poet. All of you. And I mean a true poet, one who can pick a lock, one who can lift a shadow off a sidewalk and see what lies beneath that shadow and sing whatever is discovered lurking there into being. I want us all to become the kind of poet who wanders the streets, eyes aflame, voice stinking of yesterday and tomorrow, grabbing wedding guests by their collars and kissing them with none too subtle truths. I want to experience the hard-core poetic truth of living pressed against my lips. And I promise not to blink, but to carry such a truth unto others, and press my none to innocent lips against theirs until they too know this truth with their bodies and souls. A revolution in words.
(Years ago I assigned Werner Herzog’s A Guide to the Perplexed. The next week, every one of my students came back to class ready to discuss Herzog’s book. I asked my students if they had actually read A Guide to the Perplexed. They said, “yes,” and they claimed to be eager to discuss it, not use Herzog’s idea, not put them into motion, not act with them. They asked me what sections of the book would be on the final exam. I was never so disappointed by human beings in my life. I told them, gently, that they had all failed in the reading of Herzog’s book.) Read More
Art is not a comforting experience. Artists are not here to distract us. Art should terrify us. Art frightens me. Art threatens my identity. The other day I mailed a copy of my new novel to Bill Vollmann. The postal agent asked: “Is there anything inside this package that is liquid, fragile, perishable, or potentially hazardous?” I replied: “No, it is not fragile (I’m from Pittsburgh), no, it is not liquid, and I certainly hope it is not perishable, but yes, it is potentially hazardous; at least, I hope it is.” Read More
And even though I am not running for President, I think all of us should contemplate what our first 100 days in office would be like, what we would focus on accomplishing. If all of us devoted time in our daily lives to reflecting on what we truly value, and then devoted time to discovering ways to bring those values into the world, then perhaps we will no longer need politicians. Instead of politicians promising hope and change, or promising to make America great again, or promising that we will be stronger together, imagine if we respected ourselves deeply enough to be able to respect those around us (especially those who are different than us). Imagine if we were so comfortable in our own skin that other people in their own skins were not threatening to us. In fact, instead of feeling uncomfortable or threatened by those who are different than us, imagine becoming curious of difference? (I know you think I am going to bring Jacques Derrida into this. But I am not going to do that. I am speaking of difference, not differance, or am I?) Read More