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
If anyone builds a wall to stop you from dreaming, or if someone nails a glass ceiling down over your dreams, trying to suffocate your desires, I hope that your mother and I, and the education you are actively pursuing, have given you the fortitude to fight back for the right to have your own desires. Tear down any wall built by fearful boys. Break any glass ceilings put in your way by insecure boys. 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
There is an election next week. The election will place in power the newest president of the United States of America. So I will leave you with discarded parables I found in the Mission District the other morning.
Bugs go Ka-choo. It happens. There is even a carefully written, witty memoir of such a bug going Ka-choo, and of all that happened because the bug’s gentle and accidental ka-choo. This book is important because the bug takes responsibility for setting in motion a series of events, even though the bug did not intend to create such a series of events. Still, this bug never positions itself as a victim. It takes ownership of its ka-choo. Such a stance is heroic. We need more heroes like this bug. (We do not need more heroes who need wars to become heroes. Mel Gibson knows what I am talking about, and the philosopher Tina Turner knows this in an even more profound way.) Read More
If ever there existed an in-between world, a land not answerable to our laws of gravity and movement, my daughters inhabit it every time they see me once again for the very first time. Frozen by this neither here nor there moment, they linger with breath held. They wait just as they had been waiting before my arrival for my return. They know not to trust me. They know that even though I have just returned yet once again to Pittsburgh from California that in a week or so I will return to California away from Pittsburgh. The sole purpose for this arrival, of my stepping off the plane, is to make possible another departure. One evening while we are playing outside in my sister’s yard, an airplane flies overhead. Quentin will say, “I hate airplanes.” So my daughters cannot move when they first see me. Will not budge an inch. Not until they find enough courage to release themselves. Read More