A feminist intervention. A poetry journal at meme speed. An attempt to give the internet what it wanted. A critique and a joke. A joke of a critique? A lot of fun. Not enough. A pop-up virtual community that published every submission it received. A stocking stuffer advertised entirely via social…
Dear everyone: In 2014, let yourself dream a new, impossible dream.
'Age' is never a reason to quit chasing a dream or stop hoping for something. Colonel Sanders didn't figure out his fried chicken business until his 60s.
GLASS HALF EMPTY: When Sylvia Plath was my age, she was basically done writing & now figuring out ways to kill herself for the last time. / GLASS HALF FULL: Robert Frost didn’t publish his first poetry collection until he was 39.
Every industry has early bloomers & late bloomers. Let’s stop comparing ourselves to others and focus instead on our personal journeys. Don’t waste your life trying to live someone else’s life.
Acquiring inspiration from other people’s stories is great, but the minute it starts to poison your self-esteem or hope, force yourself to put the story down and start living your own masterpiece.
Excerpt from Madeleine L’Engle’s ‘The Irrational Season,’ in which she says, “No, it’s not the secular world which presents me with problems about Christmas, it’s God” and also says, “Christmas is still for me a time of hope, of hope for the courage to love and accept love.”
So the birth of the Creator in human flesh and human time was an event as shattering and terrible as the eschaton. If I accept this birth I must accept God’s love, and this is pain as well as joy because God’s love, as I am coming to understand it, is not like man’s love.
What one of us can understand a love so great that we would willingly limit our unlimitedness, put the flesh of mortality over our immortality, accept all the pain and grief of humanity, submit to betrayal by that humanity, be killed by it, and die a total failure (in human terms) on a common cross between two thieves?
What kind of flawed, failed love is this? Why should we rejoice on Christmas Day? This is where the problem lies, not in secular bacchanalias, not in Santa Clauses with cotton beards, loudspeakers blatting out Christmas carols the day after Thanksgiving, not in shops full of people pushing and shouting and swearing at each other as they struggle to buy overpriced Christmas presents.
No, it’s not the secular world which presents me with problems about Christmas, it’s God.
Cribb’d, cabined, and confined within the contours of a human infant. The infinite defined by the finite? The Creator of all life thirsty and abandoned? Why would he do such a thing? Aren’t there easier and better ways for God to redeem his fallen creatures?
And what good did it all do? The heart of man is still evil. Wars grow more terrible with each generation. The earth daily becomes more depleted by human greed. God came to save us and we thank him by producing bigger and better battlefields and slums and insane asylums.
And yet Christmas is still for me a time of hope, of hope for the courage to love and accept love, a time when I can forget that my Christology is extremely shaky and can rejoice in God’s love through love of family and friends.
The first ugly drafts of poems
are fiercely sacred to me. Mine tend to have salvageable first lines tacked onto wonky, hideous bodies.
Like humans, some of these underdeveloped beings take longer than preferred to become the ‘glory version’ of themselves. But I mold, wrestle with, and speak into every single one.
The malleable ones that respond to my voice and to my creative vision are the ones that become poems — some of them, better developed than others.
On good days, I love them all equally. Today, I love the new, ugly one.
"I should be sorry if I only entertain them. I wish to make them better." — George Frideric Handel
This morning, I learned that Charles Jennens, Handel’s librettist for ‘Messiah,’ was not only the extravagant patron of the arts—and Shakespeare enthusiast—we know him as, but also a lonely man whose life was afflicted with grief.
His younger brother killed himself, and his sisters, half-brother, and mother all died before Jennens was 30. Jennens arranged the libretti for ‘Messiah’ when he was 41. If we read the arrangement for Handel’s ‘Messiah’ in the context of Jennens’ suffering, we understand its power and its ‘duende' with more accurate intensity.
The oratorio begins with a Hebrew poem from the prophet Isaiah: “Comfort, comfort my people, / says your God”—a jarring yet refreshing message of comfort after pages upon pages of words expressing mostly judgment and destruction.
Jennens understood the desperation of those who’ve known the kind of sorrow no human can heal.
Handel’s ‘Messiah’ most likely could not have been written without the depth of pain Jennens lived through.
Handel began composing ‘Messiah’ on August 22, 1741. He locked himself in a room for three weeks, and barely ate. A friend who visited Handel during this time reported that he saw Handel sobbing.
The first performance of Handel’s ‘Messiah’ was a benefit concert commissioned by Dublin charities. It raised enough money to free 142 men from debtor’s prison in Dublin, and also enough to keep Handel out of that debtor’s prison, where he was headed.
As an artist, the implications of this story pierce everything I know and everything I desire. If I’m not striving for this level of truth, artistry, and activism in my art, then I’m not experiencing the fullness of my gifts and my powers.
It’s a tall order. But I didn’t survive a childhood of violence and poverty so that I could collect debt to become an artist who writes pretty things. I made a faith-based decision to be a writer who believes words can change the world.
Maybe I’m delusional. It’s true I was born with an unearthly dose of optimism and idealism. But stories like that of Jennens and Handel only fuel my fire. Let it fuel yours.
aslkjfa;kdfjsf;kladfjs note to a frustrated, paralyzed writer self:
They are all humans. They’re not “readers” or “editors” or “judges.” They are humans, angry & wrought with love. If you can’t shake the eyes on the other side of the page and your limitations insist that you write for someone, then write for the humans.