A Whole Life

A friend reminded me of this Gibran Khalil Gibran poem yesterday. So beautiful.

Do not love half lovers
Do not entertain half friends
Do not indulge works of the half talented
Do not live half a life
and do not die half a death
If you choose silence, then be silent
When you speak, do so until you are finished
Do not silence yourself to say something
And do not speak to be silent
If you accept, then express it bluntly
Do not mask it
If you refuse then be clear about it
for an ambiguous refusal is but a weak acceptance
Do not accept half a solution
Do not believe half truths
Do not dream half a dream
Do not fantasize about half hopes
Half a drink will not quench your thirst
Half a meal will not satiate your hunger
Half the way will get you no where
Half an idea will bear you no results
Your other half is not the one you love
It is you in another time yet in the same space
It is you when you are not
Half a life is a life you didn’t live,
A word you have not said
A smile you postponed
A love you have not had
A friendship you did not know
To reach and not arrive
Work and not work
Attend only to be absent
What makes you a stranger to them closest to you
and they strangers to you
The half is a mere moment of inability
but you are able for you are not half a being
You are a whole that exists to live a life
not a half life

Instagram Poet

Rupi Kaur is a writer, artist, and instagram poet who has been getting a lot of attention recently. Her messages resonate with a lot of women I know -- they're straightforward, honest, and emotionally intense. In the words of her publisher, “Rupi’s honest, authentic voice speaks to young people who relate to her depiction of pain and struggle but ultimate sense of hope. Rupi is not afraid to challenge taboos, and this brave form of expression inspires her readers” (here).

Rupi explains how her identity influences her poetry: "being a brown woman growing up in the west, where the ideal woman was white, sent me on a terrifying journey. i was already doubting who i was because . . . women like me were not represented at all. anywhere. so i had no one to look up to. that looked like me. that had parents like mine. that spoke my language. that carried my strong punjabi features. it all happens subconsciously. you are convinced you are ugly. and even if you know you’re beautiful, you think you cannot be beautiful enough. those experiences pushed my work. i was forced to ask myself the difficult questions. i had to look at myself in the mirror, make a list of things i disliked about me and write about those so i could learn and figure out ways to fall in love with them. so that i could show other brown women why we need to celebrate the things that make us unique" (interview here).

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

-Mary Oliver, discovered via a literary newsletter

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

-Emma Lazarus

(Poem engraved in bronze and mounted inside
the lower level of the Statue of Liberty
)

"Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,

But to be young was very heaven!--Oh! times,

In which the meagre, stale, forbidding ways

Of custom, law, and statute, took at once

The attraction of a country in romance!"

-William Wordsworth

Und jedem Anfang wohnt ein Zauber inne,

Der uns beschützt und der uns hilft, zu leben.

Wir sollen helter Raum um Raum durchschreiten,

An keinem wie an einer Heimat hängen,

Der Weltgeist will nicht fesseln uns und engen,

Er will uns Stuf um Stufe heben, weiten.

-Herman Hesse, Stufen

In all beginnings dwells a magic force/For guarding us and
helping us to live./
Serenely let us move to different places/And
let no sentiments of home detain us./The Cosmic Spirit seeks
not to restrain us/But lifts us stage by stage to wider spaces.

Volcanoes be in Sicily

And South America,

I judge from my geography.

Volcanoes nearer here,

A lava step at any time,

Am I inclined to climb,

A crater I may contemplate,

Vesuvius at home.

-Emily Dickinson, Complete Poems 1924

The Flâneur

I was reminded of the figure of the flâneur recently, and thought I'd write a short note on the subject since the wandering artist-poet concept has gone out of fashion -- the OED defines a flâneur as an idler or lounger. Balzac and Baudelaire depicted such a character in a positive light: a dashing young lad with literary prowess, a "gentleman stroller of the streets." For Walter Benjamin, a flâneur was "a figure keenly aware of the bustle of modern life, an amateur detective and investigator of the city, but also a sign of the alienation of the city and of capitalism." In The Painter of Modern Life (originally 1863) Baudelaire says:

"The crowd is his element, as the air is that of birds and water of fishes. His passion and his profession are to become one flesh with the crowd. For the perfect flâneur, for the passionate spectator, it is an immense joy to set up house in the heart of the multitude, amid the ebb and flow of movement, in the midst of the fugitive and the infinite. To be away from home and yet to feel oneself everywhere at home; to see the world, to be at the centre of the world, and yet to remain hidden from the world—impartial natures which the tongue can but clumsily define. The spectator is a prince who everywhere rejoices in his incognito. The lover of life makes the whole world his family, just like the lover of the fair sex who builds up his family from all the beautiful women that he has ever found, or that are or are not—to be found; or the lover of pictures who lives in a magical society of dreams painted on canvas. Thus the lover of universal life enters into the crowd as though it were an immense reservoir of electrical energy. Or we might liken him to a mirror as vast as the crowd itself; or to a kaleidoscope gifted with consciousness, responding to each one of its movements and reproducing the multiplicity of life and the flickering grace of all the elements of life."

And in T.S. Eliot's The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock (a favorite of mine), the protagonist takes the reader for a journey through his city in the manner of a flâneur -- Let us go then, you and I,/When the evening is spread out against the sky. . .

The flâneur of nineteenth century France was wealthy and educated, a gentleman whose privilege put him at his leisure (note: there were also flâneuses, e.g., George Sand). But flânerie in a wider sense is not necessarily tied to perambulation or even to wealth; the idea is to participate fully through observation. It's an interesting concept that may be beneficial in our very busy and "success"-oriented lives.

Harlem Night Song

Come,
Let us roam the night together
Singing.

I love you.

Across
The Harlem roof-tops
Moon is shining
Night sky is blue.
Stars are great drops
Of golden dew.

In the cabaret
The jazz-band’s playing.

I love you.

Come,
Let us roam the night together
Singing.

-Langston Hughes

Bukowski on Writing

so you want to be a writer
if it doesn't come bursting out of you
in spite of everything, don't do it.

unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut, don't do it.

if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your typewriter
searching for words, don't do it.

if you're doing it for money or
fame, don't do it.

if you're doing it because you want
women in your bed, don't do it.

if you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
don't do it.

if it's hard work just thinking about
doing it, don't do it.

if you're trying to write like
somebody else, forget about it.

if you have to wait for it to roar out
of you, then wait patiently.

if it never does roar out of you,
do something else.

if you first have to read it to your wife
or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
or your parents or to anybody at all,
you're not ready.

don't be like so many writers,
don't be like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers,
don't be dull and boring and
pretentious, don't be consumed with
self-love.

the libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to sleep
over your kind.
don't add to that. don't do it.

unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don't do it.

unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don't do it.

when it truly is time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by itself
and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in you.

there is no other way.

and there never was.

-Charles Bukowski, Sifting Through for the Word, the Line, the Way: New Poems