Dec 30, 2011

"Poetry is my understanding with the world, my intimacy with things, my participation in what is real, my engagement with voices and images. This is why a poem speaks not of ideal life but of actual life: the angle of a window; the reverberation of streets, cities, rooms; shadows along a wall."

—Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen (via A Writer's Ruminations)
The ideal life against the actual life.

Dec 28, 2011

Victor Hugo: "A poet is a world enclosed in a man."

Then, looking into his eyes, he sees an entire universe in the young man. In that moment, he feels like he understands a moon. Curiosity, it makes him young again; and he discovers he hasn't lost that youthful laughter he once possessed.

Dec 23, 2011

His notebook is half-filled with the things he wants to say and write about, but nothing that he has actually written. The man feels a hunger rise in his belly—I can do this, he says, I will do this—but the pencil lay untouched beside an empty pad on his desk. The memories, they make his spirit swell and surge and wet his eyes, but he does not cry. Patience, he tells himself. Endure. And so once more he begins in his head:

"One morning at two o'clock, a young man appeared on the empty street and started walking home."

Dec 22, 2011

Reading List of 2011.

Books I have completed:
  1. F. Scott Fitzgerald — The Great Gatsby
  2. J. D. Salinger — The Catcher in the Rye
  3. Homer — The Odyssey
  4. Albert Camus — The First Man
  5. Albert Camus — The Rebel
  6. Albert Camus — The Myth of Sisyphus
  7. Albert Camus — The Stranger
  8. Albert Camus — The Fall
  9. Albert Camus — Notebooks
  10. Michael Cunningham — A Home at the End of the World
  11. John Steinbeck — Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters
  12. John Steinbeck — Working Days
  13. James Joyce — A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
  14. Hermann Hesse — Steppenwolf
  15. Hermann Hesse — Siddhartha
  16. Colin Wilson — The Outsider
  17. Alexander Pushkin — Eugene Onegin
  18. Orhan Pamuk — The Naive and the Sentimental Novelist
  19. Jack Kerouac — On The Road
  20. Jack Kerouac — The Dharma Bums
  21. Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg — The Letters
  22. J. W. v Goethe — Faust, Part I
  23. J. W. v Goethe — The Sorrows of Young Werther
  24. Jean-Paul Sartre — Nausea
  25. Nikolai Gogol — The Diary of a Madman
  26. Jon Krakauer — Into the Wild
  27. Philip Jeyaretnam — Abraham's Promise
  28. A. A. Milne — Winnie-the-Pooh

Books I have not completed:
  1. Irving Stone — Dear Theo: The Autobiography of Vincent van Gogh
  2. Homer — The Iliad
  3. Louis-Ferdinand Céline — Journey to the End of the Night
  4. Hermann Hesse — Peter Camenzind
  5. Milan Kundera — The Unbearable Lightness of Being
  6. Fyodor Dostoyevsky — The Idiot
  7. Fyodor Dostoyevsky — Crime and Punishment
  8. Fyodor Dostoyevsky — Notes from Underground
  9. Leo Tolstoy — War and Peace
  10. Ayn Rand — We the Living
  11. Italo Calvino — The Complete Cosmicomics
  12. John Steinbeck — The Grapes of Wrath
  13. Susan Sontag — Against Interpretation and Other Essays
  14. Virginia Woolf — To the Lighthouse
  15. James Joyce — Ulysses
  16. James Joyce — Finnegans Wake
  17. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry — Wind, Sand and Stars
  18. Ernest Hemingway — The Old Man and the Sea
  19. Herman Melville — Moby-Dick
  20. T. E. Lawrence — The Seven Pillars of Wisdom
  21. E. M. Forster — A Room with a View
  22. André Malraux — Man's Fate
  23. Marcel Proust — In Search of Lost Time vol. 1: Swann's Way
  24. George Orwell — Essays
  25. Albert Camus — Exile and the Kingdom: Stories
  26. Albert Camus — The Plague
  27. Albert Camus — Resistance, Rebellion and Death: Essays
  28. Franz Kafka — Metamorphosis and Other Stories
  29. Kobo Abe — The Woman in the Dunes
  30. Ernesto Che Guevara — The Motorcycle Diaries
  31. Henry David Thoreau — Walden

Thoughts from a Notebook.

The mother and father who have to learn from scratch, from nothing. Equally they suffer in a silence like their son.

The things we do, we do them because we're now adults and we can.

Nostalgia: a return to his childhood home, standing from afar, observing the strangers living in it. Do they share what he feels about it?

The streets are always too bright, even at night. He couldn't hide his shame anywhere. Everywhere he went it was for all to see and he despised himself because he too could see himself.

Chekhov: "It is not glory that is essential for the writer... it is the patience to endure." "To carry his cross and keep hope."

Camus: "Everyone wants the man who is still searching to have reached his conclusions."

The secret life lived in darkness. The man who always appears in darkness or has an aura of darkness around him.

The mother who buys a cup of hot drink from the vending machine; the son's shame at witnessing it from afar.

Even a life of inconsistencies is consistent in that sense.
[Fox] reasoned like this: What is wrong with the 'unredeemed' man? Well, he is lazy, he lacks high ideals, he cannot see beyond tomorrow. What, therefore, is his salvation? Not to be afraid of aiming high, not to be afraid of feeling that the mantle of all poets and prophets who ever lived has descended on his shoulders, his alone; that upon him depends the future state of all the race. When Fox accepted this for himself, he ceased to be a miserable Outsider and became a great leader. He advised everyone to try the same remedy. But surely, one could object, all men are not Outsiders? Nonsense, Fox would say, let any man open his eyes to the world he lives in, and he'll become an Outsider immediately. He will begin by thinking he sees 'too deep and too much'; he will end by realizing that you cannot see too deep and too much.

—Colin Wilson, The Outsider

Dec 20, 2011

You Learn.

After a while you learn the subtle difference
Between holding a hand and chaining a soul,

And you learn that love doesn’t mean leaning
And company doesn’t mean security.

And you begin to learn that kisses aren’t contracts
And presents aren’t promises,

And you begin to accept your defeats
With your head up and your eyes open
With the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child,

And you learn to build all your roads on today
Because tomorrow’s ground is too uncertain for plans
And futures have a way of falling down in mid-flight.

After a while you learn…
That even sunshine burns if you get too much.

So you plant your garden and decorate your own soul,
Instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.

And you learn that you really can endure…

That you really are strong

And you really do have worth…

And you learn and learn…

With every good-bye you learn.

—Jorge Luis Borges

Dec 19, 2011

The man visits the same café every afternoon. He would order a strong black coffee and sit at the table in the corner. He would look into his cup, stir the dark liquid slowly with the teaspoon, and think. Then, after a while, he would open a book and read for an hour or two. He is not like the other patrons. Mostly they go in pairs or more, and their tables are always filled with laughter and chatter, but he is always alone, always quiet, with a book. Last week, he was reading The Great Gatsby; today, he begins Journey to the End of the Night. The afternoon would go by. Then, when he is done, he would close his book lightly, quietly clear his empty cup, and leave. Nobody knows him, he doesn't say goodbye to anyone, he doesn't even leave an echo of himself as others do when they stand up to go and push their chairs noisily across the floor.

Also, on the topic of cafés:

"And he told me all romantics meet the same fate someday:
Cynical and drunk and boring someone in some dark café."

—Joni Mitchell (via A Poet Reflects)

But if one were able to read minds, one would discover that human beings are not dead. There is so much going on in our heads—on this I assume that we all can think—but we don't make them all happen. I drink my coffee in silence as I think about how I'd be a hero and all fighting crime or just telling the lady who cut everyone's queue to queue up. But I let it slip. I let life slip by. We let life slip by. If only we would be strong enough—because we are. If only we would make this day less ordinary.
     "I have a feeling that you're riding for some kind of a terrible, terrible fall. But I don't honestly know what kind. It may be the kind where, at the age of thirty, you sit in some bar hating everybody who comes in looking as if he might have played football in college. Then again, you may pick up just enough education to hate people who say, 'It's a secret between he and I.' Or you may end up in some business office, throwing paper clips at the nearest stenographer. I just don't know. This fall I think you're riding for—it's a special kind of fall, a horrible kind. The man falling isn't permitted to feel or hear himself hit bottom. He just keeps falling and falling. The whole arrangement's designed for men who, at some time or other in their lives, were looking for something their own environment couldn't supply them with. Or they thought their own environment couldn't supply them with. So they gave up looking. They gave it up before they ever really even got started. I don't want to scare you, but I can very clearly see you dying nobly, one way or another, for some highly unworthy cause.
     "I think that one of these days, you're going to have to find out where you want to go. And then you've got to start going there. But immediately. You can't afford to lose a minute. And I think that once you have a fair idea where you want to go, your first move will be to apply yourself in school. You'll have to. You're a student—whether the idea appeals to you or not. You're in love with knowledge. And I think you'll find, once you get past all the Mr. Vinsons, you're going to start getting closer and closer—that is, if you want to, and if you look for it and wait for it—to the kind of information that will be very, very dear to your heart. Among other things, you'll find that you're not the first person who was ever confused and frightened and even sickened by human behavior. You're by no means alone on that score, you'll be excited and stimulated to know. Many, many men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now. Happily, some of them kept records of their troubles. You'll learn from them—if you want to. Just as someday, if you have something to offer, someone will learn something from you. It's a beautiful reciprocal arrangement. And it isn't education. It's history. It's poetry."

—J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

Dec 14, 2011

"You know what I'd like to be? You know what I'd like to be? I mean if I had my goddam choice? You know that song 'If a body catch a body comin' through the rye'? I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody's around—nobody big, I mean—except me. And I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff—I mean if they're running and they don't look where they're going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That's all I'd do all day. I'd just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it's crazy, but that's the only thing I'd really like to be. I know it's crazy."

—J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye
It's crazy, but even I feel the same way. I don't care if all I've done was to destroy myself completely, jumping off cliffs and all, but if I can help it someday I'd like to save all of them young and innocent and impressionable ones from falling. I don't care if it's not a proper job; at least it's a sort of work to do. I don't care if it'll kill me for trying, but I'd rather be the one to die a thousand times than watch a thousand die.

God I'm so removed from reality I don't know the way back to Earth anymore.

Carpus & Calamus.

Have you ever died for someone you love? Of course you haven't; you wouldn't be here otherwise. Tell me then, if anyone has ever died for you out of love and did that not make all the difference to your life. Would it be that if I had such courage I would myself have become Calamus, yet for my ignorance I will live the remainder of my life in melancholy. Dear Carpus, my dear Carpus, I have failed. My love was not strong enough and I have betrayed you.
So many dreams recently.

My father and I were waiting for a bus. I was too tired and couldn't see clearly - it was a dream after all. The bus came but I flagged it down too late, and my father too failed to see it arrive. It left. I felt like a failure in front of my father, but at the same time I felt ashamed of him.

I was trying to climb down from a tower. I couldn't find the way I came from and so had to retrace my steps. I went up again and took some new paths which only made it worse - I wasn't any closer getting down and now I forgot too how to return from the new way. I didn't know where to go anymore and was hanging from a ladder rung thousands of feet in the air. If all else fails I'd jump, I told myself. And then I woke up bathed in sweat and fear.
Perhaps I'm not that good at all. But perhaps, like villains, I want to think that I am capable of something too.
Like Harry Haller I too have stumbled upon my own Magic Theatre, and discovering Steppenwolf turns out to be another grand illusion of my reality. Nothing seems real, yet everything is. I don't know anymore; but even as I say this secretly I think I know more than I will admit.

Since my recent return to the world of things—feet on firm ground—I've hung out more with some mates and even engaged myself in a team sport. They look genuinely happy at my return but a Steppenwolf doubts such joy. I ought to have been guilty of causing distress by my disappearing acts after all; why isn't anybody angry with me? Perhaps I would have felt better if I were given a slap. I am sure I will be happier for it. I demanded the best and worst of people; I am sore that everyone else only want more fun in their lives.

It must then be me: I am an egomaniac. An immature little boy who prefers mama's constant discipline to my own. A failure, insofar as I chose this role so that I can constantly leech off others' goodwill and need not hold myself responsible for my life. So mired in my guilt from existing that I shall rob the world for giving me this life without my permission, and whether I choose to act or not Adam and his apple hangs like a guillotine above me for all time.

Dec 13, 2011

The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause;
the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one.

—Wilhelm Stekel

Dec 10, 2011

It becomes darker and darker every minute. In the little corner the man reads his book until he struggles with increasing difficulty to see the words. The commas become periods and the periods become invisible. But he doesn't want, at least for now, to turn the lights on. It's quite special, really, to be reading until the darkness takes over everything and one can no longer see anything.

J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye. Yet another heroic novel written by a very reclusive, very sensitive man. My mother has gone shopping, my father has gone to a wake, and my brother has gone out with his friends. Before they left, Mommy asked if I wanted to follow her. I said no, only because I knew that I would be reading my book until it turns dark today. So the world spins on, and in dark little rooms some men hide in the shadows of their existences not really wanting to be found. Not for today, at least.

Dec 9, 2011

Nobody can go back and start a new beginning,
but anyone can start today and make a new ending.

—Maria Robinson
I needed a young painter ... who would awaken me. —Gertrude Stein

...Art cannot live before devotion. It is one thing to create and another to create something alive, which is only achievable when the artist channels his energies from an experience, object or person which has moved him deeply, into his work. There are too many people who would readily proclaim themselves artists because their work involve creation or creativity. It is a misleading fad of the present times that drives too many people to want to become artists, but the truth is that any work is a potential masterpiece and anyone who toils with the right attitude is an artist at work...