The greatest hazard of all, losing one’s self, can occur very quietly in the world, as if it were nothing at all. No other loss can occur so quietly; any other loss - an arm, a leg, five dollars, a wife, etc. - is sure to be noticed.
You know, they straightened out the Mississippi River in places, to make room for houses and livable acreage. Occasionally the river floods these places. “Floods” is the word they use, but in fact it is not flooding; it is remembering. Remembering where it used to be. All water has a perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it was. Writers are like that: remembering where we were, what valley we ran through, what the banks were like, the light that was there and the route back to our original place. It is emotional memory — what the nerves and the skin remember as well as how it appeared. And a rush of imagination if is our “flooding.”
Toni Morrison, excerpt from “The Site of Memory,” What Moves at the Margin: Selected Nonfiction (via commovente)
Anne Sexton sometimes seemed like a woman without skin. She felt everything so intensely, had so little capacity to filter out pain that everyday events often seemed unbearable to her. Paradoxically it is also that skinlessness which makes a poet. One must have the gift of language, but even a great gift is useless without the other curse: the eyes that see so sharply they often want to close.
I tell my students, ‘When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else. This is not just a grab-bag candy game.’
Next year I will not be the self of this year now. And that is why I laugh at the transient, the ephemeral; laugh, while clutching, holding, tenderly, like a fool his toy, cracked glass, water through fingers. For all the writing, for all the invention of engines to express & convey & capture life, it is the living of it that is the gimmick. It goes by, and whatever dream you use to dope up the pains and hurts, it goes. Delude yourself about printed islands of permanence. You’ve only got so long to live. You’re getting your dream. Things are working, blind forces, no personal spiritual beneficent ones except your own intelligence and the good will of a few other fools and fellow humans. So hit it while it’s hot.