Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Submerged in fear and suspicion,
with troubled mind and frightened eyes,
we dissolve. We make plans
to avoid the certain danger
so dreadfully threatening us.
But we are mistaken. It does not lie in our path.
The messages were lies
(or we did not fear or heard wrong).
Another catastrophe, never imagined,
sudden, falling in torrents,
finds us unprepared--out of time--and bears us away.

Constantine P. Cavafy, translated by Aliki Barnstone

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

For the Young Who Want To

Talent is what they say
you have after the novel
is published and favorably
reviewed. Beforehand what
you have is a tedious
delusion, a hobby like knitting.

Work is what you have done
after the play is produced
and the audience claps.
Before that friends keep asking
when you are planning to go
out and get a job.

Genius is what they know you
had after the third volume
of remarkable poems. Earlier
they accuse you of withdrawing,
ask why you don't have a baby,
call you a bum.

The reason people want M.F.A.'s,
take workshops with fancy names
when all you can really
learn is a few techniques,
typing instructions and some-
body else's mannerisms

is that every artist lacks
a license to hang on the wall
like your optician, your vet
proving you may be a clumsy sadist
whose fillings fall into the stew
but you're certified a dentist.

The real writer is one
who really writes. Talent
is an invention like phlogiston
after the fact of fire.
Work is its own cure. You have to
like it better than being loved.

Marge Piercy

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Sweet Violets

You are brief and frail and blue-
Little sisters, I am, too.
You are Heaven's masterpieces-
Little loves, the likeness ceases.

Dorothy Parker

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Coin

Into my heart's treasury
I slipped a coin
That time cannot take
Nor a thief purloin, --

Oh better than the minting
Of a gold-crowned king
Is the safe-kept memory
Of a lovely thing

Sara Teasdale