Sunday, March 27, 2022

Wise words

Thoughts on Art from creative people born March 28:

from Russian writer and political activist Maxim Gorky (Na dne, Mat', Destvo, V lyudyakh, Moi univeritety, Rasskazy 1922–1924, Delo Artamonovykh, Zhizn' Klima Samgina) (1868-1936):

The good qualities in our soul are most successfully and forcefully awakened by the power of art. Just as science is the intellect of the world, art is its soul.

You must write for children the same way you write for adults, only better.

Many contemporary authors drink more than they write.

In recalling my childhood I like to picture myself as a beehive to which various simple obscure people brought the honey of their knowledge and thoughts on life, generously enriching my character with their own experience. Often this honey was dirty and bitter, but every scrap of knowledge was honey all the same.

Writers build castles in the air, the reader lives inside, and the publisher inns the rent.


from American fiction writer and essayist Nelson Algren (The Neon Wilderness, The Man with the Golden Arm, A Walk on the Wild Side, Chicago: City on the Make) (1909-1981):

You don't write a novel out of sheer pity any more than you blow a safe out of a vague longing to be rich. A certain ruthlessness and a sense of alienation from society is as essential to creative writing as it is to armed robbery.

Any writer who knows what he's doing isn't doing very much.

Thinking of Poe, thinking of Mark Twain and Vachel Lindsay, thinking of Jack London and Tom Wolfe, one begins to feel there is almost no way of becoming a creative writer in America without being a loser.

The hard necessity of bringing the judge on the bench down into the dock has been the peculiar responsibility of the writer in all ages of man.

One of the best things Henry Miller ever said was that art goes all out. It's all out. It goes full length. . . . A big book is an all-out book in which you limit your life to things that pertain directly to the book.

A book, a true book, is the writer's confessional. For, whether he would have it so or not, he is betrayed, directly or indirectly, by his characters, into presenting publicly his innermost feelings.

The only way I could finish a book and get a plot was just to keep making it longer until something happens.


from Peruvian Nobel Prize-winning author Mario Vargas Llosa (La ciudad y los perros, La casa verde, Conversación en la catedral, La guerra del fin del mundo, La fiesta del chivo) (b. 1936):

Like writing, reading is a protest against the insufficiencies of life.

Literature is dangerous: it awakens a rebellious attitude in us.

Literature is a form of permanent insurrection. Its mission is to arouse, to disturb, to alarm, to keep men in a constant state of dissatisfaction with themselves.

Good literature is absolutely necessary for a society that wants to be free.

No matter how ephemeral it is, a novel is something, while despair is nothing.

Only if I reach 100 years old will I write a very complete autobiography. Not before.

Memory is a snare, pure and simple; it alters, it subtly rearranges the past to fit the present.

There are many things behind a good novel, but in particular there is a lot of work—a lot of patience, a lot of stubbornness, and a critical spirit.

In my case, literature is a kind of revenge. It's something that gives me what real life can't give me—all the adventures, all the suffering. All the experiences I can only live in the imagination, literature completes.

Writers are the exorcists of their own demons.

You cannot teach creativity—how to become a good writer. But you can help a young writer discover within himself what kind of writer he would like to be.


from American novelist Russell Banks (Continental Drift, Affliction, The Sweet Hereafter, Rule of the Bone, Cloudsplitter, The Darling) (b. 1940):

But really, it was reading that led me to writing. And in particular, reading the American classics like Twain who taught me at an early age that ordinary lives of ordinary people can be made into high art.

And out of a desire essentially to imitate what I was reading, I began to write, like a clever monkey.

My major allegiance has been to storytelling, not to history.

If you dedicate your attention to discipline in your life you become smarter while you are writing than while you are hanging out with your pals or in any other line of work.

Through writing, through that process, they realize that they become more intelligent, and more honest and more imaginative than they can be in any other part of their life.

Lists of books we re-read and books we can't finish tell more about us than about the relative worth of the books themselves.

But on the other hand, I don't actively seek out stories or hunt them down.


from American Tony- and Emmy-winning actor Ken Howard (Child’s Play, Grey Gardens); also known for 1776 and The White Shadow (1944-2016):

When television gets in trouble is when it forgets that it all begins with the written word.


from Franco–Belgian playwright, novelist, and short story writer Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt (Le Visiteur, Enigma Variations, Le Cycle de l'invisible, L'Evangile selon Pilate, Ma Vie avec Mozart) (b. 1960):

When I start a book, it's every day. There is no Saturday, no Sunday. It's every day, because if I stop one day, I'm afraid of losing the book and losing the energy.

I wanted to become a director before I wanted to become a writer. When I was 10, people would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I said, “Walt Disney.” I wanted to make films. But I wasn't offered a camera. I was offered language. So I started telling stories in the theatre and then in my novels.

I consider a house without books or a piano to be unfurnished.


from American fiction writer Jennifer Weiner (Cannie Shapiro series, In Her Shoes, Little Earthquakes, The Littlest Bigfoot series) (b. 1970):

When I was five I learned to read. Books were a miracle to me—white pages, black ink, and new worlds and different friends in each one. To this day, I relish the feeling of cracking a binding for the first time, the anticipation of where I'll go and whom I'll meet inside.

Read everything. Read fiction and non-fiction, read hot best sellers and the classics you never got around to in college.

Cram your head with characters and stories. Abuse your library privileges. Never stop looking at the world, and never stop reading to find out what sense other people have made of it. If people give you a hard time and tell you to get your nose out of a book, tell them you're working. Tell them it's research. Tell them to pipe down and leave you alone.

The difference between people who believe they have books inside of them and those who actually write books is sheer cussed persistence—the ability to make yourself work at your craft, every day—the belief, even in the face of obstacles, that you've got something worth saying.

Tell the story that's been growing in your heart, the characters you can't keep out of your head, the tale story that speaks to you, that pops into your head during your daily commute, that wakes you up in the morning.


from American novelist Lauren Weisberger (The Devil Wears Prada, Chasing Harry Winston, Revenge Wears Prada) (b. 1977):

So much of my own life inspires what I write. Whether it's work, family, friends, motherhood, I am a writer who tends to write what she knows. In 'Revenge Wears Prada,' a great deal of my own life finds its way into the book.

Naturally, I mine my girlfriends' lives for good anecdotes and stories—so many of their experiences find their way into my books.

So much of writing is done alone in a room in sweatpants, with only the Internet for company.

It's the hardest thing in the world to dedicate to writing, but if you do that even once a week, after six months or a year you'll have something substantial.

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Wise words

Thoughts on Art from creative people born March 21:

from German Romantic author Jean Paul (Die unsichtbare Loge, Hesperus, Siebenkäs, Titan, Dr. Katzenbergers Badereise) (1763-1825):

Art is indeed not the bread but the wine of life.

Never write on a subject without first having read yourself full on it; and never read on a subject till you have thought yourself hungry on it.

A scholar knows no boredom.


from German-born American Abstract Expressionist painter and teacher Hans Hofmann (Effervescence, The Gate, Auxerre) (1880-1966):

Art leads to a more profound concept of life, because art itself is a profound expression of feeling. The artist is born, and art is the expression of his overflowing soul.

Creation is dominated by three absolutely different factors: First, nature, which works upon us by its laws; second, the artist, who creates a spiritual contact with nature and his materials; third, the medium of expression through which the artist translates his inner world.

Art is something absolute, something positive, which gives power just as food gives power. While creative science is a mental food, art is the satisfaction of the soul.

My aim in painting is to create pulsating, luminous, and open surfaces that emanate a mystic light, in accordance with my deepest insight into the experience of life and nature.

A thing in itself never expresses anything. It is the relation between things that gives meaning to them and that formulates a thought. A thought functions only as a fragmentary part in the formulation of an idea.

Color is a plastic means of creating intervals… color harmonics produced by special relationships, or tensions. We differentiate now between formal tensions and color tensions, just as we differentiate in music between counterpoint and harmony.

Art is to me the glorification of the human spirit, and as such it is the cultural documentation of the time in which it is produced.

Painters must speak through paint, not through words.

The whole world, as we experience it visually, comes to us through the mystic realm of color. Our entire being is nourished by it. This mystic quality of color should likewise find expression in a work of art.

It is not the form that dictates the color, but the color that brings out the form.

Art is magic... But how is it magic? In its metaphysical development? Or does some final transformation culminate in a magic reality? In truth, the latter is impossible without the former. If creation is not magic, the outcome cannot be magic.

A work of art is finished, from the point of view of the artist, when feeling and perception have resulted in a spiritual synthesis.

People say “Hofmann has different styles.” I have not. I have different moods; I am not two days the same man.

Through a painting, we can see the whole world.


from American Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Phyllis McGinley (Times Three: Selected Verse from Three Decades); also noted for children’s books such as All Around the Town (1905-1978):

A bit of trash now and then is good for the severest reader. It provides the necessary roughage in the literary diet.


from Australian author Frank Hardy (Power Without Glory, The Yarns of Billy Borker, The Unlucky Australians) (1917-1994):

The truth is impossible to comprehend even when one is willing to tell it. For the truth resides in memory and memory is clouded with repression and a desire to embellish. The recollections of any individual are conditioned by the general truths to which he or she has tried to live. To recall an event is to interpret it, so the truth is altered by the very act of remembering. Therefore the truth, like God, does not exist—only the search for it.


from English Tony- and Emmy-winning director Peter Brook (Marat/Sade, A Midsummer Night's Dream, La tragédie de Carmen, The Mahabharata) (b. 1925):

A stage space has two rules: (1) Anything can happen and (2) Something must happen.

Drama is exposure; it is confrontation; it is contradiction and it leads to analysis, construction, recognition and eventually to an awakening of understanding.

A word does not start as a word—it is an end product which begins as an impulse, stimulated by attitude and behaviour which dictates the need for expression.

I can take any empty space and call it a bare stage. A man walks across this empty space, whilst someone else is watching him, and this is all that is needed for an act of theatre to be engaged.


from New Zealand children's and YA author Margaret Mahy (A Lion in the Meadow, The Haunting, The Changeover, The Tricksters, Memory, Under-runners, A Summery Saturday Morning, A Villain's Night Out, 24 Hours) (1936-2012):

When you are reading, someone has done a lot of work on your behalf, someone has had ideas and has then written and corrected and improved them so that they can be shared.

Reading is very creative—it's not just a passive thing. I write a story; it goes out into the world; somebody reads it and, by reading it, completes it.

Being a librarian certainly helped me with my writing because it made me even more of a reader, and I was always an enthusiastic reader. Writing and reading seem to me to be different aspects of a single imaginative act.

There are certainly times when my own everyday life seems to retreat so the life of the story can take me over. That is why a writer often needs space and time, so that he or she can abandon ordinary life and “live” with the characters.

By the time ordinary life asserted itself once more, I would feel I had already lived for a while in some other lifetime, that I had even taken over someone else's life.

It can certainly happen that characters in more sophisticated stories can "take over" as they develop and change the author's original ideas. Well, it certainly happens to me at times.

I was able to work out all sorts of attitudes to style and event and character, all of which affected the way I came to think about my own writing. I believe that all good writers are original.

Try not to become disappointed if someone doesn't like a story you've written. Stick up for your ideas, but listen to what other people say, too. They might have good advice.

Every writer has to find their own way into writing.


from Singaporean author Catherine Lim (Little Ironies: Short Stories of Singapore, Or Else, The Lightning God and Other Stories, The Serpent's Tooth, The Bondmaid) (b. 1942):

I draw my inspiration and material from life around me; from people I’ve known.

I write because I enjoy it. I write about things that interest me—human behaviour, human relationships, the not-so-pleasant abilities people possess to deceive one another, seek revenge, inflict pain. And their capacity to bear it all as well.

I’m so sensitive to irony that if I see a situation, I witness something, I hear something, I read a report in the newspaper about something, and I see it as potential for a short story, my ironic sense immediately creates a narrative and then I sit down and write.

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Wise words


Thoughts on Art from creative people born on March 14:

from British writer Algernon Blackwood (The Empty House and Other Ghost Stories, Incredible Adventures, The Doll and One Other) (1869-1951):

I used to tell strange, wild, improbable tales akin to ghost stories, and discovered a taste for spinning yarns.

Invention has ever imagination and poetry at its heart.


from German-born American Nobel Prize-winning physicist Albert Einstein (1879-1955):

I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.

If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.


from American Abstract Expressionist painter Adolph Gottlieb (Vigil, Labyrinth 1, Frozen Sounds Number 1, Unstill Life III, Blues, Burst) (1903-1974):

I use color in terms of emotional quality, as a vehicle for feeling... feeling is everything I have experienced or thought.

I never use nature as a starting point. I never abstract from nature; I never consciously think of nature when I paint.

Painting is self-discovery. You arrive at the image through the act of painting.

But to me everything is nature, including any feelings that I have—or dreams. Everything is part of nature. Even painting has become part of nature. To clarify further: I don’t have an ideological approach or a doctrinaire approach to my work. I just paint from my personal feelings, and my reflexes and instincts. I have to trust these.

My favorite symbols were those which I didn't understand.

I want to express the utmost intensity of the color, bring out the quality, make it expressive.

When I work, I'm thinking in terms of purely visual effects and relations, and any verbal equivalent is something that comes afterwards. But it's inconceivable to me that I could experience things and not have them enter into my painting.

The role of the artist has always been that of image-maker. Different times require different images. Today when our aspirations have been reduced to a desperate attempt to escape from evil, and times are out of joint, our obsessive, subterranean and pictographic images are the expression of the neurosis which is our reality. To my mind certain so-called abstraction is not abstraction at all. On the contrary, it is the realism of our time.

To us art is an adventure into an unknown world, which can be explored only by those willing to take the risk.

Right now I am sick of the idea of all the pretty good pictures and want a picture that is either damn good or no good.

(with Mark Rothko):

We favor the simple expression of the complex thought. We are for the large shape because it has the impact of the unequivocal. We wish to reassert the picture plane. We are for flat forms because they destroy illusion and reveal truth.


from French sociologist, historian, and political commentator Raymond Aron (L’Opium des intellectuels, Paix et guerre entre les nations, Démocratie et totalitarisme, Les Étapes de la pensée sociologique) (1905-1983):

In writing if it takes over 30 minutes to write the first two paragraphs select another subject.


from American Pulitzer Prize-, Oscar-, and Emmy-winning playwright and screenwriter Horton Foote (The Young Man from Atlanta, To Kill a Mockingbird, Tender Mercies, William Faulkner’s Old Man); also noted for The Trip to Bountiful, The Orphan’s Home Cycle (1916-2009):

I know that people think I have a certain style, but I think style is like the color of the eyes. I don't know that you choose that.

I think there's certain things you don't choose. I don't think that you can choose a style; I think a style chooses you. I think that's almost an unconscious choice. And I don't know that you can choose subject matter, really. I think that's almost an unconscious choice. I have a theory that from the time you're 12 years old all your themes are kind of locked in.

A writer has an inescapable voice. I think it's inherent in the nature, and I think that we don't control it anymore than we control what we want to write about.

But I don't really write to honor the past. I write to investigate, to try to figure out what happened and why it happened, knowing I'll never really know. I think all the writers that I admire have this same desire, the desire to bring order out of chaos.

When you're a writer, you have to write these stories, even if you don't get paid.

I don't think I'll ever stop writing. I write almost every day. I'd write plays even if they were never done again. You're at the mercy of whatever talent you have.

If I ever teach writing again, I’d say the first lesson is to listen.


from American photographer Diane Arbus (Esquire, Harper’s Bazaar, The Sunday Times Magazine, Untitled, Artforum); noted for photographs of marginalized people (1923-1971):

If I stand in front of something, instead of arranging it, I arrange myself.

You see someone on the street, and essentially what you notice about them is the flaw.

For me, the subject of the picture is always more important than the picture.

A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you the less you know.

I never have taken a picture I've intended. They're always better or worse.


from English novelist, poet, and playwright John Wain CBE (Hurry On Down, Strike the Father Dead, Nuncle and Other Stories, Young Shoulders) (1925-1994):

I have nothing to say. And I am saying it. That's poetry.

Sunday, March 6, 2022

Wise words


Thoughts on Art from creative people born 07 March:

from English astronomer Sir John Herschel (Results of Astronomical Observations, Outlines of Astronomy) (1792-1871):

The novel, in its best form, I regard as one of the most powerful engines of civilization ever invented.

Were I to pray for a taste which should stand me in good stead under every variety of circumstances and be a source of happiness and a cheerfulness to me during life and a shield against its ills, however things might go amiss and the world frown upon me, it would be a taste for reading.

There is a gentle, but perfectly irresistible coercion in a habit of reading well directed, over the whole tenor of a man's character and conduct, which is not the less effectual because it works insensibly, and because it is really the last thing he dreams of.


from Dutch abstract art painter Piet Mondrian (The Gray Tree, Composition II in Red, Blue, and Yellow, Broadway Boogie Woogie) (1872-1944):

Art is not made for anybody and is, at the same time, for everybody.

The position of the artist is humble. He is essentially a channel.

Art is higher than reality and has no direct relation to reality. To approach the spiritual in art, one will make as little use as possible of reality, because reality is opposed to the spiritual. We find ourselves in the presence of an abstract art. Art should be above reality, otherwise it would have no value for man.

The only problem in art is to achieve a balance between the subjective and the objective.

In art the search for a content which is collectively understandable is false; the content will always be individual.

I don't want pictures, I want to find things out.


from French composer, pianist, and conductor Maurice Ravel (Menuet, Pavane, Le Tombeau de Couperin, Boléro) (1875-1937):

I begin by considering an effect.

I did my work slowly, drop by drop. I tore it out of me by pieces.

Music, I feel, must be emotional first and intellectual second.

You might lose your spontaneity and, instead of composing first-rate Gershwin, end up with second rate Ravel.

We should always remember that sensitiveness and emotion constitute the real content of a work of art.

Whatever sauce you put around the melody is a matter of taste. What is important is the melodic line.

Does it not occur to people that I might be artificial by nature?


from American novelist and short story writer Ben Ames Williams (Come Spring, Leave Her to Heaven, House Divided, The Unconquered, Saturday Evening Post) (1889-1953):

An author never has a vacation. He's a walking sponge, sopping up impressions till he's saturated, then going to his desk and squeezing them out on paper.


from British Emmy-winning and celebrity photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones, 1st Earl of Snowdon (Don’t Count the Candles) (1930-2017):

I'm very much against photographs being framed and treated with reverence and signed and sold as works of art. They aren't. They should be seen in a magazine or a book and then be used to wrap up the fish and chucked away.

I believe that photographs should be simple technically, and easy to look at. They shouldn't be directed at other photographers; their point is to make ordinary people react—to laugh, or to see something they hadn't taken in before, or to be touched. But not to wince, I think.

I'm not a great one for chatting people up, because it's phony. I don't want people to feel at ease. You want a bit of edge. There are quite long, agonized silences. I love it. Something strange might happen. I mean, taking photographs is a very nasty thing to do. It's very cruel.


from British novelist Andrea Levy (Small Island, The Long Song) (1956-2019):

Describe snow to someone who's lived in the desert. Depict the colour blue for a blind man. Almost impossible to fashion the word.

There are some words that once spoken will split the world in two. There would be the life before you breathed them and then the altered life after they'd been said. They take a long time to find, words like that. They make you hesitate. Choose with care.


from English best-selling novelist Robert Dennis Harris (Fatherland, Archangel) (b. 1957):

A book unwritten is a delightful universe of infinite possibilities. Set down one word, however, and it immediately becomes earthbound. Set down one sentence and it’s halfway to being just like every other bloody book that’s ever been written.

Of all human activities, writing is the one for which it is easiest to find excuses not to begin—the desk’s too big, the desk’s too small, there’s too much noise, there’s too much quiet, it’s too hot, too cold, too early, too late. I had learned over the years to ignore them all, and simply to start.

All good books are different but all bad books are exactly the same. I know this to be a fact because in my line of work I read a lot of bad books—books so bad they aren't even published, which is quite a feat, when you consider what is published. And what they all have in common, these bad books, be they novels or memoirs, is this: they don't ring true. I'm not saying that a good book is true necessarily, just that it feels true for the time you're reading it.


from American writer and environmental activist Rick Bass (Where the Sea Used to Be, The Lives of Rocks, Why I Came West, For a Little While) (b. 1958):

There's an enormous difference between being a story writer and being a regular person. As a person, it's your duty to stay on a straight and even keel, not to break down blubbering in the streets, not to pull rude drivers from their cars, not to swing from the branches of trees. But as a writer it's your duty to lie and to view everything in life, however outrageous, as an interesting possibility. You may need to be ruthless or amoral in your writing to be original. Telling a story straight from real life is only being a reporter, not a creator. You have to make your story bigger, better, more magical, more meaningful than life is, no matter how special or wonderful in real life the moment may have been.

There are no new stories in nature, only new observers.

Write every day. Don't ever stop. If you are unpublished, enjoy the act of writing—and if you are published, keep enjoying the act of writing. Don't become self-satisfied, don't stop moving ahead, growing, making it new. The stakes are high. Why else would we write?


from British best-selling novelist E. L. James (Fifty Shades novels) (b. 1963):

Write for yourself. That's it. And write every day.


from American novelist Bret Easton Ellis (Less Than Zero, The Rules of Attraction, American Psycho, The Informers, Glamorama, Lunar Park, Imperial Bedrooms) (b. 1964):

Every book for me is an exorcism in some way or another, working through my feelings at the time.

Writing a novel that works is an extremely difficult thing to do. It requires a level of skill and dedication that always surprises me.

No one is drawn to writing about being happy or feelings of joy.

It's the rare book that's able to transport you in a way that a movie does.

I'd rather let the fiction speak for itself and I don't want to write fiction that tells people how to feel, and I don't want to be judgmental in the fiction.

All of my books come from pain.

I needed something—the distraction of another life—to alleviate fear.

Not being able to find meaning can be just as powerful as finding meaning.

Writing a novel is not method acting and I find it easy to step out of it at cocktail hour.

I write books to relieve myself of pain. That's the prime motivator to write. Period.

I like the idea of a writer being haunted by his own creation, especially if the writer resents the way the character defines him.

You do not write a novel for praise, or thinking of your audience. You write for yourself; you work out between you and your pen the things that intrigue you.

Life is like a typographical error: we're constantly writing and rewriting things over each other.

I really believe that readers are smart and sophisticated enough to realize that the author is not the narrator of his novels.

I've never written an autobiographical novel in my life. I've never touched upon my life. I've never written a single scene that I can say took place.

You don't market-research a novel; you really are writing it for yourself. It's a hobby, in many ways. The problem becomes what you do when you're confronted by criticism. You just don't listen to it.

There’s no grand plan. All I know is that I write the books I want to write. All that other stuff is meaningless to me.

I don't know why I write what I write.


from American writer and folklorist Ari Berk (The Undertaken trilogy, Secret History series, William Shakespeare: His Life and Times, Goblins!, Lady Cottington's Pressed Fairy Letters, The Runes of Elfland) (b. 1967):

I am a book also, words and thoughts and stories held together by flesh. We open and close ourselves to the world. We are read by others or put away by them. We wait to be seen, sitting quietly on shelves for someone to bother having a look inside us.


from American best-selling fantasy writer Brent Weeks (The Night Angel trilogy, Lightbringer series) (b. 1977):      

The truth is, everyone likes to look down on someone. If your favorites are all avant-garde writers who throw in Sanskrit and German, you can look down on everyone. If your favorites are all Oprah Book Club books, you can at least look down on mystery readers. Mystery readers have sci-fi readers. Sci-fi can look down on fantasy. And yes, fantasy readers have their own snobbishness. I’ll bet this, though: in a hundred years, people will be writing a lot more dissertations on Harry Potter than on John Updike. Look, Charles Dickens wrote popular fiction. Shakespeare wrote popular fiction—until he wrote his sonnets, desperate to show the literati of his day that he was real artist. Edgar Allan Poe tied himself in knots because no one realized he was a genius. The core of the problem is how we want to define “literature”. The Latin root simply means “letters”. Those letters are either delivered—they connect with an audience—or they don’t. For some, that audience is a few thousand college professors and some critics. For others, its twenty million women desperate for romance in their lives. Those connections happen because the books successfully communicate something real about the human experience. Sure, there are trashy books that do really well, but that’s because there are trashy facets of humanity. What people value in their books—and thus what they count as literature—really tells you more about them than it does about the book.


from American screenwriter Kyle Killen (Lone Star, The Beaver, Mind Games, Halo) (b. 1981):

I tend to be really interested in characters who, instead of just asking the question, end up exploring what it would mean to try to have it more than one way.

Writing is like a heroin addiction—if you can quit, you totally should.


from American best-selling poet and activist Amanda Gorman (The One for Whom Food Is Not Enough, The Hill We Climb, Call Us What We Carry); the first National Youth Poet Laureate (b. 1998):

Words matter, for

Language is an ark.


Language is an art,

An articulate artifact.

Language is a life craft.


Language is a life raft.


I am the daughter of Black writers who are descended from Freedom Fighters who broke their chains and changed the world. They call me.

I was obsessed with everything and anything; I wanted to learn everything, to read everything, to do everything. I was constantly on sensory overload. I’d hoard dozens of books in my second-grade cubby, and literally try to read two at a time, side by side.

Poetry has never been the language of barriers, it’s always been the language of bridges.

You don’t have to be a poet, you don’t have to be a politician or be in the White House to make an impact with your words. We all have this capacity to find solutions for the future.

Poetry is interesting because not everyone is going to become a great poet, but anyone can be, and anyone can enjoy poetry, and it’s this openness, this accessibility of poetry that makes it the language of people.

Poetry and language are often at the heartbeat of movements for change.

Poetry is the lens we use to interrogate the history we stand on and the future we stand for.