By reading worlds of relentless darkness, repeatedly made new through the language of dreams and fables, we can maybe more deeply access empathy and hope for the world we’re living in.
As Angie pities Simon, Mia pities Elena. This is one of the roles, it seems, of the artist pitied by a conventional community: to voice the truth about people, the mistakes they won’t admit to themselves.
Czeslaw Milosz’s work explores the disorientation of time, the pain of dislocation, and the porous border between community and solitude. He writes with awe about both small moments and large expanses of time, and evokes eternity in everyday encounters between people; his poems feel at once lonely and communal.
Eileen Myles’ “Peanut Butter,” Jane Hirshfield’s “My Species,” and Robert Frost’s “Birches” each use plainspoken vocabulary and domestic imagery to branch outwards towards life’s most urgent questions; each poem locates itself in small, particular moments of bliss and wonder.
Lovesickness of the kind Cynthia Ozick describes is intimately linked with language. The essay, both in content and form, suggests that the beauty and purpose of infatuation is in its generation of language, a purpose particularly fruitful for a writer.
A tantalizing bildungsroman beginning convinces the reader not only that the protagonist is worth listening to, or that the world of the novel is worth observing, but also that there is an interesting friction between the narrator and her surroundings.
Poems by Laura Kasischke and Valzhyna Mort explore the power that a fragment of language can have—especially a fragment heard long ago, and recalled in a space somewhere between recollection and invention.
In poems by Margaret Atwood, Naomi Shihab Nye, and Robert Frost, we get a sense of the claustrophobia of winter without being overpowered by it.
Works by Lydia Davis and Philip Larkin capture a disjoint between individual and community, or individual and environment. Both suggest that speech doesn’t disappear or break down entirely when there’s such a disconnect. Instead, it just becomes difficult to access positive, generous, and honest speech.
“Good Night and Good Luck” and “Debts,” by Grace Paley, are kinetic, and suggest more than is on the page: that a good story is one that’s told, and retold, written and read, with the goal of connecting people in different places and across generations, bringing everyone involved some