Tony Hoagland — “Please Don’t”

tell the flowers—they think
the sun loves them.
The grass is under the same
simple-minded impression

about the rain, the fog, the dew.
And when the wind blows,
it feels so good
they lose control of themselves

and swobtoggle wildly
around, bumping accidentally into their
slender neighbors.
Forgetful little lotus-eaters,

hydroholics, drawing nourishment up
through stems into their
thin green skin,

high on the expensive
chemistry of mitochondrial explosion,
believing that the dirt
loves them, the night, the stars—

reaching down a little deeper
with their pale albino roots,
all Dizzy
Gillespie with the utter
sufficiency of everything.

They don’t imagine lawn
mowers, the four stomachs
of the cow, or human beings with boots
who stop to marvel

at their exquisite
flexibility and color.
They persist in their soft-headed

hallucination of happiness.
But please don’t mention it.
Not yet. Tell me
what would you possibly gain

from being right?

Tony Hoagland, “Please Don’t” from Application for Release from the Dream. Copyright © 2015 by Tony Hoagland.  Reprinted by permission of Graywolf Press.

Source: Application for Release from the Dream (Graywolf Press, 2015)

Also, a Mr. Alex Killian does a fantastic job reading and putting film to this poem. Thought I’d give him a deserved plug and let you enjoy this poem twice.

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Death Cab For Cutie — Cath (Acoustic)

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My Libertarianism is Not Conservative: a Micro-Manifesto

As a doctoral student in the humanities, I have the benefit of rubbing shoulders with extremely intelligent people all day, and politically, many of these folks lean leftward, whatever that may mean to you. And while I might sometimes disagree with some of my colleagues about particular policies or politicians, I get to enjoy the fact that our proverbial hearts are in the same place. There’s often a certain anti-establishment camaraderie there. But in certain ways, our views radically differ, and my self-definition as a ‘libertarian’ becomes a topic of conversation. When this happens, it can sometimes be accusatory, and I’m assumed to be part of a conservative Trojan Horse operation trying to infiltrate the academy, and there are suspicions that I want to demolish the department of transportation, am in favor of private fire departments, and want the Koch bros. to run the country. I am, on other words, often misunderstood.

I want to be clear, though: my libertarianism is not conservative. I am not, as has been said about other (especially right-leaning) libertarians, just a Republican who wants to smoke pot. I’m not a Republican, at all (though I believe in the power of republics). I am not a Tea Partier, nor am I someone who wants to hand the power of government to big business. I feel the need here to express my position, if not for clarification for others, then simply as a helpful exercise for myself.

What I am is both a libertarian and a leftist—and this is not a contradiction in terms. I am anti-statist, believing in the fundamental right to private property, and hold that free (or freed) markets are not only moral but lead to greater prosperity AND I aim to fight injustice, exclusion, and unjust domination in all its forms. In this, my libertarianism is not conservative, working to maintain the status quo, but radical, seeking to decentralize and destabilize hierarchies that have long histories of oppression and exclusion. I see both government and business as potentially autocratic and coercive, and one’s ability to participate in the government or hold stock in a business as being insufficient safeguards against that dictatorial tendency. I am aware that coercion can come just as easily, albeit differently, from the CEO’s office as it can from the Oval Office—and that the most danger comes, perhaps, from the collusion of these two.

I identify with the left in its anarchic origins, when to be left meant to be anti-monarchy and pro-individual liberty (think—American & French Revolution), but not with the liberal left of the contemporary United States, which often seeks not to increase individual liberty by limiting government but to build government to its own end, not realizing how quickly what has been so carefully built can be repurposed with the swing of an election or stroke of the executive pen. In my relative position, I find allies on both the right and the left—in the anti-statist strains of both (relatively conservative) US political parties.

It’s important now, more than ever, to be diligent and careful in positioning ourselves politically—to negotiate positions that aren’t so easily slotted into one box or another. Pre-packaged politics, like so many other pre-packaged things in our culture, promise so much more than they deliver, and if we are to resist their empty calories, we have to be unrelenting in our pursuit of truth in the philosophical gray. We can work not to fall prey to the ease of black-and-white thinking, but still set clear, unalterable terms. So—work against the easily-defined; resist the with-us-or-against-us bullshit. Carve out your own position in all its complexity and ground your thinking in the so easily forgotten traditions that precede the latest label.

Suggested Reading:

Studies in Mutualist Political Economy, Carson

Markets Not Capitalism, Charier & Johnson

Anarchy, State, & Utopia, Nozick

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Kintsugi (きんつぎ) & Beauty through Overcoming

Collectively speaking, how a culture views and responds to brokenness, setbacks, and pain says something about the character of that culture. At least in my experience, trying to locate and separate this thread for purposes of comparison can be a vivid and instructive experience. One practice in particular, “kintsugi” (きんつぎ) or “kintsukuroi” (きんつくろい), literally translating to “golden joinery” and “golden repair,” respectively, is the practice of repair800px-thumbnailing broken pottery with a gold-infused lacquer. While the philosophy behind this practice is much older, the common understanding is that the practice of kintsugi dates roughly to the 15th century CE, when a Japanese ruler sent his beloved broken tea bowl to China for repair and had it returned stapled together in a way he found quite ugly. He tasked Japanese artists/craftsmen with finding a better way to repair valuable pottery, and kintsugi was born.

Underlying this practice is the assertion that the piece’s damage, its brokenness, is not something to be hidden; instead, its brokenness adds to its beauty. Relating somewhat to wabi-sabi (侘寂), there is an acceptance of the imperfect and ephemeral in kintsugi. There is not quite a parallel philosophy in the Western tradition, where more attention is paid to those things that transcend the immediate rather than dwelling on what is momentary. From the Western European tradition comes more of an interest in the manner of beauty that comes from symmetry, from a kind of perfection, as opposed to that which comes from imperfection. The European aesthetic, at least in some senses and especially in discussing post-Christianization Europe, there seems to be more of an interest in aesthetics of the absolute. This tendency is countered by the Japanese (and Zen) interest in the ephemeral, the fleeting, and what beauty it contains.

And when we push the idea of kintsugi past its literal practice and work to break open its philosophy a bit more, applying it not to lacquer and ceramic, but to people, something interesting emerges: not an abhorrence of scarring, weakness, or wound, but a whole-hearted acceptance of these things in the realization that life is so brief, and that to live and thrive despite hardship seems in some ways to be intrinsically beautiful. It is precisely the brokenness and transience of a thing that makes it beautiful.

Applied to people, this philosophy is life-affirming and all the more intense. Our broken things–our relationships, our pasts, our very selves–once mended through understanding and acceptance are all the more beautiful. This is not to say we should not strive to do better and be better, but that our imperfections and scars are things to be accepted and celebrated–these things are evidence of living.

Nerdwriter (who, if you’re not familiar, you should certainly know), built a fantastic video-essay on the concept. Certainly worth a watch.

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Iron & Wine — 4AD Session

Something about Sam Beam live is so soul-satisfying.

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Back into the Stitch of Things

I am a poet because I sit down at my desk, at my computer, to ask questions I didn’t know I had in ways I didn’t know I could express. Often, that is the reason I get up in the morning–to explore that space. But sadly, the overwhelming amount of work I’ve been tasked with recently has hurt that writing practice (if you value your free time, don’t get a PhD). I’ve been unable or at least not in the right mental space to write. And now that some of that work has waned, I can be mindful about my practice again and work back into that space. And as I work into that space, I find it more difficult than I thought.

Unlike riding a bike, it’s like trying to find a path in a dense wood that’s grown over. I catch glimpses of the path, but then lose it, and I find myself wandering. Not that there isn’t value to that wandering–there certainly is. I just have more interest in wandering mindfully, wandering in a productive space. So I do what I always do when I’m in this situation: I turn back to my poet-mentors. I re-read Charles Wright and Tony Hoagland and Allen Ginsberg. It’s proving helpful, and it’s a potent reminder that we’re not lone voices out in the void; we belong to a rich collection of voices all sounding in relation to one-another, even if we don’t realize it.

There is some romance to the rugged lone voice, no doubt. I know the allure of the romance of the rugged individual better than most, and it’s a substantial effort to be aware of how woven into everything my experience–and my voice–really is. Something to embrace and celebrate, that intricate stitching. More than the appeal of the lone voice out in the wilderness, our writing becomes an important part of that larger effort and experience.

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Lucius — Until We Get There (Live)

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