Quotables: Philip Levine

Curious what this “Quotables” thing is all about? Check out the first post here.

Photo courtesy of www.poets.org

Photo courtesy of http://www.poets.org

“You don’t need permission to write about life on Mars. You can do whatever the hell your imagination is gifted with.” —Philip Levine

In 2012, I attended the Dodge Poetry Festival. While I saw a bunch of incredibly talented writers speak, this particular quote from Philip Levine has stayed with me to this day. Perhaps it’s because I shared this quote with my first composition class. Perhaps it is because I included this quote in a prior blog post. However, I think the main reason this quote has stayed in the forefront of my mind for the past few years is because it hits the core of a construct I have struggled with nearly all my life—the need for permission.

As kids, we all need permission to do certain things, like go to a friend’s house or eat a cookie. It wasn’t until around 2009 or 2010 (while in my MFA program), however, that I realized I was holding back when writing. There were delicate subjects I wasn’t writing about. There were certain things I wasn’t allowing myself to feel. And all this because I felt I didn’t have permission. I had a wealth of emotion, but I told myself, “Who am I to feel it?”

Many people and events have helped break down the crud to get my “dam of creativity” flowing, but permission remains a funny thing. I feel free to write, but what about to live a life with a flexible work schedule? What about feeling anger?

What I love about Levine’s quote is that it’s sort of a “catch-all” permission slip to do “whatever the hell” you want. Indeed, it’s a permission slip to do, perhaps, what you must.

And those last words. To do what “your imagination is gifted with.” Yes! The feelings, daydreams, talents—all that we feel is a waste, not practical, or what others won’t accept or may dismiss as silly—is actually a gift. Share it!

What do you feel you need permission for? What would you do if you used this quote as your permission slip? Do you have any moments that acted as a sort of “permission slip” for you to do something you wanted?

 

Advertisements

Quotables: Junot Diaz

I read a lot. Those who know me (and those who follow me on this blog) know that. This means I often come across quotes that I find intriguing or puzzling, quotes that I want to talk about. So, I will! Every so often, as the mood strikes me, I’ll feature a quote here and say what I think about it. I’d love to hear your responses. It’s what I love most of all about teaching and blogging—discussion!

Enjoy this first “Quotable” feature with a quote by Junot Diaz!

Photo courtesy of npr.com

Photo courtesy of npr.com

“Books are surviving in this intense, fragmented, hyper-accelerated present, and my sense and hope is that things will slow down again and people will want more time for a contemplative life. There is no way people can keep up this pace. No one is happy. Two or three hours to read should not be an unattainable thing, although I hope we get to that stage without needing a corporate sponsored app to hold our hand. The utopian in me has my fingers crossed that we haven’t quite figured out the digital future just yet. After all, the one thing we know about people: they always surprise.” – Junot Diaz

This particular interview from which the quote is taken first appeared in The Guardian. I saw this right before I taught my first college course in 2012 and thought it would be a great way to open the class. The first time I ever asked students to take out a piece of paper and write was to talk about this quote. So, as you can tell, these words have weight to me.

More than the memory, though, is the ideas this quote presents. Granted, I don’t agree with all of them, but that’s kind of the point isn’t it? The words that often speak to us the most make us wrestle in some way.

I cheer when Junot says that, as a whole, people should make more time for a contemplative life. I love the idea of sitting by a lake and then getting up and walking into my cabin to sit next to a wood-stove fire and writing. But I know that’s not for everyone. While this quote speaks to me, I’m aware that Diaz is leaving out a certain portion of the population that likes frenzy, that thrives on social media. Whether or not that’s healthy is a whole other blog post. But I don’t think people can “keep up this pace.” Our bodies aren’t machines. They need rest. America is a country of excess, yet we desperately lack down time. (America, the ironic)

“No one is happy” is a really broad statement, and I don’t agree with the broad stroke with which it paints humanity. Though I do hope there’s some discontent with the disconnecting tendencies of social media.

I have to say, I love that last line. People do indeed surprise, for better or worse. (Ah, the beauty of free will!). Many times, it seems as if people don’t react unless something catastrophic happens. I hope that’s not the case with making time for face-to-face interaction. I don’t think so. I sincerely hope not. Technology has huge advantages. I get to talk to people all over the world, people I would not have otherwise had access to. The struggle, I think, this quote is getting at is balance. At least that’s what I take from it. This balance probably won’t be two to three hours per day to read (at least not in my case), but I do hope it’s at least an hour a day (maybe not consecutively) to disconnect from media and reconnect with each other. </hokeyending>

Now it’s your turn! What do you think about this quote and/or my reading of it? What sticks out to you? Do you agree, disagree, or find yourself somewhere in the middle?