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?


Merry Christmas, Bean!

About a week ago, a friend gave me an “I Love You Bean.”  I had no idea such a thing existed, but hey, I’m not complaining (it actually goes with an inside joke we have….long story).  Anyhoo, I’m not exactly a gardener extraordinaire, so I was nervous that I’d kill the gift.

The day after I got the present, I unwrapped the disc of dirt and the two lima beans and followed the instructions.  It was simple enough:

1) mix the dirt in water (actually, the “mixing” consisted of me stabbing the disc of dirt, which refused to disintegrate, and then leaving it for about 30 seconds while I tended to something else.  When I went back into the kitchen, I found a giant pillar of dirt in a bowl….it absorbs fast!).

2) Put the dirt pillar back into the original container and stick the beans in.

3) Put on the “sprouting top” and place the container on a windowsill (I had never seen one of these before — the sprouting top, not the windowsill.  Perhaps this lack of sprouting top is why all my other plants died….)

And there you have it!  The instructions said the beans should sprout in 5-10 days.

I checked every day for signs of life.  Nothing.  When I left to go spend Christmas with my family, there wasn’t a whole lot of activity going on with my plant.  But when I got back today, I checked the windowsill and this is what I found:

This sight was a very cool surprise!  I was also amused when I saw that the bud says “I love you” on the side.  But I do have one question for all the gardeners out there: is the plant supposed to curve?  I bet it was that pesky sprouting top…