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?

What I Learned at the Dodge Festival

courtesy of newsworks.org

Exactly two weeks ago, I attended the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival in Newark, NJ. For those of you who may not be familiar with the festival, it is a four-day extravaganza for lovers of poetry complete with readings and panels led by some of today’s most outstanding poets.  For the past two festivals (it is held biannually), it has been held in the NJPAC center (and surrounding buildings) in Newark.

A few days after the festival, my friend, Lynne, posted a lovely article about what she took away from all of the panels and readings she attended.  This inspired me to write a similar post.  There were so many events I wish I could have triplicated (two of me would not have been enough!) myself.  But the events I did attend were stunning. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Jane Hirshfield from her poem “Vinegar and Oil:”  “Wrong solitude vinegars the soul,/ right solitude oils it.”
  • Taylor Mali from his poem “Undivided Attention:”  “Let me teach like the first snow, falling.”
  • Dan Bellm, speaking of reading poetry aloud: “[The poem is] not done, in a way, before it’s spoken, given away.”
  • Thomas Lux, speaking of those who write hard to understand poems on purpose: “[Writing obscure poems on purpose] is a kind of pre-suicide, a kind of not wanting to be.”
  • Phil Levine on permission to write about any subject you want: “You don’t need permission to write about life on Mars. You can do whatever the hell your imagination is gifted with.”
  • Eavan Boland: “The art of self-expression is not hard…There is no art without self expression.”
  • Dorianne Laux: “This form, this genre, was made for working people.”

Lots of little gems here!  I hope you find some inspiration among them.

What about you? Are there any quotes from authors you admire that have stuck with you?

Ripping Out the Hazard Lights

I recently read an interesting quote in the blog of one of my favorite authors.  Don Miller quotes the movie “True Grit” when he writes, “I do not entertain hypotheticals, the world as it is is vexing enough.”  Sometimes you’ve just got to stop worrying about what might happen and exercise some chutzpah.  I’ve done this recently by submitting a few of  my poems to a literary magazine I don’t think I’ll get into…but you never know.

 
My latest venture has been opening up an Etsy store.  I haven’t got much posted for sale, but it’s a good start on something I’ve wanted to do for a while.  If you’d like to check it out, go to: www.etsy.com/shop/roaringout or click on the “Etsy Store” tab on the menu bar of this blog </shameless plug>.  I’m a bit self-conscious about crafting, but there’s nothing to lose in putting yourself out there….actually, there can be quite a bit to lose.  If you invest in a business and it tanks, you lose money.  If you ask someone out, you risk rejection.  In any situation, there is always the possibility of failure.  And that possibility often casts a pretty long shadow.

 

But I prefer to think that despite success or lack thereof, I’m going to at least give it a shot; the effort and experience will be worth it in the end.  As Rob Bell, another fav author of mine, writes in his book Velvet Elvis: “Better to try and fail, because at least you were being true to yourself.  And the worst thing would be to live wondering, What if?”  This line of thinking has got me ripping out the hazard lights; I’ve stopped moving cautiously.  Speed or skid, I’m here for the ride.

 

And sometimes risk pays off.  Take this blog for example.  I’m so glad I ventured into starting it.  I’ve gotten a bunch of lovely notes saying how much people like what I’m doing here on “Roaring Out”.  Thanks so much if you’ve reached out to me!  Your support is much appreciated 🙂