From RM Vaughan’s interview with Paul Vermeersch about Self Defence for the Brave and Happy.

RM Vaughan: The book moves effortlessly between prophetic pronouncements and intimate, personal observations. Is it a goal of the book to conflate the two in order to make the reader more keenly aware that we live in prophetic times?

Paul Vermeersch: I think all times are equally prophetic and intimate. The lives of individuals unfold along with the cosmos. But the prophets only seem to get at half the picture, only the grand events. Perhaps one of the jobs of a poet is to be a prophet of the small things, too—to prophesy the taste of lobster, the pang of guilt, the fear of darkness. We can’t put small things on hold when big things happen. I think my poems encompass that spectrum: both the landscape and the figure within the landscape, both the star system and the escape pod within the star system.


From A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra.

“I don’t understand.”

Deshi shook her head. Her romantic advice was worth a foreigner’s ransom, and here she was, giving it freely to a girl who couldn’t appreciate the hard-earned wisdom. “Just stay away from oncologists, okay?” she said, and led the girl to the waiting room. “If you just remember that, you’ll spare yourself the worst of it. Now, why don’t you get your notebook out and draw something?”

“Like what?”

“I don’t know. Where would you most want to be right now?”

“My home,” she said. She thought the word meant only the four walls and roof that held her, but it spread out, filled in, Akhmed, the village, her parents, the forest, everything that wasn’t here. “A week ago.”

“And I’d rather be right here forty years ago, when they first offered me the job. I’d wag my finger right in the head nurse’s face and say, no, no, you won’t trick me, and I’d walk right out those doors.”

“It’s stupid. There are maps to show you how to get to the place where you want to be but no maps that show you how to get to the time when you want to be.”

“Why don’t you draw that map?”

“Only if you let me play on the fourth floor.”

“Child, if there was such a map, there would still be a fourth floor. Start drawing.”


Frank Budgen, via Geoff Manaugh on “The City That Remembers Everything,” a rhyme to Borges’ 1:1 map.

One important personality that emerges out of the contacts of many people is that of the city of Dublin.

“I want,” said Joyce, as we were walking down the Universitätsträsse, “to give a picutre of Dublin so complete that if the city one day suddenly disappeared from the earth it could be reconstructed out of my book.”