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 David Whyte (audio here).
“We tend to think of vulnerability as a kind of weakness, something to be walked around. But it’s interesting to look at the origin of the word, from the Latin word “vulneras,” meaning “wound.” It’s really the place where you’re open to the world, whether you want to be or not. You’re just made that way. You were just grown that way. You feel that way. You feel the pain of others that way, and you feel your own pain that way. And it’s actually interesting to think about it not as a weakness but as a faculty for understanding what’s about to happen and where you need to go — the ability to follow the path of vulnerability. And yet, as human beings, we’re constantly hoping that we can find a pathway we can follow right to the end, which will never disappear; where we won’t have our hearts broken. We first of all try that in romance. Every time you have a new relationship, you say, “At last, the person who will not break my heart.”
From If They Should Come for Us, by Fatimah Asghar.
my people I follow you like constellations
we hear the glass smashing the street
& the nights opening their dark
our names this country’s wood
for the fire my people my people
the long years we’ve survived the long
years yet to come I see you map
my sky the light your lantern long
ahead & I follow I follow
From ruby onyinyechi amanze via Wayétu Moore in the Paris Review. She also has a beautiful artist’s statement.
By Billy-Ray Belcourt (2017), via Matthew Ogle’s Pome.
Towards a Theory of Decolonization
1. forget everything you’ve learned about love.
2. investment is the social practice whereby one risks losing it all
to be part of something that feels like release. lose everything
3. indian time is a form of time travel. a poetics of lateness.
4. i never liked goodbyes, but some of us aren’t here to stay.
5. superstition is a mode of being in the world that keeps ghosts like
me in the living room.
6. the afterlife is the after party: a choreography of mangled bodies.
7. i made a poem out of dirt and ate it.
Exercise, by W. S. Merwin, via Matthew Ogle’s Pome (also available via Poetry Foundation).
First forget what time it is
for an hour
do it regularly every day
then forget what day of the week it is
do this regularly for a week
then forget what country you are in
and practice doing it in company
for a week
then do them together
for a week
with as few breaks as possible
follow these by forgetting how to add
or to subtract
it makes no difference
you can change them around
after a week
both will help you later
to forget how to count
forget how to count
starting with your own age
starting with how to count backward
starting with even numbers
starting with Roman numerals
starting with fractions of Roman numerals
starting with the old calendar
going on to the old alphabet
going on to the alphabet
until everything is continuous again
go on to forgetting elements
starting with water
proceeding to earth
rising in fire