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Here I thought I would be slightly self-indulgent and talk about one of my favourite poems, if not the favourite; Pity this busy monster, manunkind by e.e. cummings. Here it is –
pity this busy monster,manunkind,
not. Progress is a comfortable disease:
your victim (death and life safely beyond)
plays with the bigness of his littleness
–electrons deify one razorblade
into a mountainrange;lenses extend
unwish through curving wherewhen till unwish
returns on its unself.
A world of made
is not a world of born–pity poor flesh
and trees, poor stars and stones,but never this
fine specimen of hypermagical
ultraomnipotence. We doctors know
a hopeless case if–listen:there’s a hell
of a good universe next door;let’s go
Firstly, the word ‘manunkind‘ alone deserves much attention. Although it is essentially quite simple, this simplicity merely adds to its genius. The fact that the addition to the word from our dictionary, mankind, is so slight makes it very easy to say, although it does not feel natural due to the repetition of the ‘n’ sounds. This perhaps reflects that although mankind today is “unkind“, we have developed a tolerance for it. The word kind also has two meanings; one being that of gentleness and thoughtfulness, combined with the ‘un’ drawing attention to how callous the world can be. The word ‘kind’ is so much more gentle than other words that mean the same thing such as caring or nice… I am searching for a reason why but perhaps it is due to the other meaning of the word. Kind, especially used referring to humankind, also means a collective unit, bound together by some likeness. This is perhaps used to show how disjointed we have become, with each other as well as the world around us. Later on in the poem, cummings describes the victim as “playing with the bigness of his littleness“. I see this as a reference to masturbation, showing how selfish and self-centered we have become. It is also a quite sneering and derogatory way to describe it, emphasising that although it seems big, this is only in comparison to how small it actually is. Considering men’s insecurity concerning this, it seems to be a very direct attack on society. The isoloation that masturbating requires (in general) also contrasts with the final lines; “Listen, there’s a hell of a universe next door” as not only does the sense of listening contrast with looking (at porn), it begs the reader to leave their room and explore.
Here is the book I have just finished; Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. This is a near perfect book; short (only about 100 pages), filled with delicious descriptions, suspense and a way of stabbing you deep inside. The storyline is simple. A sailor is sent to America to join those finding ivory. While he is there he hears of an elusive and eccentric man, who he eventually meets. The majority of this novel is leading up to this meeting, but as Marlow, the main character, makes his way, he becomes himself enveloped by the darkness. It really does feel as though you are accompanying himself deeper and deeper into the unknown. In some ways, it reminds me of the ending of The Great Gatsby, the “fresh, green breast of America” as it combines fear of the unknown with a curiosity of what life has to offer. A description of the natives of possessing a “wild vitality“, and that “they wanted no excuse for being there” stuck in my mind throughout the novel. It is the same energy that I found in On the Road. The novel is filled with this energy that scares but also comforts. The narrative form also lends itself to this idea of journeying into the depths of the unknown; it is reported speech by a sailor listening to Marlow’s story, so in parallel with his own journey into America, the reader is taken on another journey with the sailor who are listening. Similarly, the reader does not know where they are headed, reflecting Marlow’s journey.
It is also a fairly moralistic novel, despite being sexist towards women. One quotation that I underlined was that conquering others was “nothing to boast of… since your strength is just an accident arising from the weakness of others.” This contrasts with the actions of what was happening in America, the pilgrims who attack the natives (the pilgrims are portrayed as ignorant and stupid, shooting “from this hip with their eyes shut”) to do so with self-appointed supremacy. Rather than this being a novel about America, it is more an account of one journey by one man. The Times described it also seeming to “reach into the heart of Conrad himself,” which I agree with, although I felt it was more of a reach into man in general. This is another reason why writers are so important; they shed light on aspects of human nature that are often hidden away, mainly for our own safety – in Marlow’s own words, it is “impossible, not good for one either, trying to imagine” the darker side of ourselves.
by Gabe Moses
Forget the images you’ve learned to attach
To words like cock and clit,
Chest and breasts.
Break those words open
Like a paramedic cracking ribs
To pump blood through a failing heart.
Push your hands inside.
Get them messy.
Scratch new definitions on the bones.
Get rid of the old words altogether.
Make up new words.
Call it a click or a ditto.
Call it the sound he makes
When you brush your hand against it through his jeans,
When you can hear his heart knocking on the back of his teeth
And every cell in his body is breathing.
Make the arch of her back a language
Name the hollows of each of her vertebrae
When they catch pools of sweat
Like rainwater in a row of paper cups
Align your teeth with this alphabet of her spine
So every word is weighted with the salt of her.
When you peel layers of clothing from his skin
Do not act as though you are changing dressings on a trauma patient
Even though it’s highly likely that you are.
Do not ask if she’s “had the surgery.”
Do not tell him that the needlepoint bruises on his thighs look like they hurt
If you are being offered a body
That has already been laid upon an altar of surgical steel
A sacrifice to whatever gods govern bodies
That come with some assembly required
Whatever you do,
Do not say that the carefully sculpted landscape
Bordered by rocky ridges of scar tissue
Looks almost natural.
If she offers you breastbone
Aching to carve soft fruit from its branches
Though there may be more tissue in the lining of her bra
Than the flesh that rises to meet itLet her ripen in your hands.
Imagine if she’d lost those swells to cancer,
A car accident instead of an accident of genetics
Would you think of her as less a woman then?
Then think of her as no less one now.
If he offers you a thumb-sized sprout of muscle
Reaching toward you when you kiss him
Like it wants to go deep enough inside you
To scratch his name on the bottom of your heart
Hold it as if it can-
In your hand, in your mouth
Inside the nest of your pelvic bones.
Though his skin may hardly do more than brush yours,
You will feel him deeper than you think.
Realize that bodies are only a fraction of who we are
They’re just oddly-shaped vessels for hearts
And honestly, they can barely contain us
We strain at their seams with every breath we take
We are all pulse and sweat,
Tissue and nerve ending
We are programmed to grope and fumble until we get it right.
Bodies have been learning each other forever.
It’s what bodies do.
They are grab bags of parts
And half the fun is figuring out
All the different ways we can fit them together;
All the different uses for hipbones and hands,
Tongues and teeth;
All the ways to car-crash our bodies beautiful.
But we could never forget how to use our hearts
Even if we tried.
That’s the important part.
They’ve got this.
Don’t worry about the bodies.
Admittedly, the people in the video are pretty lame, but my love for this poem allows me to go beyond that. Dr Seuss’ books were the first things I ever read, and I’d like to think it set me up pretty well. This poem is the best thing to make you feel like anything is possible, and even if things don’t work out, you will get through them
As I am not currently at home, I do not have access to the books I intend to write about. I will, however, set out a list of five of my favourite books to give the reader an idea of what I will be writing about;
May have to amend this when my bookshelf is back in front of me….
I could spend hours trawling through literary tattoos. They combine two of my favourite things; books and art. Although I don’t have a tattoo at the moment, I think that if I did it would definitely be words, probably a quote from a book. This one is probably my favourite, partly due to it’s simplicity, and partly because as I have already mentioned, Kerouac is one of my favourite writers.
I thought an explanation of the title would be an okay place to start. Not great, but okay. It’s a combination of Alice in Wonderland, where the cat helpfully points out that “we’re all mad in here” and Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, his commonly quoted passage which is perhaps one of the most inspiring writing I have ever read so I’m going to put in full;
“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!”
Many accuse books of being boring, but the energy present within this passage proves to me anything but. A love to read is an endless search for new stories, characters, ideas and words. Imagining my pile of unread books, or the extensive number of poems and plays I have yet to read fills me with hope and anticipation. I also think that part of the beauty of literature is the desire to talk about it with people, and that is part of why I have started this tumblr. I wanted a place to talk about the books I am interested in, as well a place to post the gems I find on the internet so be prepared for the occasional picture of tasty food, a Wes Anderson reference or anything else that takes my fancy. But mainly books.