Apr 122018
 

At this moment in time we’d like to invite
First Class passengers only to board the aircraft.

Thank you for waiting. We now extend our invitation
to Exclusive, Superior, Privilege and Excelsior members,
followed by Triple, Double and Single Platinum members,
followed by Gold and Silver Card members,
followed by Pearl and Coral Club members.
Military personnel in uniform may also board at this time.

Thank you for waiting. We now invite
Bronze Alliance members and passengers enrolled
in our Rare Earth Metals Points and Reward Scheme
to come forward, and thank you for waiting.

Thank you for waiting. Accredited Beautiful People
may now board, plus any gentleman carrying a copy
of this month’s Cigar Aficionado magazine, plus subscribers
to our Red Diamond, Black Opal or Blue Garnet promotion.
We also welcome Sapphire, Ruby and Emerald members
at this time, followed by Amethyst, Onyx, Obsidian, Jet,
Topaz, and Quartz members. Priority Lane customers,
Fast Track customers, Chosen Elite customers,
Preferred Access customers, and First Among Equals customers
may also now board.

On production of a valid receipt travelers of elegance and style
wearing designer and/or hand-tailored clothing
to a minimum value of ten thousand U.S. dollars may now board;
passengers in possession of items of jewelry
(including wristwatches) with a retail purchase price
greater than the average annual salary
of a mid-career high school teacher are also welcome to board.
Also welcome at this time are passengers talking loudly
into cellphone headsets about recently completed share deals,
property acquisitions, and aggressive takeovers,
plus hedge fund managers with proven track records
in the undermining of small-to-medium-sized ambitions.
Passengers in classes Loam, Chalk, Marl, and Clay
may also board. Customers who have purchased
our Dignity or Morning Orchid packages
may now collect their sanitized shell suits prior to boarding.

Thank you for waiting.
Mediocre passengers are now invited to board,
followed by passengers lacking business acumen
or genuine leadership potential, followed by people
of little or no consequence, followed by people
operating at a net fiscal loss as people.
Those holding tickets for zones Rust, Mulch, Cardboard,
Puddle, and Sand might now want to begin gathering
their tissues and crumbs prior to embarkation.

Passengers either partially or wholly dependent on welfare
or kindness: please have your travel coupons validated
at the Quarantine Desk.

Sweat, Dust, Shoddy, Scurf, Feces, Chaff, Remnant,
Ash, Pus, Sludge, Clinker, Splinter, and Soot:
all you people are now free to board.

 Comments Off on Simon Armitage: Thank You For Waiting
Feb 252018
 

In regard to propaganda the early advocates of universal literacy and a free press envisaged only two possibilities: the propaganda might be true, or the propaganda might be false. They did not foresee what in fact has happened, above all in our Western capitalist democracies – the development of a vast mass communications industry, concerned in the main neither with the true nor the false, but with the unreal, the more or less totally irrelevant. In a word, they failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.

In the past most people never got a chance of fully satisfying this appetite. They might long for distractions, but the distractions were not provided. Christmas came but once a year, feasts were “solemn and rare,” there were few readers and very little to read, and the nearest approach to a neighborhood movie theater was the parish church, where the performances though frequent, were somewhat monotonous. For conditions even remotely comparable to those now prevailing we must return to imperial Rome, where the populace was kept in good humor by frequent, gratuitous doses of many kinds of entertainment – from poetical dramas to gladiatorial fights, from recitations of Virgil to all-out boxing, from concerts to military reviews and public executions. But even in Rome there was nothing like the non-stop distractions now provided by newspapers and magazines, by radio, television and the cinema. In “Brave New World” non-stop distractions of the most fascinating nature are deliberately used as instruments of policy, for the purpose of preventing people from paying too much attention to the realities of the social and political situation. The other world of religion is different from the other world of entertainment; but they resemble one another in being most decidedly “not of this world.” Both are distractions and, if lived in too continuously, both can become, in Marx’s phrase “the opium of the people” and so a threat to freedom. Only the vigilant can maintain their liberties, and only those who are constantly and intelligently on the spot can hope to govern themselves effectively by democratic procedures. A society, most of whose members spend a great part of their time, not on the spot, not here and now and in their calculable future, but somewhere else, in the irrelevant other worlds of sport and soap opera, of mythology and metaphysical fantasy, will find it hard to resist the encroachments of those would manipulate and control it.

 Comments Off on Aldous Huxley: from Brave New World Revisited
Feb 012018
 

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

– from New and Selected Poems

 Comments Off on Mary Oliver: The Summer Day
Dec 012017
 

Thought, I love thought.
But not the jaggling and twisting of already existent ideas
I despise that self-important game.
Thought is the welling up of unknown life into consciousness
Thought is the testing of statements on the touchstone of the conscience
Thought is gazing on to the face of life, and reading what can be read,
Thought is pondering over experience, and coming to conclusion.
Thought is not a trick, or an exercise, or a set of dodges
Thought is a man in his wholeness wholly attending.

 Comments Off on D. H. Lawrence: Thought
Nov 212017
 

Sometimes the notes are ferocious,
skirmishes against the author
raging along the borders of every page
in tiny black script.
If I could just get my hands on you,
Kierkegaard, or Conor Cruise O’Brien,
they seem to say,
I would bolt the door and beat some logic into your head.

Other comments are more offhand, dismissive –
“Nonsense.” “Please!” “HA!!” –
that kind of thing.
I remember once looking up from my reading,
my thumb as a bookmark,
trying to imagine what the person must look like
who wrote “Don’t be a ninny”
alongside a paragraph in The Life of Emily Dickinson.

Students are more modest
needing to leave only their splayed footprints
along the shore of the page.
One scrawls “Metaphor” next to a stanza of Eliot’s.
Another notes the presence of “Irony”
fifty times outside the paragraphs of A Modest Proposal.

Or they are fans who cheer from the empty bleachers,
hands cupped around their mouths.
“Absolutely,” they shout
to Duns Scotus and James Baldwin.
“Yes.” “Bull’s-eye.” “My man!”
Check marks, asterisks, and exclamation points
rain down along the sidelines.

And if you have managed to graduate from college
without ever having written “Man vs. Nature”
in a margin, perhaps now
is the time to take one step forward.

We have all seized the white perimeter as our own
and reached for a pen if only to show
we did not just laze in an armchair turning pages;
we pressed a thought into the wayside,
planted an impression along the verge.

Even Irish monks in their cold scriptoria
jotted along the borders of the Gospels
brief asides about the pains of copying,
a bird singing near their window,
or the sunlight that illuminated their page–
anonymous men catching a ride into the future
on a vessel more lasting than themselves.

And you have not read Joshua Reynolds,
they say, until you have read him
enwreathed with Blake’s furious scribbling.

Yet the one I think of most often,
the one that dangles from me like a locket,
was written in the copy of Catcher in the Rye
I borrowed from the local library
one slow, hot summer.
I was just beginning high school then,
reading books on a davenport in my parents’ living room,
and I cannot tell you
how vastly my loneliness was deepened,
how poignant and amplified the world before me seemed,
when I found on one page

a few greasy looking smears
and next to them, written in soft pencil–
by a beautiful girl, I could tell,
whom I would never meet–
“Pardon the egg salad stains, but I’m in love.”

-from Picnic, Lightning (1998)

 Comments Off on Billy Collins: Marginalia