The torturer’s horse scratches it’s innocent behind on a tree….The old masters: how well they understood the human position: how it takes place when someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along.
On this fine cool morning, all is still. Even the birds are quiet and a low-lying fog blankets the downward slope of the farm and drifts across the pond and through the trees. It feels like a Thoreau morning, and I wonder at all he saw and felt. I think of all those who came before and all they knew and wish I could offer one of them a cup of coffee and a seat on my porch as I put on my own horrible sneakers.
These are some of my favorite lines from literary masters of old. Can you guess who they are?
1. "About suffering, they were never wrong."
2. "Tell the truth, but tell it slant."
3. "A novel is a mirror walking along a main road."
4. "A book is a mirror: if an ass peers into it, you can’t expect an apostle to look out.”
5. "A writer’s material is what he cares about."
6. "Literature thrives on taboos.”
7. "Any fool can make a rule and every fool will mind it."
8. "It's not wise to violate the rules until you know how to observe them.”
9. "No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else’s draft.”
10. "I've led a good rich sexual life and I don’t see why it should be left out.”
11. "I was following in the exquisite footsteps of Miss Edna St. Vincent Millay, unhappily in my
own horrible sneakers."
So write of taboos-leave nothing out- and be wary of who you show your drafts to. Balance on a limb and fabricate. Observe the world carefully and don’t be afraid to write what you are passionate about. Hang a piece of art, arrange a bouquet, and write a sentence that fills a page. Be prepared to suffer.
The opening quote is from Auden’s Musee des Beaux Arts