A Hymn, A Notebook, Poetry Business, etc.

Stephen Kuusisto, Letters to Borges

A student talks about how hard it is to write. (Pronoun withheld) is mindful of politics, subjectivity, privilege, all proper “outsicles” as I call them—one is out about difference, disablement, race, manifold historical wrongs—so many—and so (pronoun withheld’s) politics transform into something beyond scruple they become a grid iron of self-inflicted shame.

Carl Jung said shame is a soul eating emotion and I think it’s true. What Jung meant is the shame that makes you stuck, as opposed to propulsive shame which is the incitement for growth as any alcoholic in recovery can tell you.

When (pronoun withheld) feels too much shame to write, one’s forced to conclude academic writing isn’t liberating enough to bust a move. Amen to that.


I keep notebooks the way some collect oddments—found coins or feathers. I cannot say keeping notes isn’t a waste of time. Maybe poems will come or I’ll recognize in the mirror the child still searching there.


The poem must be loved, and eat and drink, sleep like a log, / curse and laugh and cry / humanely…

—Pentti Saarikoski


I spoke with Saarikoski on the phone once. He was in the final stage of drinking himself to death. In life he couldn’t love poems more than poison.

“The end is the way it is made: that’s why it’s pretty stupid to hurry. The book will not change.”

—Saarikoski in adolescent notebook….


Broken skate beside the pond

The children have gone

Something of a dream

In this ordinary evening

I’m sorry for breaking your heart

Long ago now

Lights coming on in windows

No name for this

A hymn really

Author: skuusisto

Poet, Essayist, Blogger, Journalist, Memoirist, Disability Rights Advocate, Public Speaker, Professor, Syracuse University

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