Thirteen Ways of Looking at Wallace Stevens

UnknownKate Stanley:

’CAN POEMS TEACH US how to live? What does it mean to approach poetry as a source of self-help? It’s not hard to call to mind examples of poetry that rouse or soothe or refocus a reader, lifting or quieting the mind like a deep breath. Yet much of the poetry encountered in literature classrooms and canonical anthologies may not readily reflect the self that is reading it, and therefore may not readily become a tool of self-improvement. The work of many modernist poets in particular is placed under the banner of “art for art’s sake,” a motto meant to explicitly free such poetry from the responsibility of serving a didactic or utilitarian function. The poems of Wallace Stevens, for instance, are frequently taken to epitomize the kind of high modernist difficulty that in its slippery symbology and ambiguous affect would seemingly resist being reliably employed for any useful purpose.
But Joan Richardson’s How to Live, What to Do: Thirteen Ways of Looking at Wallace Stevens emphatically asserts the practical use-value of poetic difficulty. As is suggested by Richardson’s title (which borrows from a Stevens poem), Stevens is in fact concerned above all with improving the daily lives of his readers.…’

Via Los Angeles Review of Books

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird

I

Among twenty snowy mountains,

The only moving thing

Was the eye of the blackbird.

II

I was of three minds,

Like a tree

In which there are three blackbirds.

III

The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.

It was a small part of the pantomime.

IV

A man and a woman

Are one.

A man and a woman and a blackbird

Are one.

V

I do not know which to prefer,

The beauty of inflections

Or the beauty of innuendoes,

The blackbird whistling

Or just after.

VI

Icicles filled the long window

With barbaric glass.

The shadow of the blackbird

Crossed it, to and fro.

The mood

Traced in the shadow

An indecipherable cause.

VII

O thin men of Haddam,

Why do you imagine golden birds?

Do you not see how the blackbird

Walks around the feet

Of the women about you?

VIII

I know noble accents

And lucid, inescapable rhythms;

But I know, too,

That the blackbird is involved

In what I know.

IX

When the blackbird flew out of sight,

It marked the edge

Of one of many circles.

X

At the sight of blackbirds

Flying in a green light,

Even the bawds of euphony

Would cry out sharply.

XI

He rode over Connecticut

In a glass coach.

Once, a fear pierced him,

In that he mistook

The shadow of his equipage

For blackbirds.

XII

The river is moving.

The blackbird must be flying.

XIII

It was evening all afternoon.

It was snowing

And it was going to snow.

The blackbird sat

In the cedar-limbs.

— Wallace Stevens (1954)

Andrew Sullivan: Impeach Trump Now!

Andrew Sullivan wrote:

‘We have a president who is an instinctual criminal and liar, who threatens the integrity of our justice system and of our democratic elections, who is incapable of understanding the rule of law, backed by an attorney general who just outright distorted the findings of the special counsel.

What more do we need to know? To refuse to use the one weapon the Founders gave us to remove such a character from office is more than cowardice. It is complicity. It is a surrender to forces which aim to make the world safe for authoritarianism. It may not work. But if we acquiesce, pretend it isn’t happening, or look away, it cannot work. This disgusting man is not just a cancer in the presidency. His presidency is a cancer in our Constitution and way of life. How long do we let this metastasize even further? How long before we take a stand? Mueller has given us the road map. He has done his duty. Now it’s our turn to do ours: “to support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

There is no qualification in that oath of citizenship.

Impeach Trump now….’

Read article at New York Mag

Creative Thinking and Complex Psychology in Crime Fiction

Heather Gudenkauf writes:

‘It’s a delicate and challenging endeavor for a writer to honestly, accurately and respectfully portray brain differences in fictional characters. Below are ten masterfully told works of psychological suspense, featuring protagonists with exceptional psychological characteristics. These heroes and heroines use their cognitive gifts to navigate challenging and oftentimes dangerous circumstances and along the way give readers insight into other, creative ways of thinking….’

Read article at CrimeReads

First black hole picture: The big mysteries we still need to solve

Leah Crane writes:

‘The first ever image of a black hole, released on Wednesday, raises several important questions. For a start, we don’t know where exactly the light in the image comes from. Next, can we get a similarly good image of Sagittarius A*, the black hole at the centre of our galaxy? It is changing more quickly than the newly pictured black hole, so getting a clean image is more challenging. Finally, can these images help us understand how general relativity and quantum mechanics fit together? …’

Source: New Scientist

Related: An Astrophysicist on on What the Black Hole Image Reveals:

15943 607093fb70318b813d0e9b8531916fbePankaj Joshi:

’Strictly speaking, the system did not see an event horizon, which cannot be seen by definition. Furthermore, although an event horizon necessarily implies a shadow and silhouette, the converse is not true. Nonetheless the observations are still so precise that whatever is casting the shadow must be exotic. No ordinary body could be so small and yet so dark and so massive. A black hole is now the most conservative conclusion. If it is not a black hole, it might be a naked singularity, a type of immensely dense object that I have studied, and that would make a black hole look rather mundane.…’

Via Nautilus

The Life-Changing Magic of Unfollowing Almost Everybody

David Cain writes:

‘I unfollowed everybody except accounts who produce tweets I almost always want to see.

This is not the same as following people and businesses you like. That was a big discovery for me: simply liking someone or something isn’t a good reason to follow them on Twitter.

When you start going by whose tweets you like reading, as opposed to who you like for other reasons, you will probably end up following way fewer people.

Mostly, I stuck with:

  • People I know in real life (who aren’t in the habit of tweeting about horrible news events they don’t plan to do anything about)
  • Local events in my city
  • Local shops and businesses I would like to visit more
  • Certain kinds of humor
  • Certain kinds of discussion about certain topics

This kind of curation is definitely not what Twitter wants you to do, so you’ll have to turn to a third party app to efficiently cull your feed. I used Tokimeiki Unfollow, which cleverly allows you to Marie-Kondo-ize your feed, asking yourself if each account still “sparks joy.”

You’ll know what you feel about a given account when you see its name and avatar. You’ll feel a lot of aversion and indifference, and small moments of joy. When in doubt, unfollow. I was ruthless and regret nothing. It took ten minutes….’

Source: Raptitude

Trump makes golf gross again

‘…He cheats. He lies. He kicks. And not just his ball—yours, too. He props up a 2.8 handicap that’s faker than WrestleMania 35. He wins tournaments he never even played in. He wins tournaments that weren’t even held.

He does all of this because he has to win. A loss is to Donald Trump what a shower is to the Wicked Witch of the West. He has to win no matter how much cheating, lying, and pencil erasing it takes. He has to win whether you’ve caught him or not. Maybe it was his father beating into his kid brain, Win, win, win. Be a winner, over and over. Maybe it was where he learned the game—Cobbs Creek, a scruffy public course in Philadelphia full of hustlers and con men who taught him to cheat your opponent before he cheats you…’

Via The Atlantic

How ‘extinction neurons’ help us block out our worst memories

Stephen Johnson writes:

‘…[A] psychologist might recommend exposure therapy, in which people with specific fears are voluntarily and incrementally exposed to the very things they fear. The goal is to create new positive memories to silence the fearful ones. These are called “extinction memories.”

Scientists have long associated a part of the brain called the amygdala with fear. However, a new study focuses on the hippocampus — a brain region generally associated with memory and spatial navigation — and describes how extinction memories work not by replacing fearful memories, but rather by competing with them. This competition acts in two ways: by decreasing or silencing the activation of fear-inducing neurons and by activating a distinct set of neurons that help to reduce the fear response….’

Source: Big Think