If you have never heard any excerpts of this commencement speech by Davis Foster Wallace delivered at Kenyon College in 2005. I graduated that year as well and I have a close friend who graduated from Kenyon that year as well, a bit jealous that she got to hear this speech in person.
"Write as if this were your only book, your last book. Into it put everything you were saving—everything precious, every scrap of capital, every penny as it were. Don’t be afraid of being left with nothing."
“There’d be nothing wrong with “one-hit wonder” status if the term didn’t suggest some sort of creative limitation; if people didn’t assume that one hit means only one good song. But for Sean Nelson and Harvey Danger, the 1998 smash “Flagpole Sitta” has had a way of overshadowing the superior but less widely heard material that followed. By the time Harvey Danger self-released the tremendous 2005 album Little By Little…, the group’s incisive, catchy, thoughtful post-hit songs were known mostly to obsessives and cultists.
Thankfully, that wouldn’t be Nelson’s final musical chapter: He’s about to return with a solo debut eight years in the making, titled Make Good Choices. Recorded in a leisurely fashion between distractions — and aided by collaborators such as Peter Buck — the album comes out June 4, and finds Nelson sounding as wise and vital as ever.
What do you hope your poems offer your readers and the world?
A door. One that stands outside our usual addresses and maps—or more truly, perhaps, many doors at once, that lead simultaneously outward and inward, into both the life we share with others and the privacy in which self can take stock with original eyes. I hope my poems might offer: “Here is one experience of life, of its possibilities, exhilarations, bewilderments, griefs. Enter. Now, here is another.” When we bring that spirit of openness, permeability, exploration, and courage into our lives and our hands, everything else follows: a deeper saturation and compassion, a recalibrating sense of proportion, an increase of the possible. Good poems make clarity without making simple. They do not erase darkness; if anything, they open into it. But wouldn’t the page of a day be dull and undistinguished, almost as if unsigned by existence, without its charcoal?
“I was going to say Emerson’s essay on Love, which has a lot of good passages in it, including, ‘The passion rebuilds the world for the youth’ and ‘In the noon and the afternoon of life we still throb at the recollection of days when happiness was not happy enough, but must be drugged with the relish of pain and fear; for he touched the secret of the matter, who said of love, ‘All other pleasures are not worth its pains.’’
“But I think most of Bacon’s essay ‘Of Love,’ a disturbing piece because of how its prose seems to shudder with fear. Bacon genuinely feared love, its destructive tendencies, its power to undo otherwise sane-seeming people, ‘for in life it doth much mischief; sometimes like a siren, sometimes like a fury.’ Don’t quote him in any love letters. But that rebound relationship your friends are telling you is really bad for you? Read this before you marry that person. ‘This passion hath his floods, in very times of weakness; which are great prosperity, and great adversity; though this latter hath been less observed: both which times kindle love, and make it more fervent, and therefore show it to be the child of folly.’”
"Of course the problem is setting the goals in the first place; many enough ‘successful’ men end up drunks for having fulfilled goals the world set for them and then finding they’ve fulfilled nothing in themselves; many enough kids end up junkies for having decided the world’s goals aren’t worth trying for and being unable to set any of their own. A few fortunate combine the two (I don’t mean drink and drugs, but meaning your own and worldy goals), and your education and growing up now are vitally important because learning the world’s goals (even marks in school) gives you the material to form your own—and don’t misunderstand, I don’t mean that by your 16th birthday you should know whether you want to be a poet or an astronaut, but only have a hungry curiosity in all directions for anything that brings you and your mind to life."
The long-awaited release of My Bloody Valentine’s follow-up to Loveless has sparked a reappraisal of their influence over the past 22 years of popular music. Not surprisingly, so much of the shoe-gaze skronk that arrived in its immediate wake has pretty much been consigned to the dustbin of derivative history. But “Marcia and Etrusca” by the Loud Family stands out as my favorite example of a band applying some of the Shields sound to push itself into new sonic and songcraft territory, and creating something timeless in the process.