At one time, the Master attended a formal tea ceremony … picked a piece of dried snot from his nose, and, trying not to attract any attention, went to place it beside him on his right. The guest there pulled back his sleeve in disgust. So the Master tried to place it on his left; but the guest there also recoiled. Realizing that he was stuck, the Master simply placed the snot back in his nose. —Curious Accounts of Zen Master Ryokan
Lance Larsen, poet laureate of Utah and a professor at BYU, is the author of four poetry collections: Genius Loci (2013), Backyard Alchemy (2009), In All Their Animal Brilliance (2005), and Erasable Walls (1998). Individual poems have appeared in Slate, New York Review of Books, Orion, Paris Review, Poetry, Georgia Review, Ploughshares, TLS, Best American Poetry 2009, and elsewhere. His essays also appear widely, three of which have been listed as notables—in Best American Essays 2005, 2009, and 2013.
Pants down, garage door up: how alike the sensation of exposure.
In triumph or despair, pet a cat.
Theory is a leaky cup.
To climb a new mountain, wear old shoes.
Wonder is the yeast of the imagination.
Fraud or Freud: for seven drafts not even my spell check could tell the difference.
Interesting piece by Michael Erard in Aeon on how to design a metaphor: “Designing metaphors makes you look around and realise how much of the language we use has been engineered to create its effects, in the same way that the resistance of an Oreo cookie’s cream against the tongue is no accident. To the metaphor designer, a really good, wild metaphor is a special find.”
Another aphoristic addition to the site from James Finnegan, whose Aphorisms by James Finnegan are extremely rewarding…
I’ve had the Collected Poems by Kenneth Patchen (1911-1972) for many years, almost as long as I’ve been a poet. Patchen had a wide range in his poetry, from the whimsical to the politically acerbic. Recently I was pulling his collected from the shelf looking for a suitable love poem to read at a wedding. Patchen wrote many beautiful love poems, often the subject of his love poem was his wife, Miriam. Flipping through the book this time, I noticed for the first time that the penultimate piece in the book is small collection of aphorisms under the title, “’Gentle & Giving’ and Other Sayings.” Here are a few…
Gentle and giving—the rest is nonsense and treason.
No man’s life is beautiful except in hurtless work.
The autumn leaf is emblazoned with spring’s belief.
Truth is always what they don’t say.
Take taking from those who give and nobody anywhere will need any more such gifts.
Law and order embrace on hate’s border.
An ear with a hippopotamus attached—what an amazingly unlikely way for the buzz of a tiny fly to get itself heard!
In the love of a man and a woman is the look of God looking.
James Finnegan is a poet who also composes aphoristic ars poetica at ursprache. He works in the field of financial institution insurance. Willie Sutton is one of his heroes. When he’s moved to assert something outside of poetics, he posts to Tramp Freighter. A selection below …
One can only be noble when no one is looking.
You began to suspect that the self was just a thought experiment.
Don’t turn your head—there is nothing behind you that is not dead.
Many of the paintings now thought of as masterpieces were the B-movies of their day.
Religion is a superstition with a superstructure.
If ever life drives you back into a fetal ball, don’t forget in that position it’s easy to roll.
Strategy is only alive while in action. As soon as it accomplishes its mission it risks becoming structure.
Tradition is cultural tyranny.
He was a full professor at the university of himself.
I first blogged about Peter Yovu’s aphorisms back in 2012. Now, just in time for the new year, here’s a selection of his more recent sayings…
Self is to consciousness what salt is to sea.
The end plays dead and lets you find it.
Fear of Death: it’s like knowing I have an appointment with the dentist except it’s not just a tooth that will be extracted.
More often the miracle is what does not happen.
I broke a stone to see what was inside. It was no longer inside.
I peeled the label. Some of my skin came off with it.
It is always the last place you look.
The mirror I practice in does not accept my apology.
Thanks again to Dave Lull for spotting this piece about Peter De Vries, novelist, New Yorker writer and aphorist, in Commentary. “De Vries is one of the best comic novelists that America has ever produced, and comic novelists do poorly over the long run of literary history,” writes D.G. Myers. “Other than Mark Twain, Ring Lardner, and perhaps Dawn Powell, Americans have tended to discard their humorists after a generation. Josh Billings, Petroleum V. Nasby, Ambrose Bierce, George Ade, Finley Peter Dunne, Will Cuppy, James Thurber, Robert Benchley, Dorothy Parker, Wolcott Gibbs, E. B. White, Harry Golden, S. J. Perelman, H. Allen Smith, Leonard Q. Ross — these are names from a textbook, not living writers … De Vries developed a taste for verbal humor while working on a community newspaper in Chicago after leaving school. ‘The result,’ he told an interviewer: ‘I truly enjoy local, homespun philosophers. Right on top of that I actually did write Pepigrams [e.g., “To turn stumbling blocks into stepping stones — pick up your feet”], for use as wall mottoes and such. I got two bucks a Pepigram, and they got stuck in my blood.’ Selected pepigrams:
Life is a zoo in a jungle.
There are times when parenthood seems nothing but feeding the mouth that bites you.
When I can no longer bear to think of the victims of broken homes, I begin to think of the victims of intact ones.
The value of marriage is not that adults produce children, but that children produce adults.
Prove to me that there is a God and I will really begin to despair.
What people believe is a measure of what they suffer.
Human nature is pretty shabby stuff, as you may know from introspection.
We are not primarily put on this earth to see through one another, but to see one another through.
Every novel should have a beginning, a muddle, and an end.
Dave Lull comes through again, this time with notice of what just might be the first book-length publication of Nicolás Gómez-Dávila’s aphorisms (Geary’s Guide, pp. 331-332)—or, scholia, as he called them—Scholia to an Implicit Text, in a review in the journal First Things. “If Gómez-Dávila is ever declared a saint, admittedly a very remote possibility, he should be taken up as the patron of nihilists—which is to say, of most of us on our worst days,” writes . “His work is a complement to, if not a substitute for, gin, tobacco, and constant prayer.” There is also this piece by Chris R. Morgan in The American Conservative. Selected scholia:
Journalism was the cradle of literary criticism. The university is its grave.
Vulgarity consists not in what vulgar people do but in what pleases them.
Reading newspapers debases him whom it does not stultify.
The modern world shall not be punished. It is the punishment.
No folk tale has ever begun thus: ‘Once upon a time there was a president.’
Today there is no-one to fight for. Only against.
A nude body solves every problem of the universe.
Inspirational quotes operate as currency on social media – not only in terms of the way their wisdom is handled and passed on, but because motivational tweets have become a key indicator of a person worth following. In 2013, Forbes ran a list of the most influential people on social media. (There is no escape: clicking that link will activate a pop-up “Quote of the Day”. Enjoy!) Haydn Shaughnessy compiled the data, and noticed that the most influential people on Twitter offered a stream of motivational content. “When we looked at leading social media influencers in 2012, they were all people who created a lot of content. By 2013,” he says, “it was much more likely that a top influencer would be tweeting inspiration instead of creating separate content. The reason? People probably don’t read content anyway, they just share it.”
Read the rest of the piece here.
The metaphorically minded, aphoristically inclined Dave Lull sends links to three recent pieces on your favorite topic and mine: metaphor…
First, a nice overview of ‘metaphorical effects’, “instances in which a metaphor commonly used to describe a psychological state or social reality can, in turn, induce that state or reality,” writes Lisa Wade in Pacific Standard, including becoming suspicious when the odor of fish is present.
Second, an exploration of whether the brain notices, or cares, about the differences among literal, metaphorical, and idiomatic expressions, by Michael Chorost in The Chronicle of Higher Education.
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