a poem by Lisa Alvarado

To the Elysian gardener, my Fidus Achates

Spectral Lyre

These days, I find myself preferring poems of a subtle metaphysical bent or cast. Like the poems of Adam Zagajewski. He has a way of turning phenomena into melancholy and whispered beauty. But sometimes, a poem infused with amorous tensions and shaded with romantic hues finds its way into my approving head. Like the poems of Robert Desnos. Like this poem by Lisa Alvarado.

Garden, dark

At midnight, wildflower,

(Yes, that is your true name)
before that blank page of sleep overtook me,
I saw you clearly — a free spirit
blossoming outside what I call garden,
rare, color-ripe,
but destined to be forever and irretrievably another’s.

Because the wild flowers inside you,
I dream your eyes bloom at the shabbos tish,
and I feel awe washing over me —
the breath of lost angels and lost family.
A prayer flowering inside you, despite you.
In the place where winds…

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On Borges’ Discovery of the Internet Before it Existed

Like the sands of time in an hourglass

Write Underwater

I will occasionally reach for the Collected Fictions of Jorge Luis Borges when attempting to induce sleep, or dreams, refusing to touch my close-by smartphone, which is set to airplane mode. I did so last night, opening without a thought to a short piece called The Book of Sands.

In it a Nordic-looking traveling Bible-salesman (he turns out to be Scottish, and discusses with our Argentine narrator India and the influence of the Norwegian Jarls on the Orkneys) correctly surmises that our narrator would be interested in this strange item, the Book of Sand.

The Book of Sand is a curious object and yet, I feel, also curiously familiar to us. Wherever our narrator turns in the book, the page number is random and nonconsequential. He tries to grip pages with a finger and thumb but finds they jump around and shift. He finds it impossible to find the…

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Leonard Cohen’s ‘Anthem’: That’s how the light gets in

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

That's How The Light Gets In

To kick off its relaunch on WordPress, I thought an entry on this blog’s signature song would be appropriate.

Leonard Cohen once explained the meaning of the song as follows:

That is the background of the whole record, I mean if you have to come up with a philosophical ground, that is “Ring the bells that still can ring.” It’s no excuse… the dismal situation.. and the future is no excuse for an abdication of your own personal responsibilities towards yourself and your job and your love. “Ring the bells that still can ring”: they’re few and far between but you can find them. “Forget your perfect offering”, that is the hang-up, that you’re gonna work this thing out. Because we confuse this idea and we’ve forgotten the central myth of our culture which is the expulsion from the garden of Eden. This situation does not…

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So you wanna be a writer……

Street of Dreams

5 things I wished I’d known starting out as a writer………

5) Rejection will hurt a lot more than you think it will.

I always knew as a writer, as any artist, that rejection is just a fairly regular part of life…for every one publication comes rejection after rejection. But pouring your heart and soul into a project, until it’s your baby, and then having someone tell you that it isn’t good enough or right for their magazine, just flat out sucks.

It will hurt. Even after you get used to it, some days when you get that letter or email that says we don’t want you and it will still put you in a crappy mood.  There will be days you will want to give up.

Most people don’t make it right away. Most people spend years of getting rejected before they ever make it.  Oh and by make…

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Maalouf’s Samarkand: ‘words to scorn are scatter’d, and mouths stopt with dust.’

The Immortals

That's How The Light Gets In

Rubaiyat Folio edition 1955

Sometimes in Samarkand, in the evening of a slow and dreary day, city dwellers would come to while the time away at the dead-end Street of Two Taverns, near the pepper market. They came not to taste the musky wine of Soghdia but to watch the comings and goings or to waylay a carouser who would then be forced down into the dust, showered with insults, and cursed into a hell whose fire, until the end of all time, would recall the ruddiness of the wine’s enticements. Out of such an incident the manuscript of the Rubaiyaat was to be born in the summer of 1072.

These are the first sentences of Samarkand, an early novel by Amin Maalouf that I read recently, drawn to it because in it, Maalouf weaves together fact and fiction in a story that has at its heart the Rubaiyaat of Omar Khayyam, written…

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The Phoenix rising

And when they seek
to oppress you
and destroy you;
rise and rise again
and again
like The Phoenix
from the ashes;
until the lambs
have become lions
and the rule of Darkness
is no more.”

~ Maitreya The Friend of All Souls ~



How I Wrote My Statement of Purpose

The MFA Years

Hey, Cady here. Just want to let you know I read the message boards. I’m active in one Facebook group for applicants, and I help moderate another. I am aware that every last one of you is panicked about the statement of purpose.

I’ve been known to show my statement to people, but that’s not what I’m going to do here. I know this is a strange thing to say about a document that I sent out to a bunch of strangers at one point, but it’s personal. Maybe if we know each other, or if you catch me in a good mood. But probably not. Sorry.

What I’m going to do instead is more helpful to you. I’m going to break my statement down paragraph by paragraph, giving instructions on how to write one like it. There are even quotes! Let’s go.

Paragraph 1: 164 words

My opening sentence…

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How to be a writer

Creative Writing Studies

We asked novelist Sally O’Reilly, who is researching creative writing at Brunel University, to introduce her new blog and forthcoming book. Sally writes:

I am a writer, journalist, PhD student and creative writing tutor with more than two decades of experience of writing for a living. During this time I’ve contributed to the Guardian, Sunday Times, Evening Standard and New Scientist and written two novels, published by Penguin books in 2004 and 2007.

In the process, I have learned a great deal, not only about how to write, but about how to BE a writer. This has never been easy, and in the current depressed and uncertain publishing market, it is perhaps more difficult than ever.

My experience has taught me that the greatest pleasure in writing comes from “process” – the act of writing itself. No matter how important it is to see your work in print (and…

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Alison Summers – PhD Proposal

Writing on Broken Glass

Alison Summers, a full-time student on the MA course, is continuing her academic studies with a PhD. Here Alison talks a little about what she is doing and why, and shares her PhD proposal.

Why did you want to do a PhD?

It has been a long-term plan – publish a book and get a PhD, mainly because I want to teach in Higher Education and recruiters keep raising the bar. I have taught for seven years in the Adult Education sector. I adore teaching and see it as a really good accompaniment to writing.

Why this particular subject?
My older sister was diagnosed with Pick’s Disease two years ago. Very shortly after receiving the diagnosis of what she calls this “hideous” disease, she said to me, “Ali, I really hope you get some writing out of all this.” So although I will not be writing about her, my novel…

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