Day 2: Poem, Essay, Short Story

Updated: Feb 28, 2019


This is part of a DIY education project I've undertaken called The 1000-Day MFA. You can read more about how I'm engaging with it here. By the way, there is no rhyme or reason to how I choose the poems, essays, and short stories. I'm just throwing my net out to the world, and reading whatever I catch.


Poem: Breaking

by Wendell Berry

(from Collected Poems: 1957-1982)


Essay: Documents

by Charles D'Ambrosio


Short Story: Horizon

by Naomi Shihab Nye

(from There Is No Long Distance Now: Very Short Stories)



Breaking brings us that moment (we've all known it) when we discover that nothing is what we thought it was. It's worse. It's better. Brilliant and brief.


Documents, found in the June 17th, 2002 issue of the New Yorker, takes us through Mr. D'Ambrosio's collection of letters--from his brothers (one of whom committed suicide, the other is mentally ill), to and from his father. Gripping, sad, and compelling.


Horizon illuminated a part of me that automatically feels ashamed if I don't love something written by a hero of mine. I must be wrong. I must not get it. I happen to love Naomi Shihab Nye as a poet. I discovered her work because of an interview with Krista Tippett (the On Being podcast).


This short story seemed shallow and brutally on the nose.


But then I saw the lesson I need to learn. It's why I'm not better educated. My problem is I'm swayed by the grossest 'feeling' about a thing. I make a judgment before even really tasting it. I love it, or I turn away completely, and I do all that in the first four or five seconds. There's no part of me that was ever encouraged to cock my head a little, pause, and wonder if there might be something more to whatever I've just drop kicked into oblivion.


And although this story didn't really do it for me, even after the pausing and the wondering, the true gift of "Horizon" was to show me how shortsighted I am when faced with something I don't immediately adore. I intend to cultivate a more open, curious, critical mind (as in, capable of critical thinking) during the remaining 998 days of this endeavor.

I will say one more thing. Today, I was hit with an avalanche of work. Unexpected, tense, time-sensitive, brain draining work. It was 11:54pm before I could even start these readings. But my commitment was absolute. I looked at the clock, squared my shoulders and said, "Let's go." It felt great. No excuses. I highly recommend this attitude.


This is happening every single day. Why? Because you're watching :-) Thank you for your responses, those of you who wrote me. It felt wonderful to know I wasn't alone in the world.


And now to bed.

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