This is part of a DIY education project I’ve undertaken called The 1000-Day MFA that I learned about from writer Shaunta Grimes. You can read more about how I’m engaging with it here. By the way, there might be no rhyme or reason to how I choose the poems, essays, and short stories. Or they might have a theme. But basically, I just throw my net out to the world, and read whatever I catch.
Poem: Milkweed by James Wright
Essay: Herman Melville's Passionate, Beautiful, Heartbreaking Love Letters to Nathaniel Hawthorne, by Maria Popova
Short Story: Tickets, Please
by D. H. Lawrence
Milkweed: We've all felt loss. One way or another it comes for us. But this stunning poem reminds us of the unseen, tender visitors from the other side of loss.
Herman Melville's Passionate, Beautiful, Heartbreaking Love Letters to Nathanial Hawthorne: Driving home from the grocery store, I was listening to Maria Popova on Krista Tippett's podcast, On Being. (Please, please give yourself the gift of listening to this episode.) Maria Popova is absolutely riveting, brilliant, and illuminating. When I got to my computer I looked up her blog, Brain Pickings, on the hunt for an essay to read. Two hours later, I came up for air but only because I had to eat. This is where I found the essay about "the asymmetry of love" found in the love letters from Herman Melville to Nathaniel Hawthorne. [Which is where I learned about the jaw-dropping accomplishments of Margaret Fuller (she was born in 1810). Oh my God, the joy of this blessed rabbit hole. The one that shows me by turns much bigger and infinitely smaller than I am. The one that jolts me awake, that reminds me that there were and have always been phenomenal women in the world. We just didn't hear about them because...it just wasn't done. But I digress.]
I also made a small side trip into the world of Emily Dickinson's life and her "electric love letters to Susan Gilbert." I learned about the asymmetry of love between these two women, a love that bore some similarities to the love that Melville had for Hawthorne.
But one of the coolest things I learned was how Maria Popova (the writer of these essays) thinks about things. How much room she makes for everything we don't, can't possibly know. And the depth and texture she brings to whatever subject finds itself in the crosshairs of her philosophical gaze. I clicked on the links, followed one to the other to the other, took my time, couldn't stop reading. And I found myself in a world where Melville and Hawthorne (for me, dry historical figures I'd never been moved to explore) came to vivid, breathing life.
Popova, Melville, Hawthorne, Dickinson, Gilbert, and Fuller are all more than names for me now. They're people. They're points of light from many times and directions that converged in one moment, and stretched my mind.
Thank you Maria Popova, my new hero.
Tickets, Please Who knew the vast extent of my ignorance? I've never read D. H. Lawrence. His name just sat there in my psyche as part of fairly recent history--and all I had to go on was this vague sense that his writing was racy for its time. But, not having finished my sophomore year in high school, I never read any of his work. A tattered book of short stories found its way into my house (no idea how), and I decided to dive in. Picked a story at random. Tickets, Please was a story that shocked me. Not because it was lurid. But because of the violence it channeled through the group of women who'd all been wronged by the same man. The story started plausibly enough as tale of love, and ended with a shocking denouement.
All three of these snippets of the written word dead with loss of one kind or another. All very different viewpoints.
I'm loving this 1000-day MFA. I'm on Day 9, but I'm two weeks in. Doesn't matter how long this takes. I'm in it for the long haul..