Be Poignant, Man. Be Poignant.

One of my favorite quotes is about quoting:

He drew forth a phrase from his treasure and spoke it softly to himself: –a day of dappled seaborne clouds.
James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

If I could meet any character from a novel, it would be Stephen Dedalus. I love that he has a treasure of phrases. I love that he draws them forth and rolls them around softly in his mouth. I love “dappled seaborne clouds,” even though I had a professor in college who called that line trite and then made a big thematic argument about it. I love English classes but I don’t love literary criticism but I love that there are people who care so much about words that they will argue about them for a living.

I listened to Writer’s Almanac tonight while washing dishes and remembered how much it used to brighten a dull commute or dreary chores. And then I kept having to stop washing dishes in order to jot things down. So I might draw them forth and speak them softly to myself.

Here are a few treasures (and I am linking these because you really, truly must hear Garrison Keillor read them):

since feeling is first

by e.e. cummings

and then this:

On Punctuation

by Elizabeth Austen

and finally:

I may as well tell you that if you are going about the place thinking things pretty, you will never make a modern poet. Be poignant, man, be poignant!

P. G. Wodehouse


I am going to try telling myself that, next time it hails (yes, HAILS) in the middle of what should be a perfectly lovely April afternoon, or the next time my favorite yoga teacher’s class gets canceled, or next time my kitten wakes me up at 6:00 a.m. by biting my nose. POIGNANT, MAN.  POIGNANT.


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