By Sage Wannabee
Quotes can most accurately be defined by Teju Cole’s description of photography. “Photography is inescapably a memorial act. It selects, out of a flow of time, a moment to be preserved, with the moments before and after falling away like sheer cliffs.” I find wisdom in snips from other people’s shared thoughts, and consider them as reset buttons for when I’ve strayed out of tune.
But it is easy to mishandle quotes. I try to control this by remembering what I’d read in How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading, that “The vice of ‘verbatism’ is the bad habit of using words without regard for the thoughts they should covey and without awareness of the experiences to which they refer.”
On reading books, Alberto Manguel, in his book Into the Looking-Glass Wood, wrote: “And I believe that sometimes, beyond the author’s intention and beyond the reader’s hopes, a book can make us wiser.” This emphasized a previous quote I’d been pondering, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”
Maria Popova of Brain Pickings wrote, “Seek out what magnifies your spirit.” I am drawn to books, to the miracle of sentences, and plagued by an impulse to translate convoluted thoughts into words. But, “the things that are most interesting and most worth having are impossible to define,” the opening words of Marjorie Boulton’s The Anatomy of Poetry, reminds me that, at times, one should just swallow words and their accompanying thoughts in their wholeness, and let their beauty, like a good joke, burst inside one’s stomach. As John Updike said, “I think books should have secrets, like people do.”
On ‘tidying up,’ Marie Kondo, in her book the life-changing magic of tidying up, wrote “Good writing is edited. Great writing is organized, cleaned, and scrubbed.”
Poetry has been my abundant source of worthy quotes, and I will share some of those I revere for the wisdom they articulate, or just the sheer splendour of their word architecture.
Death holds us in its embrace,
Reckless and modest,
Carries us, a secret with his secrets
And turns our multitudes into one.
I dare not speak for mankind
I know so little of myself
John Burnside (Landscapes)
Words are coins
Thrown on a table to settle a debt, a sign
That nothing’s settled.
James J. McAuley (An Irish Bull)
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?
Edgar Allan Poe (A Dream within a Dream)
I congratulate you, sand.
You are the only one who can pour
Water and mirage
Into the same bowl.
Adonis (Celebrating Death)
Step off of me
The world is old
There is nothing new
But new ways to die.
Go easy and away.
Ayoola Oyeniyi (Steps)
Love and dreams are two parentheses
Between them I place my body
And discover the world.
Adonis (Celebrating Childhood)