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Category Archives: turn of phrase

“Praise their ignorance, my sister sings.
Praise their fear, I sing.
Praise their hatred.
Praise their envy.
Praise their bitter grief.
Praise them and put them aside.
They are eating the last tainted bread of the earth.
Praise their unhappy fate.
And praise their hours of joy.
Praise their good work.
And praise the sickness of children.
Praise all the tumors.
And praise the bad blood.
Praise the tired livers.
Praise the ailing spleens.
And praise the high colonic ruin.
Praise the drowning waters.
And all the drowned beneath them…”

– Chris Adrian, The Children’s Hospital


“The whiteness of the page before it is written on and after it is erased is and is not the same white, and the silence before a word is spoken and after is and is not the same silence.”

– Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby

“We poets knock upon the silence for an answering music.”

– Lu Chi

“There’s a strangely popular subject of speculation for hikers and explorers: whether they were the first people ever to tread on a piece of land. It comes out of the American obsession with virgin wilderness, which is itself a deeply problematic idea, and it speculates about the possibility of the utterly new, of an experience without predecessors.

“It is usually mistaken in its premises. There are few places in North America that were not first walked upon by the indigenous inhabitants of the continent, and even if one were to take out one’s mountaineering gear and reach a peak literally untouched before by human beings, one is making a gesture that depends for its meaning and motives on a long history of such gestures.

“You are covering cultural territory covered by great mountaineers. And the actual act of climbing a mountain depends for its meaning on the romantic cult of mountains, and so even if you have never read Shelley’s ‘Mont Blanc,’ you have inherited it, and when you step on that piece of ground, you step where Shelley went, and where a wide road of meaning has been worn since.

“It seems you should know where you came from to understand where you are, and only a true and absolute amnesiac could come from nowhere in arriving somewhere.”

– Rebecca Solnit, Savage Dreams

“Death is not a bad joke if told the right way.”

– Yiyun Li, A Thousand Years of Good Prayers

“Some languages kept the ideas of desire and privation apart, but English forced them into the naked intimacy of a single syllable: want. Wanting love to ease the want of love. The war on want which made one want more.”

– Edward St Aubyn, Mother’s Milk

“The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new.”

– Samuel Beckett

“Happiness writes white.”

– Montherlant

“The young man knows the rules, but the old man knows the exceptions.”

– Oliver Wendell Holmes

“Inelegantly and without my consent, time passed.”

– Miranda July, No One Belongs Here More Than You

“Omnipotence-induced nausea washes over Stone.”

– Richard Powers, Generosity: An Enhancement