Lots to share with you. It's difficult reading for the most part, as it deals with tough issues desperately needing awareness and solutions. Still, I'm excited in a strange way—it's nice to have an audience I can talk to about what matters.
- ProPublica looks at the "true" tax rate of billionaires, finding that taxing income is woefully inadequate for dealing with massive fortunes. What I hope we can start talking about more openly is how and when wealth becomes power. The stability one might feel making 70k is nothing like having 20 million dollars. That sounds obvious, but not only do we not think about it, but we really haven't come to grips at what point politicians are outright bought. Here's a charming story about a family finding the help they needed for their business from someone who just happened to be a prosecutor.
- "How Roblox Became a Playground for Virtual Fascists." I can't say enough about how good a read this was. Cecilia D'Anastasio grapples with how hard it is to talk about radicalization. We know it is happening: you've got older kids barking orders at younger ones, and the younger ones believing this is how authority works, is worth aspiring to. But the whole enterprise is soaked in the irony fascists have become so good at exploiting to their advantage nowadays. The academics who should be able to flag the enterprise as an unmistakable danger can't do so as a unified voice because there are winks and nods and elements of "satire" everywhere.
- I'm still slowly going through Jewish Currents' Celan issue, and this conversation between Fanny Howe (!) and Pierre Joris (!) is just something else. This is what interviews aspire to be. One excerpt, from Joris talking about the decades of his life devoted to reading and translating Celan: "I’d argue that the poems show an amazing solidity despite what they came out of—the (post-)Holocaust—and where they went to: his own psychic breakdowns."
Please feel free to promote this newsletter. As you can tell from the new "What Readers Say" page, I'm happy for any blurbs or recommendations you'd like to give. Thank you for reading, thank you for your support.
Kyla Houbolt, "Gold"
You’ll notice I don’t often comment on love poetry. A lot of it seems incredibly privileged to me, dependent on norms and attitudes sold to us. Good people get passed over all the time, and romantic love is only one part of one species of love.
Nonetheless, good love poetry is good poetry, expanding sensitivity’s range. “Gold” makes every moment of being lost in love count, whether it presents a bicycle meeting a building’s corner in one point, or the unwitting plucking of more flowers than can be held:
Gold (originally published in Black Bough Poetry's "Broadsides") Kyla Houbolt I lean my ride on the corner of the old store and sneak into the near field to steal you a flower. I almost get lost, choosing. I gather too many, wish the old bike had a basket. Cuts like a knife, to watch this gold lit hour fall to night.
“Gold” doesn’t hide that it is about someone. The poem’s action depends on “sneak[ing] into the near field / to steal you a flower.” That action resolves in curious ways. To wit: “I almost get lost, choosing.”
Almost lost, trying to choose flowers. My own experience has been like this: the flowers from the field are striking. I have to pluck a few for her because it mirrors magnificence. Here are these intensely beautiful flowers I saw as part of my day, and I’d like you to have them, to know I carried the image of you throughout the day. I would look for flowers in great condition, ones seeming to promise an earth beyond pollution and climate change. (I’m not going to comment on how successful I was. Okay, I’d find like one.)
“I almost get lost, choosing. / I gather too many…”—this is a different experience. Different flowers are beautiful in different ways. They speak to different aspects of a beloved. Underlying being lost, gathering too many, is a resonant proposition: We love and are loved for so many reasons that it fails to make sense.
It’s a rich idea which I believe helps describe both what’s beyond romantic love and how love can fall apart. The latter might be slightly hinted in “Gold,” though the imagery lends itself to multiple interpretations. Flowers cause a beautiful confusion, then are too much, and then finally the “gold lit hour” itself disappears. This “cuts like a knife.” A lot of times, being in love with love is the primary experience, and it’s hard to appreciate a beloved as more than a product of our affections. I don’t say this to declare that there are relationships that are shallow and others that are deep—it’s much weirder, truth be told. I can say this safely: it takes more than work to see people for who they are.
What points beyond romantic love? Just being really, really excited about someone. Anyone. It’s hard to believe this is an everyday experience. We sort of treat it like it is when it comes to family. Young grandchildren when they get to visit their grandparents, our looking foward to the cool cousin who’s into stuff which gets the rest of us in trouble, etc. But maybe we don’t do enough of letting people be larger than life. Of spoiling not just them, but the thought of them. A lot of times, when I’m reading books, I feel like I’m becoming more aware of what I’m missing. People around me have to be as thoughtful and deep as what I’m seeing in the books, no?