William Michaelian

Poems, Notes, and Drawings

Tag Archive for ‘Emerson’

In Lieu Of

Ralph Waldo Emerson and William Wells Brown are both in Europe now, seeing the sights, meeting people, writing their observations and travel notes. One is a free man, wondering what freedom really is. The other is a fugitive, who knows what freedom is, or thinks he does. This leaves us to ask the reader of these two books if he knows. And he replies by saying that whatever he knows, […]

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Knowing and Not Knowing

While reading Emerson’s journal this morning, I came to a one-line entry of such a painful, personal nature that even now, almost two hundred years after it was written, I feel I have invaded the poor man’s privacy. Yet I am glad I read it. Had I been the editor, I would have thought long and hard about including it, but I am sure I would have done so — […]

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Originality and Skill

One might write as well as, or better than, Emerson or Montaigne, and the sum of that writing be nothing more than an echo or derivative shadow. In any given moment, all it needs is a leap to be skyward or hell-bound. Either will do, as long as the sky and the hell are one’s own. November 19, 2020 . [ 934 ]

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Emerson, Thoreau, and a Compost Pile

In addition to the Harlem Renaissance novels and Thoreau’s journal, I have begun reading the two-volume edition of Emerson’s journal published ten years ago by the Library of America. Reading Emerson’s words aloud, as I do Thoreau’s, is more than a daily exercise in tongue and skill; the vibrations in my chest and skull create a conversational, dreamlike, philosophical intimacy that makes me feel we are together in the same […]

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Fossil Poetry

The well ran dry. He dug deeper, and deeper, his back to the soft spring rain.   Fossil Poetry I’m tempted to say writing is what keeps me sane, but I think we’d better reserve judgment on that. The opposite could easily be true. Writing might be what keeps me insane. Or, my insanity might be what keeps me writing. Then again, it might be my sanity that keeps me […]

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The Wise Old Man

Autobiography is the strangest thing. It’s about everything, and nothing, and no one, and everyone, all at the same time. To be of use — is there anything more to ask? March 23, 2020   The Wise Old Man The wise old man noticed he was hungry. Then he remembered he had no food. “Ah, yes,” he said, “there is that.” A very serious-looking man entered his hut. “You owe […]

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Whispers

Dahlia leaves, intensely green after a thunderstorm. Ferns and moss, a fertile, humid prayer. Cleaning the iris bed — old, worn mothers with their fearless children. The scent of mushrooms soon to sprout. A friendly neighbor says a spirit haunts his house. Books — Walt Whitman and John Muir. Melville and Thoreau. And how strange Emerson, if he’d had a beard. September 12, 2019 [ 510 ]

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Happiness

All of Herman Melville’s poetry, complete in a beautiful, one thousand-page book — the new Library of America edition, out just days ago, is already in this reader’s hands. This is another of those projects I enjoy so well, like the slow and careful reading aloud of Thoreau’s fourteen-volume journal, which I have currently under way, Joyce’s Ulysses and Finnegans Wake, and the complete works of other writers I have […]

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Front Walk

In his journal, Emerson writes of walking with Hawthorne, talking with Thoreau, Carlyle’s latest book, and Tennyson’s new poems. In mine, I write of you, in terms of my own plain self. And this is our wealth: that we are each a funny blend of science and superstition, of pain, nerve, and luck. And this is our grief — the loss of dear Waldo, Emerson’s five-year-old son. August 4, 2019 […]

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As Is

Written in 2015 and first published as a standalone blog, I refer affectionately to As Is as a “free-form essay” without quite knowing what the term means. The piece, divided into nine parts, or verses, is as much poem as it is essay, as much memoir as it is poem, and as much a celebration of life and language as all three. Its several references to Stephen, Mary, and my […]

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