We Stitch Our Own Seams

24 October 2013
9:56 pm

T. —

Have you heard about this film yet? I only discovered the trailer today. But I’m really excited to see it, and I’m also incredibly happy that Treat Williams is Robert Lowell. That makes a lot of sense to me. I hope there are lots of letters in this film.

A few weeks ago, Andrew drew my attention to Contents Magazine, an online publication which also has a book club. They explain the book club as this: “The Contents book club is a distributed reading group for people who like interesting things.”

Sign me up.

The book they just recommended is The Library at Night by Alberto Manguel, so you’ll be getting quite a few excerpts in the coming days from me, I imagine.

During the day, the library is a realm of order. Down and across the lettered passages I move with visible purpose, in search of a name or a voice, summoning books to my attention according to their allotted rank and file. The structure of the place is visible: a maze of straight lines, not to become lost in but for finding; a divided room that follows and apparently logical sequence of classification; a geography obedient to a predetermined table of contents and a memorable hierarchy of alphabets and numbers.

But at night the atmosphere changes. Sounds become muffled, thoughts grow louder. “Only when it is dark does the owl of Minerva take flight,” noted Walter Benjamin, quoting Hegel. Time seems closer to that moment halfway between wakefulness and sleep in which the world can be comfortably reimagined. My movements feel unwittingly furtive, my activity secret. I turn into something of a ghost. The books are now the real presence and it is I, their reader, who, through cabbalistic rituals of half-glimpsed letters, am summoned up and lured to a certain volume and a certain page. A half-remembered line is echoed by another for reasons which, in the light of day, remain unclear. If the library in the morning suggests an echo of the severe and reasonably wishful order of the world, the library at night seems to rejoice in the world’s essential, joyful muddle.

– The Library At Night, Alberto Manguel


I know you know the poem Late Fragment by Raymond Carver. Sometimes I feel like I’ll never be able to introduce a new poem to you =). This article is about time, but it’s really about poetry, and it’s about relationship, and how we exist on the earth. That’s some great writing, if you ask me.


And things I loved about this article as well:

Archives cut up the understandings we make of things as we live them. As fragments, distant pieces of the world can find each other. When we visit the archives, we are visited by what arises among the fragments: by memories with their own power, by coincidences, by hidden patterns and new understandings. As we step out of the archives into everyday life, and back and forth, like we cycle between dreaming and waking, we stitch our own seams.

The Garden by Charlie Lloyd

Indeed, what he chooses to include:

Who are you, reader, reading my poems an hundred years hence? I cannot send you one single flower from this wealth of the spring, one single streak of gold from yonder clouds. Open your doors and look abroad.

From your blossoming garden gather fragrant memories of the vanished flowers of an hundred years before. In the joy of your heart may you feel the living joy that sang one spring morning, sending its glad voice across an hundred years.

— Tagore: The Gardener 85 (1915)


I like interviews when the interviewer asks good questions and the subject gives honest answers:

Contents: With over 35,000 volumes in your library and a lifetime of close reading, how do you document your responses to what you’re currently reading? In other words, how do you keep track of those copious conversations and record the connections you make while reading?

Alberto Manguel: I don’t. Chance is a good librarian and the encounters she allows don’t follow any pre-conceived order or method. So it happens that, through my wanderings in the library, I remember some encounters and forget others, much as happens in my meetings with people. And the connections between these encounters weave and interweave, and form patterns that I can’t fully see or be conscious of. But they are there. So when a subject comes up in my mind, some of these interweavings, a few of these meeting-places are brought to mind, and then the subject is illuminated by the memory. Unfortunately, as I grow older, the memories are fewer and far between.

– Chance is a Good Librarian, an interview with Alberto Manguel


Sometimes I think I’m not writing enough with my hands. More letters, more sketchings. Ink solves so many problems.

Do you have the same obsession with pens I have? Namely, do you have a certain type of pen you are really committed to? I am in love with Pilot pens, and the good news is that my love for them is now environmentally friendly! I’ve just discovered the new Pilot cartridge system. And yes, I am going to buy them, probably tomorrow.



One thought on “We Stitch Our Own Seams

  1. Oh god, everything about this is perfect:

    1. The film!!!! Thanks for sharing this. Oh. Oh, my heart. I don’t know Treat Williams although he looks familiar. Miranda Otto, however–oh, I love her. I love her.

    2. Alberto Manguel. Oh. I wanted to own all of his books. I aspire to be like him, write like him, when it comes to the reading life. I want that kind of introspection.

    3. I have The Library at Night but haven’t read it yet. I don’t mind excerpts. That would be nice. I’ll try to see if I can get started on it over the weekend so we can talk about it. I am currently part of a group in ModPo where we are close reading Stein’s Tender Buttons, so that takes up a lot of space in my head. (I also have yet to type up my thoughts on Wild!)

    4. I have learned a lot of poems from you! For instance, Gabriel Gadfly. And the ones by Rachel Blau du Plessis (absolutely no way for me to access that). Also, your approach and understanding of Tomas Tranströmer enabled me to like him in a manner I never have before. There’s more, but these three poets come to mind.

    5. Thank you (and Andrew!) for the link to Contents. I will be perusing that for a long while.

    6. Yes, I only usually use one type of pen if I can help it (M&G Office G 0.5). I have a container at my desk that contains just those pens. They run out of ink quickly (probably because I’m writing so much), so I need to have a lot. And I mean a lot. So there’s a lot on my desk and probably I carry around three in my bag whenever I go out. I’ll take a photo and send it to you sometime. I used to love Pilot (specifically Pilot Hi-Tecpoint V5), but I’m always running around and dropping things and it does not work with me after a while. I have it in purple and green I think, somewhere around here. Maybe someday we’ll rekindle our relationship. I have a few other coloured pens for doodling, but for writing I want black ink.

    Same goes for pencils. Just the one brand (Stabilo Micro 288 Exam Grade 1) for writing. For drawing I use Berkeley drawing pencils. For charcoal (not that I am an expert or anything, just liked trying it sometimes), I use Berkeley and Derwent.


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