What is a quote? A quote (cognate with quota) is a cut, a section, a slice of someone else’s orange. You suck the slice, toss the rind, skate away. Part of what you enjoy in a documentary technique is the sense of banditry. To loot someone else’s life or sentences and make off with a point of view, which is called “objective” because you can make anything into an object by treating it this way, is exciting and dangerous. Let us see who controls the danger.
-Anne Carson, Spill.



This is also part of the story: how the story changes.
Richard Siken, war of the foxes


Hungry man, reach for the book: it is a weapon.
Bertholt Brecht

Until then I had thought each book spoke of the things, human or divine, that lie outside books. Now I realized that not infrequently books speak of books: it is as if they spoke among themselves. In the light of this reflection, the library seemed all the more disturbing to me. It was then the place of a long, centuries-old murmuring, an imperceptible dialogue between one parchment and another, a living thing, a receptacle of powers not to be ruled by a human mind, a treasure of secrets emanated by many minds, surviving the death of those who had produced them or had been their conveyors.
Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose,(1980)

A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us.
Franz Kafka

Books, for me, are a home. Books don’t make a home – they are one, in the sense that just as you do with a door, you open a book, and you go inside. Inside there is a different kind of time and a different kind of space. There is warmth there too – a hearth. I sit down with a book and I am warm.
Jeanette Winterson, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

I have read many books but I don’t believe them.
When it hurts we return to the banks of certain rivers.
Czesław Miłosz, New and Collected Poems: 1931-2001, “I Sleep A Lot” (tr. Czesław Miłosz)

One glance at a book and you hear the voice of another person, perhaps someone dead for 1,000 years. To read is to voyage through time.
Carl Sagan


The morality of fantasy and horror is, by and large, the strict morality of the fairy tale. The vampire is slain, the alien is blown out of the airlock, the Dark Lord is vanquished, and, perhaps at some loss, the good triumph - not because they are better armed but because Providence is on their side.
Why does the third of the three brothers, who shares his food with the old woman in the wood, go on to become king of the country? Why does Bond manage to disarm the nuclear bomb a few seconds before it goes off rather than, as it were, a few seconds afterwards? Because a universe where that did not happen would be a dark and hostile place. Let there be goblin hordes, let there be terrible environmental threats, let there be giant mutated slugs if you really must, but let there also be hope. It may be a grim, thin hope, an Arthurian sword at sunset, but let us know that we do not live in vain.
Terry Pratchett, Let There Be Dragons (1993)

In [fairy tales], power is rarely the right tool for survival anyway. Rather the powerless thrive on alliances, often in the form of reciprocated acts of kindness - from beehives that were not raided, birds that were not killed but set free or fed, old women who were saluted with respect. Kindness sown among the meek is harvested in crisis
Rebecca Solnit, introduction to The Faraway Nearby

That’s the second, and most important, thing you need to know about fairy tales: once a story starts, it won’t stop on its own. There’s too much narrative weight behind a moving story, and it wants to happen too badly. It won’t stop, unless somebody stops it.
Seanan McGuire

For in a fairy tale, you find the most wonderful world. Yes, it is violent; and yes, there is loss. There is murder, incest, famine, and rot–all of these haunt the stories, as they haunt us. The fairy-tale world is a real world. Fairy tales contain a spell that is not false: an invocation to protect those most endangered on this earth. The meek shall inherit… went one of the very first stories I heard as a child. I believed it then, and still do.
Kate Bernheimer, introduction to My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me (ed. Kate Bernheimer)


If prose is a house, poetry is a man on fire running quite fast through it.
Anne Carson

whenever I read a poem, I’m asking, “Does this save my life a little?”
Inez Tan, Poems That Can Save Your Life A Little (zocalopublicsquare.org) (May 8 2020)


Why one writes is a question I can answer easily, having so often asked it of myself. I believe on writes because one has to create a world in which one can live. I could not live in any of the worlds offered to me - the world of my parents, the world of war, the world of politics. I had to create a world of my own, like a climate, a country, at atmosphere in which I could breathe, reign, and recreate myself when destroyed by living. That, I believe, is the reason for every work of art.
Anaïs Nin

The ability to tell a story, to tell the tale of who you are, where you're from, and have power over that, what I think that gives you is the power to have value, worth, place, but that gives you the power to dream.
Nakkiah Lui, Books That Made Us

Write anything. Truth or untruth, it is unimportant. Speak but speak with tenderness, for that is all that you can do that may help a little. Build a barricade of words, no matter what they mean. Speak so that he can be aware of your presence. Speak so that he knows that you are there not feeling his pain. Say anything, for his pain is larger than any distinction you can make between truth and untruth. Dress him with the words of your voice as others dress his wounds. Yes. Here and now. It will stop.
John Berger, G: A Novel



I don’t know if I believe in rage as something always acting in opposition to tenderness. I believe, more often, in the two as braided together. Two elements of trying to survive in a world once you have an understanding of that world’s capacity for violence.
Hanif Abdurraqib, “Board Up the Doors, Tear Down the Walls,” A Little Devil in America

ANGER is the deepest form of compassion, for another, for the world, for the self, for a life, for the body, for a family and for all our ideals, all vulnerable and all, possibly about to be hurt. Stripped of physical imprisonment and violent reaction, anger is the purest form of care, the internal living flame of anger always illuminates what we belong to, what we wish to protect and what we are willing to hazard ourselves for. What we usually call anger is only what is left of its essence when we are overwhelmed by its accompanying vulnerability, when it reaches the lost surface of our mind or our body’s incapacity to hold it, or when it touches the limits of our understanding. What we name as anger is actually only the incoherent physical incapacity to sustain this deep form of care in our outer daily life; the unwillingness to be large enough and generous enough to hold what we love helplessly in our bodies or our mind with the clarity and breadth of our whole being.
David Whyte, Consolations

I was incoherent with rage. Days have passed and now I am coherent with rage.
Martha Gellhorn, Selected Letters


I have been trying, for some time now, to find dignity in my loneliness. I have been finding this hard to do.
Maggie Nelson, Bluets

What does it feel like to be lonely? It feels like being hungry: like being hungry when everyone around you is readying for a feast. It feels shameful and alarming, and over time these feelings radiate outwards, making the lonely person increasingly isolated, increasingly estranged. It hurts, in the way that feelings do, and it also has physical consequences that take place invisibly, inside the closed compartments of the body. It advances, is what I’m trying to say, cold as ice and clear as glass, enclosing and engulfing.
Olivia Laing, The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone

You hate your loneliness
as you hated yourself as a child. You are bored
with your hatred.
Donika Kelly, Little Box in Bestiary: Poems

The loneliness of feeling unseen by others is as fundamental a pain as physical injury, but it doesn't show on the outside. Emotional loneliness is a vague and private experience, not easy to see or to describe. You might call it a feeling of emptiness or being alone in the world.
Lindsay C. Gibson, Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents

it is a little thing to say how lone it is — anyone can do it, but to wear the loneliness next your heart for weeks, when you sleep, and when you wake, ever missing something, this, all cannot say, and it baffles me.
Emily Dicksinson (letter to Susan Gilbert)


It’s not enough to say the heart wants what it wants. I think of the ravine, the side dark with pines where we lounged through summer days, waiting for something to happen; and of the nights, walking the long way home, the stars so close they seemed to crown us. Once, I asked for your favourite feeling. You said hunger.
Mary Szybist, Incarnadine

What are we made of but hunger and rage?
Anne Carson, Plainwater: Essays & Poetry



And love isn't a fact. It's a hunch at first. And then later it’s a series of decisions, a lifetime of decisions. That’s love.
Joseph Fink, Welcome to Night Vale, episode 100, "Toast"

Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; remade all the time, made new.
Ursula K. Le Guin, The Lathe of Heaven

I think you realize how much you need to have people that you love. It’s not as much about them loving you - it’s about you needing to love people.
Chadwick Boseman

Love is wiser than wisdom.
Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose (1980)

I have been astonished that Men could die Martyrs for religion – I have shudder’d at it – I shudder no more – I could be martyr’d for my Religion – Love is my religion – I could die for that – I could die for you.
John Keats (letter to Fanny Brawne)

I'll rewrite this whole life and this time there'll be so much love,
you won't be able to see beyond it.
Warsan Shire, Backwards

Love is what we have, against time and death, against all the powers ranged to crush us down. You gave me so much - a history, a future, a calm that lets me write these words though I’m breaking. I hope I’ve given you something in return - I think you would want me to know I have. And what we’ve done will stand, no matter how they weave the world against us. It’s done now, and forever.
Amal el-Mohtar and Max Gladstone, This is How You Lose the Time War

Love demands expression. It will not stay still, stay silent, be good, be modest, be seen and not heard, no. It will break out in tongues of praise, the high note that smashes the glass and spills the liquid.
Jeanette Winterson, Written on the Body


When you look around the room, all your friends sleeping so close to each other, like kittens, and you want to curl into a pile with all of them.
Carmen Maria Machado

My friends are my estate.
Emily Dickinson (in letter) (1858)


You will fall in love with your friends. Deep, passionate love. You will create a second family with them, a kind of tribe that makes you feel less vulnerable. Sometimes our families can’t love us all the time. Sometimes we’re born into families who don’t know how to love us properly. They do as much as they can but the rest is up to our friends. They can love you all the time, without judgement. At least the good ones can.
Ryan O'Connell

The truth is friendship is to me every bit as sacred and eternal as marriage.
Katherine Mansfield, (letter to Ida Baker) (1921)

There is no special love exclusively reserved for romantic partners. Genuine love is the foundation of our engagement with ourselves, with family, with friends, with partners, with everyone we choose to love.
Bell Hooks, All About Love: New Visions

being seen.

the way we say love when we mean can you see me.
Roxanna Bennett, interview in Hour of Rat

The gaze, human or animal, is a powerful thing. When we look at something, we decide to fill our entire existence, however briefly, with that very thing. To fill your whole world with a person, if only for a few seconds, is a potent act. And it can be a dangerous one. Sometimes we are not seen enough, and other times we are seen too thoroughly, we can be exposed, seen through, even devoured. Hunters examine their prey obsessively in order to kill it. The line between desire and elimination, to me, can be so small. But that is who we are. There must be some beauty—and if not beauty, meaning—in that brutal power.
Ocean Vuong, interview in The Paris Review

you inside i

Flip: Yes. Here, hide inside me.
This is the story of Pip and Flip, the bunny twins. We say that once there were two and now there is only one. When the fox sees Pip run past, he won’t know that the one is inside the other. He’ll think, Well, there’s at least one more rabbit in that warren. But no one’s left. You know this and I know this. Together we trace out the trail away from doom. There isn’t hope, there is a trail. I follow you.
When a rabbit meets a rabbit, one takes the time to tell the other this story. The rabbits then agree there must be two rabbits, at least two rabbits, and that in turn there is a trace. I am only repeating what I heard. This is one love.
Richard Siken, War of the Foxes

I have built a you within me, or you have. I wonder what of me there is in you.
Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone, This Is How You Lose the Time War

I will bear him wherever I am taken and no one will kill him and he will not die.
Donika Kelly, “Self-Portrait with Door,” The Renunciations

being loved.

Because there are some people who touch you as if you are beautiful, and at times that is the most unbearable thing that you can feel. And there are some people who are so much that you can’t look at them without feeling as if every nerve is pushing out of your body to try to touch his synapses, and you can’t tell if your body is betraying your heart or your heart is betraying your skin.
Shinji Moon

When you are loved, you can do anything in creation. When you are loved, there's no need at all to understand what's happening, because everything happens within you.
Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

The world was vivid and untouched. I felt free again - I think because I was loved.
Jeanette Winterson, why be happy when you could be normal?

Yes, there is a place where someone loves you both before and after they learn what you are.
Neil Hilborn

How can I know? I don't want to be pitied and I don't know how to be loved. I only know how to love. All I can do is hope I'm doing the right thing.
Keith Haring

A person is a whole person when they are good sometimes but not always, and loved by someone regardless.
Hanif Abdurraqib, They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us



I: Why not take the shorter way home.
HT: There is no shorter way home.
Anne Carson, Men in the Off Hours, “Interview with Hara Tamiki (1950)”

To ask “Where is home?” as if there is one answer. To write home in a poem, like a poem could be a home—is this happy or sad?
Chen Chen, Craft Capsule: On Becoming a Pop Star, I Mean, a Poet

Home isn’t Mom and Dad and Sis and Bud. Home isn’t where they have to let you in. It’s not a place at all. Home is imaginary. Home, imagined, comes to be. It is real, realer than any other place, but you can’t get to it unless your people show you how to imagine it—whoever your people are. They may not be your relatives. They may never have spoken your language. They may have been dead for a thousand years. They may be nothing but words printed on paper, ghosts of voices, shadows of minds. But they can guide you home. They are your human community.
Ursula K. Le Guin, Words Are My Matter (2016)


Look at the stars! look, look up at the skies! / O look at all the fire-folk sitting in the air!
Gerard Manley Hopkins, The Starlight Night

When I stand outside here, I do not just see the stars, I hear them.
Cees Nooteboom, Lost Paradise

the woods


Many places have a ‘forest that shouldn’t be entered.’ Even people who are used to working in the mountains feel there is something there. They are suddenly overcome with fear and it becomes the custom to avoid certain places. These places exist. I don’t know what is there, but I think they are real. I’m not a believer in the occult, but the world is more than we can fathom with our five senses. This world doesn’t exist just for humans. So I think it’s all right to have such things. This is why I think it’s a mistake to think about nature from the idea of efficiency, that forests should be preserved because they are essential for human beings …
I am concerned, because for me the deep forest is connected in some way to the darkness deep in my heart. I feel that if it is erased, then the darkness inside my heart would also disappear, and my existence would grow shallow.
Hayao Miyazaki, Totoro Was Not Made as a Nostalgia Piece

The Caledonian Forest has its own shadowy literature, particularly in the Welsh tales. Merlin, King Arthur’s magical counsellor, retreated to these woods in his madness after the battle of Arfderydd. The Caledonian Forest was, from a southern perspective, associated with madness and magic. The terror of the wild wood is older than the oldest stories, and they have grown out of it.
Sara Maitland, A Book Of Silence

We all have forests on our minds. Forests unexplored, unending. Each one of us gets lost in the forest, every night, alone.
Ursula K. Le Guin, The Wind's Twelve Quarters (1975)

Ordinarily I go to the woods alone, with not a single friend, for they are all smilers and talkers and therefore unsuitable. I don’t really want to be witnessed talking to the catbirds or hugging the old black oak tree. I have my ways of praying, as you no doubt have yours. Besides, when I am alone I can become invisible. I can sit on the top of a dune as motionless as an uprise of weeds, until the foxes run by unconcerned. I can hear the almost unhearable sound of the roses singing. If you have ever gone to the woods with me, I must love you very much.
Mary Oliver, How I Go To The Woods

But to be lost in the forest is to be lost to this world, to be abandoned by the light, to lose yourself utterly with no guarantee you will either find yourself or else be found, to be committed against your will – or, worse, of your own desire – to a perpetual absence from humanity, an existential catastrophe, for the forest is as infinitely boundless as the human heart.
Angela Carter, from “Overture and Incidental Music”, Black Venus

Be my mother, I said to the trees, in the language of trees, which can’t be transcribed, and they shook their hair back, and they bent low with their many arms, and they looked into my eyes as only trees can look into the eyes of a person, they touched me with the rain on their fingers till I was all droplets, till I was a mist, and they said they would.
Emily Berry, “Canopy,” in Stranger, Baby


‘Monsters’ also signal borderline experiences of uncontainable excess, reminding the ego that it is never wholly sovereign. Many great myths and tales bear witness to this. Oedipus and the Sphinx. Theseus and the Minotaur. Job and Leviathan. Saint George and the Dragon. Beowulf and Grendel. Ahab and the Whale. Lucy and the Vampire. Ripley and the Alien. Each monster narrative recalls that the self is never secure in itself. ‘There are monsters on the prowl’, as Michel Foucault writes, ‘whose form changes with the history of knowledge’. For as our ideas of self-identity alter so do our ideas of what menaces this identity. Liminal creatures of the unknown shift and slide, change masks. We are of the earth, they whisper, autochthonous. We are carriers of the mark of Cain, hobbled by the Achilles heel of a primal unconscious. Monsters show us that if our aims are celestial, our origins are terrestrial. They ghost the margins of what can be legitimately thought and said. By definition unrecognizable, they defy our accredited norms of identification. Unnatural, transgressive, obscene, contradictory, heterogeneous, mad.
Richard Kearney, Strangers, Gods, and Monsters

How many times have you told me you're a monster? So be a monster. Be the thing they all fear when they close their eyes at night.
Leigh Bardugo, Crooked Kingdom

“You’re not a monster,” I said. But I lied. What I really wanted to say was that a monster is not such a terrible thing to be. From the Latin root monstrum, a divine messenger of catastrophe, then adapted by the Old French to mean an animal of myriad origins: centaur, griffin, satyr. To be a monster is to be a hybrid signal, a lighthouse: both shelter and warning at once.
Ocean Vuong, A Letter to My Mother That She Will Never Read

When I looked around, I saw and heard of none like me. Was I then a monster?
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

You guys know about vampires? … You know, vampires have no reflections in a mirror? There’s this idea that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. And what I’ve always thought isn’t that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. It’s that if you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves. And growing up, I felt like a monster in some ways. I didn’t see myself reflected at all. I was like, “Yo, is something wrong with me? That the whole society seems to think that people like me don’t exist?" And part of what inspired me, was this deep desire that before I died, I would make a couple of mirrors. That I would make some mirrors so that kids like me might see themselves reflected back and might not feel so monstrous for it.
Junot Díaz

Monsters are our children. They can be pushed to the farthest margins of geography and discourse, hidden away at the edges of the world and in the forbidden recesses of our mind, but they always return. And when they come back, they bring not just a fuller knowledge of our place in history and the history of knowing our place, but they bear self-knowledge, human knowledge...
Jeffrey J. Cohen, Monster Culture (Seven Theses) in "Monster Theory: Reading Culture"

The beast doesn’t need to transform to be loved. He doesn’t have to turn into a boring fucking prince to be loved. Or renounce to the essence of who it is. To me love is not transformation, love is acceptance and understanding.
Guillermo del Toro


What is a ghost? A tragedy condemned to repeat itself time and again? A moment of pain, perhaps. Something dead which still seems to be alive. An emotion suspended in time. Like a blurred photograph. Like an insect trapped in amber.
Guillermo Del Toro

I love ruins because they are always doing what everything really wants to do all the time: returning themselves to the earth, melting back into the landscape.
Roger Deakin, Wildwood

Ghosts suspend the rules of logic just as they break the rules of nature. They belong to the past, to a history that should have been closed with their death, and yet they reappear to trouble the present and change the future. A ghost is always radically out of time, as well as out of place.
Catherine Belsey, “Hamlet and the Tradition of Fireside Ghost Stories,” Shakespeare Quarterly, Vol. 61, No. 1, 2010

Here’s my question. If the ghost wants nothing more than to be witnessed, why would it appear behind you, not in front of you? The only answer I can think of is this: it appears behind you because it already knows, to an absolute certainty, that you will have no choice but to look back.
John Ware, I Am In Eskew

Haunting is the cost of subjugation. It is the price paid for violence, for genocide [...] I don't want to haunt you, but I will.
Eve Tuck and C. Ree, A Glossary of Haunting



There is nothing in this story that’s not a dagger.
Hieu Minh Nguyen, This Way to the Sugar

- I like to call myself wound
but I will answer to knife.
Nicole Homer, Underbelly.

Love is a drawer for knives to rust in.
e horne and j corneau, a softer world was ever friday.

We keep telling the other, I love you and I love you, and we do, though we both know where the knives are.
Laura Van Prooyen, This Child.


They are in love. Fuck the war.
Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow

When the leaders speak of peace, the common people know that war is coming.
Berthold Brecht,From a German War Primer

There are many loves but only one war.
Richard Siken, "War of the Foxes," War of the Foxes (Copper Canyon Press)


It gets to be like an old friend, a wound.
Kazuo Ishiguro, The Unconsoled

any wound will stop bleeding
if you press down
hard enough.
Audre Lorde, Undersong, "The Evening News" (1979)

I believe the wound is also the place where the skin reencounters itself, asking of each end, where have you been?
Ocean Vuong, On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous

No greater desire exists than a wounded person’s need for another wound.
Georges Bataille, Guilty "Ecstacy" (tr. Bruce Boone)

The wound is a special place, a magical place, even a numinous site, an opening where the self and the world may meet on new terms, perhaps violently, so that we are marked out and off, a territory assigned to us that is new, and which forever shifts our tracing in the world.
Dennis Patrick Slattery, The Wounded Body: Remembering the Markings of Flesh

What’s fertile in a wound? Why dwell in one? Wounds promise authenticity and profundity, beauty and singularity, desirability. They summon sympathy. They bleed enough light to write by.
Leslie Jamison, Grand Unified Theory of Female Pain