Tag: poetry

After Silence: Amanda Palmer Reads Neil Gaiman’s Stunning Poem Celebrating Rachel Carson’s Legacy of Culture-Shifting Courage

“To sin by silence, when we should protest, makes cowards out of men,” the poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox wrote in her piercing and prescient 1914 anthem against silence. Half a century later, these words would come to embolden one of the most revolutionary voices humanity has produced — a scientist who changed culture by writing […]

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The More Loving One: Astrophysicist Janna Levin Reads W.H. Auden’s Sublime Ode to Our Unrequited Love for the Universe

I wrote Figuring (public library) to explore the interplay between chance and choice, the human search for meaning in an unfeeling universe governed by equal parts precision and randomness, the bittersweet beauty of asymmetrical and half-requited loves, and our restless impulse to uncover the deepest truths of nature, even at the price of our convenient […]

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How to Rewire Your Broken Behavioral Patterns: Shakespeare’s Advice on Acquiring Better Habits

“Assume a virtue, if you have it not.” By Maria Popova “The patterns of our lives reveal us. Our habits measure us,” Mary Oliver wrote in contemplating how habit gives shape to our inner lives. “Every smallest stroke of virtue or of vice leaves its never so little scar,” William James asserted a century earlier […]

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Neil Gaiman Reads Ursula K. Le Guin’s Ode to Timelessness to His 100-Year-Old Cousin

“Consciousness is tied to corporeality and temporality: I experience myself as existing with a body over time,” the German psychologist Marc Wittman wrote in his insightful investigation of the psychology of time. “Do you sometimes want to wake up to the singularity we once were?” poet Marie Howe asked in the opening lines of her […]

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Confidence Through Criticism: A Lesson in Self-Esteem from Walt Whitman

“Re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul,” Walt Whitman (May 31, 1819–March 26, 1892) wrote in offering his timeless advice on living a vibrant and rewarding life in the preface to Leaves of Grass. When Whitman first published his masterpiece in 1855, […]

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The Best of Brain Pickings 2018

In 2018, the 12th year of Brain Pickings, I poured tremendous time, thought, love, and resources into this labor of love, which remains free and is made possible by patronage. If you found any joy and consolation here this year, please consider supporting it with a donation. And if you already donate, from the bottom […]

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The Fish in the Stone: Zoë Keating Reads Rita Dove’s Ode to Deep Time

In her arresting poem “Renascence,” Edna St. Vincent Millay elegized “the ticking of Eternity.” But while the notion of eternity has animated artists since the dawn of art, its precise ticking did not come to the forefront of scientific interest until the discovery of the first fossils — those emissaries of eternity, which revealed for […]

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Emily Dickinson’s Electric Love Letters to Susan Gilbert

Four months before her twentieth birthday, Emily Dickinson (December 10, 1830–May 15, 1886) met the person who became her first love and remained her greatest — an orphaned mathematician-in-training by the name of Susan Gilbert, nine days her junior. Throughout the poet’s life, Susan would be her muse, her mentor, her primary reader and editor, […]

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Patti Smith Sings “The Tyger” and Reflects on William Blake’s Transcendent Legacy as a Guiding Sun in the Cosmos of Creativity

“The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing which stands in the way… As a man is, so he sees,” William Blake (November 28, 1757–August 12, 1827) wrote in his most beautiful letter — a soaring defense of the imagination. A genius both tragic […]

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The Puzzle We Call Being: Walt Whitman on Listening to the Song of Existence, Animated

“Every atom in creation may be said to be acquainted with and married to every other,” the great naturalist John Muir wrote as he contemplated the interconnectedness of the universe not long after Walt Whitman issued his timeless, exquisite reminder that “every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.” And yet, Muir recognized, […]

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Wordsworth on Genius and the Creative Responsibility of Elevating Taste

What is genius — what is its nature and its proof? For Beethoven, genius was based on a foundation of talent, but required additional “freshness and wildness of imagination, a raging ambition, an unusual gift for learning and growing, a depth and breadth of thought and spirit.” “Genius gives birth, talent delivers,” Kerouac proclaimed in […]

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Elizabeth Gilbert Reads “The Early Hours” by Adam Zagajewski

“The most regretful people on earth,” Mary Oliver wrote in her beautiful reflection on the central commitment of the creative life, “are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.” There is something lovely about this notion of […]

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Best of Kickstarter: “Haunted Bodies” by Artist Christina Mrozik

A lovely collection of drawings and writings by artist Christina Mrozik (previously featured here). Created while moving through a year of depression, Mrozik tackles the essentials of what it is to be human and to hurt. Her faceless drawings merge pieces of organ with natural elements in an effort to express feelings of inaccessibility and […]

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