The Art of the Commonplace

Steen Jan- St Nicholas Feast
I’ve been thinking of having my students keep commonplace books. In notebooks of their choosing, they would copy out passages and quotations that they encounter in the year to come that are seen to fit within predetermined topics (what the Greeks called topoi, or “places”) that we will cull from Renaissance-era teachers who popularized the practice (thematic places like “Fidelity,” “Beneficence,” or “Gratitude”). They would also be free to write out their own thoughts, and to discover themes of their own naming as they find common places that writers, artists, theologians, and scientists inhabit, such as the ones W.H. Auden came upon in the making his commonplace book, which he later called A Certain World: “Prayer,” “Tyranny,” “Love,” “Friday, Good.”  Read More

Aimless Love

Billy Collins’ poem “Aimless Love” strikes a special chord with me. The poem, wherein Mr. Collins falls in love with “… a wren/ and later in the day with a mouse/ the cat had dropped under the dining room table,” makes me remember my first love. I was only a child, and it was a brief affair — a deep, fleeting affection that was not reciprocated — but which set the tone for many of my experiences as an adult. My first love, you see, was an ant on a clover in my neighbor’s yard. Read More

Where Do You Write?


It’s best that I be as clear about this as I can — I want you to understand that my basic belief about the making of stories is that they pretty much make themselves. The job of the writer is to give them a place to grow (and to transcribe them, of course). Stories are relics, part of an undiscovered pre-existing world. The writer’s job is to use the tools in her or her toolbox to get as much of each one out of the ground intact as possible. Sometimes the fossil you uncover is small; a seashell. Sometimes it’s enormous, a Tyrannosaurus Rex with all those gigantic ribs and grinning teeth.  - Stephen King, On Writing


The Birth of Innocence

birth of innocence

This painting is titled The birth of innocence.

It is rich with color. Placed alongside artist Julien Spianti’s other paintings, this scene appears expansive and bright. It is part of a series called Memento Vivi, which includes paintings with titles such as sin of repetition and sin of trust. These scenes are close to grayscale, and they don’t reach the edges of the canvas, as if part of each moment has been lost to memory. Read More