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hymns for calliope


Author's Note

Maybe it’s a fool’s errand to try and recount memory—like telling a dream, the events shifting inside my head. I find the only way I have to talk about what I’ve been through—to find beauty or some kind of order in the chaos—is through poetry and lyrical essay. What you’ll find here is not factual, in the sense that I can’t possibly know the intricate choreographies of the people who have passed through my life, but it is true to me emotionally. I’ve done what little I can to record and reflect. Don’t trust anyone who says they can do more than that.

Who will be lost in the story we tell ourselves? Who will be lost in ourselves? A story, after all, is a kind of swallowing. To open a mouth, in speech, is to leave only the bones, which remain untold.

—Ocean Vuong, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous

I'd been upstaged, demoted from protagonist in my own drama to comic relief in my parents’ tragedy.

—Alison Bechdel, Fun Home

Take the phrase “I feel a happiness when I eat him.” It has all the traits of a surprising poetic line. A familiar sentiment is now unfamiliar because chance has turned Error into Eros. That needless “a” is crucial since it tweaks the tone into a slightly sinister animatronic pitch while indicating that the lover is not awash in happiness but feels happiness at a remove. Like an extra tooth, that “a” forces open a bead of uncertainty, or cold reflection, while she takes into consideration her happiness. She is not sure why she is happy, but she is, as she eats him.

—Cathy Park Hong, Minor Feelings

Doubt requires more courage than conviction does, and more energy; because conviction is a resting place and doubt is infinite – it is a passionate exercise. You may come out of my play uncertain. You may want to be sure. Look down on that feeling. We’ve got to learn to live with a full measure of uncertainty. There is no last word. That’s the silence under the chatter of our time.

—John Patrick Shanley, Doubt: A Parable

There’s a kind of time travel in letters, isn’t there? I imagine you laughing at my small joke; I imagine you groaning; I imagine you throwing my words away. Do I have you still? Do I address empty air and the flies that will eat this carcass? You could leave me for five years, you could return never—and I have to write the rest of this not knowing.

—Amal El-Mohtar, This Is How You Lose the Time War