Books By John Estes

Carl Phillips

Another way to think of restlessness: as a form of ambition. Unsatisfied with the given—the usual explanations, the usual goals for and trappings of a life—there are those who push past the given, are willing to enter into uncertainty—to take a risk—in order to get something presumably superior and/or preferable to “the old life.” I don’t mean corporate ambitions, the kind that can lead to and increase in money and power and material possessions—I mean the quest for meaning, for heightened feeling, for expanded vision, even if that should mean that we arrive at what disturbs, leaving us more unsettled, less at rest than we had been. This, I would argue, is the artist’s sensibility. And I’ll point out that it’s not a perverse desire for being disturbed; it’s instead a recognition that growth can’t happen without disturbance, and a realistic understanding of the world as a place where pleasure and its opposite coexist—the artist refuses to ignore it, or perhaps more accurately the artist is incapable of ignoring it, because of a commitment to a knowledge that is absolute, entire, and at last elusive.

The Art of Daring

Jane Hirshfield

What a good poem hears, sees, speaks is what can only become perceptible when inner and outer intertwine. The poet’s circuitous collaboration with words is a tool for discovering how best to let those two worlds come forward and realize themselves; it is part of the ancient, ongoing game of hide and seek the universe plays. Within its silence, exile, and cunning, poetry holds both the hiding and the seeking, for both are the point. Within its thicket of indirections is shelter for the elusive, independent animals of interconnected life. They pass overhead, underfoot, in and out of the trees and the dappled light that blossoms as well in barred feathers and spotted pelts. They are such shy or bold creatures as come into poetry’s word-set nets, to be seen, to be finally eaten: to disappear into and become us, and so allow us also to become them—animal, vegetable, mineral, word, all thoroughly mysterious and known.

~ “Poetry and the Mind of Indirection”

He Took His Skin Off For Me

Based on this short fiction by Toledo-native Maria Hummer, “He Took His Skin Off For Me” is a gorgeously literal and so all-the-more-poetic short film made by Ben Aston, his London School of Film graduation project exploring (and winning) the use of practical special effects. There is also a making-of-behind-the-scenes video at the film’s website. The story (and the film) begins:

Is this what you want? he asked, and I said yes, so he took off his skin for me.
He was beautiful, shining red organs and crisp bones. I stepped forward to embrace him. I felt his naked wet muscles against my arms.

William Bronk

If we are not to falsify life, but to have it for what it is, we must leave ourselves open to it and undefended, observant of what may happen, since our private will is not relevant and we are not capable of apprehending or assisting any other will, and what we observe and feel is perhaps less will than being and the nature of being. We need not want anything: nothing needs us to want. There are things which we feel, certain angers, rejoicings, fears. These feelings astonish us. Set beside our expectation of a real world, they seem not to have the habit of reality. They seem unrelated, and there is a lapse of time before we take them as real in the absence of a more expected reality. We learn at last, and accept the learning at last, that these feelings come to us without our willing or acceding or inventing. They come from beyond our skin like approaches to us, like messages; and we respond, trembling and shaking, or vibrating in tune as though we were instruments a music were played on and we arch and turn to have the contact closer. Our responses are presences that tower around us, seemingly solid as stone.

~ from William Bronk: An Essay by Cid Corman

spicy wreaths / Of incense,
breath’d aloft from sacred hills

The start of the year is a good time to renew one’s vow to consume hot food with greater regularity, and while Sriracha is not the spiciest of what’s available by a stretch, its blend of flavor and heat fills a special niche (even if the factory’s neighbors do not appreciate its incense). Here is a video celebrating the craftsmanship behind this sauce, combining the wonders of large-scale manufacturing with an artisan’s quest for perfection (chili waterfall=true wonder).


If you’ve never seen the Oatmeal’s take on Sriracha spirituality, check that out. Here’s an excerpt:

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