Marginalia Sometimes the notes are ferocious, skirmishes against the author raging along the borders of every page in tiny black script. If I could just get my hands on you, Kierkegaard, or Conor Cruise O'Brien, they seem to say, I would bolt the door and beat some logic into your head. Other comments are more offhand, dismissive - Nonsense." "Please!" "HA!!" - that kind of thing. I remember once looking up from my reading, my thumb as a bookmark, trying to imagine what the person must look like who wrote "Don't be a ninny" alongside a paragraph in The Life of Emily Dickinson. Students are more modest needing to leave only their splayed footprints along the shore of the page. One scrawls "Metaphor" next to a stanza of Eliot's. Another notes the presence of "Irony" fifty times outside the paragraphs of A Modest Proposal. Or they are fans who cheer from the empty bleachers, Hands cupped around their mouths. Absolutely, " they shout to Duns Scotus and James Baldwin. Yes." "Bull's-eye." "My man!" Check marks, asterisks, and exclamation points rain down along the sidelines. And if you have managed to graduate from college without ever having written "Man vs. Nature" in a margin, perhaps now is the time to take one step forward. We have all seized the white perimeter as our own and reached for a pen if only to show we did not just laze in an armchair turning pages; we pressed a thought into the wayside, planted an impression along the verge. Even Irish monks in their cold scriptoria jotted along the borders of the Gospels brief asides about the pains of copying, a bird singing near their window, or the sunlight that illuminated their page- anonymous men catching a ride into the future on a vessel more lasting than themselves. And you have not read Joshua Reynolds, they say, until you have read him enwreathed with Blake's furious scribbling. Yet the one I think of most often, the one that dangles from me like a locket, was written in the copy of Catcher in the Rye I borrowed from the local library one slow, hot summer. I was just beginning high school then, reading books on a davenport in my parents' living room, and I cannot tell you how vastly my loneliness was deepened, how poignant and amplified the world before me seemed, when I found on one page A few greasy looking smears and next to them, written in soft pencil- by a beautiful girl, I could tell, whom I would never meet- Pardon the egg salad stains, but I'm in love.
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APABilly Collins Quotes. (n.d.). Jar of Quotes. Retrieved , from JarofQuotes.com Web site: https://www.jarofquotes.com/view.php?id=marginalia-sometimes-notes-are-ferocious-skirmishes-against-author-raging-along-borders-every-page-in-tiny-black-script-if-i-could-just-get-my-hands-on-you-kierkegaard-conor-crui
ChicagoBilly Collins Quotes. Jar of Quotes, 2021. https://www.jarofquotes.com/view.php?id=marginalia-sometimes-notes-are-ferocious-skirmishes-against-author-raging-along-borders-every-page-in-tiny-black-script-if-i-could-just-get-my-hands-on-you-kierkegaard-conor-crui, accessed .
MLA"Billy Collins Quotes." Jar of Quotes, 2021. . https://www.jarofquotes.com/view.php?id=marginalia-sometimes-notes-are-ferocious-skirmishes-against-author-raging-along-borders-every-page-in-tiny-black-script-if-i-could-just-get-my-hands-on-you-kierkegaard-conor-crui
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Introduction to Poetry I ask them to take a poem and hold it up to the light like a color slide or press an ear against its hive. I say drop a mouse into a poem and watch him probe his way out, or walk inside the poem's room and feel the walls for a light switch. I want them to waterski across the surface of a poem waving at the author's name on the shore. But all they want to do is tie the poem to a chair with rope and torture a confession out of it. They begin beating it with a hose to find out what it really means.
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The History Teacher Trying to protect his students' innocence he told them the Ice Age was really just the Chilly Age, a period of a million years when everyone had to wear sweaters. And the Stone Age became the Gravel Age, named after the long driveways of the time. The Spanish Inquisition was nothing more than an outbreak of questions such as "How far is it from here to Madrid?" "What do you call the matador's hat?" The War of the Roses took place in a garden, and the Enola Gay dropped one tiny atom on Japan. The children would leave his classroom for the playground to torment the weak and the smart, mussing up their hair and breaking their glasses, while he gathered up his notes and walked home past flower beds and white picket fences, wondering if they would believe that soldiers in the Boer War told long, rambling stories designed to make the enemy nod off.
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Japan Today I pass the time reading a favorite haiku, saying the few words over and over. It feels like eating the same small, perfect grape again and again. I walk through the house reciting it and leave its letters falling through the air of every room. I stand by the big silence of the piano and say it. I say it in front of a painting of the sea. I tap out its rhythm on an empty shelf. I listen to myself saying it, then I say it without listening, then I hear it without saying it. And when the dog looks up at me, I kneel down on the floor and whisper it into each of his long white ears. It's the one about the one-ton temple bell with the moth sleeping on its surface, and every time I say it, I feel the excruciating pressure of the moth on the surface of the iron bell. When I say it at the window, the bell is the world and I am the moth resting there. When I say it into the mirror, I am the heavy bell and the moth is life with its papery wings. And later, when I say it to you in the dark, you are the bell, and I am the tongue of the bell, ringing you, and the moth has flown from its line and moves like a hinge in the air above our bed.
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The whole idea of it makes me feel like I'm coming down with something, something worse than any stomach ache or the headaches I get from reading in bad light- a kind of measles of the spirit, a mumps of the psyche, a disfiguring chicken pox of the soul. You tell me it is too early to be looking back, but that is because you have forgotten the perfect simplicity of being one and the beautiful complexity introduced by two. But I can lie on my bed and remember every digit. At four I was an Arabian wizard. I could make myself invisible by drinking a glass of milk a certain way. At seven I was a soldier, at nine a prince. But now I am mostly at the window watching the late afternoon light. Back then it never fell so solemnly against the side of my tree house, and my bicycle never leaned against the garage as it does today, all the dark blue speed drained out of it. This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself, as I walk through the universe in my sneakers. It is time to say good-bye to my imaginary friends, time to turn the first big number. It seems only yesterday I used to believe there was nothing under my skin but light. If you cut me I could shine. But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life, I skin my knees. I bleed.
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(my father) would say nothing, And I could not find a silence Among the one hundred Chinese silences That would fit the one he created Even though I was the one Who had just made up the business Of the one hundred Chinese silences- The Silence of the Night Boat. And the Silence of the Lotus, Cousin to the Silence of the Temple Bell Only deeper and softer...
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