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PEN America Blog

April 24, 2014

In literature, dystopic narrative has been used hubristically as a way to face one’s own mortality. An aging author, say someone like John Updike, conjures an apocalyptic narrative because he cannot imagine a world without his own consciousness.

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April 23, 2014

as a boy, my father used to trap / little brown sparrows, bury them in hot coal, / and slowly eat the charred birds alone / in the green fields, no sounds, / no brothers in sight. // Holiest are those who eat alone.

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April 17, 2014

I do not believe in trying to keep the work original. If that happens—if such an occurrence is possible—I believe it is necessarily a byproduct of a desire to pursue other questions.

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April 16, 2014

There is yeast in the air as well / as sadness / I’ll lick the tears from / wherever they land / I just love / to get dressed for the weather / and then later to undress / one glove at a time

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April 15, 2014

Art, as a pursuit, has a place and purpose in the “public” sphere. There are few other known forces in the world that can provide such comfort, solace, provocation, humility, inspiration, arousal, wonder, and self-discovery.

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April 11, 2014

. . .the same hands that embrace one’s child will squeeze the life out of a neighbor’s child when war comes. . .

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April 11, 2014

For so long I’ve begged bread to criticize salt.
Many times, I’ve heard people ask me, whispering,
“Why is death always late in Jerusalem,
while the march of life becomes another death?”

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April 11, 2014

Over 62 days, PEN analyzed the use of metaphors in surveillance news coverage. We found that there is rich thematic diversity in the types of metaphors that are used, but there is also a failure of imagination in using literature to describe surveillance.

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April 10, 2014

I do not censor my work though I do feel intruded on, and it’s an issue both of privacy and of freedom of expression. Self-censoring and self-surveillance are power’s goons, and the more you have to lose (or think you have to lose) the more afraid you become.

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April 9, 2014

Having felt the world tremble / And having known // Ruth / In alien corn, / Exposed and at the mercy / Of masters— // Having seen / And having stood / Where history / Clutches our necks, // Having seen / This, / What then / Is next?

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