Lyric Aphorism in Contemporary Poetry

Jim Finnegan, proprietor of the ursprache blog and author of the aphoristically amazing Tramp Freighter, sends news of The Smallest Space: Lyric Aphorism in Contemporary Poetry by Hannah Brooks-Motl in The Kenyon Review Online. The essay explores, as Brooks-Motl puts it, how “Aphorisms, and aphorism-like language, can increasingly be found in poems written by poets associated with avant-garde movements of the past few decades … [and] how, and why, and for what reasons poets typically grouped as “resisters” might turn to a technique aligned with universal truth, objective reality, and univocal speakers.”

In the essay, Brooks-Motl quotes W.H. Auden, who, in the Faber Book of Aphorisms, wrote: “The aphorist does not argue or explain, he asserts; and implicit in his assertion is a conviction that he is wiser or more intelligent than his readers.” I don’t share Auden’s view of what he called the “aristocratic” character of aphorisms or his assertion that aphorists regard themselves as wiser or more intelligent than readers. I think aphorists are more like stand up comedians or very very short storytellers, both of whom rely on their audiences to be complicit in and complete what they say. The best aphorisms create moments of shared insight, not didactic lessons handed down from on high.

6-Word Memoirs from Minneapolis

Jim Finnegan, proprietor of the ursprache blog and author of the aphoristically amazing Tramp Freighter, shares this selection of 6-word memoirs from Minneapolis, one of the city’s public art projects. Smith Magazine started the 6-word memoir craze. Because of the strict word limit, writing these compressed autobiographies forces you to become aphoristic pretty quick. In Minneapolis, participants submitted their memoirs online or wrote them directly onto posters in community centers and cafes, kind of like slam-o but then not surreptitiously. Some 6-word memoirs from Minneapolitans…

A map, desire, two wheels. H0me. —Aaron, 23, Seward

I would rather guess than know. —Nancy, 43, East Isles (See W.H. Auden: Guessing is more fun than knowing.)

Go to the park and play. —Zara, 4, Fulton

My banjo keeps me emotionally grounded. —James, 43, Northeast

six words is six too many —Moses, Homeless

It’s safe to go home now. —Courtney, 30, S. Minneapolis

6 Words Minneapolis was initiated and curated by Emily Lloyd (@PoesyGalore). Do try this at home.

Metaphor and Steve Jobs

In this piece from Forbes, communication coach Carmine Gallo explains how Steve Jobs, as depicted in the new biopic ‘Jobs’, learned how to describe the novelty of the personal computer using metaphors and analogies: “I told [director Joshua Michael] Stern that I believe the previous scene was pivotal because it reflected how Jobs ultimately learned to be a world-class communicator—Jobs was tapping into the power of metaphor and analogies to refine and articulate his ideas.” Read the full article here.

Aphorisms by Dean Anthony Granitsas

Dean Anthony Granitsas, an undergrad from Ohio, writes what he calls “lessays, a truncated or diminutive essay.” This smattering of aphorisms comes from a collection called That: Aphorisms and Lessays.

Absurdity is hell’s miracle.

A good philosopher should study everything but philosophy.

Once you have resigned yourself to your sentence, the guard always unlocks the door.

Either no hope or a lot of hope; a little hope is the worst.

The bottom feeder also inhabits the depths.

There is no joy in simple things because there are no simple things.

Aphorisms by Zoran Doderovic

Zoran Doderovic lives in Novi Sad, Serbia, where he writes short stories, aphorisms and haiku. The former editor of Haiku Moment and Haiku Informator, he is also the author of a book of haiku, Poisoned River (2000), and contributed to the anthologies Crosswinds (2003) and PreZENt Anecdote (2006). In his aphorisms, Mr. Doderovic gives the kinder, gentler notion of haiku a decidedly darker Balkan twist…

At the police station, I found out how much injustice hurts.

An elevator is a metaphor of life; you’ll understand when you get stuck.

Privatization has yielded visible results: Beggars on every corner.

Those educated by police batons fear butterflies’ shadows.

When the moment of truth came, no one noticed.

Aphorisms by Michael Curran

Michael Curran’s aphoristic role models are La Rochefoucauld and Pascal so his sayings are, he writes, “rather serious and dark rather than witty or pointed.” His subjects are similarly La Rochefoucauld-like and Pascalesque: psychology, self-interest, pride, vice, virtue. Mr. Curran’s aphorisms are available on his blog Sentences, where the collection can also be downloaded as an ebook. A selection follows…

You don’t glimpse how shallow some people are, till they unfold their deepest beliefs.

Thinking’s the disease. More thinking’s the cure.

Sentimentalists don’t pretend to feel a real emotion, they sincerely feel a confected one.

Flattery, like fornication, can be decently done only in private between no more than two people.

Poets make an art of strange conjunctions, which they yoke together with bands of assonance.

Chance will choose your interests, and your interests choose all else for you.

More Aphorisms by Eino Vastaranta

I first blogged about Eino Vastaranta’s aphorisms in 2010. He lives and blogs in Helsinki. This new selection is from his book Vastalauseita (‘Objections’ or ‘Protests’ in English), which contains 300 aphorisms and was published last year, as well as some sayings he intends to publish in his next collection.

From a bird’s-eye view we’re all shitheads.

People and animals are tortured because they don’t talk.

Natural diversity increases, thanks to mutations.

Supporters of nuclear power tilt against windmills.

A gift for someone who has everything? A sense of proportion.

The exclamation mark: a cannon shooting its own ankle.

What you want done unto you you have to do yourself.

Still More Aphorisms by Marty Rubin

I’ve blogged about Marty Rubin’s aphorisms thrice before, in 2009, 2011 and 2012. Here’s a few more recent aphorisms, from Out of Context: pieces of a life.

He who is not an enigma to himself doesn’t know himself.

Dreams were the first movies.

Imagination, to really soar, must keep one foot on the ground.

Birds don’t fly because they’re in a hurry.


Serbian Aphorisms for Children

Serbian aphorist Aleksander Cotric (Geary’s Guide, p. 30), whom I blogged about in 2009 and 2010, sends selections from the anthology of Serbian aphorisms for children he edited. Parental guidance suggested…

Many things were not finished because they were not started. —Jovan Jovanovic Zmal (1833-1904)

Just go on reading books and you will end up being the same as those who wrote them. —Dusan Radovic (1922-1984)

Parents make mistakes. No wonder children get beaten. —Dragan Susic (1932-2009)

Where are you, my father, to give me another piece of advice I will not follow? —Branislav Crncevic (1933-2011)

When I am not noticed, I pretend not to be there. —Savo Martinovic (1935)

I walked Marina home today. Why doesn’t she live farther? —Zoran Stanojevic (1942)

I don’t know how old I am. It changes every year. —Zoran T. Popovic (1957)

When my father doesn’t want to talk to me, I know what he would like to say. —Aleksander Cotric (1966)

Yet More Aphorisms by Tim Daly

I’ve blogged about Irish aphorist Tim Daly’s aphorisms before, first in 2008 and then again in 2009. Here’s a fresh selection of Tim’s aphoristic observations, slightly askew…

The clever understand your words. The wise understand your silence.

Funny is when reality shines.

It is hard to learn anything new, blinded as we always are by everything we already know.

I almost always expect the unexpected – and I’m usually wrong.

There are few things in the universe more stubborn than a bad idea.

Beauty has more shapes than Evil has disguises.

Good lyrics are crippled poems made whole again by music.

Uncertain and unafraid should be our default setting.

A friend that behaves like an enemy is neither.

Always arrive hungry.

Unconditional love is often given by those simply too lazy to negotiate suitable terms.