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Wide White Margins, And A Few Words

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On the days when I particularly overwhelmed–when I am convinced that any reform in my church will require at least 10 million perfect words, when I am sure that nothing I can think or say or write will ever make any difference, when I am tempted to think that the countless number of books in Harvard’s theological library may actually make so little an imprint on the world–on these days you will probably find me cross-legged on the floor of the Harvard Bookstore.  I will be hunched over barren pages held together by thin bindings in the poetry aisle. Their words belong to people that most people do not know, people I do not know.

I don’t just come for the poems; I come for all the white space that fills these poetry books.  The white space actually comforts me more, I think, reminding me  of two things:  First, reminding me of the arduous silence–all the wordless thinking–that accompanied very worthwhile word I have ever written.  Wordlessness can be precious and productive in its own ways.  Second, reminding me that I do not need to say everything–I do not need to say everything–only a few beautiful, dangerous, honest-to-God, true things.  Poems are so captivating because they say so much with so little.

I am so little, and I want to say something worth so much.

Image from http://www.flickr.com/photos/kokjebalder/366508847/


  1. Theresa says:

    Jess….oh, Jess…how I know those days…you never cease to amaze me!

  2. chuck.kim says:

    loved this. thank you.
    it’s something my jazz mentor always tried to teach me… to say what you need to say… with the least amount of notes as possible. that restraint is a mark of wisdom.

    speaking of poetry… read something amazing in memory of lucille clifton, who passed a couple days ago:

  3. Mike B says:

    I have trouble just with the fact that the book store has way more books in it than I can ever hope to read. We should get stickers that we can put on the ones that we really want everyone else to read….Or perhaps the notes on the cover can be made more direct and decisive – “Buy me! I’m way better than that book with the green cover you were looking at a second ago.” I suppose one can take solace in the fact that most of them will still be waiting in the same spot tomorrow.

  4. “Too much talk blurs itself” , a relevant arab wisdom

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