Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Tenets of My Feminism

Have you noticed that I'm a militant feminist? I think once a long time ago someone asked me in a comment to outline my definition of feminism or my beliefs about feminism. That sounded like a lot of work. But I'm going to try to do it here, in rough fashion. I'm not going to bother listing out the dead-obvious stuff about feminism that everyone already agrees on. (That is, everyone who is a thinking adult; the average schmo doesn't even know the denotation of the word feminism. In 2011, I talked about the difference between a new usage and a misusage of a word, and why "feminist" is so often misused. Sorry guys, but feminism isn't sexist.)

So here are some of the tenets of my personal feminism:

1. Anyone can be a feminist. There's no required reading list. You don't have to major in women's studies or even go to college.

2. I believe in counterintuitive solutions. Orchestras used to be primarily male. They closed the gap by moving to a blind audition process, not by telling women to play more like men. Be suspicious when the proposed solution to any gender gap problem involves telling women to behave more like men:

  • When the VIDA numbers come out, editors claim they get more submissions and pitches from men, so everyone tells women to submit more. Be suspicious. Maybe men need to submit less. Editors are overworked and underpaid, and most of what they're getting is crap. 
  • What about the pay gap? The standard line is, men get more promotions and raises because they ask for them; there's a confidence gap; women need more self-assurance. Again, the problem is always with women, not men. Maybe men are over-confident? Maybe they ask for too much, and end up hording all the resources? It's also easier for them to take the risk of asking for more, since other men are making most of the decisions. A big part of the problem is that we define success in terms of male characteristics. Men are more aggressive, therefore aggression=good. (Kind of like how humans are the most intelligent species, since we define what "intelligence" is in terms of what we can do.) Question the status quo and the value system. It's not just that women aren't paid enough; it's that men are paid too much. (I'm not talking about your buddy at the next desk; look to the top.)

3. With regard to charges that "feminism is for white women": I don't think feminism is particularly racist. Has feminism, historically, as a movement, excluded women of color? Yes, of course, but this is a general rule, not a particular one. We (people) are racist as a whole and we need to change that. I do not think it's productive to pit feminist activists against race activists as though their goals were mutually exclusive. Let's do both at once. If you see a feminist being racist, call them out, but don't blame it on feminism. Blame it on racism. (Note: I remark on this because I think men can use charges of racism as a way to undermine feminism and derail feminist conversations; it's a form of the "always a bigger problem" fallacy, i.e. racism is more important because it affects men too! Naturally I take these concerns much more seriously when they come from women of color.)

4. That said, being white makes feminism easier. Being attractive makes feminism easier. Being rich makes feminism easier. That's because being white, rich and attractive makes everything easier! Privilege is additive. Being a "hot feminist" is not subversive.

5. To me, feminism isn't about honoring personal choices, i.e. "I'm a woman and I do whatever I want and it's my choice." Feminism is about seeking equality. If you're a woman and you make anti-feminist choices (like, say, editing a magazine and only publishing men), you can't then use "feminism" as the justification for your choices.

I think those are the big ones.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Frank O'Hara Cento

The angriness of the captive is felt,
The apple green chasuble, so
The avalanche drifts to earth through giant air
The best thing in the world         but I better be quick about it
The black ghinkos snarl their way up
The blue plumes drift and
The blueness of the hour
The Cambodian grass is crushed
The cinema is cruel
The clouds ache bleakly
The clouds go soft
The cold  now, the silver tomb, separates
The cow belched and invited me
The distinguished
The eager note on my door said "Call me,
The eagerness of objects to
The eyelid has its storms.
The flies are getting slower now
The flower, the corpse in silhouette
The fluorescent tubing burns like a bobby-soxer's ankles
The forest sprang up around me
The geraniums and rubber plants
The going into winter and the never coming out
The gulls wheeled
The guts that stream out of the needle's eye
The heat rises, it is not the pressure
The hosts of dreams and their impoverished minions
The ice of your imagination lends
The ivy is trembling in the hammock
The leaves are piled thickly on the green tree
The light comes on by itself
The light only reaches halfway across the floor where we lie, your hair
The light presses down
The lily and the albatross form under your lids. Awaken, love, and walk
The little dark haired boy whose black looks
The little roses, the black majestic sails
"The mind is stifled." Very little sky
The night pains inhaling smoke and semen.
The only way to be quiet
The opals hiding in your lids
The pursefishers have flaunted their last
The rain, its tiny pressure
The razzle dazzle maggots are summary
The root         an acceptable connection
The rose, the lily and the dove got withered
The sad thing about life is
The scene is the same,
The sender of this letter is a mailman
The sky flows over Kentucky and Maryland
The spent purpose of a perfectly marvellous
The stars are tighter
The stranded gulch
The strangeness of palaces for a cowboy
The sun, perhaps three of them, one black one red,
The Sun woke me up this morning loud
the sunlight streams through the cold
The trees toss and plunge in a skyblue surf!
The two slept in a dark red armory
The weight must at above.
The wheels are inside me thundering.
The white chocolate jar full of petals
The wrinkled page of the sky swells

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Today is where your book begins. The rest is still well-written?

So, I just realized that I went on two unrelated twitter rants (what my friend Chris calls trolling) in the past 24 hours that both hinged on the term "well-written." The first started with this:
The second started with this:
Let me expound on these a little bit more (oh ha ha ha). The first is an Ezra Pound line that is always getting thrown around in MFA workshops and whatnot, up there with "Kill your darlings" and "Show don't tell." I just saw it somewhere again this week, and it's like when you delete 40 emails from some company before one day you remember you can just unsubscribe. Suddenly I had a deep urge to say WTF: This statement makes no sense! Why do we keep quoting it like it makes sense? The implication is that prose has to meet some bare minimum standard of "good writing," but that's not even true of published prose. "Poetry" and "prose" are just categories, they communicate nothing in themselves about the quality of the writing. People who have quoted this: WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

FWIW, I think that version is a misquotation; this appears to be the correct quote in context (a letter written to Harriet Monroe):
Poetry must be as well written as prose. Its language must be a fine language, departing in no way from speech save by a heightened intensity (i.e. simplicity). There must be no book words, no periphrases, no inversions. It must be as simple as De Maupassant's best prose, and as hard as Stendhal's.
I still don't agree with it, natch; poetry can do whatever the hell it wants to, go ahead and invert your book words.

As for the second rant, I was reacting to a comment I saw on a Roxane Gay essay about shame and self-denial. Obviously I think a lot about standards of beauty so I was interested, and the essay was striking and discomfiting in that it wrestles with how it feels when one's body "does not follow society’s dictates for what a woman’s body should look like":
My body is wildly undisciplined and I deny myself nearly everything I desire. I deny myself the right to space when I am public, trying to fold in on myself, to make my body invisible even though it is, in fact, grandly visible. I deny myself the right to a shared armrest because how dare I impose? I deny myself entry into certain spaces I have deemed inappropriate for a body like mine—most spaces inhabited by other people.

I deny myself bright colors in my clothing choices, sticking to a uniform of denim and dark shirts even though I have a far more diverse wardrobe. I deny myself certain trappings of femininity as if I do not have the right to such expression when my body does not follow society’s dictates for what a woman’s body should look like. I deny myself gentler kinds of affection—to touch or be kindly touched—as if that is a pleasure a body like mine does not deserve.
This makes me feel awful, in part because I hate our sexist, racist, body-shaming culture, but also in part because so many of the things she denies herself are things I allow myself without thinking. Like painting my fingernails (actually something I almost never do, but I engage plenty in the equivalent) or eating on a plane: "My best friend offered me a bag of potato chips to eat on the plane, but I denied myself that. I said, 'People like me don’t get to eat food like that in public,' and it was one of the truest things I’ve ever said." Our own privilege is usually invisible to ourselves, and though I detest our beauty standards, I reap the benefits of meeting many of them every day.

Anyway, complicated feelings. And the first comment under the article was "This is very well-written." And I just did this massive eye-roll. Like ... isn't that totally missing the point? I mean, duh, don't read the comments, but this is part of non-comment discourse too; I've seen praise this bland in book blurbs. This is how I feel:
  • "This is well-written" suggests that the writing is a superficial layer on top of the content, or that the writer had the content and then did the work of translating it into good writing. Maybe so. But if that is the case, I'm much rather read really interesting ideas with so-so writing than "good writing" and boring ideas.
  • In a great piece of writing, the content is the writing, you can't separate it into layers. This is why people say you can't translate poetry, but really you can't translate anything w/ 100% accuracy, you can only approximate the effect in another language. (Not that I'm against translation, we do what we can do.)
Basically, I can't imagine any writer taking this as a compliment. If you're a writer, "well-written" should be your baseline, no? I mean, comedians don't want you to tell them their jokes are well-written, they want you to laugh. Presumably writers are trying to accomplish something other than producing passable examples of writing.

OK, whatever, end of rant. Now I have this song stuck in my head, and you will too!



P.S. Thank you to Ray McDaniel for this review of The Self Unstable. I have admired McDaniel's reviews at the Constant Critic for a long time so this is especially exciting to me. Example sentence: "Gabbert can pack a lot of weird into a very small picnic basket, and the familiarity of her approach – the sort of observational mixture of claim, question, comment and example that often comprises jokes, for instance – conceals, and usefully, some of her genuinely impressive and profitable ambition." Thanks also to Jacob Spears for the recent review in Pank! Example sentence: "In a world turning increasingly to the virtual, the brief prose poems in Elisa Gabbert’s The Self Unstable read like postcards or dispatches from a new frontier in which the map is just as much a part of reality as the territory." Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Shinkichi Takahashi is the Zen Wallace Stevens

Check out this poem by Shinkichi Takahashi, translated by Lucien Stryk:

Snow Wind

There's nothing more to see:
Snow in the nandin's leaves
And, under it, the red-eyed
Rabbit lies frozen.

I'll place everything on
Your eyeballs, the universe.
There's nothing more to see:
Nandin berries are red, snow white.

The rabbit hopped twice in the cool
Breeze and everyone disappeared,
Leaving the barest scent.
The horizon curves endlessly

And now there's no more light
Around the rabbit's body.
Suddenly your face
Is large as the universe.

Holy crap!!! I feel like this is the best translation from Japanese I've ever read. It sounds like Wallace Stevens! The line breaks (by which I mean the lines) are so perfect in English, and the sounds carry meaning -- see "I'll" and "eyeballs." Plus I feel like this encompasses ideas of nature that are both ancient/timeless ("snow in the nandin's leaves") and postmodern, post-Einstein (light, the universe, fractals, etc.) WOW. Good poem.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

10 items that are on this list

"Poetry readings were like early teevee in that everyone had their own little show. Though teevee got more sophisticated (worse) poetry never did. It remains stupid, run by fools." - Eileen Myles, from Inferno

Happy April Fools' Day/National Poetry Month! In honor of the occasion(s) I wrote a listicle for Open Letters Monthly's Title Menu feature: 10 Books that Might Be Poetry.


It's a list of some of my favorite weird books of prose poems or poemy prose, including Max Jacob, Aram Saroyan, Russel Edson, Lyn Hejinian, Anne Boyer, Khadijah Queen and more.

And if you're interested in all this genre bullshit, you'll enjoy this interview (from 2012) between Maggie Nelson and Ali Liebegott from the Believer Logger:

AL: I was surprised when I saw Bluets—that it doesn’t say poetry on it, it says Essay/Literature. Do you consider it poetry?
MN: No, I don’t really, but I just don’t care. There was a long review of Bluets that was all about Is this poetry or prose? A lot of the book came from poems, and I took out the line breaks. At first I wrote a lot of blue poems, but there was something about this collection of blue poems that was really irking me. It was too precious or too weird. When I wrote Jane, it was okay that each individual poem was in a different form, because the story was going to hold it all together. When I wrote Bluets, blue as a concept was not enough to hold all these individually shaped poems. I didn’t like the way it was looking, and it wasn’t interesting. Then when I realized that numbered passages could do the same work that poems could do—with juxtaposition and speed and moving in and out of different kinds of voices, I thought, Oh, wow! And when I took a lot of the line breaks out of a lot of the poems, I didn’t feel like they lost anything. A lot of reviews of the poems I’d written recently were like, Why is this even poetry? She just put line breaks and stuff into what should’ve been prose. I felt like, Fair enough, maybe that’s exactly so. That didn’t cut to my quick or anything.
It sounds kind of dippy, but Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations, which is written in numbers, was the main book I saw my book in conversation with. I love the way he’s writing philosophy, but it also kind of sounds like a sad, confused person just talking to himself. “Why can’t my right hand give my left hand money?” and “Why can’t a dog feel pain?” “Can a dog simulate pain?” Just all these questions and people treat it—as they should—very seriously as philosophy. But it’s also a form of madness, and I felt very alone and in a form of madness.
I was probably very kinetically unhappy while I was writing Bluets—but I still felt pleased as a writer, because I’ve worked a lot as a scholar, and I like doing research, and I like facts, and I like philosophy. So I felt like I could put everything I knew about rhythm and movement and juxtaposition into this book, but I didn’t have to be precious, like if I was making a poem. I could say, “Here’s what Mallarmé had to say about God,” and I could put in all my facts. I loved this. It’s a good form for me. It’s a kind of poetic prose, but I wouldn’t call it a long poem.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Upcoming readings

I'm reading a couple of times this week. Come see me!



Thursday, April 3, 7:30 pm
Creative Writing Reading Series at CU Boulder
CU Museum of Natural History, Paleontology Hall
w/ James Wagner



Friday, April 4, 5-8 pm
Lit Crawl @ Mission Creek Festival
Iowa City, Iowa

Writers and publishers from across the country again invade downtown Iowa City businesses for three hours of literary mayhem. [I'll be reading for Black Ocean at Studio 13.]

5:00 - Beadology - cookNscribble and Graze
5:00 - FilmScene - Rescue Press, F, OH & H_NGM_N
5:00 - M.C. Ginsberg - Iowa Review and Red Hen Press
5:00 - NoDo - Hobart and A Strange Object

6:00 - Revival - POETRY MAKE & Canarium
6:00 - White Rabbit - Wag's Revue & HTMLGIANT
6:00 - Dublin Underground - Coffee House Press and Ninth Letter

7:00 - The Foxhead - Curbside Splendor and Artifice Books
7:00 - Studio 13 - Black Ocean and Spork Press

8:00 - Studio 13 - Lit Crawl After Party

The Mission Creek Festival will host 30 literary events in venues throughout downtown Iowa City. These include readings by emerging authors, book prize winners, a publishers’ 20 anniversary celebration, a day-long book fair held in a music venue with free beer samples from New Belgium, a lit/rock show hosted by Nashville’s Third Man Records, and other literary-crossover events in food, film, and more. Participating authors include Rachel Kushner, Brian Evenson, Lindsay Hunter, Molly O’Neill, Jennifer Percy, Kyle Minor, Leslie Jamison, Tim Kinsella, Janaka Stucky, Michelle Wildgen, Bernard Cooper, T. Geronimo Johnson, Bill Hillman, Jamaal May, Jac Jemc, Tom Williams, Daniela Olszewska, Adam Fell, Tarfiah Faizullah, Elisa Gabbert, D. Foy, Rauan Klassnik, Ben Fama, and many more writers from Iowa City, the Midwest, and across the country.

Friday, March 21, 2014

This be the multiverse

(Totally stole that title from Sarang.)

So, I've been having a three-day debate with a Twitter pal (James) about morals in the multiverse. It started with these tweets:
I was actually referring to the gravitational waves detected at BICEP2, which lend support to an inflationary model of the universe, where our universe is just one bubble in a larger multiverse. But this quickly segued into a discussion about the possibility of ethics in a multiverse where every possible universe exists. (There are viable models of reality where this could be the case: one a way of interpreting quantum mechanics, another the result of a truly infinite universe.)

James was/is worried that in such a multiverse, morals would be impossible:
For example, if you see a drowning child, why save it, because in some universe, you don't save it, and it's all the same anyway (or something to that effect.)

This reminds me a lot of the philosophical argument that comes up from time to time in regards to free will, i.e., if there's no free will, how do we punish criminals? This argument drives me bananas! This is basically philosophers thinking "there's no free will" means "criminals don't have free will, but I do."

I think I finally came up with the right metaphor to describe what's wrong with this kind of thinking, and it has to do with levels of accuracy — significant digits, if you will. Basically, moral decisions (any kind of decision, really) happen at the level of our immediate, experienced reality. You might need Newtonian physics to make some of your human decisions, but this isn't a use case where you're going to need to involve quantum mechanics or general relativity. (Unless you're literally a rocket scientist and doing the math on satellite orbits.) You don't need to get down to the level of accuracy of an atomic clock to decide whether or not you're going to save a drowning baby.

When we talk about whether or not we truly have "free will" in the pure sense, or if we're living in some version of a multiverse, we're speculating about a very fine-grained level of the "underlying reality." We're going to an extreme, ultra-high-resolution level of accuracy, way way over to the right in terms of decimal points of accuracy. And the thing is, when you get that accurate, human concepts like "free will" and "morals" just don't exist. We're reduced to probability clouds. So worrying about morals in an infinite multiverse is like worrying about how your complexion looks under an electron microscope.

I see this kind of wrong-headed thinking a lot, so I kind of want to coin a term for it  — something like "The Resolution Fallacy." Anyone know if someone else has already formulated a statement of this kind?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

And now for a word from my sponsor (me)

Talking to Brad Listi for the Other People Podcast made me a little self-conscious about thanking critics who review your work in a positive light: If you're supposed to ignore your negative reviews, should you just ignore all of them? Well, whatever. I thought this essay, "404: Identity Not Found," in the Critical Flame (which is dedicating a year to writing about women writers and writers of color) by Daniel Pritchard was quite brilliant. Here's a little excerpt:

By placing the first instance in quotations, Gabbert appears to be referencing her own future text (or her own future self). Is the painful memory of the first passage also drawing from the anecdote of the later one? How is pain destabilizing? What about the assertion that “all pleasures are obscene”? The non-linear patterning rewards second and third readings, and it places these fragments into multiple, overlapping, nearly simultaneous contexts. Unlike Maggie Nelson’s wonderful series, Bluets, which Gabbert has cited as an influence, each fragment here does not logically follow the last. Nor is the central focus in Gabbert’s collection as clear as it is in Nelson’s deconstruction of the word / color blue. The Self Unstable does not purport to argue, or make of the themes an edifice. It offers only loose associations, familiar gestures.

I also want to thank Matt Mullins, a North Carolina poet who is teaching my book, for his very smart and interesting thoughts here:

I've called these poems "poems" throughout, but although they're certainly poetic, they're not quite poems either. I've seen reviewers use words like "treatise," "aphorisms," and "koans," (a word Gabbert herself uses in the book's final poem) to refer to the pieces in The Self Unstable. To look at them on the page, you would think "prose poems." But to read them you might think "aphorism" or "haiku without the formal features." They are koan-like in the sense that they do not always follow a clear or logical path at first. Oftentimes the sentences within each poem are less directly connected and more associational, but they do all work toward the idea of the self as a present but unstable entity. So even though I would never call the book a treatise, it does have a bit of the spirit of a treatise. The form of the pieces resonates with the unstable effect they create.

Matt has also been writing his way through The First Four Books of Sampson Starkweather. You can find all of it at his blog, Unstable Euphony.

And thank you to Kathleen Rooney (my friend and collaborator) for including The Self Unstable in this fascinating essay, over at Coldfront, on three recent books that explore poetry and selfhood in a post-Rumsfeld world:

The point of a koan, of course, is that it’s unresolvable and leads to contemplation. An unresolvable poetic utterance does no harm, or does it? Rumsfeld’s utterance is kind of a poan, too, but it’s a policy koan, not a poetry one. Gabbert’s poans retrospectively make Rumsfeld and his ilk’s rhetoric more apparent, and also make evident the gap between the public’s ability to speak of these events and its ability to influence them.

Thank you, also, to Bobby Baird for speaking to me about Bill Knott for this lovely remembrance at the New Yorker:

I knew Knott glancingly, and only on the Internet. We first crossed paths nearly a decade ago, during what now looks like a golden age of poetry blogging, on sites like Harriet, at the Poetry Foundation. Knott liked to linger and heckle in online comment sections, hawking his self-published collections and lamenting his ill treatment at the hands of an all-powerful poetry establishment. To those of us who were young and green enough not to know better, he seemed, at first, like an ordinary Internet crank, the kind who scorns rules of decorum and proper English punctuation. In time, however, it became clear that Knott had a better gift for wordplay, and a wider range of reference, than many of the bloggers on whose posts he commented. He also had an odd penchant for self-deprecation: he insisted, loudly, on his own insignificance, and when someone inevitably informed us who we were dealing with—a poet whose fans include Denis Johnson, Richard Hell, and Mary Karr—the volume of his self-denunciations would only increase. “my poetic career is nugatory,” he wrote once. “no editor will countenance my work; i’ve been forced to self-publish my poetry in vanity volumes; i am persona non grata and universally despised or ridiculed by everyone in the poetry world.” 
As though in thrall to the homonymic force of his last name, Knott seemed to thrive on self-denial. Never mind that he’d published collections with major presses, or that he’d won a Guggenheim and the Iowa Poetry Prize, or that he’d held tenure at Emerson College, where he taught for more than twenty-five years. To hear Knott tell it, none of this mattered.

One final bit of news: I'll be at the Mission Creek Festival in Iowa City April 4, 5, and 6, representing Black Ocean. 


Stay tuned for details on a reading that Friday night. If you're planning to go, or live in Iowa City, let me know!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Goodnight Bill Knott


Bill Knott, one of my favorite living poets, is no longer living.

Bill Knott was one of my poetry idols, my model of a political poet, critical poet, contrarian poet, anti-establishment poet, anti-poet.

His poems changed my ideas of what poetry is and can be. They really did. I remember sitting in an IKEA chair in my hovel of an overheated Beacon Hill apartment in August of 2002, reading The Quicken Tree and thinking HOLY SHIT! In particular, the potato soup poem blew my mind. It is not a serious poem, and so it is a very serious poem.

He lived his life as performance art. Life as tragicomedy.

Bill Knott led my first workshop in grad school, at Emerson College in Boston, MA. In some ways he was a wonderful teacher. In some ways he was a terrible teacher. Recently I was asked to share the best and worst writing advice I'd ever gotten, and I attributed both to Bill Knott. I remember him making students cry, telling them he didn't understand what they were doing or why or that they weren't real poets. A student told him he was reading Lorca and Bill just shook his head. His sweaters always had holes in them. One day he offered me $5 for one of my poems.

I wish he could have known how much he meant to me. I was afraid to let him know, because he distrusted admiration. His grand act was "I'm unappreciated," but he deflected appreciation.

How does it feel to have The Unsubscriber brought out by Farrar, Straus and Giroux? 
Many sensitive souls in my line of business hold similar views: we actually prefer to work in low-budget independent films -- that's where the challenging roles are, that's where one can really grow as an artist, and that's why we're always appearing in big-studio blockbusters. But honest I TRIED to get Pitt and Iowa and Rat Vomit Review and Dan Halpern's National Poetry Series and all those other places to publish my book. I entered all their annual contests, or all the ones I could afford. But after their rejections, there was no recourse. I had to lower my hopes and eat crow. None of them would publish it, so I was forced to go with FSG.

That's from this Bookslut interview from 2005. Please, please read the whole thing. It's wonderful. So is this interview from Memorious. So is John's recent profile of Bill Knott at the Poetry Foundation. (John took a poetry class with Bill at Emerson as an undergrad; he made him want to be a poet.) (We talked about how much we loved him the night we met.)

I think everyone is still hoping it's a hoax. I hope it is. He's done it once before.

I will add more relevant links as they come to me. Love to my Emerson friends who also loved Bill, and love to my poet friends who are still alive.

Update:

Read the obit and four poems at Open Letters Monthly.

Read the memorial at Coldfront.

Read the Emerson story, which includes lovely quotes from colleagues/friends including John Skoyles and Tom Lux.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

I am never unhappy while...

For personal reference, I am never unhappy while:

  • Hiking
  • Reading about theoretical physics
  • Writing a poem (but not necessarily reading poetry)
  • Cooking (but not necessarily eating)
  • Listening to (good) pop music
  • Playing Balderdash
  • Rewatching a favorite movie, the more times I've seen it the better

I think that's the end of the list. Not that other things don't make me happy, they just don't necessarily preclude unhappiness. The key seems to be distraction via a kind of passive, familiar involvement (a song or movie I know well, the rituals of preparing a meal, or the repetitive nature of hiking plus the added benefit of sidescrolling scenery) or intense engagement of the mind, as with physics (mathematically beyond my understanding, of course, but mindblowing anyway) or poetry (brief, elusive flow state). Distraction vs. concentration; one is not better, I need both, but it has to be truly engaging distraction.