So far, I (pup) am the only one contributing to this page. These writing samples are examples of work I look up to. I always try to write like these writers wrote these samples, but if my work is half as good as theirs I feel happy. These are also examples of what I call "perfect writing." By reading these samples, you can see the kind of writer I can only slavishly hope to become.
The "What a piece of work is a man" segment of this speech drives me to tears. But I decided to print the entire speech (given by Prince Hamlet) because it is an example of perfect writing.
I will tell you why; so shall my anticipation prevent your discovery, and your secrecy to the King and queene: moult no feather. I have of late, (but wherefore I know not) lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises; and indeed, it goes so heavily with my disposition; that this goodly frame the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory; this most excellent canopy the air, look you, this brave o'er hanging firmament, this majestical roof, fretted with golden fire: why, it appeareth no other thing to me, than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours. What a piece of work is a man, How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty, In form and moving how express and admirable, In action how like an Angel, In apprehension how like a god, The beauty of the world, The paragon of animals. And yet to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me; no, nor Woman neither; though by your smiling you seem to say so.
pup has long searched for the right words for his belief that poverty rocks. It's a hard argument, because poverty can destroy hearts and minds. But Bukowski's words capture the idea perfectly. They were attributed to him on the Charles Bukowski facebook page. pup believes it.
"It was wintertime. I was starving to death trying to be a writer in New York. I hadn't eaten for three or four days. So, I finally said, "I'm gonna have a big bag of popcorn." And God, I hadn't tasted food for so long, it was so good. Each kernel, you know, each one was like a steak! I chewed and it would just drop into my poor stomach. My stomach would say, "THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!" I was in heaven, just walking along, and two guys happened by, and one said to the other, "Jesus Christ!" The other one said, "What was it?" "Did you see that guy eating popcorn? God, it was awful!" And so I couldn't enjoy the rest of the popcorn. I thought; what do you mean, "it was awful?" I'm in heaven here. I guess I was kinda dirty. They can always tell a fucked-up guy."
Richard Siken is a brilliant poet who pup can't recommend enough. Original line breaks.
Two lovers went to the museum and wandered the
rooms. He saw a painting and stood in front of it
for too long. It was a few minutes before she
realized he had gotten stuck. He was stuck looking
at a painting. She stood next to him, looking at his
face and then the face in the painting. What do you
see? she asked. I don’t know, he said. He didn’t
know. She was disappointed, then bored. He was
looking at a face and she was looking at her watch.
This is where everything changed. There was now
a distance between them. He was looking at a face
but it might as well have been a cabbage or a
sugar beet. Perhaps it was something about yellow
near pink. He didn’t know how to say it. Years later
he still didn’t know how to say it, and she was gone.
The Russians began to force conscript soldiers around this time, both at home and in the Donetsk region of occupied Ukraine. This is a quote picked up from then.
A mother living in Donetsk said in an interview that her son had initially avoided conscription because he had previously completed his military service.
“He wasn’t the fighting type,” she said, recalling he would tell her: “Mum, I just can’t kill a person.” But in April, she said, he was picked up off the street, put on a bus and driven to the conscription office, with time only to call his mother and ask her to bring him some personal belongings. “They drove him to the conscription office, changed his clothes, changed his shoes and drove him to the base and then to the fighting,” she said.
He was killed a few weeks later. “I think he probably didn’t kill anyone, in the end,” she added. “He didn’t get the time.”
This is possibly the greatest poem written in the last two thousand years.
Complacencies of the peignoir, and late
Coffee and oranges in a sunny chair,
And the green freedom of a cockatoo
Upon a rug mingle to dissipate
The holy hush of ancient sacrifice.
She dreams a little, and she feels the dark
Encroachment of that old catastrophe,
As a calm darkens among water-lights.
The pungent oranges and bright, green wings
Seem things in some procession of the dead,
Winding across wide water, without sound.
The day is like wide water, without sound,
Stilled for the passing of her dreaming feet
Over the seas, to silent Palestine,
Dominion of the blood and sepulchre.
Why should she give her bounty to the dead?
What is divinity if it can come
Only in silent shadows and in dreams?
Shall she not find in comforts of the sun,
In pungent fruit and bright, green wings, or else
In any balm or beauty of the earth,
Things to be cherished like the thought of heaven?
Divinity must live within herself:
Passions of rain, or moods in falling snow;
Grievings in loneliness, or unsubdued
Elations when the forest blooms; gusty
Emotions on wet roads on autumn nights;
All pleasures and all pains, remembering
The bough of summer and the winter branch.
These are the measures destined for her soul.
Jove in the clouds had his inhuman birth.
No mother suckled him, no sweet land gave
Large-mannered motions to his mythy mind.
He moved among us, as a muttering king,
Magnificent, would move among his hinds,
Until our blood, commingling, virginal,
With heaven, brought such requital to desire
The very hinds discerned it, in a star.
Shall our blood fail? Or shall it come to be
The blood of paradise? And shall the earth
Seem all of paradise that we shall know?
The sky will be much friendlier then than now,
A part of labor and a part of pain,
And next in glory to enduring love,
Not this dividing and indifferent blue.
She says, “I am content when wakened birds,
Before they fly, test the reality
Of misty fields, by their sweet questionings;
But when the birds are gone, and their warm fields
Return no more, where, then, is paradise?”
There is not any haunt of prophecy,
Nor any old chimera of the grave,
Neither the golden underground, nor isle
Melodious, where spirits gat them home,
Nor visionary south, nor cloudy palm
Remote on heaven’s hill, that has endured
As April’s green endures; or will endure
Like her remembrance of awakened birds,
Or her desire for June and evening, tipped
By the consummation of the swallow’s wings.
She says, “But in contentment I still feel
The need of some imperishable bliss.”
Death is the mother of beauty; hence from her,
Alone, shall come fulfilment to our dreams
And our desires. Although she strews the leaves
Of sure obliteration on our paths,
The path sick sorrow took, the many paths
Where triumph rang its brassy phrase, or love
Whispered a little out of tenderness,
She makes the willow shiver in the sun
For maidens who were wont to sit and gaze
Upon the grass, relinquished to their feet.
She causes boys to pile new plums and pears
On disregarded plate. The maidens taste
And stray impassioned in the littering leaves.
Is there no change of death in paradise?
Does ripe fruit never fall? Or do the boughs
Hang always heavy in that perfect sky,
Unchanging, yet so like our perishing earth,
With rivers like our own that seek for seas
They never find, the same receding shores
That never touch with inarticulate pang?
Why set the pear upon those river-banks
Or spice the shores with odors of the plum?
Alas, that they should wear our colors there,
The silken weavings of our afternoons,
And pick the strings of our insipid lutes!
Death is the mother of beauty, mystical,
Within whose burning bosom we devise
Our earthly mothers waiting, sleeplessly.
Supple and turbulent, a ring of men
Shall chant in orgy on a summer morn
Their boisterous devotion to the sun,
Not as a god, but as a god might be,
Naked among them, like a savage source.
Their chant shall be a chant of paradise,
Out of their blood, returning to the sky;
And in their chant shall enter, voice by voice,
The windy lake wherein their lord delights,
The trees, like serafin, and echoing hills,
That choir among themselves long afterward.
They shall know well the heavenly fellowship
Of men that perish and of summer morn.
And whence they came and whither they shall go
The dew upon their feet shall manifest.
She hears, upon that water without sound,
A voice that cries, “The tomb in Palestine
Is not the porch of spirits lingering.
It is the grave of Jesus, where he lay.”
We live in an old chaos of the sun,
Or old dependency of day and night,
Or island solitude, unsponsored, free,
Of that wide water, inescapable.
Deer walk upon our mountains, and the quail
Whistle about us their spontaneous cries;
Sweet berries ripen in the wilderness;
And, in the isolation of the sky,
At evening, casual flocks of pigeons make
Ambiguous undulations as they sink,
Downward to darkness, on extended wings.
Source: The Collected Poems (1954)
In In Search of the Free Individual - The History of the Russian-Soviet Soul, Belorussian Nobel Prize-winner Svetlana Alexievich wrote that “the Russian soul is an enigma. We lived together in a country where we were taught to die beginning in childhood. We learned death and dying. We weren’t taught that humans are born for happiness, or love. It was drilled into us that humans exist in order to give of themselves, in order to burn, to sacrifice. We were taught to love people with weapons.”