In 2009, poet Maggie Nelson dropped Bluets, the print equivalent of a mixtape that combines memoir, poetry, art critique, and personal essay. Bluets as a whole is a lyrical meditation on love, grief, obsession, and color, but any given stanza of it—it’s organized into numbered paragraphs—might consist solely of a detail about a nomadic tribe, or a quote from Goethe. You can read a substantial excerpt of it here.
The book continues to exert and accumulate influence as readers discover, re-discover, share, and publicly mull over their impressions of this unique investigation into a steadfastly broken heart. The advent of Nelson’s more conventionally formatted memoir The Argonauts felt [...]
Carson McCullers found me during my loneliest year. An ingénue-writer, at twenty-three she blew New York away with The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, her story about a little Southern town, a girl named Mick, and a deaf man named John Singer. Literary fame followed, then divorce, illness, and early death. She had a series of strokes throughout her adult life that left her partially paralyzed; the last one led to her passing at age fifty. McCullers spent much of her adult life “in recovery” nursing a thermos of tea and sherry. It’s a story that indulges our favorite cliché about artists—that out of great pain comes great work. [...]