New language

Is it just me, or was this a cataclysmic week? I wrapped it up by working with my mentee on this writing prompt from Poets & Writers:

In the Cut, seventy-eight new emotions are introduced, inspired by a theory that emotions are not just objective, biologically measurable states but are constructed interpretations of sensations affected by our cultures, expectations, and language. Writers, including Greg Jackson, Sara Nović, and Bryan Washington, name and describe new emotions like jealoushy: “The feeling of being jealous of someone while also having a crush on them,” and heartbreak adrenaline: “The strange feats of strength that can be accomplished after a devastating breakup.” Write a poem that revolves around a newly named emotion of your own invention, perhaps involving love, lust, or heartbreak. How does giving new language to a feeling expand your perspective?

We’re in a time that’s begging for new language to describe our experiences. In the New York Times, Kate Mooney wrote about “virus vernacular”— the now-ubiquitous words like “face mask” and “social distancing” that we’ve started using to govern ourselves. But what’s the phrase for when you’re watching your entire industry collapse in real-time? How about the disconnect between anticipating something, and actually going through it? How can I best describe the joy from watching an incredible veterinary school commencement of a dear friend, replete with masticating cows and adorable dogs and humorous lag times that I’d never get to see in real life, while still wishing I could hug her? 

I don’t think we can tidy or dismiss emotions just by naming them. It’s not that easy! But maybe by teasing them out, we can better feel our way through all the murky strangeness. 

If you come up with a whimsical/heartbreaking/genius new feeling-name, send it my way, will you?



The Food of Care Homes, Ruby Tandoh, Vittles 

On Snobbishness, Alicia Kennedy

The Empathy Crisis of White America, Philip Picardi 

How We Became Infected by Chain E-Mail, Kathryn Schulz, The New Yorker 

The coronavirus pandemic

Surviving Covid-19 May Not Feel Like Recovery for Some, Jason Horowitz, NYT

‘I Wish I Could Do Something for You,’ My Doctor Said, Mara Gay, NYT 

Quarantine Fatigue Is Real, Julia Marcus, The Atlantic 

To Avoid Burnout, Work Less and Ignore ‘Productivity Propaganda’, Lindsay Tramuta, Bloomberg 

How (and why) coronavirus is changing our sense of time, Sue & Bill Gross School of Nursing, UC Irvine

Patagonia, Quick to Close, Could Be Last to Reopen, Sapna Maheshwari, NYT

Other news you can use

-I watched 9 Ways to Edit Yourself or Anyone Else from ACES and it was an hour well spent. Even if you’re not a writer I think there are some great basic tips in here. (Thanks to Kaitlyn for the recommendation)

-Girls Write Now (the writing program I volunteer with) is accepting mentor and mentee applications for 2020, ideally for NY-based people. Get in touch if you’re interested in applying or have any questions.


-Cheese Grits With Saucy Black Beans, Avocado and Radish

-100% Whole Wheat Sourdough

Some poems

The Bird of Sorrow, Garous Abdolmalekian, H/T Sam Sax

Milkweed, James Wright, H/T Kamran Javadizadeh

Vietnam, Wislawa Szymborska

Isn’t there something, Jean Valentine, H/T Kaveh Akbar

The Epic Poem You Need for Quarantine (An interpretation)

A few nice things

-Check out MAITA’s new record from fellow Reedie Maria Maita-Keppler if you haven’t already

-I love this tweet from Kendra Pierre-Louis, an NYT climate reporter, about the best things she’s done in quarantine, especially the idea of embroidering pandemic merit badges. I asked my friend to make me one that said “I cried” (Sorry! Just being real).

A song to leave you with:

I’m taking a few weeks off from the letter to rest, and then work on some longer essays. Thanks to everyone for reading thus far (and for writing me back).

Until next time.