Quote Prompts

Each issue is based on a one-word theme highly relevant to the life of a multicultural. We provide several quotes as prompts for inspiration each issue, but utilising these quotes is not mandatory.

[Issue #5: EXILE]
Open for submissions!

1.

La nostalgia desgasta y aniquila, es el vicio de los desterrados.
[Nostalgia wears out and annihilates, it is the vice of the exiles.]

(from Isabel Allende, de Amor y de Sombra)

2.

For the first time in years, he felt the deep sadness of exile, knowing that he was alone here, an outsider, and too alert to the ironies, the niceties, the manners, and indeed, the morals to be able to participate.

(from Colm Tóibín, The Master)

3.

If there is anything good about exile, it is that it teaches one humility. It accelerates one’s drift into isolation, an absolute perspective. Into the condition at which all one is left with is oneself and one’s language, with nobody or nothing in between. Exile brings you overnight where it would normally take a lifetime to go.

(from Joseph Brodsky)

4.

Exile is a dream of glorious return. Exile is a vision of revolution: Elba, not St Helena. It is an endless paradox: looking forward by always looking back. The exile is a ball hurled high into the air. He hangs there, frozen in time, translated into a photograph; denied motion, suspended impossibly above his native earth, he awaits the inevitable moment at which the photograph must begin to move, and the earth reclaim its own.

(from Salman Rushdie, The Satanic Verses)

5.

Probably all of us, writers and readers alike, set out into exile, or at least into a certain kind of exile, when we leave childhood behind… The immigrant, the nomad, the traveler, the sleepwalker all exist, but not the exile, since every writer becomes an exile simply by venturing into literature, and every reader becomes an exile simply by opening a book.

(from Roberto Bolaño, Between Parentheses: Essays, Articles, and Speeches, 1998-2003)


[Issue #4: WALLS]

1.

Words are things. You must be careful, careful about calling people out of their names, using racial pejoratives and sexual pejoratives and all that ignorance. Don’t do that. Some day we’ll be able to measure the power of words. I think they are things. They get on the walls. They get in your wallpaper. They get in your rugs, in your upholstery, and your clothes, and finally in to you.

(from Maya Angelou, ‘The Power of Words’)

2.

“Between a high, solid wall and an egg that breaks against it, I will always stand on the side of the egg.”

Yes, no matter how right the wall may be and how wrong the egg, I will stand with the egg. Someone else will have to decide what is right and what is wrong; perhaps time or history will decide. If there were a novelist who, for whatever reason, wrote works standing with the wall, of what value would such works be?

[…]

Each of us is, more or less, an egg. Each of us is a unique, irreplaceable soul enclosed in a fragile shell. This is true of me, and it is true of each of you. And each of us, to a greater or lesser degree, is confronting a high, solid wall. The wall has a name: It is The System. The System is supposed to protect us, but sometimes it takes on a life of its own, and then it begins to kill us and cause us to kill others—coldly, efficiently, systematically.

[…]

We are all human beings, individuals transcending nationality and race and religion, fragile eggs faced with a solid wall called The System. To all appearances, we have no hope of winning. The wall is too high, too strong—and too cold. If we have any hope of victory at all, it will have to come from our believing in the utter uniqueness and irreplaceability of our own and others’ souls and from the warmth we gain by joining souls together.

Take a moment to think about this. Each of us possesses a tangible, living soul. The System has no such thing. We must not allow The System to exploit us. We must not allow The System to take on a life of its own. The System did not make us: We made The System.

(from Haruki Murakami, Jerusalem Prize Acceptance Speech, Feb 2009)


[Issue #3: TONGUE]

1.

Don’t write in English, they said,
English is not your mother-tongue. Why not leave
Me alone, critics, friends, visiting cousins,
Every one of you? Why not let me speak in
Any language I like? The language I speak
Becomes mine, its distortions, its queerness
All mine, mine alone.

(from Kamala Das, ‘An Introduction’)

2.

You could not use them both together
even if you thought that way.
And if you lived in a place you had to
speak a foreign tongue,
your mother tongue would rot,
rot and die in your mouth
until you had to spit it out.
I thought I spit it out
but overnight while I dream,
it grows back, a stump of a shoot
grows longer, grows moist, grows strong veins,
it ties the other tongue in knots,
the bud opens, the bud opens in my mouth,

(from Sujata Bhatt, ‘Tongue’)

3.

Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.

(from James 3: 5–10, The Bible: King James Version)


[Issue #2: SEA]

1.

But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.
Love one another but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.

(from Khalil Gibran, ‘On Marriage’)

2.

There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves
Or lose our ventures.

(from Shakespeare, Julius Caesar)


[Issue #1: BIRTH]

1.

Land! / Look, I have wrestled with God / and with men / and I became a man. / I am the flesh. / And you are the land. / Who like us is acquainted with giving birth!

(from ‘Horeb’)

2.

And well I know within that bastard land
Hath Wisdom’s goddess never held command;
A barren soil, where Nature’s germs, confined
To stern sterility, can stint the mind;
Whose thistle well betrays the niggard earth,
Emblem of all to whom the Land gives birth;
Each genial influence nurtured to resist;
A land of meanness, sophistry, and mist.

(from Byron, ‘The Curse of Minerva’)

3.

I am not yet born; rehearse me
In the parts I must play and the cues I must take when
****old men lecture me, bureaucrats hector me, mountains
******frown at me, lovers laugh at me, the white
********waves call me to folly and the desert calls
**********me to doom and the beggar refuses
************my gift and my children curse me.

[…]

I am not yet born; O fill me
With strength against those who would freeze my
****humanity, would dragoon me into a lethal automaton,
******would make me a cog in a machine, a thing with
********one face, a thing, and against all those
**********who would dissipate my entirety, would
************blow me like thistledown hither and
**************thither or hither and thither
****************like water held in the
******************hands would spill me.

(from MacNeice, ‘Prayer before Birth’)