Worth Repeating


From Lapham’s Quarterly via the great Maria Popova:

Your mother and I have been a complete failure financially but if the boys turn out to be good and useful citizens nothing else matters and we know this is happening so why not be jubilant?

–LeRoy Pollock in a 1928 letter to his 16-year-old son Jackson.

The rest of the letter is here, and this is the book where it can be found: American Letters 1927-1947: Jackson Pollock & Family.

Please consider subscribing to Ms. Popova’s Brain Pickings, a very enjoyable and informative site. And “If you find any joy and value in it, please consider a modest donation. Brain Pickings remains ad-free and takes 450+ hours a month to curate and edit, between the site, the newsletter and Twitter.”

A Poem (and a Print)


Harlem Street with Church, print


by Langston Hughes

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up

like a raisin in the sun?

Or fester like a sore—

And then run?

Does it stink like rotten meat?

Or crust and sugar over—

like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags

like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

(Image: Harlem Street with Church by William H. Johnson, ca. 1939-1940. Hand-colored relief print. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Harmon Foundation).

Cartooning for Fidel


Cartooning for Castro

The man I most admired in my Cuban hometown — second only to my father and to the native son who played center field for the national baseball team — was someone that could make magic with a brush, some oil colors and a canvas. Or charcoal and a blank piece of paper. Wherever he’d set up to sketch or paint, kids and adults alike gathered around him, watching in quiet reverence as his visions came to life. He was a few years older than me and I never knew his real name, only his nickname: El Gongui.

One day I got up the courage to ask him to teach me how to draw. He asked if I had ever done it. I hemmed and hawed and said that I had done some cartoons and caricatures. When he convinced me to show them to him, he was very complementary. I probably doubted his sincerity, I’m not sure. It’s been a long time. But El Gongui offered me some tips and told me that I could ask him anything I wanted about painting. I never did, of course. I was a shy twelve year-old. But I continued drawing and shadowing him whenever he’d set up outside and secretly wishing his talent would wash over me.

No one in town was surprised when El Gongui was accepted to the National Academy of Fine Arts in Havana. He went away to study and I continued sketching and drawing and hoping to one day paint like him.

Even before the all-clear was sounded, during the October Missile Crisis in ’62, my parents had applied for a visa to travel to the U. S. I was seven at the time. It would take eight years for the exit permit to come through. It felt like growing up at an airline terminal or a train station. There’s not much living to be done because you’re always waiting for your trip to be announced.

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