“For a short while, I worked in an archival library that holds the papers of major downtown artists like David Wojnarowicz. It felt overwhelming at first to be surrounded by so much evidence of genius. Then I found it meaningful, because it is momentous and very mundane at the same time. I began to see that each margin note, every crossed-out punctuation, is both a life’s work and the petty ticking away of one’s allotted time on earth. In other words, art does not exist in some pure, ethereal realm beyond our daily lives full of inconveniences. What thoughts I have while scraping meal debris into the trash have just as much chance of ending up in my writing.
Emily Dickinson’s envelope poems drive this home for me. She scribbled impossibly beautiful poetry within the constraints of chores and scraps of paper, her lines literally shaped by the boundaries of envelope flaps. The first full-color publication of Dickinson’s complete envelope writings are collected in The Gorgeous Nothings (New Directions/Christine Burgin, 2013), and you can see some of the poems in this article by Tupelo Quarterly. When my writing chokes, I look at her Gorgeous Nothings and remind myself that art is everywhere and all the time in my humdrum life.”
—YZ Chin, author of Edge Case (Ecco, 2021)