This from the New York Times
October 28, 1852
"Accidents by burning fluid" have come to be household words, and yet the use of the fluid is not, probably, at all diminished. Indeed, it would be very un-American to cease using an article because it would be abused. It is only old women who advocate the abolition of guns, and very silly men who insist on banishing calomel, antimony, and the lancet because they have been shamefully abused. If guns are safety, if the lancet has hurt anybody, send the phelebotomist back to school until he can tell where it is needed and how to manage it. Such is the doctrine of our day, and we hold the same regard to burning fluid which has already slain its thousands ... Oil. Yes, oil..."
The article goes on to talk about household safety and the pros and cons of candles...
One thing I love about these old articles is that the author don't struggle at all under the confines of modern journalism. The author makes no mistake of authority, and sarcasm and directives abound. It feels both quaint and refreshing to read them now. There is not the pretension so labored over now that the reporter should be an objective viewer. Keeping the "I" out of the narration of journalism is the base of our system of "fair and accurate" reporting -- but it is now understood that this is an impossible feat for a person to perform.
Yesterday I bought a little reprinted book by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti,
"Poetry As Insurgent Art."
"I am signaling you through the flames," "The state of the world calls out for poetry to save it." "Write living newspapers,"" "Your poems must be more than want ads for broken hearts" - in other words, to paraphrase Bertolt Brecht, to write mere "love poetry" in such times is "almost a crime."
I took this project off line starting today because I couldn't hear my own voice -- I was getting self-conscious, and concerned with readers -- lovers, mothers, strangers read these words with varying degrees of interest and discern. On the other hand, I am very much missing the conversation this morning... the log, like the letter, allows for a relief from the issue of author stance and readership, as both are naturally built in to the medium.
How does one person do anything of import? The poets and the reporters of before had no doubt of their importance -- they did not live inside of a globalized world -- they did not live inside of the slick that is our waters now -- or even a woman's body. This is nothing at all more than a log of learning and exploration.
Here we are. Here I am.
I am writing love poems. I am burning oil.
I'm not sure I know how to be anything else.