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Patricia Hampl

  • When we eat / we are like / everyone else.

    • Patricia Hampl,
    • "Asceticism," Woman Before an Aquarium ()
  • He laughs, / but like a belly whose man has disappeared.

    • Patricia Hampl,
    • "Fire Engine," Woman Before an Aquarium ()
  • There is so much evil / but none of us knows an evil person.

    • Patricia Hampl,
    • "Science Fiction at a San Francisco Beach," Woman Before an Aquarium ()
  • Looking repeatedly into the past, you do not necessarily become fascinated with your own life, but rather with the phenomenon of memory.

  • Here, in memory, we live and die.

  • In memory each of us is an artist: each of us creates.

  • This generation has written its memoirs early ...

  • I come from people who have always been polite enough to feel that nothing has ever happened to them.

  • [They] hunted mushrooms with Moravian cunning and passion.

  • It is hard to sever the cords that tie us to our slavery and leave intact those that bind us to ourselves.

  • The cold was our pride, the snow was our beauty. It fell and fell, lacing day and night together in a milky haze, making everything quieter as it fell, so that winter seemed to partake of religion in a way no other season did, hushed, solemn.

  • Coffee was a food in that house, not a drink.

  • My grandmother, when she served dinner, was a virtuoso hanging on the edge of her own ecstatic performance. ... She was a little power crazed: she had us and, by God, we were going to eat. ... The futility of saying no was supreme, and no one ever tried it. How could a son-in-law, already weakened near the point of imbecility by the once, twice, thrice charge to the barricades of pork and mashed potato, be expected to gather his feeble wit long enough to ignore the final call of his old commander when she sounded the alarm: 'Pie, Fred?'

  • The golden light of metaphor, which is the intelligence of poetry, was implicit in alchemical study. To change, magically, one substance into another, more valuable one is the ancient function of metaphor, as it was of alchemy.

  • Writing was the soul of everything else ... Wanting to be a writer was wanting to be a person.

  • The materials of true poetry are always humble, absolutely idiosyncratic, the autobiographical tatters that, in gifted hands, are made into the memoir that fits us all.

    • Patricia Hampl,
    • in Kate Green, If the World Is Running Out ()
  • ... poetry is the sung voice of accurate perception.

    • Patricia Hampl,
    • in Kate Green, If the World Is Running Out ()
  • The world is full of mystery but it must not be choked with secrets: we must talk to one another.

    • Patricia Hampl,
    • in Kate Green, If the World Is Running Out ()
  • There is a certain silence which is language, / It swells, keeps time, like music, like passion.

    • Patricia Hampl,
    • title poem, Resort ()
  • Summer, shrewd doctor, treats the eye before all else, / sends in the season's tray of soft foods, pollen and rose ...

    • Patricia Hampl,
    • title poem, Resort ()
  • The paradox: there can be no pilgrimage without a destination, but the destination is also not the real point of the endeavor. Not the destination, but the willingness to wander in pursuit characterizes pilgrimage. Willingness: to hear the tales along the way, to make the casual choices of travel, to acquiesce even to boredom. That's pilgrimage — a mind full of journey.

  • ... landscape, that vast still life, invites description, not narration. It is lyric. It has no story: it is the beloved, and asks only to be contemplated.

  • A peculiarity of the American historical sensibility allows us to be proud of great-grandfathers (or even grandfathers) who lived in crushing poverty, while the poverty of a father is too close for comfort.

  • The artist's work, it is sometimes said, is to celebrate. But really that is not so; it is to express wonder. And something terrible resides at the heart of wonder. Celebration is social, amenable. Wonder has a chaotic splendor.

  • Maybe being oneself is always an acquired taste.

    • Patricia Hampl,
    • in Janet Sternburg, ed., The Writer on Her Work, vol. 2 ()
  • Writing about why you write is a funny business, like scratching what doesn't itch. Impulses are mysterious, and explaining them must be done with mirrors, like certain cunning slight-of-hand routines.

    • Patricia Hampl,
    • in Janet Sternburg, ed., The Writer on Her Work, vol. 2 ()
  • Planes are my foxhole. I'm always on my knees in them.

  • Mine was a Catholic girlhood spent gorging on metaphor ... Maybe we had too much meaning too early. It was like having too much money. The quirkiness of life was betrayed, given inflated significance by our rich symbology. We powered around our ordinary lives in the Cadillac language of Catholic spirituality, looking on with pity as the Protestants pedaled their stripped-down bicycles.

  • ... I struck the usual bargain, paying for flattery by calling it insight.

  • ... silence was the first prayer I learned to trust ...

  • ... at a sidewalk table outside a crummy café facing the station, I gulped down a patch of lasagna. It was clammy-cold and looked like something that should be bandaged.

  • Silence, that inspired dealer, takes the day's deck, the life, all in a crazy heap, lays it out, and plays its flawless hand of solitaire, every card in place. Scoops them up, and does it all over again.

  • Poverty didn't necessarily engender an envy of wealth; sometimes it might beget a passion for decency.

    • Patricia Hampl,
    • "Prague: Then and When, But Never Now," The New York Times Book Review ()
  • ... he somehow managed to look both stately and overworked.

    • Patricia Hampl,
    • in The New York Times Book Review ()
  • French was the only language we had in common, and even that was like a dialect we had picked up at a rummage sale, rusty and missing a lot of essential parts.

    • Patricia Hampl,
    • in The New York Times Book Review ()
  • ... in the '70s Prague was pewter gray in spirit, broken and oddly adrift in the middle of Europe. The most golden thing about it then was its silence. Loneliness was its chief allure, radiating a sullen romance bred of cigarette smoke and satire.

    • Patricia Hampl,
    • "Reflections on a Golden City," The New York Times Magazine ()
  • Memoirists, unlike fiction writers, do not really want to 'tell a story.' They want to tell it all — the all of personal experience, of consciousness itself. That includes a story, but also the whole expanding universe of sensation and thought ... Memoirists wish to tell their mind. Not their story.

  • ... it still comes as a shock to realize that I don't write about what I know, but in order to find out what I know.

    • Patricia Hampl,
    • "Memory and Imagination," I Could Tell You Stories: Sojourns in the Land of Memory ()
  • Memory is, first, a captivating mystery.

    • Patricia Hampl,
    • "The Invention of Autobiography," I Could Tell You Stories: Sojourns in the Land of Memory ()
  • We only store in memory images of value. To write about one's life is to live it twice, and the second time is both spiritual and historical.

    • Patricia Hampl,
    • in Authors Guild Bulletin ()
  • It's always a thrilling risk to say exactly what you mean, to express exactly what you see.

    • Patricia Hampl
  • Memoirists, unlike fiction writers, do not really want to 'tell a story.' They want to tell it all — the all of personal experience, of consciousness itself. That includes a story, but also the whole expanding universe of sensation and thought ... Memoirists wish to tell their mind. Not their story.

    • Patricia Hampl,
    • "Red Sky in the Morning," I Could Tell You Stories: Sojourns in the Land of Memory ()

Patricia Hampl, U.S. writer

(1943)