20231027 SD


Today’s episode is guest hosted by Shira Erlichman.


I’m Shira Erlichman and this is The Slowdown.

Have you seen Octavia Butler’s motivational notes to herself? The iconic science-fiction writer jotted them on the backs of old notebooks and scraps of loose paper. At times, her intentions are triple-underlined, carved deeply in red ink. The hand that gripped the pen appears to have marked the paper not just with words, but to have engraved it with an energetic determination. Her repetition is hypnotic, mantra-like. I’m amazed that her intentions are as specific as they are epic. Here are just a few of her proclamations:

This is my life. I write bestselling novels. My novels go onto the bestseller lists on or shortly after publication. My novels each travel up to the top of the bestseller lists and they reach the top and they stay on top for months. Each of my novels does this.

So be it! I will find the way to do this. See to it! So be it! See to it!

My books will be read by millions of people!

I will buy a beautiful home in an excellent neighborhood

I will send poor black youngsters to Clarion or other writer’s workshops

I will help poor black youngsters broaden their horizons

I will help poor black youngsters go to college

I will get the best of health care for my mother and myself

I will hire a car whenever I want or need to

I will travel whenever and wherever in the world that I choose

My books will be read by millions of people!

So be it! See to it!

Butler went on to become the first sci-fi writer to receive a prestigious MacArthur “genius” award, multiple Hugo and Nebula awards; she won the PEN American Center lifetime achievement award, and despite––so far as we know––never jotting down this intention, she had an asteroid named after her, a mountain on Pluto’s moon, as well as a landing site on Mars. Discussing this choice, NASA’s Katie Stack Morgan cited Butler’s “vision, genius, and timelessness.” That first word in particular, vision, leaps out. I imagine Butler, not yet heralded or even appreciated, privately putting ink to paper, repeating her mantra: I will, I will, I will

Today’s poem begins the same way: I will be happy today. The mantra is interrupted––or, threaded through––with human desires, both tangible and ethereal. This poem makes me consider the great tension between one’s vision and one’s reality. I feel profundity in that the assertion of I will has led to landing on distant moons.

by Michael Kleber-Diggs

Text of poem "EGGSHELLS" by Michael Kleber-Diggs

"EGGSHELLS" by Michael Kleber-Diggs. Used by permission of the poet.