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Louise Glück

Former Poet Laureate of the United States

I had long thought that to be an artist involved -- and I think there's writers who make this case -- the repudiation of the world. You channel all of these vital energies into only this one thing. You're not distracted by pleasure or ordinariness. You don't do any job that would use those same pieces of your mind. And that was, to me, temperamentally congenial. Repudiation was something I was very good at. So I lived in my 20s mainly fending off -- not experience, because it was a time of great love affairs and so on -- but professional work of a kind that would, I thought, draw on my vital juices. I was a secretary, which did not do that. But my writing life at that point was spent sitting in front of a piece of white paper at a typewriter completely paralyzed. And I would think, "I've got to write something," and I would write "the" and then push really hard and "tree" would come out. But everything was dead. I had exhausted a mode of writing in my first book. I had no new sound to make. You had to hear first a message from the ear, a kind of sound, a phrase. I had nothing to go on. And I kept doing less and less, because I thought I wasn't sacrificing enough, I wasn't renouncing enough. Finally it occurred to me that I wasn't going to be an artist, that this dearest wish of my heart would not be answered, and I thought I'd better think of something to do.
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Louise Glück

Former Poet Laureate of the United States

If someone's really a beginner, then you simply try to isolate the moments when the poem seems alive, as opposed to inert. You know, if you can see from the first line where it's going, and then it goes there, it's a dead thing. It takes you nowhere you don't know already. And if it does so in elegant metaphors, so what? This poem has already been written 3,000 times. But when you see something that is unprecedented, and if you can show the person that. So that's one level of teaching, but then once people become really artists -- young artists, but artists -- it's not doing it better according to some formula. It's, "Where does the poem wilt a little?" Where is it the most conventional or generic, and can that moment be addressed and reinvented, so that that taint of the generic will be forever obliterated? It's that that you try to do. It's a fascinating problem, and different for every poem. To try to feel out what separates this from a memorable work of art, and how could it become that memorable work of art? It's what you do on your own work too, but it's the same thing with theirs, only they're making a different kind of poem, a different kind of sound. It looks different on the page. Their concerns are different. So imaginatively, you enter the universe of that poem. And, in a way, you do that when you read great work. But there's something wonderful about having that kind of immersion when the thing is still malleable. It's thrilling, and poems can be transformed. And the students, of course, or young writers, get very excited when that happens. But every one of those books that I chose -- and then sometimes worked on with the people -- had different strengths, different problems. They were each utterly unique. Jay Hopler is nothing like Peter Streckfus, and neither of them is anything like Richard Silken. All those books had different problems.
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Whoopi Goldberg

Actress and Activist

When I was a kid they didn't call it dyslexia. They called it you know, you were slow, or you were retarded, or whatever. And so, I learned from a guy who was running a program who I met one day and he had written out on a board a sentence. And I said to him, "You know, I can't read that." And he said, "Why not"? And I said, "Because it doesn't make any sense to me." So he said, "Well, write down what you see under each. Whatever you see, write exactly what you see underneath." And so, he brought me to letters by coordinating what I saw to something called an A, or a B, or a C, or a D, and that was pretty cool.
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Whoopi Goldberg

Actress and Activist

I went to the bathroom once and people followed me in, and a lady put her hand up under the stall with a pen and a piece of paper, wanted my autograph. I said, could I just finish what I'm doing first? So sometimes people just forget, or they grab you and they don't realize that, you know, you're a person that feels. They grab my hair. People grab my hair and go, Whoopi!! And not realize that I don't mind saying hello, but hey! That hurt, you know. Or when you're rushing, or you're preoccupied and you just can't stop. People aren't always understanding. And so you feel bad because you don't want them to think ill of you. And you come to a place where you say, "You know what? Too bad. I have to go." So that's kind of tough.
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Daniel Goldin

Space Exploration

Tears are coming down my mother's cheeks. And, she says, "I'm going to kill you. I just spoke to Mr. Alweiss and he says you're a bum and you should get out of the college preparation courses and take general training and become a plumber. You should be a plumber, you're such a bum." And I had a rage. He made me angry, and I said, "I'm not going to be a bum. I know I'm going to do great things."
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Daniel Goldin

Space Exploration

My first boss, Bill Mickelson -- a little short fellow, crew cut, wore a fresh bow tie every day -- and he saw that I was insecure. He saw that I understood how to do the work, but I needed to become more of a complete person. So, he asked me to talk, do public speaking, every single week. He wanted me to talk to a tour group coming through NASA. And this is the '60s; people were fascinated with the space program. And I said, "I can't do that." He said, "Oh yes you are." I mean it was tough love. And, I got in front of my first groups. I got tongue tied and humiliated. And he'd send me back and I'd have problems. I said, "Bill, I can't do this anymore." He'd send me back. I said, "Bill, I can't." "Go back." I did this for two years.
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Daniel Goldin

Space Exploration

We fixed the Hubble Space Telescope. It was nearsighted just like me. It needed a contact lens. And, there was terrible depression at NASA because we launched it and it didn't work. Bad people didn't do that. The space frontier is fraught with problems. But we put a team together and good people fixed it. The same people that designed it, fixed it. We launched a probe to Mars and it blew up when it got to Mars. Within 24 hours, we conceived that we're going to put a lander on Mars and do it in three years for a quarter of the cost, and we did it.
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