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Literary Mixtape Vol. 13

Side A:

Side B:

April 14, 2024

Maybe it's morbid, but I've been thinking lately about mortality's relationship to creativity. In response to a recent brouha on Twitter, a friend mentioned that different folks may have different approaches to publishing based on their relationship to their health, and to their mortality. Some are comfortable with the wait for elusive credits at prestigious publications; others are more compelled to create and share as much as they can, while they can, with whomever they can.

You can make arguments on either side of the debate (and if there's one thing Twitter loves to do, it's debate things to fucking death). But my friend's astute observation strikes at the heart of what we're all doing here, I think—trying to create something of substance, possibly something that will outlive us, make our small mark on the world before we shuffle off this mortal coil.

I don't know if everyone conceptualizes their creative work in this way when they sit down to write, but the existential dreadies have been particularly motivating to me as of late. I've dealt with severe health issues most of my adult life, and they've compounded in strange and frustrating ways in the last year. To deal with them—or avoid them, if I'm honest—I've thrown myself into creative projects. Some are thriving, some failed to launch. I'm trying to learn from both.

Lately I find myself waking earlier than I ever have, driven to draft with abandon, and, when I'm lucky, with joy. I can't help feeling like I'm racing against time, trying to realize whatever well of potential I've been given. There's too much to do, and not enough time. Whether we meet that realization with motivation or futility is up to us, I suppose.

Mordecai Richler summed it up pretty neatly, I think: “Fundamentally, all writing is about the same thing; it's about dying, about the brief flicker of time we have here, and the frustration that it creates."

The time passes anyway. How we spend it is what counts. Let that frustration rock; see where it takes you. Maybe our answer to the long, dark inevitable is the little bit we leave that makes it easier on others while they're here.

I swear I mean this all optimistically, pals. What would I be doing here otherwise?

This week's mixtape is essay-heavy, kicking off with "Don't Call Me Dude," a little ode to our early creative heroes and the process of apprenticing ourselves (sometimes clumsily, but always with love) to creative craft.

"Demons" reckons with the same existential dreadies I am this editor's letter, all the ways our demons sneak after us onto fire escapes and goad tears on public transit to our favourite tunes.

This mixtape's standalone poem, "Stoned at the Nail Salon" marvels at the longevity of a wishbone left to yellow in the sunshine, a small ode to persistence and survival against odds.

"Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay" weaves a lullaby around observation, where Otis and Kurt Vonnegut urge us to slow down, sit around, fart around. That's as good a reaction to mortality as any, I think.

"It Probably Always Will" reckons with the emptiness our folks leave in their wake when they pass, cataloguing the ways in which we're the beating hearts of houses left behind like ribcages.

"Round Here" is a lament for an unrequited first love, rendered fresh and stinging as the first days it swooped in on a college campus and coloured every relationship after.

Hope you're in good health, wherever this finds ya. And I hope every breath in your lungs is a reminder that we're not just marking time—we're here to defy it by making and sharing the things we love, all these small gasps in one long conversation.

No pressure, right?




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