Writing Project: Nihilist Poetry

I’m going to try not to write about my writing because that seems a little like wearing the band’s t-shirt to the concert. But to give a little context to some of the things I’ll be writing over the coming days and weeks, I felt like this might be a bit helpful. Recently, I was helping a student organize a literary analysis of Douglas Adams’ “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” Perhaps not shockingly, he didn’t have a theory about what Adams was trying to accomplish, and what literary devices he was using to get that point across.

I suggested that Adams was a nihilist, and was using comedy to poke fun at the commonly held belief that there is meaning in the universe. This, naturally, led my student to ask me what nihilism was and what I thought of it. I’ve considered myself a nihilist for years now, though it isn’t something I talk about and it certainly wasn’t something I ever considered creating art about until that moment. Thus, I first admitted aloud that I believe there is no point to the universe or that – if there is – it is so remote from me as to be unimportant.

My student said the philosophy sounded pretty dark, and I realized that I don’t view it that way at all. To me, nihilism is full of wonder at the majesty of the universe, joy at my own freedom from dogma, and comfort in the knowledge that none of this matters, and that, therefore, the only thing that matters is this moment. I, I suspect like Adams, find nihilism incredibly reassuring. Unlike a system of belief that requires that I accept certain things as True, I am free to remain flexible and adaptable, to roll with the cosmic punches.

So I set out with twin goals: 1) write some things that artistically, elegantly, express the beauty of nihilism; and 2) practice writing poetry in some of the forms that I am less naturally inclined to use. (I felt much better upon reading that Rudyard Kipling made mistakes in his own Sapphic meter.) That’s when I remembered that I had a blog, and could use this as a repository for my writing. So here it is. I think I’ll write less about politics directly. Nobody needs my hot takes. But insofar as all writing is political, I suppose the spirit will still be there.

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