I can’t get over the first two words of the poem: no sleep. No sleep. That’s how Herman Melville began his poem, which is called “The House-top. A Night Piece.” It was written in July of 1863. America was in the midst of the Civil War — really in the thick of it. 

Morgan Meis has a PhD in Philosophy and is a founding member of Flux Factory, an arts collective in New York. He has written for n+1, The Believer, Harper’s Magazine, and The Virginia Quarterly Review. He won the Whiting Award in 2013. Morgan is also an editor at 3 Quarks Daily, and a winner of a Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers grant. A book of Morgan’s selected essays can be found here. He can be reached at morganmeis@gmail.com.

 

I’m bored.  I’m bored with my job, with my girlfriend, and with the current box office selection. I was hoping your column would be entertaining, but it’s not. Can you help me? — PJ, Phoenix, Arizona

I don’t think you need any help at all, PJ; you’re rather observant. A principle of life is repetition, and repetition, though delightful in the best examples of verse, is often boring. “Life, friends, is boring,” the speaker of John Berryman’s The Dream Songs asserts. “We must not say so./ After all, the sky flashes, the great sea yearns,/ we ourselves flash and yearn,/ and moreover my mother told me as a boy/ (repeatingly) ‘Ever to confess you’re bored/ means you have no/ Inner Resources.’” PJ, your case is not an anomaly, and though you can distract yourself with various Web sites… More…

 

I’m sad. I just learned that my own country didn’t score very high on the annual Happiness Index. I’m thinking of moving to Denmark. What does a poet do when he or she gets sad like I am? — Justin L. , Kansas City, Missouri

I’m a little sad, too, and right now I’m drinking chai from a teacup made in Uzbekistan. I like this cup, deep blue with white swirls that represent the cotton plant (ok oltin as it is called in Uzbek, “White Gold”). And I like chai, sharing a semantic kinship with the Uzbek word for tea, choy, its vapors steadily tugging at my heart with a longing nostalgia. I’m not drinking chai because it’s delicious — well, not entirely. I’m not drinking it because I like it and hope that it will uplift my… More…