I’m fond of brackets. I like the way they disrupt [the text] and imply unsaid components, missing thoughts. I think that I think [and live] in brackets, disrupting my own narrative, adding in bits that were missed the first time around.

The term “brackets” can actually refer to several punctuation marks: (parentheses), [square brackets], {braces}, <pointy brackets>, and so forth. Parentheses are a bit boring, maybe only because they are so common. Braces and pointy brackets look interesting, but there are few uses for them outside of music, poetry, and maybe mathematics. But square brackets, now those interest me most.

Parenthesis act as clarifiers, adding to texts or making an aside. Brackets, on the other hand, can clarify, too, but they also show omitted or added information. In some cases these two marks are used interchangeably, but to me the idea that brackets hint at omissions, additions, and/or fragments is fascinating.


I suppose I have to attribute my early bracket preoccupation to Anne Carson’s translations of Sappho in If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho. I could barely read the poems because I was too intent on absorbing the beauty of the bracket placement.

Carson explains her use of brackets in her translations is “an aesthetic gesture” and says, “I emphasize the distinction between brackets and no brackets because it will affect your reading experience, if you allow it. Brackets are exciting.” In this way, Carson adds flair and excitement to the ancient texts while also illuminating the missing contexts and pieces that would complete Sappho’s work. Rather than mourn the misplaced parts, we can rejoice in the splendor of the slivers.  


In my writing life, I’m at an odd, but not uncomfortable, sort of stand-still—a liminal space, in many ways. I need to revise several pieces, only a handful are out [awaiting rejection] for publication. My big summer project is reading for my culminating activity [a not unenjoyable task as I’m “researching” and reading essays] and also on the side I’ve been planning to try my hand at [more] flash fiction. Lately I make lists about the things I need to do, and always on that list is this: “schedule daily tasks” and also “plan summer reading” and “write/revise/edit”. I’ve done few of these things or much of anything else.


A few days ago we spontaneously drove to a small town in the mountains and I became engrossed in the beauty of my state and with how content I am in life right now. Today I moved slowly in the few tasks I actually needed to do, small things like taking my son to the orthodontist and writing content about office equipment. A languid pace complemented the blistering heat that started early this morning.

Because I’m home more right now due to the school year’s end [summer break – a season in brackets], my pets have taken on their weekend personalities. That is to say they ask to eat earlier, go inside and outside and inside and outside continuously, and laze around near me. My cat [a big fan of eating] sits beside me and meows, then alternates that with walking across the laptop I’ve been [lackadaisically] working on all day. Her concern is missing a meal, or not getting enough attention. The dogs are worried about missing out on things, about me leaving, about when their food goes into their bowls. It’s a rhythm I enjoy: We rotate around each other, and stop frequently for pets.


I can say that the summer in-between my first and second years of graduate school is bracketed. It functions as a place of decompression, a space to get ahead in my research, a time to enjoy a day disrupted by spontaneous acts of relaxation or laughing with my children. But it is within those brackets – this time which will be mostly unmemorable because of its relation to the more encompassing interval of grad school – that I see the significance of what isn’t naturally included. Some future version of me will talk about “grad school,” but it will denote the semesters, the teaching, the work performed during the rush of the school year. It likely won’t involve the quiet, easy days of summer.


Those interjections, the quiet words, the additions, the asides, the parts that clarify the whole – those are the heart of a text. They can change the meaning, connect in new ways, or make secret a string of thought that’s best left unsaid. Living, for a time, in the brackets of my story gives me scaffolding to climb up out of it – however briefly – and survey the direction I’m headed, the plot thus far.


Appreciate the bracketed times and thoughts. [They are equally important to your story.]