By the fourth day of Soylent, I turned a corner. I started feeling noticeably great. And my burning reflux throat was completely gone. Though the canker sore was still going strong. My poop became Soylent. With Soylent, I started going every two days. And by the time everything from before made it out of my system, said infrequent bowel movements became extremely sticky and, ahem… off-whitish-tan.
It was gross, but felt strangely… purifying? I stopped craving food at this point. I felt fantastic. I would watch people leave for lunch breaks and chortle to myself while I got an hour of extra work done and sipped my Soylent. My energy levels were higher than I had felt in a while. But on Day 8, something peculiar happened.
I got really bad vertigo in the afternoon. Then again the next afternoon. What happened was my blender broke. By this time and either it was my batch settling or me starting to get lazy at stirring , the chunks in my mixtures were getting huge. The white stuff that was mixed into the tan stuff was floating to the top and congealing together. So I just started just scooping them out.
Whatever it was was causing my blood sugar to crash. On the afternoon of Day 9, I bought a Magic Bullet. The Magic Bullet did the trick. I fully mixed and fully drank my Soylent, and soon felt great. No more vertigo. Energy levels still at an all time high. At this point, I was becoming hyper productive—both because I felt like it and because I was no longer using food as a procrastination method in my life. If Soylent removes these delay tactics, is the improvement due to biochemical change or a behavioral change? Also by this time, the canker sore was completely gone I am told it was stress , and there was still no more sign of the reflux perhaps also stress?
I was happy. Life was starting to feel simple. I felt… lighter… inside. Which is a hard thing to objectively measure, but that was the case. My first day back to real food was a bit of a doozy. I took all the blood tests and body scans in the morning, fasting, and then went straight to upstate New York for a meeting. In the meeting, we were served pasta salad and melty cheese sandwiches, which I promptly devoured. And then felt like a camel had kicked me in the intestines.
Inspired by my experience with Soylent, and with that junk food binge over and done, I committed to eating healthier on my own. And I have. I cut soda out of my diet entirely—an easy thing to do after two weeks off. I even started working out with a trainer. No more half-hearted pull-ups! Which is not too shabby. Oh, and it took two days for poop to not be Soylent anymore; four to completely return to normal. This is the embarrassing part where everyone gets to see how out of shape I am.
The BIA indicates that I lost 7. Concerningly, I seemed to have lost 3 lbs of fat and 4. Fortunately, only 1. The rest was apparently water weight. So I had a fat loss to muscle loss ratio, which is much less concerning. You can pore through the data yourselves, but the areas that stick out to me are the following:. I tested my reaction times via a site called Quantified-Mind early on and toward the end of my Soylent trial and attempting to get the same amount of sleep before each test, also mitigating other variables such as mood or time of day.
The site puts you through a battery of tests, randomized in groups of 7, so the results below are a combination of a couple of trials that I did in order to get matching tests both times. Higher scores mean better reaction times and accuracty. As you can see, I improved across the board.
This seems to corroborate the observation that I was feeling more alert and mentally snappy. I wore a Basis band for the duration of the trial with the exception of Day 5, when the battery ran out, and I left it at home charging. Below are some screenshots of early days on Soylent versus later days on Soylent. Key: Blue line is skin temperature; red line is heart rate; orange bars are steps walked or run. Gaps are when I took the thing off for some reason. One interesting tidbit is my sleeping heart rate seemed to smooth out the longer I was on Soylent.
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There was less jumping up from 45 to 53 beats per minute and back. I asked Bharat Vasan, one of the founders of Basis, to take a look at the limited data set I collected and help me unpack what happened. He dumped my data into a spreadsheet which you can view in its entirety here , and commented on the following highlights:. Side note: one of the cool things the Basis tracks is perspiration vs heart rate. Notice with this chart how my perspiration spiked even at times when my heart rate was normal.
Does that have to do with diet? Though I drank tons of water during Soylent, according to the instructions, those missing 4 lbs of water weight indicate I may have been less hydrated when I came in the second time. And studies of BIA measurement on obese subjects, at least indicate that hydration potentially alters the accuracy of BIA muscle and fat measurement.
But it could be a factor. What if the elimination of diet caffeinated soda is what really caused the fat loss? What if Muscle Milk was making me sluggish, rather than Soylent making me alert? Would I have had similar results if someone told me that a pizza-only diet would make me skinnier and snappier? If that diet ever becomes a thing, count me in. I believe a or day Soylent trial would produce more conclusive and perhaps dramatic results than the two weeks. Before embarking on such a trial, I would test or study the elimination of various elements of my diet, one by one, to account for the effects of subtraction on all of the measurements I took.
Second, I would like to test Soylent with a number of subjects, and give half of them placebos. The difficulty here, of course, is in the details, and in the possibility of really screwing the placebo people over. Do you give them a drink that truly is nutritionally empty and then watch them nearly starve to death? What do you split test: high carbs and low carbs, high vitamins and low vitamins, individual ingredients?
Also, how does the entire city of Manhattan only have one of each of these?! To better measure muscle gain or loss, I would physically measure the inches of my waist, arms, chest, legs, and neck before and after. After looking over the data and my daily observational journals, it appears that a Soylent diet contains more nutrition than my typical diet, and that I was able to absorb said nutrition sufficiently well. My blood tests show that I remained healthy under a Soylent regimen.
I had no weird heart rate or sleep issues and in fact seem to have slept better than normal , and I was indeed more alert. However, the composition of my weight loss 3 lbs of fat and 1. This speaks to the challenges of creating a one-size-fits-all formula in a food replacement. When I try Soylent again in the Fall, once the company ships orders, I plan to supplement with extra protein. Of course, Rhinehart and team are still tweaking the formula. They say they will soon release different flavors, and Rhinehart indicated to me that they could adjust the mixture for athletes. Going along with some of the skeptics I mentioned earlier, I do question the high amount of carbs and the use of oat flour and maltodextrin in the Soylent 0.
And that it absolutely was. Shockingly, so, I might add, because I expected to be miserable the whole time and was in fact quite happy. Soylent left no room for debate, and therefore turned out to be quite easy. Though sticking to the diet was surprisingly easy, I did have one gripe: Nalgene bottles are a rather bad user experience with anything but water.
The mouth of the bottle is huge, making it easy to spill. And spilled Soylent dries like paper mache. By far, the most interesting result to me was the cost and time savings of living on Soylent. My two weeks of Soylent is just a data point among a flood of results that will come out as the powder hits the market this fall.
But in my limited data set, signs point in a positive direction for the Soylent crew. On the other hand, food is delicious. I found a new appreciation for good food after living on Soylent for two weeks. Shane Snow is a technology journalist in New York City. I came away from my Soylent experiment with a few unanswered questions. Are carbs from that source or oat flour just as good as other carbs, so long as one gets all the other vitamins and minerals from other sources? Is it possible that they were related to Soylent, or more likely related to other factors in my life?
I commend the Soylent team for attempting to simplify food. The problems of nutrition and world hunger are worth tackling. Soylent has done an incredible job of building an international PR platform, sparked from single well-done blog post written before it was a business.
For their customers and investors to remain intact, allow me to highlight a few things:. From the Wikipedia entry :. Created by Dr. A Scott Connelly, an anesthesiologist, the original MET-Rx product was intended to help prevent critically ill patients from losing muscle mass. Get a good regulatory affairs law firm familiar with both compliance and litigation. Consumables at scale involve lawsuits. To quote N. We need fat-soluble vitamins?
All we know is if we take them out of the cell, the cell dies. Among the Soylent claims Shane outlined, there are the below. Soylent provides all the energy and nutrients the body needs. The body can absorb all the nutrients Soylent provides. Soylent can help people cut fat and maintain good body weight. Soylent saves time and money. Where are the data? Safe for how long? How do manage that with your user directions and messaging? Or pounds instead of ? Tread carefully. Moderate claims are nothing to be ashamed of and can be monetized incredibly well.
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The can of diet coke made me cringe, but I try to avoid pop all together, diet or otherwise. Certainly a neat experiment, but my advice to people trying to live a healthy lifestyle is eat whole foods, fortify nutritional intake with quality natural supplements acetyl glutathione, coq10, vitamin d3 and others and lead at least a moderately active lifestyle even a 20 minute walk everyday.
This story is sure to stir up some opinions and hopefully warrants further study into complete nutritional alternatives. Like Liked by 2 people. Like Liked by 1 person. Look at the levels of food produced in capitalist and non capitalist societies and tell me that capitalism is somehow denying people access to quality food.
Among the worst systems in the history of humanity. If you look at Asia and Europe, South America and so forth as an average, they offer much much healthier food than corporate America, that is for sure. I do agree with Matt Myers on this one. Maybe worded a bit differently. Combine that with a general lack of education regarding nutrition, and you have a perfect storm. I agree this needs further testing and experimentation! Fair few people find excellent results by cutting out food like diet attached but having all nutrients you need makes more sense to me instead of just IF.
Jeff — agreed. The novel idea is consuming only a meal replacement and no whole foods. That is the controversially. This is the root of the problem in a sense, most people eat junk regularly. They know better, they understand it is unhealthy, but they choose to do it anyway. I run into this problem daily through my health blog, I promote a total immune health supplement that is simply outstanding, an ingredient list that is bar none.
But regardless of how remarkable this product is, and highlighting just what it can do for your health, people have a hard time coming to terms with spending the money on their health. If you simply focus on prevention and make healthy choices before your health is compromised you can not only prevent these health conditions from arising in the first place, but you can dramatically improve your well-being and quality of life.
Biohackers might revolt at this dose of reality, but we cannot and should not attempt to separate ourselves from our history. All of the nutrients in Soylent are not pulled from the air, rather they emanated from agriculture, like all foods. In fact, the real problem is super population, that and obviously the system. And we consume thrice or way more people back then used to.
And that my people is what is eating us alive, socially and biologically speaking. It would make you good to remember that they are not the same, even if we are educated to look at them like that, capitalism could be less nocive had it not rooted itself in excess. This are just the consequences of the excess, unnecessary excess. Conditions such as obesity are caused by increased consumption, not the economic system, unless the system that causes the general wealth to be increased is to blame for how that wealth is consumed.
Even if some diseases can be connected to increased consumption as a result of an increase in the standards of living which cannot be prevented, even though it easily can be , virtually no one would prefer to live in a non-capitalist system for that reason alone. The populations of some countries eat better than others despite potentially having the same choices of food, but this has more to do with cultures than the economic systems. Numerous well-known organizations have issued warnings about the sodium content in foods, especially fast food, but this has less to do with the capitalist system as such as the enjoyment of the taste of salt in various foods.
Perhaps these sort of foods are more prevalent and consumed because the capitalist system has spawned numerous venues from which people can consume this sort of food, but in this case, the effect is also the cause, and these venues are only supply people with what they need.
The first two methods might be more appealing to those who are more protectionist and statist in their political persuasions, but the other method is more consistent with liberalism and personal choice. As I said before there are countries with standards of living and liberalism in regards to food venues that essentially identical to the United States or are are equally capitalist, but the people are generally less overweight or subject to diseases that are causes by poor diets. Someone might condemn socialism or communism for the poor nutrition of citizens, but that directly relates to the lack of choice or standard of living afford to these citizens.
Aside from perhaps increased nationalism in socialist and communist countries that encourages citizens to eat healthier to serve the state better, I think a minor element , capitalism would only cause similar problems because it provides more choices in regards to their diets. Once countries where the standards of living only allow for limited choices of diets, resulting in malnutrition, are eliminated, the determining factor becomes culture and not how capitalist the system is or perhaps even other factors.
Obesity affects. In conclusion, capitalism is not any more to blame for the poor diets of Americans than any other economic system that would provide them the choice of healthier vs unhealthier diets. Eastern Europe has one of the healthiest foods in the world. How many Americans do you know that could live to an age over 90 years? America is importing quality food from all over the world on high prices and maybe you should try food in Eastern Europe before speaking.
Take tomatoes for example in Western Europe and in the US they taste like a plastic. Is it the same thing? Fascinating post, Tim and Shane. Glad you did. Is it primarily derived from soy? I am not a big fan of soy products and think it should be avoided most of the time. I used to be a big fan of making homemade protein drinks as they can be easily digested, but for me having carbohydrates such as berries, bananas causes me to feel very bloated.
From personal experience and also research I think that people need different amounts of micro and macro-nutrients depending on a number of factors which are hard if not impossible to calculate or find out. I know that personally since I deal with a number of uncommon health issues which are primarily genetic that I need extra amounts of b vitamins than other people. Also supplements with with sulfate or sulfur compounds in them thiols can cause problems with a number of people. Other examples such as taking folic acid the synthetic form of the b vitamin are not recommended and people should supplement with the methyfolate form or other forms of folate.
If you even reach a level where soy is causing you problems, the problem is your overall diet, not soy. The body can tolerate it but it has no advantages over other foods. Just read the ingredients; soy lecithin is the twelveth ingredient, third from last. It seems rice is the source of protein third ingredient and it is more an oat-rice based drink than soy so the name is missleading. GMO does not equal bad. GMOs are fighting malnutrition and deforestation.
Can we please stop blending agricultural monopolies with GMO production. GMOs may be causing a different kind of malnutrition since the body does not know always how to process it, and deforestation can be solve many other ways urban sprawl restrictions, more stringent rainforest protection, less eating of meat since it takes 7 pounds of corn in to create one pound of beef out, etc. And what if soy products make up a substantial part of a persons diet, not just a small serving here and there?
I mean it was a shocker to me once I realized how many Whey products contain soy, not to forget protein bars and other bodybuilding products. Plus, soy is heavily treated. Soy was never ever meant to consumed in large. All we can do is eat as healthy as we can, enjoy the food or lack of and not argue over little details. Especially if our biggest risk for cancer is already hard coded into us? But probably available wherever you can find this journal.
If you read the entire article you would know that it is NOT made with soy or people. But seriously, I think the way this product will be used is not as a complete meal replacement where whole food is not consumed at all but as a meal supplement. The majority of people will not give up eating food entirely but instead use soylent as a meal supplement in addition to solid food. I love this, read the inventors blog post and hoped that it would eventuate. This is a very well put together post. Soy by some is touted is a miracle food — yet others say Soy intake leads to increase estrogen levels in men and also tends to lower your testosterone levels.
The lack of estrogen and the testosterone are two key ingredients to make men men… Increased estrogen and decreased testosterone make it more difficult to add muscle mass and worse super simple to lose it — as demonstrated in your documents. Just things to consider. Now substitute soy with some other ingredient, change the name and you could have a winner. It seems rice is the source of protein third ingredient and it is more an oat-rice based drink than soy based so the name is missleading. Dont freak out because you read the word soy somewhere luddites!
But I guess it might be a good idea for them to rebrand simply because there will be people who wont bother to find out and assume that it contains soy. Because reading is so last century! Actually John, if you read about the creation of this product, the name Soylent has pretty much nothing to do with soy at all, but rather came from the s movie Soylent Green. August Popular Science article. John, John, John, Did you read the article? Soylent contains very little soy. Soylent is named after the Charlton Heston cult film Soylent Green. Soylent Green was made up of human beings, yum!
Good cautionary statements. On the flip side, it may be creating deficiencies that will not rear their head well down the road. How much protein could he have possibly eaten before Soylent? I agree. Great reply, Sol. Love your site and the new Supps reference guide! Definitely not tons, but more much than the daily dose of Soylent provided. To me, the whole premise of Soylent seems flawed — trying to reverse-engineer a magic pill from our current limited understanding of nutrition.
Very reductive and coming at things from entirely the wrong angle. A wholistic paleo-ish philosophy makes infinitely more sense than Soylent: look at the populations that were highly physically functional, fertile and disease free, see what they ate, and see what happens when we eat like that. Test and tweak as necessary, informed by biochemistry but guided primarily by the diets and lifestyles of cultures that were healthy.
Yes, this is a little risky because it means people will risk nutritional deficiencies though so many people already have these — how many people are actually getting blood tests to measure their basics? I think this is in concurrence with your notion that nutrition should become a more precise science. We have plenty of data on healthy and comparatively disease-free heart disease, cancer, obesity, etc societies. Kitivans, Aboriginals, Inuits, American Indians. And there were big variations in their diets, which is great — it shows there are many ways to support a healthy body.
This is the Paleo approach and it works amazingly well. The whole approach is wrong. Or that digestion of solid food is important. Or that certain nutrients compete for absorption and need to be consumed at different times. The Soylent approach is vulnerable to all sorts of black swans. Eating in the way that ancient healthy societies ate, however or approximating as best we can with modern foods is much more robust.
Rich I agree with you and I think Tim you would too. Just like Tony Robbins studied successful people and modeled their behavior and created success, to hack the food issue we need, for example, to model communities of healthy people like people who live on certain Islands off Japan and hack their behavior by coping their diet of sweet potatoes etc. I believe Tim has shown food preparation can be a joy and not a burden when you are well organized.
Meal preparation can be a celebration not a chore and it helps free the mind from the constant focus on work activities. We all know a small sample size is not science but I give you Shane credit for your willingness to share and be criticized by the community, this takes courage. However, I think Shane you know drinking out of plastic water bottles, milk as breakfast and fast food for any meal is not an ideal base diet.
Tests of effectiveness need to be based on subjects that like Tim already know the core habits of healthy diet and practice them. Worth noting: I see Shane you have a Culligan filter on your tap, good idea. I recommend you switch from plastic water bottles to choose stainless steel. Get a stainless steel water bottle for children you know as well.
We need to first think about his diet prior to the Soylent experiment… vegetarian. This is not a healthy or balanced diet, no matter how you look at it. Of course. Could you survive on Soylent? It appears so. I believe it is extremely difficult to have a well balanced diet without addition of animal products. No Vitamin K2? Hmmm… I wonder what effect a deficiency in that will have? Better hit Google, because I guarantee you will want to add it into your formula! Agreed that there are definite limitations with both water solubility and — as a consumed liquid — flavor profile that consumers will tolerate.
Neither factor necessarily optimizes for nutritional content, and both can force sacrifices. It can be tackled, Tim. They just need to think outside the box regarding product delivery. Do you think you could put me in contact with them to help the product? Interesting read. I would link the research, but a quick google study will afford you the same knowledge. It makes our culture, culture makes food. As a replacement for a couple of meals a week, this is an excellent idea, if done correctly.
I agree with the above comment, for the most part. I would speculate that even a biochemist does not know the exact nutrients, both macro and micro, for the human body. The problem is at the end of the article his data shows that he lost more muscle mass than fat! That should not happen under most circumstances. If it did humans would not have been able to survive some 10, years ago. In addition, some of the numbers are a little ambiguous, and I doubt he even understands what they represent; this is not to say that I understand all the data either.
For example, the data showed that his white blood cell count basophils and monocytes went up, as if that was a positive outcome from his experiment. However, you could argue the very opposite and claim that his body was under stress from a unfamiliar diet which caused his white blood cell count to rise, which is actual a more reasonable claim. Totally agreed. I know plenty of people who will take that literally and pay whatever price known or unknown as a result. Soylent may look to be a replacement for people on liquid diets that buy formulas from Nestle Nutrition or other vendors or need supplements like Ensure.
I am just so skeptical of this. The access to clean water thing and it was mentioned in the post is valid: we need to be developing that too. Solving water would be fantastic in itself, but having a cheap nutrition to add would probably save a lot of suffering. Again, the blender is helpful, but you can shake it and mix it properly, he was just being lazy!! My greatest concern is around the lack of understanding of everything the body needs. Beyond even Vitamins and Minerals which have been discovered, there are thousands of phytochemicals and very likely tens of thousands of phytochemicals which our body needs.
We have absolutely not discovered all of the phytochemicals and other compounds which we need in our diet. The only way to get all of these now is to eat fresh foods — fruits and vegetables mostly. As a supplement to a regular diet, I see little issue with Soylent, but as a total meal replacement, I agree with you Tim — this is potentially very dangerous. Thanks for bringing to the attention of the public. I think you make a good point on the intermittent fasting.
It seems to me as though during the test he may have expelled some yeast white matter half way into the trial. This could explain the rise in mental clarity.
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It seems probable that soylent is better than much of the manufactured food on the market. It also seems unlikely that soylent is better than quality whole food. I take a Talebian approach. The body needs whole foods, not atomic nutrients; the synergy between diverse ingredients is what matters in nutritional uptake.
Shane links to the naturalistic fallacy. We can nonetheless have a strong presumption that the body does best on whole foods. We have thousands of years of history of humans doing well on whole foods, and zero evidence that the human body can do as well on artificial foods. Nassim Taleb would tell us there is a presumption in favour of natural system that has stood the test of time.
Human biology is very, very complex. If whole foods serve it well, they may do so for reasons we can fathom. One problem for Soylent is that it would have to prove itself safe on the timescale of a human lifetime. Soylent might be unexpectedly harmful. Why not do some tests? See my point above. How can you test that Soylent is better than whole foods? There is a massive potential for false positives. With natural foods, if something seems effective, it probably is. We would have discovered poisonous or second order effects long ago.
With an artificial food like soylent, it could appear effective for, say, ten years, while introducing a variety of malignant effects. Or maybe it is totally healthy. I have no idea. How can we know? That said, I would expect soylent to be better than a diet of pure artificial junk food, as many americans eat. One additional problem of soylent: the designers assume we need a steady inejection of the same macronutrients every time we eat.
We know positively that this is false. Bodybuilders have long known that carbohydrates are more effective after a workout. As with increased protein after a workout. Solid comment, Graeme. Thank you. I should also say that — in my opinion — the burden of proof should fall on the party making the claim. Thanks Tim. I love how engaged you are with your blog. Very similar to how Nassim Taleb uses his Facebook page. The burden of proof is always on the claimaint, whether the claim is positive i.
Soylent is safe as a meal replacement or negative i. Soylent is not a sufficient meal replacement. Curiosity implies skepticism of the negative claim, and concern over lack of evidence implies skepticism of the positive claim, and at the moment both are warranted. That is the key point when talking about safety. Safe compared to what? The average american diet? I think they really have to screw things up to come up short in that comparison. Put the average american diet as a comparison as opposed the ideal diet that no or very few people actually eat.
A comparison to the perfect diet isnt very interesting in my view. I have to disagree with Graeme on his thinking here. New things must be tried an tested, or nothing can ever change. Even foods that we have been comfortable with for ages can have detrimental effects — peanuts seem to be trying to kill more and more people every year, despite over years of tests.
Some injuries may result from the testing and fine-tuning of this new product, as they do from every new product. Personally, I hope to be included as part of the test group to use this item as an attempt to replace whole foods. Fantastic data. My main original concern about Soylent is verified by the cholesterol data — this stuff does NOT have enough natural fats to sustain normal hormone and steroid production. She is dead wrong, and in fact, the complete opposite is true. Low cholesterol is associated with hormone imbalance and low IQ. High cholesterol is necessary for everything from testosterone to Vitamin D production.
So I suspect long term use of Soylent will result in many of the downstream metabolic issues of low fat diets or strict vegetarian protocols — and this bloodwork should ideally include a hormone and Vitamin D spectrum to really see the whole picture. To add on to this, where would they get the fat source from? Something cannot be created from nothing.
Perhaps some MCT or Coconut oil even. This is why nurses are NOT supposed to interpret lab results. I was under the impression dietary cholesterol is not essential, because our bodies manufacture it on our own. A Soylent diet may be affecting these things in ways that have nothing to do with consumed cholesterol. I think Soylent is an excellent attempt at an incredibly difficult task and I am excited to do my own experiments with it. A formula based on the recommended daily intakes will have too much for some and too little for others based on their own specific body codes genes, bacterial colonies, allergies, etc.
I love the idea of tailoring the mix. That will allow for people to work with their doctors, trainers, and nutritionists to match their meals to their health goals. I wish Soylent the best of luck and I hope that people who are unaware of what their body needs stay away from v1. Even for 1 on-the-go meal per week? Now here is an idea I like…. Regularly adjust the formula depending on the person at the time. Regular checkups, monitor devices and blood panels could adjust for individual issues.
So… you started off as a fat out of shape vegetarian and ended up a fat out of shape vegetarian. I see little, if ANY, difference from eating this to eating say, Myoplex Deluxe 2 — 3x a day, except Soylent is cheaper? Your going to die from CVD even though you don't smoke, just like most vegetarians. Out of shape I will cop to. The thing that struck me was you describe your diet as healthy.
Drinking muscle milk, cans of soda, and no meat is not a healthy diet.
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Go Paleo, man. An example for the Tim Ferriss clan, what about myristic acid? Also small annoyance. I think the pictures are cheating in a way. I mean, come on dude. It raises the question of how much of this was a placebo affect. Yeah, I worried about that as I was putting the post together. I took the photos at the same time every morning.
By the time I wrote this up, a week had transpired, and I realized that was the best picture I had. I considered lightening the other ones up, haha, but that would have been weird, too. Indeed I was feeling much more springy in the morning. However, you are absolutely right it could be placebo effect. I think that the photos are impressive. See my separate comment on this. The face is less bloated looks thinner and less saggy. You look significantly healthier, even your eyes shine.
A friend of mine who was vegan for over a decade became deficient in one of the minerals provided by meat I forget which one, sorry. He was then forced to eat meat to repair the damage to his body that had been caused from being deficient of that mineral for so long. Not pleasant. Interesting post and idea. I guess they could have different serving sizes with different calories, protein, fat, etc.
It will be interesting to see where this leads. Tim, you echoed my one big problem with this idea by way of your Taleb reference. We know that nutrition can have chronic affects that take decades to manifest, so I am really hesitant to be an early adopter of something like this. I applaud their willingness to put themselves on the line in their investigation, and they deserve the spoils and the laurels if they succeed even a little bit.
That goes for the testers, too, even if the payoff is just the improvement to their lives that the rest of us risk missing out on. I agree its been done before, not to mention keen new bodybuilders have subsisted on p-shakes for weeks on end. Also, I need to see the list of nutrients but, besides basic compounds,what about enzymes and more complex nutrients? I understand these can be syntheized by the body from basic nutrients but it is so good when one gets them from food sources.
Does my question make sense? Oh my god, where to start. As you said, it is just another meal replacement drink. Pretty well researched over the last 20 years, with a large sample size. The only reason most of them allowed a meal at night was for behavoral compliance, not because you need a solid. People are fed with IV for weeks…….. But interesting, hope they do well, and listen to your advice. Especially about underselling potential claims……. Preferable nutrition would be gastric feedings. But regular foods is the most preferable. Since their crowdfunding campaign launched I have been avidly observing the discussions unfold.
One particularly great resource has been the forum that they set up for their customers and curious hackers to talk about every single issue and idea. Personally I will be happily purchasing soylent as soon as I can and subsisting off of it as fulfills my perceived needs. I believe soylent will quite possibly change the world and be a billion dollar business. In fact I would dearly love to go work with the team. Thanks Tim for featuring this guest post, have been awaiting your views on this for quite some time.
Thanks for the comment, Nathan. Just out of curiosity, how do you think Soylent differs most from past attempts at meal-replacement powders? Or is it better use of social media, etc. The timing and positioning of Soylent however has created a perfect media storm. What fascinates me is the reaction from people to the concept of soylent. Why am I so tired all the time? High-carb, low-carb, meat, no meat? Apps like DailyBurn are helping people to become aware of their macro-nutrient intake. It seems we have a larger, primed market not just the Met-Rx crowd and a larger platform not just magazines to reach the people.
Controversy sells. Soylent seems very interesting, I feel the same way he did with the hassle of preparing regular foods. Where are the omega fatty acids? I tried Veganism for one month and it was a lot of work, I was eating these huge portions like salads for 15 people, lots of juices , and always eating always washing veggies, juicing, etc. I felt I had not time for anything. It may be healthy but extremely time consuming. This is so appealing to me because it takes all the work out of eating while still healthy.
The canker sore and acid reflux could be related to that some how. I am totally disgusted. Basically, what has been done here is this. When Soylent started circulating around SV and the tech world my biggest concerns were the claims that they were making. People were reacting as if the Soylent team had stumbled across something new and spectacular. As you pointed out, meal replacement drinks and powders are nothing new. In the strength and fitness world the velocity diet is marketing by T-Nation as a body transformation diet and consists of mostly protein shakes with supplements added to cover nutrition needs.
The American diet is notoriously poor and is in need of improvement. In the long-term, maybe Soylent please change the name can be a part of healthy diets. Currently, I seriously doubt the formula would cover my dietary needs. Until it does, combining a healthy, whole food diet with exercise should be the goal for all of us. Thanks for posting this! This may sound like a lot of rambling, but seriously — replacing food? Not likely. Also, homo sapiens currently have under-developed jaws and all kinds of crooked teeth problems because we do not gnaw and chew meat as our ancestors once did.
Imagine what the jaws of a generation of humans on a liquid-only diet will look like.. Best self-test that I found on this besides me:. Specially the final posts by the author. He could be into something. What caused me to test — this old graph:. The g of carbs is the biggest head scratcher in my book. How can alertness and focus be improved so dramatically if blood sugar and insulin levels are on a constant roller coaster? Would think that an internet savvy young founder would be a little bit more suspicious of the USDA food guidelines these days.
A solid reimagination of the MRP concept, but for constant use over the course of weeks seems disastrous. Remain profitable for a year selling to 6-figure early adopters first, then ship it out overseas. Good job bootstrapping after that first post went viral though.
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Hope things work out for them. Sadly reductionist thinking behind this! Fine I guess for a rare emergency meal on the go but completely lacking in the thousands of mostly as yet uncharacterized micro nutrients in whole plants. Whole plants i. Those micronutrients are what our bodies need to stay healthy long term, prevent all sorts of health ills and disasters.
If you want research and detailed info read Dr. Tons of research citations in the footnotes at end of book. Then mystery of mysteries, you start to slowly fall apart in perhaps undiagnosable ways. Or maybe develop a serious cancer that your body would have eliminated without it ever bothering you. That sort of thing. Am I listening? Old photographs, children a century ago who never thought to leave still busy fading into sepia, making houses in the yard out of porch chairs tipped over, and sheets.
Their worn shirts, their hair every which way. Someone loved them. She raised a camera. Or that maybe the virtual bombardier is weeping at night and feels bad about it. Confusion as part, part coward, part crash burning to quiet there. The turn was: I want I want alights on oblivious, mouth-sized.
A thing with wings taking aim. Gown tied at the back and neck, she slept beside a window. Her face. Can I say this plainly now? There was light as she grew less. She drifted to it. So they can work, of course, without our staring back. Nearly a century on Earth gives a person permission to be crabby but not an idiot. When people write, I like sentences that turn sudden, unexpected. I gave away then wore out my ending.
When my family talks, the usual blah blah goes on: Generous. And such a good long run! But I never ran, not ever. It keeps coming back, that word mummy. And somewhere-- maybe a TV special—how they soaked strips of cloth in resin first, layer on layer of winding down and around, packed with mud from the Nile, all to give a body shape. I still covet little facts. I collected them, like things hidden in those layers, for later-- bracelets, charms. Such a glorious later. What would I put in my coil? A locket from my father who got it from his mother. The mud so wet and lush and cool in the heat of that place, so back then.
To be someone else for a minute, for a while. Or so I tell the self I had. Thus our heads in these towels, see? All four of us. And our hands and feet in these soaked tube socks. Be a snake, said the snake to the girl drawn out of the rib, the garden too beautiful to be noticed as she stands there still, long enough to want something, something else. She digressed in wonder, watching that snake, such intelligence, I suppose. There are options, the snake said, to this beauty. Did Eve have language? Did she say that out loud? But she knew it. I could be, she thought, or simply me and my hands moving toward something, a wish all at once to be covered, to be secret, to have a thought like no other.
And what did the snake dream, this snake that could talk in this garden that never was but marks our fate? Before falling into dust, forced to love filthy water and the highest grass concealing bright as the moon its cold side, its dark side, the snake was dazzling. Story that never happened. The snake was human. Over here, closer, he said to the girl come out of the rib. Three blocks away, my grandmother could spend a whole day making bread, and then that shoebox full of pictures. Bears fierce like that while every fragile thing kept sleeping.
I thought there was a shining thread between such things. I thought I held the needle. Yet these were real birds, big strange ones, flamingo maybe, grayed out by ancient circumstance, and awkward as they landed, folding up like flimsy aluminum chairs left out all fall in the overgrown yard. Wind could snap them in two, like that. I was careful not to look at you, and held the binoculars high until the world narrowed and got bigger, the cranes deliberate as monsters, lovable as any clumsy thing.
They never stopped talking. But how private it was, their descent into the bleak marsh, cornstalks bent back to a spirit self, so far from summer. You blurred again and again as the birds dimmed into twilight, quieting, dozing off, whatever they do. One sad huge horse follows us with her eye.
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She shakes her great head, picks up one leg and puts it down as if she suddenly dismissed the journey. My son is in heaven, and these the gods he wants to father so they will save him. He demands I lift him up. He peers into the enormous eye and says solemnly, I know you. And the horse will not startle nor look away, this horse the color of thick velvet drapes, years and years of them behind the opera, backdrop to ruin and treachery, all innocence and its slow doomed unwinding of rapture.
We too were busy lemonade busy, day to day and porchlight busy, so busy we thought them hummingbirds that nervous race which overruns the afternoon with wonder, graceful creatures soundlessly emptying the rose. Such stillness. My father closed his book with a low whistle. These bees finding our clover thin, our thickets barely ripe angered. This heady mob rushing toward us, an ancient mesh, dark and light crushed against the wind, I thought the world is ending. When I settle down early morning to write each day, I try to go pretty blank, stepping away and out of gender, race, time, the years behind me, the future with its worries and hopes—as much as possible anyway—into, well, nothing.
Then I wait. And trust that an image, a texture, the slip of an idea, drops into that begging bowl, a happy or scary accident, depending. I try for a kind of trance where the world dissolves, and the self dissolves, and that ordinary sense of human time and progression we all feel drops off somehow.
This is where poems live, I think. Please talk a bit about your relationship with the Indiana landscape and if that has changed over the years. And more stretches of woods! The point in both places is how one sees—the expanse. Not much stops the eye. So the land is like the sky in that way, and could end in boredom or solace or some rich combination of the two. I was teaching in Maine before I came back to Indiana for my job at Purdue thirty years ago.
Maybe that was only half a joke. I do love seeing in all directions, the drive from Indy, say, to West Lafayette. The vast surreal strangeness of all that. But I do love the givens, the predictable but somehow always surprising changes, the variations of season, day into night, warm into cold.
How did you come to write a long poem in the voice of a cadaver? What were the challenges? What did you learn? What I learned I keep learning. Which is to say, images of that amazing experience keep leaking into my poems and essays. Of course, then I had actually to do it. And you need to make good on your promise. One of the four cadavers was particularly moving to me, the oldest one who had died at small, blue-eyed, and so much like my grandmother whom I loved completely. When it came to write about that experience, she nudged me aside quite early in that title piece, and insisted on being the speaker.
She wanted to tell her story, not mine. But she held her ground. And that long poem took off with me running after it, taking dictation. She had all these opinions and observations. The challenge was to make my speaker her own person, not just a smarty-pants mini-me. I like to think I learned a bit about how fiction writers work, falling in love with their characters, dreaming up credible details about them and their past. Of course, my cadaver was both fascinated and troubled and fascinating and troubling to me.
Plus she turned out to be a bit of a wise-ass in her own right, wry which also brought back my grandmother , surprised at her new realizations. She had no problem with the teacher Jim Walker, so kind to let me into that world , or the medical students. Could you give a little background on this poem and how you came to write it?
No one has ever asked me about that piece. And more local things evoked in that poem touch on what I loved about that time of closeness with my grandparents, the slow pace of life in that town so different from Chicago where I mostly lived. How all these gifts accumulate in memory and stay alive is the real mystery.
Who are some of your favorite poets? Do you have an all-time favorite book of poems? So many, too many favorites! And painful to choose. The list is endless. It would be disloyal to all the others. What is the most important advice you give your poetry students at Purdue? God knows what I blather on about in class! Vary your syntax? Open the trapdoor in your poem and go in? Just shut up and be quiet enough for whatever, let it come to you?
That poems are made of sound and silence? How the growth of the imagination is a life-long process? And the crucial distinctions: are you writing to be loved or to discover? I love the Robert Frost bit: No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader. No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. Of course revision is where the real poem is, where it comes to life.
It takes so much patience. You have to give the poem time to reveal itself to you. That initial draft is merely that, a first step. Then it really gets absorbing. Not really. I always encourage my students to keep a small notebook to record these. Note that. Write that down. Allow that to work on you. I mean WHY did you notice that among all the things you could have chosen? Who knows what that might seed in the mind, or in the poem. The poems of Doris Lynch recognize that realm where the invisible meets the visible--air meeting water as mist.
So many other natural disasters I can hardly name: cats and bebe guns and choice pieces of poisoned suet. So many suffered: blue ones, yellow ones, red-breasted ones, those black iridescent ones with yellow fur speckled like medals across their chests. Evenings, hear them sing to their dear departed.
Notice how they close their wings like hymn books in church, how their dark claws clutch the tree limbs, how their voices travel up and down the bark as if hoping to embrace that other night sky with their music. Pity them. They, poor birds, have no sense. See how they welcome darkness, even the cold finality of night. It streaked across the sky before disappearing into the haze of man-made lights.
I rushed into the house through the storm-door which sang on its hinges, up the stairs to your room, not stopping until I found you on your bed, not stopping until I felt the rise and fall of your breath on my palm. I stood listening to you the way I listened to my children breathe when they were new, two fingers poised under their nostrils in the dark.
I held your hand, its veins blue as the sky at first starlight. I wanted to tell you about the fox, how her prints scrimshawed the snow, how the night came alive with her breath, how one star above us exploded to dust in the night. Native Americans gave papooses their apples to suck upon, while the Inuit ate them frozen straight from the sled.
Like everything else they taste better stolen. Eat under cover of darkness or with a secret friend. As with an artichoke, work your way from outer skin to inner heart. Marinate the petals in nectar, thieved also, served in a silver bowl. When you approach the center of each delectable flower, bite hard. Taste tiny gold stamens between your teeth and your tongue.
Inside your belly one kernel of silk will grow. Whenever you make love, you will feel it—wild red pulse, passionate flower, unravel, blossom, then bud. And the frogs, what other creature knows so much about love madness? Hear them thrumming so loudly in the bulrushes next to the creek. Remember how your flesh rose belly to belly when greeting your love. When a woman pauses to watch a hummingbird drink from a flower, the dead can only guess what has caught her eye. For what do the dead remember but the world of the senses? The smell of freshly mown grass, a mockingbird mocking, crickets rustling their prayer books, the fog horn blasting its double note.
During moments such as these the dead struggle to leash in their bones, especially muzzling that empty spot just above the jaw where the mouth once lay, pink, round, and perfect. When we heard the whoosh of his sled over the crusted snow? Or perhaps, the night the stove oil ran out and the village turned as black as though the engine of the world had blown out?
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Or perhaps, it was a night more ordinary. A night like any other when the iron stove spat its sparks across the floorboards and Orion spilled his tallow over the sky. A night when lemmings squeezed their swag-bellied bodies under our door, leaving etched snow-bracelets on the counters of the shed. That night, you little darling, were cruising along at just the right longitude, just the right latitude through the cosmic dust. How lucky we were to be billeted just south of the Arctic Circle waiting, waiting. Your sister slept soundly, her hands still clutching Good Night Moon while I called to you with my belly and breasts.
Outside, our chimney, and the chimneys of all the Inupiat villagers, poured cloud after cloud of smoke into the sky, little grey ghosts that beckoned you home. Even without the photo, I remember you then, bald as a walnut, bare-assed, skin brindled from your mud play at the bottom of the steps. I hung laundry above you on the line, jerry-rigged from fence to dilapidated fence. You shrieked like a blue jay as the diapers flapped against the flesh reddening on the tomato plants.
The air burned yellow those summer days: yellow, the color of your peach fuzz, yellow, the color of those starred tomato blossoms, and of those happy faces, the sunflowers, that jogged in place each afternoon in the wind that came before the big storm. Someone, maybe, the same person, or another from the dancing, costumed mob had left apples, oranges, and skull cookies on top of the graves.
Perhaps, we partied too loudly with our whizzing sparklers, or all that erratic light hurt the lonely sockets where their eyes once stood. Maybe, we danced too hard on their roofs. For whatever reasons, the dead remained under the earth, and we walked home lonely for them, having brushed their names with candle flames and the limb-watered light of the moon. For what calms more completely than shadow? What soothes more than ebony rising from the darkening earth? Darkness which calls to our penumbral selves saying remember, remember I was your ether in utero your cloud sky your cellar your scatter, your sow your under the earth your to and fro.
The pampas grass is thick-- its contiguous green spikes offering a refuge for squirrels and rabbits. On the far side of the house, the walnut tree has begun its staccato droppings. The sunflowers and tall daisies reach for sky as the tomato branches curl downward under the weight of heavy fruit. Can old age be like this? Interview with Doris Lynch Doris, many of your poems celebrate connections between people and the natural world. Could you talk about this aspect of your poetry? Nature is our home. We are nature. Mostly I celebrate nature, but more and more I want to mourn how much we damage it-- most likely for eons--by releasing tons of gases into the atmosphere every day.
What else can I say about nature and poetry? That it inspires, provides solace, restores? Hiking those trails with Mr. Darcy, our lab mix, I string words together in my head. Like the images in dreams, some linger, most evaporate, but the experience of this forest-singing feeds my next poem whether it is about nature, love, travel or even an elegy. I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms. Did you actually live in such a village? Did that experience have an impact on your vision as a poet?
Living for ten months in the Inupiat village of Kivalina in arctic Alaska with my husband and child had an immense impact on me as a writer and a person. The villagers fed us, found us a home, told us stories each day, and invited us to celebrations and funerals. The minister even asked if his family could adopt our daughter, Kristen. We laughed but knew at the time he was serious. In many ways, it felt like stepping back in time except that the villagers had snow machines and motorboats. The women still made boots, mukluks from caribou fur, which they sewed with dental floss.
When we arrived in September, salmon dried on white whalebone racks next to the houses. In November, I joined the ladies and ice-fished on the lagoon, where a woman in her sixties cracked through a foot of ice with an auger. The arctic sky offered the most breathtaking sunsets I have ever seen. The clarity of light, the immensity of the landscape, twilight that lasts for hours. Kivalina lies on a sand spit that juts into the Chukchi Sea.
To the east, the De Long Mountains rise. One night before the sea froze, I walked toward the full moon, which seemed much bigger than even super moons do here. Who could not write a poem about the sea transforming itself into ice cliffs and glimmering statuary, columns, angels, even twenty-foot gargoyles? Or the day the sea ice sang, for the first time in decades, according the villagers? Or the many nights we stopped halfway home on a crusted snowdrift hill and watched the Aurora Borealis, that flaming blanket of light that shook over the world? Well, I have not yet written those poems, but will.
Unfortunately, now Kivalina is in grave danger of disappearing from climate change. Certainly, it will have to relocate in the next few years; I hope I will not have to write an elegy for it. The second major event that altered my worldview was motherhood. Talk about a life-altering experience! Also, experiencing how hard it is to care for and make decisions about dependent beings made me understand my parents more, and to be more compassionate with people in general. Empathy builds good poems. Children make language live again for you. At three or four, nearly every child speaks like a poet.
A rich earthy scent, both vegetable and mineral, flaxen like corn. Briefly, one final experience: we lived in Indonesia for a year, a vastly different culture. In that beautiful island nation speaking another language expanded my viewpoint, my sense of the world, and a sense of the importance of each word. Two experiences changed how I looked at the world that year. The first was the day a female orangutan in a nature preserve on the island of Borneo draped her long arm around my waist and shoulder and, in exchange for letting me go, received an extra snack from the trundle truck that the helpers rolled through the jungle.
But mostly, even then, I felt a deep connection to a member of another species. I knew she would not hurt me. The other experience was walking on a nature path when a group of young women strolled by. Through their eyes, I discovered that in some cultures, people prefer to walk beside a vivid green padi with a friend on each arm, sharing stories and laughter. It looks over the front yard at the pampas grass and the elm and Japanese maple we planted and at the bald spot where the huge maple that died from drought used to soar.
After a year, I still miss that tree every single day. Since the early 80s, when my husband dragged me into the computer age, I compose by typing. Good because my handwriting is nearly unreadable. But sometimes I wake in the dark and try to draft something in a notebook. With luck I can translate snippets of it in the morning. And sometimes they actually jump-start a poem. Prompts seldom interest me except for the age-old one, of Webster-diving.
But I confess: I cheat often. Nausea and tergiversate I can barely spell let alone use in a poem. Call me an undisciplined writer, but one always in the process of reforming. Please describe that form and why you are drawn to it. Many contemporary poets include haibun in their collections.
A haibun combines prose--often, heightened, similar to that of prose poetry--and haiku. Usually, a haibun closes with a haiku, but one or more can be found anywhere in the haibun. The haiku should not complete the prose or repeat it in another form but take it in another direction. Why do I write them? Because they combine the exploratory nature of the essay with the heightened prose of the prose poem.
Because they originated in a country, Japan, where people live their lives attuned to nature and beauty. Because you can write about any subject in them and use many forms--letter, travel journal, biography, conversation, or even prayer. Some even substitute poems for what were traditionally the prose sections.
Because they are usually small, though Basho wrote a whole book of them, and you can finish one in an afternoon though it will never be perfect or even necessary. What poetry project are you currently working on? Putting a manuscript together. Writing new poems. Trying to become at least somewhat competent in the centuries-old form of haiku. To succeed in capturing the world in eleven to eighteen syllables, I find a very challenging struggle. Mary Oliver--because she looks deeply at the world and describes it in jewels of language, easily understood.
These nature poems expand beyond nature to also show us our human foibles, problems and hallelujahs. In each line she incorporates the world of the senses. She watches nature for hours. She brings you to that pond or wood on Cape Cod, sits your smack down on a grassy bank and lends you her eyes, her beautiful sensibility, her questing mind, her knowledge of animals, vegetables, minerals, and especially humans.
I was struck by the wonderful turnout and how everything was so well planned. What is the most important advice you can give to someone wanting to set up a public poetry reading? Talk it up! Share your excitement. Get the word out. Find a partner. The Writers Guild in Bloomington is always game for more programs, and they advertise for you also.
Gather a list of contacts of folks who love literature. Use social media. Buy snacks. Invite people you know personally with a phone call or by mentioning it when you see them. Pray that B-town has not invited some great musical act, comedian, or world-class speaker that same night. Or that the Hoosiers will play B-ball against—well against anybody. What are three of your favorite places in Monroe County? In Monroe County, Lake Griffy tops the list. To visit the park in the early morning is to watch the world born anew: spider webs glimmer on the grass, reeds rustle in the wind, and as the rising sun spills rose over the lake, the heron begins her one-legged fishing on the far side.
Griffy has it all: beauty, hiking trails, canoes to rent and acres and acres of forest. On a knockout spring or fall day, the preserve gets very crowded, but if you time your visit you can find solitude and solace there. My favorite Griffy memory is the night my daughter, who was still in high school and having a difficult time, suggested we hike a nearly two-mile trail barefoot. My feet learned to recognize the slight rise of a big root and its fall on the other side. At the beginning of the hike, I opened my eyes wider and wider. Griffy has gifted me with several poems but more importantly the serenity into which to compose them.
Yesterday, as Mr. Darcy jumped into the car after a hike and we headed over the bridge, a heron rose from the lakefront just before us and flew into the sky, rising higher and higher. It gifted us with a poetic, aha moment. Kivalina, Alaska, aerial view. Menes www. They not only make the world a more fascinating place, they reveal aspects of ourselves we may otherwise be blind to. Griffy Lake at sunset by Doris Lynch.
Why such gloom? Murky skies lift our spirits. When buzzards roost on rooftops, we see Dominicans, tonsured and aquiline, wings clasped in penance. We are Latins, not yeoman yanquis. Those plain churches in your cherished Chesapeake Bay are mere hovels to us. We prefer overwrought facades, garish bell towers, rituals rich with condiment. Gilded altars rouse our faith, candles titillate, incense makes us so giddy we can crawl on cobbles as if plush pillows. Transubstantiation is gobbledygook, but I do understand yeast.
Not the wild kind that breeds in cauldrons of dank air; I mean the bloom, that soft, white powder on black grapes before they get squeezed to must then vinify in casks of Calvary. My yeast comes from merlots plump as fish eyes I keep safe from molds in a tin tabernacle, my paschal oven by the altar stone where I bongo the dough, roll the loaf, three taps on the rump. Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus. Even Judas gets a ginger effigy. Yeast is all you need to raise the dead. I grew up the beggar of seeds, almsgiver to strays, then was by chance apprenticed to a barber but bungled combing, inept at leeching, loose with razors.
Misfortune was my blessing. How else could I have become your Bishop of Brooms, my crosier that sweeps away the sins of the world, my miter the do-rag I wear to scrub naves. Jesus favors the lowly laborer, bruised of knee, rickety boned. The rich are wrong to think they will go to Heaven. Their gold offerings evaporate to dross, their pleas drain like water through limestone.
Give thanks to Our Lord for linty purses, empty cupboards, calloused soles. A widow with ten kids, she has skin like olives Brined, jute hair, gaunt eyes, yet her bony hips Are lithe as twigs on wet tamarind leaves. Oxen get sold for gifts, fields die, kids starve. Smoke floods the fields. Bells peal. Sand like raw sugar blows from Gabon, burying creek and aqueduct alike, even agaves wither in tin-can gardens, and the women of Angel Hill make do with shortages more numerous than bristles on a pig.
No meat today? They grind plantain peels or pickle mop rags. No soap? I wait in darkness, sitting on an oxhide chair, smell of sinew, tallow. Cowrie shells augured exile. Few listened. Knees buckle, fingers claw my wrist. I lay him on a mattress stained by urine, wilted clippings of Fidel glued to bedposts.
Stroke scarred hands, arms as if touch could heal a lifetime cutting cane in the sun. Brings cafecito, chicory coffee, tepid, bilgy water, raspy dregs. I swallow to be polite. One sepia print shows a girl switching a mule, Cuca at twelve, looking stern because teeth had grown crooked on the cobs. Tall as royal palms, smokestacks spew ghosts of the sugar harvest; dismembered, Soviet tractors rot in sheds, corrugated tin. Boys playing baseball chase me across the yucca thickets. On these rutted canefields I trip over pits of memory, red dust stinging my eyes, I the bearer of dollars, false promises.
Chirping, whistling--teeth like broken bottles-- Ofelia unknots legs, arms that danced high branches of el caucho , weeping wood. I tweeze the blow dart, whittled bird bone. I run away, hide under her iron bed. Ofelia slices. The eyes, rubied by fire, terrify me. Cinnamon aureoles prick my finger. Ofelia pulls me, whimpering back to the chair.
Her legs scissor me, arms constrict. This morning the cold sea-mist shrouds all of Lima; black vultures perch like gargoyles on rusted neon signs. They formed a line, passing around a furry bowie knife. Go back to Cuba, the chorus taunted. We hate the Spanish. Indigo snake coiled about his wrist, Marcus hissed, snarled, telling my father to kiss his ass. Stars and Stripes flying from car antennas, hate signs taped to windows, Anglos fled to rural Manatee and Osceola, some journeying as far north a Alachua, Apalachicola Bay, Blackwater River; and County Line Road, a strip of gravel and sticks, the new border dividing America from America.
How has your Latino background influenced who you are as a poet? Had the Cuban Revolution not taken place and thereafter succeeded in altering Cuba in the most extreme and sinister ways possible I am no apologist for the Castros , I would have been born in Cuba and been raised on that island. It was a fluke that an Eastern European man, an Ashkenazi Jew who had somehow escaped the Holocaust and settled in Lima, Peru, but who loved traveling to Havana for reasons I do not know, proposed to my father, an upholsterer by trade apparently they had met at some bar in Havana , that he manage his newly opened furniture factory in Lima.
The year was My father and mother had just gotten married. After leaving for Lima, my mother followed him, already pregnant with me, so I was conceived in Havana and then born in Lima. My parents did not adjust well to Lima: its climate, its culture, its history, etc. Therefore, we returned to Cuba in , and I was baptized in Varadero. Soon after my father started his own furniture business, and in just a few years amassed quite a fortune, so we ended up being rather privileged in this South American city.
My sister, my brother, and I studied in a British academy. We lived in a chalet in the suburbs. We traveled to Europe. The year was , and I was ten years old. History would judge them right. Though my father had managed to take out of Peru a good chunk of money, bad investments, bad decisions, and just plain bad luck would result by in near bankruptcy.
My father went from prosperous businessman to being the owner of a small workshop in Hialeah making kitchen cabinets. My father and mother divorced, and I was on my own by age You might say that my family went from rags to riches and then back to rags. I think it is important for readers to know my trajectory through these different countries, in particular because my poems and short stories at least until now have been so preoccupied with investigating the complex relationship between place and culture, place and history, place and memory.
I prefer not to use the term Latino to fully define my family heritage or family culture. Being specific about place and culture is more accurate, I believe. Because of our current national discourse on identity, Latino is unfortunately much too generic, much too overextended, much too circumscribed by politics. We need to think of Latinos as a large and complex family of cultures, languages, and peoples in which unity and difference should be equally celebrated. Now let us talk of my own particular family. Although my parents were born in Cuba, their fathers were immigrants from Spain who ended up marrying Cuban women.
I was thus raised with Spanish customs, Spanish mores, Spanish foods. So we had a strong and unbreakable connection to Spain as the Mother Country. Nonetheless, I have made it my mission to explore and give homage to the various cultures that make Cuba and Peru distinctly American, distinctly cross-cultural, distinctly multiethnic. It is a blessing that the imagination has allowed me to go beyond the limitations of my upbringing.
Could you elaborate on this aspect of your work? As a writer, as a teacher, and as an ordinary human being, I believe profoundly in giving justice to those who have suffered socially, economically, spiritually, etc. I suppose I very much believe that grace, if we define it as something divine, dwells in the world of the living, this complicated world of the mortal body and the immortal spirit.
When did you first start writing poetry and what drew you to that art form? It is a long and convoluted story, full of false starts and auspicious beginnings, full of doubt and stubborn hope, full of mentors and detractors—all very messy, very turbulent. I was drawn to the rhapsodic voices of Yeats, Blake, Crane, Rilke, etc. It was their musical language that inspired me, their copious imaginations that mesmerized me: words and imagination wed together. Could you give us some background on your father and his influence on your approach to writing?
My father made me work for my money, which meant I had to help him at that workshop in Hialeah. I was angry. I was rebellious. I even disparaged his manual labor. Whatever he taught me I rejected. Nevertheless, his reverence for craft, his indomitable work ethic, have resonated with me over the years. As I work with words, just as he worked with wood and cloth, I find meaning in my life.
Sometimes we can gain the insight maybe through just sheer luck to overcome our youthful stupidities. I was glad that I did. Who are some poets who have had a great impact on you? The first poets to have had a tremendous impact on me poets who inspired me to write were W. Yeats, William Blake, T. Eliot, Hart Crane, and Galway Kinnell. Thereafter I found further inspiration, further sustenance, in the poetry and in the prose of Wallace Stevens, Derek Walcott, and Alejo Carpentier. One Cuban-American poet who also laid a path for my vocation, though he may not know it, is Ricardo Pau-Llosa.
I am also indebted to my mentor Michael Anania who directed my creative dissertation at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Without these writers I would not be who I am. Is there a particular poem that has been a touchstone for you? Why has this poem been so important to you? What do you feel is the most helpful advice you can give your student poets? I do agree with Rainer Maria Rilke that a young poet should be drawn to this vocation because of necessity, and this necessity has to be internal.
Write poems because if you do not write poems you feel dislocated, unbalanced, and incomplete. Your poetic vocation needs to be integrated into your life, needs to be organically derived from your life, needs to be harmonized with your body, your mind, and your heart. Devote yourself to craft, surrender yourself to the discipline of revision, take personal and artistic risks, find a refuge for yourself in this vast and bewildering world.
Please name three of your favorite places in Indiana. I like Indianapolis, which reminds of Chicago where I lived for seven years. There is also Amish country e. Plus South Bend where I live now and where my son Adrian was born. Above all, I cherish how decent and good-natured the people of Indiana have been since I moved here in As a volunteer with the local Writers Guild, she coordinates a reading series and works with others to offer free poetry workshops to the public.
To give back to the writing community at-large, she reviews poetry books and interview poets at the blog Poetry Matters , as well as on her blog. She has a bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering Technology and an MBA, worked as an electrical engineer, software consultant and project manager, and more recently earned an MFA. She works in Research Technologies at Indiana University.
In the interview that follows these poems, Nancy Chen Long describes the events that led her to enroll in an MFA program and says, " I love it when such episodes of surprise and synchronicity interject themselves into my life. It gives me a sense of hope and possibility, a reminder that anything can happen, that little in life is truly locked in.
Nancy's faith in synchronicity is also striking in her chapbook, Clouds as Inkblots For the War Prone. In these "found" poems, Nancy links up with a war novel by James Gould Cozzens--using only words she finds in its pages. She describes this unique process in her interview. Nancy's poems are impressive at every level. Imagery, music, grace of line, insight, epiphany. No, no, no! In her mouth, a stick. A Fine Meal i. A fine Chinese meal, my mother told me, is made of five flavors, a blending of elemental portions. What is sour , she said, if not the flesh of plum?
How simple, salt , she said, and how necessary, married as she is to water. Child, proceed lightly with bitter , she warned. Who has not known its pinch? Cooling to the heart, it favors full sun, its joy in fire. Lastly, two kisses of sweet. Embrace all five, she said. Repudiate not one. A fine Irish meal, my father told me, is a made thing, constructed with care, like the spire of a skyscraper or the precision of a cesium beam concocted from what is available like the shard of blue limestone, jagged in your hand and those mounds of cool moss, lush underfoot.
Star seltzer effervescing across your tongue, some nexus of intuition. But So Beautiful, Yes? Mahalia Jackson? Inflamed The man at our table, his insistence last night--how the color red will conjure up feelings of rage, as if to see red is to see rage. Rage, a simple slip in- to those familiar ways of being. Dare we break them? You want to--the way you broke that flawless Lalique vase you thought so rare in its redness, smashed against your mother's antique vanity, crystalline no more. Your grandmother's face, helpless to stop you, drained of color, save her pencil-thin lips glossed in red--like the red of that northern cardinal you're always searching for.
Look-- lucky you! Such a bird is lighting right now onto the lower branch of this sweet gum tree next to our bench in the park. See how it disappears in the autumnal- red star-shaped leaves? I like how the cool nip of the biting wind reddens the apple of your cheeks. Is it too cold for you? Oh, you and your fascination with red. Here, sip this red rooibos tea. It'll fire up the caverns of your heart, ruby like Santa's suit in that photo, when we were in Florida, fake snow, fake tree with all red lights, flashing, spin, spin, flashing red lights of the ambulance that Christmas our child was taken to the emergency room, so tiny on the gurney.
No one dies of scarlet fever. You asked for a sign. Remember your father's words? It will be fair weather, for the sky is red. So true, the sanguine sky that night, but all I could think about was the rusty dust of Mars, whether heaven was a scarlet desert with polar ice caps. At least we could pick out the planet from among the others. How lucky that it is so visible, lucky us, lucky red, lucky like me, nubile bride in a crimson dress, gift-wrapped in red, the bittersweet door to our house, lucky--your birth, my birth, our child's.
So let us wave our red flag of complicity. Yes, tonight let us sip our favorite aperitif. Like that Campari, we also have dark-red bitters and secrets, we who carol of luck and of splendid weather, we who sing with rage in our throats. Dugong i. Once, in Thailand, there was a young wife who had a vigorous affection for seagrass fruit. As her cravings escalated, she wandered each day deeper into the sea, lingered longer in the buoyant brine. One day she didn't come home.
Her husband, steadfast, searched for her until the night that she visited him in a dream, saying she could never return to land. Now half woman, half fish, she met her beloved one final time, then returned forever to water. And when he saw me abruptly thrust my head out of water, gasp for air, and turn to ripple back, deeper into the sea, I know he lost sight of me. We studied Gauguin. While everyone else was taken in by his use of color and image after image of nude Tahitian beauties, I couldn't stop staring at his wife Mette, embroidering.
I'd seen it before, as a painting of a woman in obedient domesticity. Now, she was a wife in situ, posing while her husband withheld the sun to blot out her face. He rendered her featureless. She became more mask, a quiet interruption in the wallpaper. Instead of needlepoint, I started to imagine that she would have wanted to leave, stroll down the banks of the Seine, smolder along the soot-like evening, reclaiming that textured glow some of us feel as we fall under the whitewash of summer. I scarcely glanced at the other paintings, those fine features of Tehamana-- the Tahitian who became, at fourteen, mother of Gauguin's youngest son, whom he named Emile, after his oldest son Emile, who lived in France with Mette.
The day Mette learned of his pubescent other-bride must have been trauma, the way it is when you learn of a husband's lover, the way it is when a girl comes to your home on a Sunday afternoon in August while you're outside gardening and you think it odd that the dog seems to know her as he trots up the driveway to greet her, and the weight of summer humidity has caused you to be slushed in sweat and you smile politely as she approaches.
Forget that you told him "I can teach you to fly. It should have been winter. He should have aligned himself with hurricanes, to sweep across the channel, instead, impressed by the red lip of the sun, to fritter with a faint pop or two, fall alone into a pool of silent light.
Clouds as Inkblots For the War Prone Consider the earth as more than a speck in the night, sky more than chalk on a warboard. Consider a swarm, thick, an advancing cloud. Perhaps to the stouter brain, such darkness becomes a far-off foe, slight, with no more than spit enough to swallow. To the hair-triggered eye, it may be the fog of four thousand fighters in flight, each with a finger touch, light like the broken angel's wing.
We know all gunners spit flame. So let the swarm be a rush of bees. Let it be a bevy of starlings, birds beyond number, newly fledged. Let it be a bright mission of men, our familiars, not yet thunderborne, their groomed young faces never to want for a kickstorm of lead, never to bore-in once more unto the breach, for God and country, for flying pay, with a command of death and a gladness to kill. Japanese Home Islands During one passing moment under the pine-soaked sun, the Old Man carefully tore a corner from the fabric of his war-memory, a little piece of the Japanese mission--a patch with one small island and its unforeseen barn.
An island with a garden, some old chickens and a barn, a house that didn't amount to much and the lone woman who lived there milking her cows one morning years ago. Under the blare of the sun, the barn mistaken for a shed. His training run, target practice on sheds. The old woman and her barn. The wrong island and a bomb. Accidental ammunition. The old general pressed the torn-fabric piece into a prayer, placed it into the wing of a passing crane on her way home after winter.
An Interview with Nancy Chen Long Nancy, an exploration of identity and its transmutations seems to be a theme throughout your new book, Light into Bodies. First, Shari, thank you so much for featuring my work on Through the Sycamores.