Monday, July 18, 2011

On The Pretensions of Poetry

Am I pretentious because I know the names of two living poets and enjoy their works? Or am I pretentious for pointing it out? Or am I just a passionate reader who’s willing to share his passions even if the passion happens to be poetry (ewww!) now and again?

Whatever the case, Scott Cairns is a former Baptist who is now a Greek Orthodox. His work carries more formal properties (to my mind), while Christian Wiman is the former atheist who was raised by fundamentalists and now finds himself amazed to believe in God. Wiman has a new book, Every Riven Thing, that’s quite amazing (and accessible).

There’s a great review here and an audio interview here.

If you write, you can learn from anything – even poetry. (Wiman’s precise word images can startle you alive.) If you haven’t given poetry a shot lately, try it now. You might get to know the name of a living poet.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Appendix A: We've Lost the Ability to Tell Stories

Screenwriter and former nun Barbara Nicolosi has a brilliant post on storytelling on her blog, that begins an interview. It starts like this:

"My opinion is that we have nearly lost the ability to tell a good story.

Don't miss the rest.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Your Writing: Give It a Chance to Exist

If there isn't a reader, the text doesn't exist: that's the premise of reader-response criticism. It's fun to think of all the books in the world that don't exist because I haven't read them, starting with most of the books on the list "100 Greatest Non-Fiction Titles." (Thanks, Kent!)

But what about your text? Is what you've written being given existence by others? There are several stages at which existence can be thwarted.

For those of us who have trouble transmitting the text from our brains to the page, a group of other committed writers may help. You know they're going to ask you about your project; it becomes easier to work on it than it is to dodge the questions. It also helps to know that you have an immediate audience. Granted, your text at this point is still in the embryonic stage, but it does exist because what you've written has been read by other eyes.

Others of us abort our text at the publication stage. You've written something, your writers' group has helped nurture it, but you haven't delivered. Publication can be scary. You have to accept that the editors might hate your child and throw it back at you. You have to give your baby a chance to live.

If there isn't a reader, the text doesn't exist. How are you giving your writing a chance to exist in the world?

Photo Credit: My amazingly intelligent niece at four months