Abandon Text!

W. H. Auden once said: "Poems are not finished; they are abandoned." I have been abandoning writing projects for many years, since only the pressure of deadline and high expectations ever got me to finish, or even start, anything of merit. This blog is an attempt to create a more consistent, self-directed writing habit. Hopefully a direction and voice will emerge.

Monday, January 02, 2006

But What Do You Read?

I remember in a poetry class in college, my professor Gerry Barrax started the semester by asking all the students what poetry they were reading, how often they read it, and what they thought about it, especially contemporary poetry. Some students tried to talk about poetry they were writing, and Gerry gently corrected them: "No, tell me about what you're reading. You can't become a good poet unless you read lots of poetry. I won't know how serious you are until I know the breadth and depth of your reading."

A few students took umbrage at this: what about preserving your creative voice? what about writing from some place deep within, instead of imitating what you read? Gerry (God bless him) gave a lecture he had given many, many times before about Craft, about learning how to build (yes, build, not create) poems, learning from your peers, and stoking your own love for the written word. Lots of people write poetry, ("if you could call it that," he said with tiniest barb of sincerity), but it's quite clear that they have never read poetry, even their own poetry, because they would have realized how uninteresting it is.

I took that to heart when I decided to start blogging. I knew that blogs are famous for their naval-gazing and self-absorbtion, so I figured I better read what others are doing and learn from it.

Two blogs I learned from immediately, and can generally recommend, are Scott Adam's Dilbert Blog and Adam Felber's Fanatical Apathy. I started with those because I liked their other work: I read Dilbert every day, and listen to Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me every week. I also know that, in addition to being funny and entertaining, they are people with a lot on their minds. Adam Felber is ridiculously well-informed about the political happenings that he satirizes, and he manages to do the near-impossible, which is to stay funny while still writing about subjects he cares about -- something an otherwise hilarious Garrison Keillor (A Prarie Home Companion) fails at miserably. Scott Adams wrote a book of philosophical thought experiments (God's Debris, freely available for download) which shows that he has more bouncing around his skull than office humor.

What I love the most was their brevity. Good or bad, their posts are short and tight, insuring that most folks will not lose interest before the end of the post. Note to self: don't ramble, even in a blog, if you want to keep an audience.


Blogger leila_ananda said...

I was just listening to one of Maurice Boyd's sermons today, and one of his big points was how when you remember something you've read -- especially when you write about it or speak about it with someone -- you "re-member" it -- you take the pieces of it and make something new from it (even in just repeating a quote, and even
when or almost especially when you misquote, you are making something new
because you are using it in a new context or to express something slightly
differently or manifesting something slightly differently), and you take
those pieces into YOURSELF and they change how YOU are membered / made-up.
He compared it to being like when you take communion, taking the body and blood of the Christ into yourself.

10:31 AM  

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