Thursday, May 26, 2011

On Writing A Memoir of the Craft

^That is what I'm currently reading. There are a lot of things from it I'd like to share, but there are so many I think I'd break several hundred copyright laws in doing so. That being said, if you're a writer--read this book. Go out and buy it. That way you can mark it up and make personal notes to yourself. If you're someone who struggles with passive voice and the overabundance of adverbs (points to self), you need to know it. Stephen King will tell you--he's telepathic, trust me.

Another thing--"Murder your darlings" was a quote originally by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, but commonly misattributed to many other writers such as William Faulkner (by yours truly). I was informed of this on page 196 of On Writing. Oops.

One more thing--Stephen King just gave me one dollar.

I found it sandwiched between pages 212 and 213. In actuality, it's probably just the book marker from some businessman who bought a copy of this book at an airport store, hoping to alleviate some layover stress. However, I'm taking it as a personal token. The sentence this dollar was resting on is, "Get back to work on it! Hell, you're ready! You're fuckin Shakespeare!"

Please note that this is entirely out of context and not intending for me to brazenly plow my way through the manuscript. However, I'm taking it at face value anyway--this book about writing keeps telling me to write. So, I have some work to do.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Sound Advice

“Read a lot of poetry—all the time—and not 20th century poetry. Read Campion, Herbert, Pope, Tennyson, Coleridge—anything at all almost that’s any good, from the past—until you find out what you really like, by yourself. Even if you try to imitate it exactly—it will come out quite different. Then the great poets of our own century—Marianne Moore, Auden, Wallace Stevens—and not just 2 or 3 poems each, in anthologies—read ALL of somebody. Then read his or her life, and letters, and so on. (And by all means read Keats’s Letters.) Then see what happens.”

This advice comes from Elizabeth Bishop in a letter she wrote to "Miss Pierson." According to the book One Art: Letters, "The identity of Miss Pierson , obviously a stranger to EB, is unknown. The editor is grateful to James Merrill, whocame into possession of this letter in Amherst at a book-signing event, where he was given a copy by a man who disappeared before explaining how he acquired it. It bears EB's full signature."

I'd like to think that mysterious man was a time traveler and that "Miss Pierson" is an error because of handwriting and that it actually said "Miss Kristin." I've been reading a lot of poetry, seemingly all the time. I tried to imitate Keats and Bishop, and it's turned out quite differently. I read ALL of bishop and then her life, her letters, and so on. However, I've not read Keats's letters yet.

All things considered, I'm pretty pleased with my progress. And I'm also very sad. I had to let Elizabeth die. Again. The last word she ever wrote was "affectionately." Polite until the end.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Reminder

I was going through the poems in the packet from my New England literature class and stumbled upon "For the Young Who Want To" by Marge Piercy. I now have it tacked to my bulletin board as a reminder of what I should do if I want to keep being me. The more I think about my future, the more I agree with the ideas in this poem. I'll post it here for you all to see.

For the Young Who Want To
by Marge Piercy

Talent is what they say
you have after the novel
is published and favorably
reviewed. Beforehand what
you have is a tedious
delusion, a hobby like knitting.

Work is what you have done
after the play is produced
and the audience claps.
Before that friends keep asking
when you are planning to go
out and get a job.

Genius is what they know you
had after the third volume
of remarkable poems. Earlier
they accuse you of withdrawing,
ask why you don’t have a baby,
call you a bum.

The reason people want M.F.A.’s,
take workshops with fancy names
when all you can really
learn is a few techniques,
typing instructions and some-
body else’s mannerisms

is that every artist lacks
a license to hang on the wall
like your optician, your vet
proving you may be a clumsy sadist
whose fillings fall into the stew
but you’re certified a dentist.

The real writer is one
who really writes. Talent
is an invention like phlogiston
after the fact of fire.
Work is its own cure. You have to
like it better than being loved.

For those of you, like me, who don't immediately know what phlogiston is, here's the definition: a nonexistent chemical that, prior to the discovery of oxygen, was thought to be released during combustion.

Also, here's an interesting blog post from Penelope Trunk Brazen Careerist about grad school:

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Villanelle for Amy

Last night my friend continued his saga in poetry by attempting to compose a villanelle about a mutual friend. However, my being on the phone with him at the time and offering "helpful" suggestions was getting in the way. The whole thing ended on a fairly happy note, but the undertone resembled, "Why don't you write your own?" "Fine, I will!" Anyway, this is my version. It didn't come out the way I wanted it, and I don't think it does my friend justice. But, a draft is a draft.

Envenomed Pen

With plaintive hands she serves by day
and grasps an envenomed pen by night--
the creative token's price to pay.

She sifts and molds with a writer's cosmic clay
to free her to a steward's simple right;
with plaintive hands she serves by day.

Thankless drones take from her what they may,
leaving a weakened soul to compose in moonlight--
the creative token's price to pay.

Her fists pound out a rhythm, and they lay
opinions down to rest so that she also might--
with plaintive hands she serves by day.

Her poems find a seaweed cadence to the bay
at which her mind rests from her fight--
the creative token's price to pay.

Her world revolves, revealing golden rays,
hounded by the silver side she keeps gripped tight.
With plaintive hands she serves by day--
the creative token's price to pay.