magically burst forth

January 19, 2020

Writing and reading are the only ways to find your voice. It won’t magically burst forth in your poems the next time you sit down to write, or the next, but little by little, as you become aware of more choices and begin to make them – consciously and unconsciously – your style will develop.

Dorianne Laux
The Poet’s Companion: A Guide To The Pleasures Of Writing Poetry

poems are bodies

January 18, 2020

I do think there are poems that work better out loud than on the page. Spoken word poems can be exhilarating in performance and one-dimensional on the page. Likewise, there are poems that rely on the authority of the type itself, and the physical relationship between the words, the white space on the page, and the reader. I often tell my students that poems are bodies; we visually take them in and feel them in our guts even before we read the words. William Carlos Williams’ “Red Wheelbarrow” is pretty unglorious out loud. I’ve heard a recording of Williams reading it. His voice sounds like the Sherriff on Deputy Dawg, and he reads the poem without emphasis or opinion; it’s over before you know it. Now, on the page, that poem is endlessly compelling. Near-rhymes, stanzas that are visually constructed to look like wheelbarrows, the splitting of compound words into their constituent parts: wheel from barrow, rain from water. I think as my work has matured it may have become less entertaining at a poetry reading and more interesting on the page. As I have aged I have also become shy.

Diane Seuss
Interview in The Smoking Poet (Winter 2009/2010 issue)

Books

December 23, 2019

Books have a soul, the soul of the person who wrote them and of those who read them and dream about them.

Carlos Ruiz Zafón
The Angel’s Game

Book Lovers

December 21, 2019

Cover yourself with words

December 19, 2019

Open a book this minute and start reading. Don’t move until you’ve reached page fifty. Until you’ve buried your thoughts in print. Cover yourself with words. Wash yourself away. Dissolve.

Carol Shields
The Republic of Love

like a box

December 10, 2019

There are, you see, two ways of reading a book: you either see it as a box with something inside and start looking for what it signifies, and then if you’re even more perverse or depraved you set off after signifiers. And you treat the next book like a box contained in the first or containing it. And you annotate and interpret and question, and write a book about the book, and so on and on.

Or there’s the other way: you see the book as a little non-signifying machine, and the only question is “Does it work, and how does it work?” How does it work for you? If it doesn’t work, if nothing comes through, you try another book. This second way of reading’s intensive: something comes through or it doesn’t. There’s nothing to explain, nothing to understand, nothing to interpret.  It’s like plugging in to an electric circuit. I know people who’ve read nothing who immediately saw what bodies without organs were given their own “habits,” their own way of being one. This second way of reading’s quite different from the first, because it relates a book directly to what’s Outside.  A book is a little cog in much more complicated external machinery. Writing is one flow among others, with no special place in relation to the others, that comes into relations of current, countercurrent, and eddy with other flows – flows of shit, sperm, words, action, eroticism, money, politics, and so on.

Gilles Deleuze
Negotiations

Making a living from writing often involves talking about what you do rather than actually doing it. I’m asked to give readings, I teach, I deliver workshops. But on days when I can sit down and tap at the keys, time is generally shaped by what I need to do or where I’m up to with a particular project. In the final weeks of editing a novel I might be working at six in the morning and still be at it after 10 at night. Whereas, the earlier stages require a slower accumulation of words and ideas, and I can keep more sociable hours. It’s experimental agriculture, not frantic harvest. Throw stuff down, leave it overnight, see what grows.

Andrew Michael Hurley
My Writing Day
The Guardian 21st October 2017

Books

November 19, 2019

Books don’t offer real escape, but they can stop a mind scratching itself raw.

David Mitchell
Cloud Atlas

I was born in the middle of last century.

I don’t like that sentence, but it’s based on a true story.

I’ve been a writer for close to twenty years – but a reader for more than fifty. That’s another solid truth, as is: Reading is more important than writing.

But to be frank: it boils down to the same thing. What I’m actually up to when I’m writing a story is that I’m reading it. This borders on a truism; it’s my reader’s eyes that tell me whether it’s good or awkward, whether it’s taking a right bend or a wrong one, whether the characters smell of life or not – not my writer’s eyes, because they are turned inward toward that dark, infinitesimal abyss that is my mind.

Håkan Nesser
Portrait of the Artist as an Old Dog

six stages of book-reading

October 10, 2019

It occurs to me that there are six stages of book-reading: The first is picture books, then 2) books with more illustrations than words, then 3) books with more words than illustrations, then 4) books with no illustrations, just a map maybe, or a family tree, but lots of dialogue, then 5) books with long paragraphs and hardly any dialogue, then 6) books with no dialogue, no narrative, just great long paragraphs and footnotes and bibliographies and appendixes and very, very small writing.

Intellectually speaking, I’m still stuck somewhere between ages four and and five.

David Nicholls
Starter For Ten