Saturday, January 27, 2007

Writers Writing about Writing, Right?

Dear Billy Collins,

Some of my favorite writing is that of writers writing about writing. But you have taken that a step further, a poet poetizing about poeting.

The other day I read, I don’t remember where, (Where would that have been? Online? In a bookstore? Metropulse? Not here.) I read a passage by John Lennon that brought you to mind. He talked about wondering why people in his life didn’t notice how special he was as a child. His observation was a bit like yours in You, Reader from The Trouble With Poetry:

I wonder how you are going to feel
When you find out
That I wrote this instead of you

Is writing, and especially writing poetry, a competition of some sort? Are we, writers or aspiring writers, really so self-absorbed that we think that it is only we who see the beauty and must announce it, teletyping it out across the wires, racing to say it first, to break the news. . . Sumer is icumen in or. . . the mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heav'n of hell, a hell of heav'n. Do writers write to write or do they write to be read, or perhaps, (ah, less worthy than we thought) do they write to write better than other writers?

Certainly, our greatest writers have left behind a trail of evidences about why, after all, they are writing. Annie Dillard describes the writing life as if an architect, "laying out a line of words." Welty wrote and not satisfied to tell us just about her writing beginnings, told us both what she would and would not advise.

But, this is your life and you have the pulpit, should we criticize you for using it? No, for we wish to hear your words, see your visions, look out your windows. And after all, you are right that:
The clerks are at their desks,
The miners are down in their mines,


The poets are looking out their windows
because it is their job for which
they are paid nothing every Friday afternoon

Thanks for writing.



Conversely said...

brd--I'm not sure about your answers, either, but I don't think that it's to be better than other writers. It might be to be better than other people, but that's a different issue.

I've never liked Billy Collins; tell me why I should.

brd said...

Liking Billy Collins is like liking Nora Jones. There is a casual beauty in the words, an easy communication of loveliness and idea.

Collins does not make you jump through hoops to understand, but he nonetheless deals in beauty of expression.

Anne GG and I were talking about some of this the other day. Every genre has it's artists. I think we all favor certain genre and certain artists. Do you not like Billy Collins, or do you not like his genre, which is not the same, I think, as the genre of TS Eliot or WC Williams? I am reading (for the first time) Paradise Lost. I do not like this genre of poetry, but, Milton is masterful.

Perhaps, my answers aren't as bad as my questions which are a bit hard and presumptive. Surely, there are as many reasons for writing as there are writers.

Anonymous said...

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Conversely said...

Collins mostly bores me so that probably is a genre problem. And I do think there are as many reasons to write as there are writers...I've also just looked at my answer from before. I was pretty snarky that day. I take my comps next Wednesday and Friday; this could have something to do it.

Or I might not like Collins because he's not on my reading list...

brd said...

Dear Conversely, good luck on your comps. Study hard, be confident; you are so intelligent and creative that you are sure to knock 'em dead.

Dear Annie, good luck on your wedding! I am thrilled for you. Though I only know J on a blog level, I am very glad you have found him and that he has found you. How about a wedding on the campus of B college. I will give you my house for a hotel!!!

PS Conversely we both know that Billy is not going to get on the reading list, but I think he's good for the coffee table.

degeorgeb said...

"Don't bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself."

--William Faulkner

Conversely, do you think he was talking generically or was he talking about writing?