Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Why write?

In an email to a good friend and fellow poet, I heard myself say things about why I write. And that insight is part of why I write. Good writing, and I've said it before, changes the way I see the world. When I reach a reader, my words have the potential to change his/her view also. Which statement does not entirely explain it all. I don't intend to preach in poem or in prose, but to show the world as it might be, seen through different eyes. Ellen Cherry Charles is the protag in Robbins' Skinny Legs, and as an artist, she plays what she calls the eye game. She looks intently at a scene or an object and sees potential color, shape, relationships, that were not immediately obvious. That's what we do when we write. If we stop at describing what everyone takes to be the common view, there's no news in that. And Pound says that poetry is "news that stays new." I believe that. I believe it about any genre of creative writing.

My message to my friend was that if we have the gift of gab, the poet's mind, the storyteller's outlook, we have a responsibility to use it, to share it, to put it ahead of other things that might bring us momentary satisfaction (Okay, I confess, I rearranged my book shelves before I sat down to write this morning.), but not inform others of what might be possible if we squint or stare at a thing till it reveals something new. Digging a ditch is important, but not a writer's primary responsibility. Our job is to stare out the window till the scene or stanza takes shape and we can catch it in a wordnet. Granted, sometimes it's catch and release, throw back the idea not big enough to matter. But we keep on fishing. So, dear friends, please put your butt in the chair and a pen in your hand and stare at the Atlantic Ocean, or a pine tree, or a Rocky Mountain 14er, and make me a poem. Tell me a story.

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