Sunday, August 21, 2011

Reading and Waiting

Lots to say this morning. My brain is full. So is my belly, full of coffee and eggs.

The floods back in Pittsburgh put me in a weird mood last night. Sad. Sad about the woman and her two daughters, drowning in their car filled with water. I have that nightmare. I take solace in the hope that death must have a pleasant moment when it finally arrives.

I can't dwell there too much or I won't get anything done today.

I'm reading The Color Purple right now. I have never read it before. I got it a day ago and I'm about halfway through already. I'm normally a slow reader, and oddly, I'm taking even more time with this book. I'm stopping a lot to write down lines that speak a plain truth. Like Hemingway says, "Write the truest sentence you know." Alice Walker writes them, one after another. If you haven't read this book, I urge you to head to your library or local bookstore, find a copy, and read it. Today.

There are so many books that I haven't read yet. I always feel this way, especially when I compare myself to other writers with English degrees. Or to introverts. Or speed-readers. Once I was talking to my friend Heather about reading to her son. She mentioned how nice it was when she had time to sit and read something silently on her own, how she could finally read faster than speaking. I didn't understand what she meant. I asked her, you mean, you don't read the words silently in your head? And she explained that she reads quickly, groups the words, skips parts, but still grabs the words. Sal reads like this, too. When he and I read an article together on the computer, he's always scrolling too fast and I have to catch up. I try to skim when I read sometimes, but nothing sticks. I'm a terrible skimmer. It just means that I end up dropping the few words I do manage to catch. I have to go back and start over. I feel like I'm always catching up.

I'm also reading The Portable MFA. It's a free download from Amazon right now. The authors really complain about MFA programs. I agree with a lot of their points, but mostly it validated my MFA program. At least for someone like me, who made the most of the community-building and friendship-strengthening and free-time-and-space. All of our workshops were built on craft too. And developing a vocabulary of craft.

I like the point they make about teaching writing. They disagree with the statement, "writing cannot be taught." Writing, like any creative expression, has craft. You don't become a classically trained pianist by having a teacher sit you in front of a piano and bang away with no direction, no history, no technique, no theory (their example). This made me laugh. Of course, there is craft! Writing has craft. There is also, of course, another element involved: passion. You can't teach passion. Or creativity. You can't teach creativity. However, you wouldn't expect someone to become a writer, but refuse to give them paper and pencil or teach them the alphabet. Why do we not see the tools of writing for what they are? Do we want them to be a secret? What are the benefits in making these things mysterious?

It's almost September. I have to send out 9 submissions before the months end to get caught up. I have poems to revise and send, but I'm just not feeling it. I've got too many others that I'm waiting on. Waiting on for over six months. I wish I were more patient.

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