|(sylvia plath at her typewriter)|
this is for my friend katie who asked me to type up my condensed thoughts on reading and reading response.
how does a text work? what is writing? what is reading? what is literature?
first of all, i guess, for me, there are two things. the text and the reader.
the text is an assembly of symbols, the reader is anyone who takes in those symbols.
as a writer i am interested in seeing what happens when those two “chemicals” come together – the reaction between the symbols and the mind of every reader can be quite different. will be. do i read as a woman, a feminist, a mormon, a student, a person of a certain ethnicity or nationality? do i read as mary-sue?
when i write it is because there is an urge in me to let something out, to put something into the world that already exists in my head. i put it out there. but that is just the beginning, because then the reaction starts. it interacts, ideally, with a variety of minds.
…which is why i keep asking for feedback from all of my friends, not just those i know are interested in and experienced with poetry and literature. there are no wrong readings; there are as many meanings as readers, if not more.
it is exciting for me to see how a text interacts with others, how it lets itself be created and recreated and interpreted in so many ways. polysemanticity not in the extreme sense of meaninglessness, pointlessness, but individual rather than standardized communication. there is something poetry does, something “real” literature does, that defies the concept of communication as an exchange of place-holders agreed upon by convention.
a chemical reaction takes place, the text is there and the mind poured over it becomes the catalyst for the creation of something bigger. something unique. read, for example, a sonnet by shakespeare. millions of people have read the exact same text. many of them have read it more than once. still, the communication, the response, is different every time.
writing and reading for me are two separate processes, and both are vital in the creation of poetry. both are equally important. craft, form, scholarship all have their place, but in the end, a poem that is so cerebral that it denies itself to the reader is nothing but a cryptic note to self.
as poets, we do not write riddles. as poets, we communicate on the deepest levels known to humankind. one-to-one-to-one. we are all accomplices, writers and readers, we teach each other our own language of hands and feet and dry eyes.
why do i write? because i need to. because i cannot be silent.
why do i read? because i cannot be alone. because i continue to breathe.