meanwhile, back at the ranch (lit from within)


so this is one of the books i am currently reading. it’s “lit from within – contemporary masters on the art and craft of writing”, edited by kevin haworth and dinty moore. i find writers tend to have interesting things to say about writing, and it put a smile on my face to see these writers struggle with the same “outside questions” i get and even ask myself from time to time. 

david kerby’s “thirteen things i hate about poetry” would make nice reading for an intro to poetry / writing poetry class, imho. thirteen common questions / (mis)conceptions he has run into again and again over the years are used as starting points for thirteen interesting comments, some of them tongue-in-cheek. let’s listen in on that conversation:

Q: David, my kids listen to rap all the time. Is rap poetry?
A: No. (p.91)

Q: The thing about poetry is, I just don’t get it.
A: Me, neither! Well, I don’t get it if I don’t work at it, at least a little bit. I read in the New York Times that if anyone considers Umberto Eco’s work difficult, he receives it as a compliment. Readers want to be involved in an act of mutual seduction, says Eco: “Only publishers and television people believe that people crave easy experiences.” (p.97)

and so on and so forth. then there’s claire bateman’s interesting essay / collection of questions about questions and how they are or can be used in poetry writing. she introduces an interesting concept, saying that the questions we don’t ask, the questions we never ask in our poems, our writing, are what can help us develop “an anti-map of [our] desires.” (p.107) she also draws a connection between learning to lie, at the age of 3 or 4, the concept of the other that is needed for that ability, and the turning the self into an other which underlies the creation of poetry. lies, like questions, need an ‘other.’

if you are more into fiction / short stories, lee k. abbott’s “thirteen things about the contemporary short story that really hack me off” might be an interesting read for you. in fact, it should be an interesting read even if you are not into fiction. it raises a bunch of interesting questions and shows up a number of trends he observes in contemporary writing. and simply reading the title of mary ruefle’s “someone reading a book is a sign of order in the world” felt nice.

Reading is hazardous. Here is a true story that proves it: a Chinese student, having read The Scarlet Letter, saw an American in China wearing a high school letter jacket with the letter A on the front and said I know what that means. (p.186)

other interesting essays in this collection take a closer look at gestures (francine prose), what makes a ‘collection’ (peter ho davies) and persona / the myth of craft (billy collins).


About annette.c.boehm

words escape me.

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