Old Moon

Monday, May 24, 2010

Why Bother?

Do other writers (or would be writers) happen on those days that make them wonder why they bother? It's supposed to be inspirational to read wonderful things, isn't it? Sometimes, of course. However, more and more as I get older and older, I have a month or two when almost everything discourages by its very presence on the page.

I've just finished The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, not a new book, but one that can't fail to stir up any lover of the kind of fiction that tells more than a story. Lyrical, insightful, muscular prose about individuals in a unique situation who become instruments and victims of tragedy--a true Aristotelian tragedy. so what if he stole the plot that Shakespeare stole? By the time Wroblewski got through with it, it was as new as it is old. I may never try another piece of fiction when I get through with my third novel.

Then I move on to some poets: Marie Ponsot, Tony Abbott, John Updike, Malcolm Cowley, Scott Owens. The same result. There is once in a while a moment when some of us get to feel superior. Mine was last week while I tried to catch up on The New Yorker. Two of three poems simply yielded not a scintilla of meaning after three readings. After I got over feeling just dumb, I decided to adopt the attitude that either the poetry editor needed to admit the truth or was being duped. Even if meaning is subtle and requires some of that mid-century Deconstruction to interpret, a reader needs to find at least a little of it. Otherwise, when there are neither rhythm nor rhyme to give pleasure, there should be no excuse for the kind of payment meted out by a publisher with such a reputation for excellence.

Local (in a broad sense) poets manage to be humble and penetrating. Glenda Council Beall, Kathryn Stripling Byer, Owens and Abbott, Mary Oliver, and so many more offer a reader that touch on the psyche that reminds us that we're all in this together, and writers can find satisfaction by doing something to inform, amuse, console one another. Wherever you may be, fellow searchers, find the words that speak to you. That's what I try to tell myself when I'm hoping to find a reader for the ones I write.

1 comment:

Glenda Council Beall said...

Thank you so much, Joan, for the nice compliment and putting me in the company of these other poets you mention.
I understand being discouraged at times. I've been that way today about my writing. But late this afternoon, I received word that a dear friend had died. I also opened a prompt from Peggy Tabor Millan that said, When she was young.
I knew that I had to write about my friend. I had to write about the time when she and I,high school students, traded dates at the prom because her mother would not let her date the man she loved because he was in the military.
I had to write about her and I am glad I did whether anyone else ever reads my words.