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Archive for the ‘Quotes’ Category

DON’T WRITE FOR SENSE, WRITE FOR SOUND. EXPOUND THE UNIVERSE’S MEANING NOT IN SYLLOGISM BUT IN SYLLABISM. POLYPHONY, NOT PHILOSOPHY. DOWN WITH DEEP THOUGHT! BRING ON THE ACROBATIC ALPHABET, RINGLEADERS OF RHYME, A CHORUS OF CACOPHONOUS PUNS! THE PHILOSOPHER KNOWS IT, BUT IT’S THE POET WHO SHOWS IT. DON’T BLOW IT (THE TRUMPET OF EGO). BASH CYMBALS–THE SYMBOLS WILL SHIVER…

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It’s a good habit to step back and look for the personal ruts you will inevitably develop in your writing.  One of mine is writing strings of three:  three phrases, three examples, three synoyms in a row to emphasize a point.  (See how I did it just now?)  I like the feel of three beats or breaths: it’s complete and yet pleasingly off-balance.  When I do it too often, though, the writing gets tired, and so does the reader. It’s a good habit to discover your habits and break them. 

But! As I write this advice, I keep thinking of pieces of writing I admire which employ this habit of threes.  And I admire them so much that I want to share them with you! So here are three texts that use threes. 

Thomas Lux:

Your baby grows a tooth, then two,

and four, and five, then she wants some meat

directly from the bone. It’s all

 

over: she’ll learn some words, she’ll fall

in love with cretins, dolts, a sweet

talker on his way to jail. And you,

 

your wife, get old, flyblown, and rue

nothing.  You did, you loved, your feet

are sore. It’s dusk. Your daughter’s tall.

Virgil:

Women of Troy,

They looked now toward the ships, uncertainly,

with animosity, half in unhappy love

of landscapes there before them, half still bound

to fated realms calling them onward–and

the goddess on strong wings went up the sky

traversing a great rainbow under clouds.

Now truly wrought upon by signs and wonder,

wrought to a frenzy, all cried out together, 

snatching up fire from hearths, despoiling altars,

taking dry foliage, brush, and brands to throw.

And Vulcan, god of fire, unbridled raged

through rowing thwarts and oars and piney hulls.

Ron Hansen, Mariette in Ecstasy:

Children stare in the grocery as if they know ghostly stories about me, and I hear the hushed talk when I hobble by or lose the hold in my hands, but Christ reminds me, as he did in my greatest distress, that he loves me more, now that I am despised, than when I was so richly admired in the past.

And Christ still sends me roses. We try to be formed and held and kept by him, but instead he offers us freedom. And now when I try to know his will, his kindness floods me, his great love overwhelms me, and I hear him whisper, Surprise me.

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I can’t write about writing without quoting Annie Dillard.

One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time.  Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now.  The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now.  Something more will arise for later, something better.  These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water.  Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive.  Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you.  You open your safe and find ashes.”

This is from Dillard’s book The Writing Life, a slim volume I am happy not to have had to live without.  The above words are good advice for life in general, of course, and are not new.  Carpe diem, Just Do It, the parable of the buried talent–it’s in the present that life happens. 

So what makes this hard to grab hold of in the act of writing?  Why is getting words down on paper or screen–any words–often the hardest part of the process?  Dillard suggests it’s an impulse to hoard: we fear we have only a limited number of words.  I think it’s also the impulse to cling to the known, the safe.  It’s as if we’re standing on a ledge in the wall of a great cliff or cave.  Hard rock supports our back and feet.  The blank page is the void in front of us; to put words on it is to leap off.  Leap off.

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