Wednesday, April 2, 2014

April 2: Head and Heart, Inspirations, Poetry

Two things must be done by the modern nature writer who would first understand the animal world and then share his discovery with others.  He must collect his facts, at first hand if possible, and then he must interpret the facts as they appeal to his own head and heart in the light of all the circumstances that surround them.  The child will be content with his animal story, but the man will surely ask the why and the how of every fact of animal life that particularly appeal to him.  For every fact is also a revelation, and is chiefly interesting, not for itself, but for the law or the life which lies behind it and which it in some way expresses.

Those words belong to William J. Long, an early twentieth century nature writer whom E. B. White first read as a child.  Long was one of the young White's muses.  In the above paragraph, I see snatches of the aesthetic that probably guided much of White's mature writing life, including the composition of Charlotte's Web.

Every writer has inspirations.  As an undergraduate student, mine were Peter Ackroyd, Robert Frost, and Flannery O'Connor among others.  I loved authors who combined history and nature and faith in strange, lyrical ways.  As I got older, I adopted other muses.  Sharon Olds.  Phil Levine.  Oscar Hijuelos.  I could keep going.  I've learned something from each and every author I've read.

I recently finished  Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch.  The breadth and scope of her storytelling is astounding.  She, justifiably, has been compared to Charles Dickens.  Her prose reads like poetry, and I really admire it.  She makes me almost want to give up writing.  That's how good she is.

Tomorrow night, I'm giving a poetry reading and workshop at a local library for an organization called the Center for Lifelong Learning.  From what I understand, CLL is mostly for retired/mature people who are curious to try new things.  I'm going to make them try poetry.  I know one of my former math professors is going to be there with his wife.  It's going to be an adventure.

Who knows?  Maybe Saint Marty will end up being someone's muse tomorrow evening.

Works for me

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