October 6, 2009
A helpful friend pointed out that for a blog purportedly devoted to words (and the people who love them), I’ve said remarkably little about the art and practice of writing. I hadn’t thought of it that way – for one thing, my mind connects everything back to words: experiences are mused upon, distilled into a reasonable facsimile of thought, written and sometimes shared. For another thing, talking about words seems a bit redundant, harkening back to the number one rule of decent story-telling – show, don’t tell.
I do, of course, spend hours thinking of words as entities in and of themselves – they swirl about my head during the day as I’m driving to or from my local coffee shop, where all creative endeavors are born. They swirl in the evening, as I sit on the porch listening to the sounds of the afternoon winding to a slow and inexorable close. And they swirl at night, fretting my brain and rousing my curiosity, rendering sleep fitfull, if not impossible. Occasionally, they desert me, fleeing in the face of a blank page or empty computer screen, but that is thankfully rare. For although I often struggle to string five spoken words together without a pause or stutter, nearing incoherence in my enthusiasm or reserve or some combination of the two, given any implement of written communication I find it difficult to stem the flow.
Not that whatever words appear are always clear or concise or even interconnected. Sometimes they simply dance and flutter, just within the reach of my fingers, spilling from brain to pen to paper in a continuous flow of consonants and vowels that may or may not express whatever it is I’m trying to impart. But that’s the beauty of words – given time and space to expand and grow, they inevitably come together, like cumulus clouds on a fall day, to form something new and beautiful.
I recently read a gorgeous, disturbing book – “Madeleine is Sleeping,” by Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum – about a young girl who runs away to join a circus. In the course of the first few beautifully written pages filled with torments and dreams and desire, I realized my heart was pounding, agitated not only by Bynum’s characters and descriptions but even more so by her language. Barely into the second chapter, I was scrambling for pen and paper, jotting an inspired list of words that I couldn’t believe I had never used together in any one piece of work. I won’t give them all away, but among their ranks are the familiar – translucent, contortionist, topiary. And the new – cattleyas, petomane, proscenium.
Since making that list, I’ve penned ten poems on an array of subjects I had long puzzled over but had been unable to unite. Inspired by the possibilities of words at once strange and beautiful, I’ve written for hours at a time, expounding on subjects as varied as a wedding, Parkinson’s Disease and what happens when we stop breathing (permanently, that is). The poetry itself has been a gift, but what I’ve most enjoyed are the emotions and opportunities the new words inspired – as well as the subsequent lists I’ve made (books to be read, writers to google, dreams to fulfill) based on a previously unexpressed longing dredged to the surface by something as lovely as a “nocturne.”
The Power and Beauty of Words October 6, 2009
October 6, 2009