Whistle for Me

Hi. My name is Pam, and I’m a word nerd. As such, I get all geeky about my content area; I recite Shakespeare to my students; I give them Latin equivalents for common phrases; I read obscure texts on my own time. I spend WAY too much time working. I spend way too much time thinking about work. And I love it, unashamedly, unabashedly, unequivocably love it.

So Wollstonecraft and I are on the same wavelength. Not only about education and learning. Her approach to writing works for me: “These pretty superlatives, dripping glibly from the tongue, vitiate the taste, and create a kind of sickly delicacy that turns away from simple and unadorned truth…” The more I write, the more I realize that truth is found in the smallness of things said plainly. It could have something to do with the approach I’m working on personally to edit my life, but I’m finding that simple does not mean superficial.

Ezra Pound says it, too:

In “A Retrospect” Pound makes three clear points about what a poet must do:

  • Direct treatment of “the thing.” I write what I know, and it’s through the small things that I eventually arrive at the larger. To speak of “the thing,” whatever it may be, in such a way that the precise moment is given to a reader is not just valuable for a poet. The closer I get to the small moment of the thing itself, the closer I get to Truth—not just touching shadows and hollow representations of it.
  • Using only words that contribute to the presentation. This one is tough for me. I call it the “Horton Approach”—you know, Dr. Seuss—“I meant what I said; I said what I meant…” I tend to be a word waster. But I’ve noticed that when I go back for revision and cut away everything that isn’t what I want to say, I’m closer to where I need to go—closer to the poetry of the piece.
  • Not composing according to the rhythm of a metronome. This is what makes Dylan poetry to me. Every emotion has its own speed, its own timing. In poetry, free verse isn’t free of rhythm, but guided by feeling. This is the pace of life—each moment has its opportunity to cut “nearer the bone.” To tap into that is to make prose approach poetry in the staccato of an argument or in the eternalizing of a momentary glance. When pacing and sound mirror content in my prose, I know I’m close to getting it right.

Reading Pound was tough for me. It’s a call to get back to the business of writing—whatever style that may be—to do it well or not at all, to recognize it as work and get on with it. I want my writing to “be as much like granite as it can be,” to be “harder and saner.” I want it to grind against Truth, if it can never attain it. I want there to be poetry in my prose. I want to be a poet who doesn’t write poetry…

And I want to be able to write without apology for what I do–to not “pass [my] days; or, at least, [my] evenings, discontentedly.” Let me be myself, and passionately.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: