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Saturday, June 9, 2012

Interview with Myself: I LOVE This Book!

Freshly Mown Hayfield (June 2010)
The book is Writing the Australian Crawl: Views on the Writer’s Vocation, by William Stafford (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1978).

Why did you pick up this book?
Out of curiosity, because it promised to be about writing and writers.

Were you already familiar with the author?
Sadly, no. Happily, now I am.

How far into the book did you have to read before you were hooked?
Two sentences: “Poetry is the kind of thing you have to see from the corner of your eye. You can be too well prepared for poetry.”

In the first eight chapters (that is, as far as you’ve read this evening), have you learned anything new or encountered an idea that had not previously occurred to you?
No.

Then why go on reading?
For the joy of it. For having my own approach to reading and writing validated by someone whose expression is so clear and sure. Because reading this book makes me happy.

An example, please?
For example, Stafford writes that “...no act of writing when considered from the inside is ever anything but natural, for the writer, the person who writes, who is led by the end of whatever golden string he happens to pick up, and sustained by the self—his own appreciative self—which judges him.”

Do the ideas in this book relate to anything specific that has been on your mind recently?
Yes. In the chapter “The End of a Golden String,” Stafford takes up the question of literary traditions and influences. He says that critics, teachers, students, and scholars work out of what he calls the “relay-race assumption,” that is, the idea that every serious writer works with an eye consciously or unconsciously cast back on his predecessors, using “elements” available from a literary canon. No! S. says. Rather, every work of literature arises from a writer’s present involvement, a present encounter with life, and “...the artist is not so much a person endowed with the luck of vivid, eventful days, as a person for whom any immediate encounter leads by little degrees to the implications always present for anyone anywhere.” Note that Stafford's concern is primarily about the writing of poetry but that much of what he says applies to any original, creative work.

And this was on your mind because--?
Thinking about Russian novels. See previous post.

Can you calm down enough to give your readers one more example, perhaps something general enough for writers and nonwriters alike?
Yes, of course. Here—
Somewhere, each life has its validation, not in a sequence of ciphers influencing each other down through time, but in immediate encounters that have their own individual worths, no matter how small.
Is this book available at Dog Ears Books?
Not the copy I’m reading. I have marked it up to an unforgivable degree, having forgiven myself in advance, but I will be glad to order copies for anyone interested.

Thank you.
You’re entirely welcome. I've had a ball!


***


Northport note: Today is the scheduled opening of Motovino on Waukazoo Street.


Racing note: I'll Have Another has been pulled from today's Belmont Stakes. Who's your favorite now?


"Make hay" rain or shine--live, love, laugh, read!




6 comments:

Ellen said...

Pamela,
As always I'm fascinated by your reading and your thoughts on your reading. Can I order a copy of this book from you? Thanks!
Love, Ellen

Gerry said...

I would be interested to read the copy you've marked up. Maybe when you're done with it . . .

And this - one of my favorite books of poems is Patricia Hooper's At the Corner of the Eye.

P. J. Grath said...

Ellen, I'll be glad to get you a copy. Gerry, "done with it"? Will I ever be? But I might share it with you for a brief period. Good title, that of Hooper's. Obviously, no one needed to tell her....

flandrumhill said...

Am using a new browser so *hopefully* I'll finally be able to use your comment form again.

'A golden string' - that is indeed what it is.

Art history too is full of references pertaining to artists being influenced by the past and the times they are living in. Too seldom are day-to-day encounters with life and individuals outside the art scene considered as part of the soil from which creativity finds its nourishment.

P. J. Grath said...

Any-Lynn, it worked, and I'm so happy to have you back! I've missed you. And clearly you are in accord with Stafford, too. We are kindred spirits.

Farshaw@FineOldBooks.com said...

I love your format here; I may steal it -- but that's OK as we all stand on the shoulders of giants....!