I’ve been trying to follow the advice I give students; read poetry if you want to improve your writing style. So, every day (and it doesn’t happen every day, but it happens more often than not), I read an online poem from The Writers’ Almanac or leaf through a book of poetry Garrison Keillor put together from that show. Sometimes, I’m struck to the heart with a turn of phrase or a use of metaphor. I share this, four lines only of a longer poem that struck me this week when I read them…….
….but mostly you play to drunks,
to the night, to the way you judge
and pardon yourself, to all that goes
not unsung, but unrecorded.
It’s from The Accompanist by poet William Matthews. When I read it, those last four lines spoke to me, spoke to what I do for a living, write. So often it seems I write into this vacuum. For whom? Why? There’s a long time between starting a book and seeing it between covers. Whatever publicity I might do is very limited compared to the amount of time I’ve spent conceiving and writing a novel. There are always people who don’t like it or understand it. Why don’t you write books about contemporary times? I’m asked. Or why don’t you write shorter books? Or why don’t you write faster? Why did you do this or that? I don’t know the answer to any of those questions. I suppose when writing no longer pays, I’ll do something else. But will I? All my jobs have had writing as their component; it’s just that in some of them, others told me what to write, and I arranged facts in a nice, readable manner. Different from playing in the piano bar late at night, for you don’t know who or why……