There are a lot of changes going on, and I don’t just mean the cold wind that blew in last night. Granted, some of them are still just whispers, but I know they will manifest themselves sooner or later. I don’t like change more than the next person, but I’ve learned to treasure my moments standing on the threshold, to love the liminal spaces that hold so much promise.
One thing that hasn’t changed, despite reams of blogs and tweets and status updates, is my love of long, closely reasoned essays about writing. I love when they take my ideas about what I’ve read and turn them upside down.
I added The Writer’s Chronicle to my pared-down list of subscriptions a few years ago, by default, when I attended an Association of Writers and Writing Professionals (AWP) conference. I’ve kept it because it consistently delivers the goods.
This October/November 2014 issue is no exception. I won’t go over every essay and interview, though each rewarded scrutiny. One standout is Gregory Orr’s essay on “Foundational Documents and the Nature of Lyric”. After anecdotally describing the ecstasy of writing—being “transported by the words in a world that the words were creating”, he points out that our western tradition, unlike India, China, Japan, does not encourage the lyric poet. Plato’s attack on poets as “weak and womanish” stood for hundreds of years until Wordsworth’s preface to Lyrical Ballads granted us the freedom to feel. I condense, but truly the entire essay is fascinating, and the final reference to Elaine Pagels’s The Gnostic Gospels blew me away.
Having just participated in a symposium on GeoPoetics: the intersection of geography and poetry, I paid close attention to “The World of the Story”, by Eileen Pollack. She rescues the story element of setting from mere painted backdrop and restores it to its place as creating an entire world, with its own cultures and communities. She offers an inspired reading of stories such as Toni Cade Bambara’s “The Lesson” and William Maxwell’s So Long, See You Tomorrow.
Speaking of mashups, I also enjoyed Lisa C. Krueger’s “_Ars Poetica_ and the Talking Cure: Poetry, Therapy, & the Quest to Create”. I had not before considered the common factors of poetry and therapy.
Best of all for me is Sue William Silverman’s “Memoir with a View: The Window, as Motif and Metaphor, in Creative Nonfiction”. Coming on the heels of the stunning National Gallery show of Andrew Wyeth’s paintings of windows, “Looking Out, Looking In”, this essay fed my fascination with these mythic structures. They may be transparent or reflective; there may or may not be a person present, but always “two worlds are in play: the confined interior world, and the sprawling exterior world.” She examines how each speaks to each. For example, in Joyce’s classic story “The Dead”, “the more Gabriel envisions the world outside the window, the more his interior state is revealed to the reader.”
And Silverman takes us even deeper. She reminds us that the person gazing out of the window may also be seen. She talks about the temporal aspect of a window frame in addition to its physical aspect; what we see outside may be a past or possible future. And here I’m only scratching the surface of her insights.
I highly recommend this journal if you want to exercise your mind and consider what you are reading in a different light. Change is hard for everyone, but accepting the uncertainty of the threshold can result in powerful insights.
What journals do you read regularly?