Monday, May 23, 2011

"You've got to read this book, it changed my life..." Elizabeth Austen & Sheila Bender on writing...





Elizabeth Austen (author of Every Dress a Decision)  has a great post on her blog by Guest Blogger Sheila Bender author of A New Theology: Turning to Poetry in a Time of Grief.


Here are some wise words from the post--



(Elizabeth) asked Sheila Bender to tell us how she sees the difference between writing that is personal vs. writing that is private.  Where and how do we draw the line?
Here’s what Sheila had to say:
I believe the more deeply we write from the experiences of our lives, the more universal and significant our writing is to others. This significance, however, comes only if, as writers, we find fresh insight through our words’ journeys, insight we realize only after following our words to wisdom we would not have if we hadn’t shaped our experience in reflection.
But how do we do that using personal writing without making readers uncomfortable in their voyeuristic role?  By making sure we are pursuing a question that will become the reader’s question, too, so the reader is not an observer and judge of the writer’s life, but actually on a quest along with the writer.
As my colleague Jack Heffron recounted, “You have probably never heard a person say, ‘You’ve got to read this book; it changed the author’s life.’ Instead you’ve heard, ‘you’ve got to read this book; it changed my life.’” 

~~~

2 comments:

Crystal said...

I am currently taking a summer class at Florida Gulf Coast University called 21st Century Poetry. The issue you address is exactly what I have been thinking about over these past few weeks and what my fellow students have been discussing in class. Why are contemporary poets writing such personal and often pessimistic poems?

I have to say that most of what we are reading feels more offensive than life-changing. Most leaves me longing for beauty of expression.

You book of poetry that we are reading for class is exactly the opposite. I found myself feeling as though you somehow knew me...that you were writing poetry about my life and my marriage and my view of the world.

Do you think contemporary poets should be concerned with what you bolded in your blog. Should contemporary poets make sure they are pursuing a question that will become the reader's question, too. How can a poet be certain that they are doing this?

Kells said...

hi Crystal,

Sorry to just be getting back to you!

You asked--

Do you think contemporary poets should be concerned with what you bolded in your blog. Should contemporary poets make sure they are pursuing a question that will become the reader's question, too. How can a poet be certain that they are doing this?


****I'm not sure I agree that we should do this 100% and in fact, there are certain times when we are writing that I don't think we should be very concerned with the reader.

But what I think the Truth (capital T) of this statement is that there are times when we shouldn't be so self-absorbed and to consider the reader.

It's tough to say because we may become too self-conscious if we think about the reader and censor ourselves and if we don't think about the reader at some point, our vision may not come across.

Maybe that is the answer, to follow your own inner vision first, then consider how another person may view what you created. This may not mean to change what you wrote, but to realize that what you have tried to convey or think you will be convey, may or may not be interpreted. And maybe that's okay.

Hope that wasn't too confusing! I guess this is just a long way of saying, I'm not sure. what do you think?

Best,
Kelli

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