Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Massachusetts Poetry Festival

I'm looking forward to the Massachusetts Poetry Festival this coming weekend in Salem. I went last year and had a great time, and things look even bigger and better this year—lots of great sessions and some wonderful poets speaking and reading, including Mark Doty.

Or, as I emailed to my writing group, who know how much I admire his work: "Mark Doty! MARK DOTY!!!!" Can you hear the squeak? My fandom has reached a peak not achieved by anyone since Mike Nesmith of the Monkees (and there, I've managed to make myself look both old and hopelessly dorky in a single sentence). But Doty's Visitation is one of my all-time favorite poems; I regularly make friends and comparative strangers sit and listen as I read it. No matter how many times I do, the last lines still give me (and them!) the same jolt of surprise and pleasure that they delivered the first time. I'm seriously considering a tattoo.

Anywho, the festival is a very well-run event with great poets, excellent workshops, and Mark Doty(!). There's still time to register and get in on the action. I hope I'll see you there!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Paul Lisicky on About-ness

Sadye Teiser: In workshop, you were talking about the complexity of figuring out what a piece of fiction is "about," what aspects you want to focus on as you tell each story. Could you talk a little bit about this process? Have you ever, in your own writing, figured out what you want your book to focus on while writing and then had to backtrack?

Paul Lisicky: About-ness is such a tricky thing. I don't think we ever want our work to be wholly explainable, or to support a thesis. We want it to be mysterious. We want it to move like music. But we also want it to be bound by meaning. A lot of that meaning is already embedded in our metaphors, whether we know it or not. The trick is to write toward a space that knows more than we do. And that often involves throwing out the original plan.

Paul Lisicky, author of The Burning House, in an interview with Sadye Teiser for the UNCW Creative Writing Department newsletter, excepted on his blog.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Monday Morning Quote: Ira Glass on Getting Started

What nobody tells people who are beginners — and I really wish someone had told this to me . . . is that all of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, and it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase. They quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.

—Ira Glass, host of This American Life

Thanks to Kevin for sending this along. A longer slice of the interview from which it's drawn is here: