What I learned in school today?

Today I have taken my poetic writings to a prose class, just to hear that:

  • my language is original
  • my images are beautiful
  • my text has a strong & personal voice
  • my story is totally incomprehensible 

Oh – I’ll better search for comfort elsewhere:

Never worry about the reader, what the reader can understand. When you are writing, glance over your shoulder, and you’ll find there is no reader. Just you and the page. Feel lonely? Good! Assuming you can write clear English (or Norwegian) sentences, give up all worry about communication. If you want to communicate, use the telephone. 

To write a poem you have to have a streak of arrogance (…) when you are writing you must assume that the next thing you put down belongs not for reasons of logic, good sense, or narrative development, but because you put it there. You, the same person who said that, also said this. The adhesive force is your way of writing, not sensible connection. 

from The Triggering Town (1982)

8 Comments Add yours

  1. Harold Rhenisch says:

    Don’t forget that poetry also has a form of narrative, that the prose narrators don’t understand.

  2. Harold Rhenisch says:

    Have you read any poems by Dick Hugo? I could send you some.

    1. Sigrun says:

      No never & yes please!
      do you like them?

  3. KM Huber says:

    Sounds like you have your readers just where you want them, wondering what marvels you have created. I know I am always the optimist, Sigrun, but you have challenged your writing class readers. Of course, Hugo’s words have already told you this and much more.


    1. Sigrun says:

      thank you – thank you – thank you
      I’m rather confused right now, so I really appreciate some encouragement!

  4. Plot has always been the thing that keeps me from writing fiction. Perhaps your readers are expecting a traditional plot, and therefore find your work hard to understand. It’s true, as one commenter notes, that poetry can also have narrative (and argument, and dialogue, and setting…).

    Sometimes, plot develops slowly through pastiche or collage. Much contemporary fiction seems to work this way. Patience on your part, and on the part of your readers…”comprehensibility” will gel eventually.

    1. Sigrun says:

      Thank you Ann!

      Its like this; I do not yet comprehend my own text, I’m in the middle of writing it, it is unfolding itself, so therefore I cannot answer questions like:
      – How will this end?
      – Who is this person telling us all this?
      All I can do is listen & write. And I don’t mean this in a mystical sense, its all very practical and down to earth: Words come, I put them together, read them aloud to myself, listening for rhythm, pictures & emotions. I pull things apart and put them together again. Very slow.

      I guess I shouldn’t expect traditional novel writers to understand … or maybe I should?

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