Friday, September 22, 2006


Hi everyone!

Neil and I went to the Summer Hopwood award ceremony today to see Bethany get recognized and read her prize-winning poetry. It was a small, but classy ceremony, and Bethany read two excellent poems, the first of which was one of the earliest poems she had brought to Writers' Community to workshop. I have to say, listening to her read, I felt so incredibly proud of her, and realized again how thoroughly she deserved to win. Once more, congratulations, Bethany!

So, seeing this prestigious award ceremony and all, I've been thinking a lot about what makes writing *good* writing. We had a discussion along these lines on the blog some time ago, I know, but today my modern poetry professor read us a quotation by Matthew Arnold that tried to answer this very question. Here it is:

"For the creation of a masterwork of literature two powers must concur, the power of the man and the power of the moment, and the man is not enough without the moment."

Arnold meant it in the historic sense of time and place (my professor used it in reference to Yeats writing about the Irish rebellion against the British), but I think "the moment" is also an interesting way to describe that flash of inspiration that sometimes comes over a writer. Indeed, that's how it works for me; I'll have "a moment" of clarity and deep feeling in which I'll jot down some words, and then have hours and hours of that muddled second-guessing process we call "editing". What do you guys think?

And lastly, since I've promised to write and bring a poem to the next meeting, I have, of course, been thinking particularly about poetry. This is not the form that comes most naturally to me--and yet, as a reader, I feel like nothing is more "natural" than a poem well written. It's hard, as a writer (I guess I should say "as a poet") to figure out what you want to say, and how, exactly, it can be said most effectively. To give this ultimate question some perspective, I will end this post with the last few lines of Marianne Moore's poem "Poetry", in which she outlines, consisely and perfectly, exactly what a reader should expect from "poetry":

"In the meantime, if you demand on the one hand,
the raw material of poetry in
all its rawness and
that which is on the other hand
genuine, you are interested in poetry."