Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Time Enough for a Proper Mess

Recently, I attended a Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer poetry reading, put on by Western Colorado Writers' Forum, in Grand Junction. It was a small group of us who attended. (Well, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band was also in town that night...) I brought with me, An Elevated View: Colorado Writers on Writing, in hopes Trommer would sign the opening page of her essay, "From Pretty Pink Bows to Chicken Manure: Embracing Poetry as Practice."
After her reading, I took the book with me when I walked up to greet and thank her. When she laid it on a table in order to sign it, she began laughing, telling me that in the four years since she'd written and submitted it, she's developed so much as a writer. "I read this [essay], and I feel sorry for the woman who wrote it. My writing is so different now."
Two years ago, The Paris Review interviewed John McPhee. One of the many things discussed in the interview is the necessity for writers to allow time enough to develop their craft. McPhee says he submitted to The New Yorker for at least a full decade until they finally accepted something. "And they were not making a mistake."
But this isn't what Trommer was mainly talking about. She feels her writing was too constructed, not "messy" enough. "Writing is not meant to be contained, it's meant to be wild and messy." That she would say this about this essay tickles me, for it's one the essay's main topics: the need for her work to be less orderly. And while it is true that writing can be polished and well-crafted to such an extent that there's no life left, (what Salman Rushdie has called, "a widespread, humorless, bloodless competence"), the reason we repeatedly revise our drafts is because they're not submittable, publishable work, yet.
So, once again, the murky middleground: Good writing is to be contained and structured enough that it flows, but not so much so that it ceases flowing with life. Writing isn't, "For Display Purposes Only," but is to be sent out into the world, living and breathing, to find its way, to find where it belongs.

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