Sirens “Sequels” & Some Thoughts on Writing

During a dinner conversation last week re: creative writing classes in college, I made the comment that “they don’t really teach you much,” at least not in terms of how to write well. I’m kind of of the opinion that being able to write really well is unfortunately mostly innate and intrinsic and very difficult to teach. And even for people who do feel comfortable with the written word, creative writing classes can basically be summed up in “Show, don’t tell.” and “Use more verbs/nouns and fewer modifiers.”

Maybe that’s being unfair? But really, I don’t feel like I my ability to produce good writing is much better after 4 prose/poetry classes than it was before. Actually, I feel like it’s worse, and I am worse.

Mainly, this is because I was overconfident going in. And coming out, coming through the nakedness of having others pick apart your work in group discussion, discovering to my humility that the lines I thought were nothing more than pretty in Paradise Lost or Shakespeare’s sonnets were actually intricately woven meshes of meter and rhythm–all this sharpened my critical ear.

I learned the truth universally acknowledged among writers that first drafts are inevitably shitty. That the writing I felt was raw and captivating and passionate was actually not emotional word-vomit but the product of days/weeks/months/years of non-passionate, non-captivating, probably boring and painstaking edits and rewrites.

And that, as much as I aspire to a glorious part time writing career, I’m still very immature in my craft right now, a toddler trying to wield a sword in some meaningful way. But it’s challenging, it’s fun, it’s always a privilege to keep sharing with people. 🙂

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Part of my poem from HMS/HSDM ArtsFirst. Parts I and II were posted in previous entries.

Part III – Quiet
4.22.13
Silence spread from Copley, crossed the Charles,
cracks and pops in Kendall and in their wake, in Watertown
only quiet.
How hushed the empty Inman, nearly-deserted Newbury,
eerie streets of Allston stuck
in muggy desolation. All afternoon, birds and herds of clouds,
not crowds, crossed our quiet city, spring breezes blowing miles
before brushing anything human.
Humming instead were TVs,
computer screens–phones, tablets, tapping Refresh again
and again and impatiently again.
What else was new besides the news? The news stations using
every new scrap of knowledge, every Tsarnaev relative’s most recent
half-thought, rolled and repackaged and plattered until the tattered
remains themselves, too, grew boring.

So by the time the sirens revived, what a burst of cheers,
break out the beers, the music, and scarcely a moment wasted
on catching our bated breath, the party its own explosion
from our relieved, repressed, compressed chests. Birthdays to celebrate,
weddings to toast and for a night there lingered not a slip of silence.

Part IV – Silence
Silence is deeper than quiet.
Quiet is the sound of your child breathing,
the sound of deep sleeping, the sound of museums,
libraries, the hush of morning.
But silence…silence is the sound of your child’s bed without your child.
Beds in Boston and China, beds with human-shaped dents
and human-shaped smells, silence is the swell
of grief as beloved voices recede into memory.
Silence is a life-hole, all that’s left for the bereft
to huddle around. And the huddles will soon be found
far from the Daily Life determined to leave grief behind.
Happy people will never know what to say,
and maybe it just has to be this way.
Entropy pulls us away–too much fun to be had,
it would say. Too much life to be lead, jokes to be said,
and already too many tears shed.

But before the last of the sad notes fade,
before life barrels on, let us linger, let us pray
for families who lost daughters and sons–
runners learning to live less a leg or both,
let’s not rush for mourning to be done
for this moment at least, send our peace
to those left by our city’s deceased.

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