Thursday, February 5, 2015
Personal Reflection, Literary Commitment
It is almost impossible to think of something as very good and not want it for yourself. Growing up in Louisiana, I was interested in stories, lyrics, and magazines, and in writing, drawing, photography, music, nature, wilderness, hunting, baseball, baking, Greek myths, science facts, and history. There were books around. My mother, a woman of melancholia and some wit, was a fervent reader, a gardener, a seamstress, and a housewife; and my stepfather, a rough man with some friendly and scary moments, was a factory worker and not much of a reader. My father, a suave man juggling two women, lived in a Kew Gardens studio and was a machinist in a Manhattan printing firm, and was a selective reader (I recall him sounding impressed when he told me of reading about Gordon Liddy’s endurance test—burning his own flesh. I laughed: I thought life offered us more demanding challenges on an ordinary day). I enjoyed the writing workshops I participating in at the New School for Social Research, House of Poets in Harlem, the Poetry Project, and the East Village Writers Workshop. (The only relationship that can offer a writer mutuality is that with an attentive, intelligent reader.) The best thing for me was being in one of the world’s great cities: New York—I loved the art galleries and museums, the libraries and parks, the restaurants, the record stores, repertory film theaters, and sidewalks filled with handsome boys and beautiful girls. New York is a city of excitement and experiment, of stress and struggle: and I experimented and struggled. I had clerical and administrative jobs, editing and writing jobs, in banks, bookstores, libraries, schools, publishing firms, and advocacy groups; a fragmented and frustrating half-career. I wanted to express more of my own emotion and political perspective in my hired writing work when I was younger—and as I became older I realized that did not matter: what was more important was to see a subject whole and describe it accurately; and—inevitably—my perspective would be expressed in how I described the subject. Essays, fiction, poetry, and other forms—mine. Much that has been written has not been published—and much remains to be written. What do writers do? Writers write. Excerpt: "Freedom, Knowledge, Power: The State of the Nation and Its Arts, circa 2015" (Posted by The Compulsive Reader, January 2015).