Monday, May 18, 2015

Synchronous Moment: Writing in Our Time

Writing in Modern Times? In Our Time? In the Age of _________, fill in the blank. I couldn't think of a better way to say it so I went with what I had.

This is one of those times when different aspects of my life are coming together with the same or a similar message. Meaning, in my opinion, pay attention.

I am now in week six of the seven weeks IWP online MOOC poetry class. The topics have been interesting and, while I am still not fond of the online classroom platform they've chosen for this round, it is still working. I just ignore what doesn't work and keep to my workarounds, and respond as I have been and read much more than I write on the boards - and it's fine.

Last week's IWP topic didn't resonate with me. It felt like a "duh" and I didn't get as much from it. I think some of that was because it had to do with "turns" in poetry and I think, as primarily a fiction and creative non-fiction writer, "turns" are commonplace in the stories. It was interesting to read about the different styles of turns in poetry, with some excellent examples and exposure to new poets, but it didn't spur me to write more poetry. And I will admit that the activity and busy-ness of the week also interfered with me jumping into it as heavily as I have been; so there is probably something to that as, well.

But this week's topic is inspiring. And right up my writing alley. And one of the video lectures mentions several of my favorite poets; the other video lecture talks about some of my favorite ideas and questions. I fell into this week's topic quickly and easily.

One focus of this week on the place of "anger" in poetry. "Anger" is a very general term - specifically they talk about politics and the personal. One of the "instructors" for this week put the question out on the boards if poetry can just be cathartic without leading toward a solution. It was a question to generate conversation and I think it will; it is still early in the week.

Another focus is on writing in the current times and all that goes with it - short and fast, hashtags, and the internet and tweets and posts; brevity. How does this affect us as poets, as readers? How do we physically experience our world and our work, our writing and our reading, with these new things. What does it mean to - or do we - embody this life with all of these things? When a "date" might be online and not in person. When we text or tweet or Skype rather than calling on the phone or stopping by or meeting in person in a coffee shop? Questions ... no answers.

Then I saw an interview with Charles Baxter for Tin House. And the section quoted reminds me of the topics and lectures and discussions this week in the MOOC. Which is what led to this piece of writing, although it took me this long to get to the point. Click through to read the whole interview, if you have a couple of minutes; if not, come back later and check it out.

Questions about time, our times, and writing.
"Everything now is supposed to go fast; everything is supposed to be so efficient. Since when was fiction supposed to submit to time-and-motion studies? Impatience and distraction are our great enemies and must be conquered somehow. We all know that some of our most profound moments happen with a kind of languor: pleasure and love and sorrow and prayer take their own sweet time." -- Charles Baxter, in conversation with Susan Tacent
Read the whole piece by clicking here: Urgency and Momentum: An Interview with Charles Baxter.

graphic from Tin House link for the Baxter interview


  1. Thanks for introducing the interview of Charles Baxter by Susan Tacent. I enjoyed it very much. I also enjoyed your poem from the last post. I'm glad to read about taking time to read something at a slower pace. Sometimes I want to enter a slower time. I shamelessly use Proust's Swann's Way to do that for me. I also enjoy reading novels written in an earlier time, such as Patricia Highsmith's The Price of Salt, for the different rhythm. I find myself reflecting differently than I do when I'm reading a fast-paced book or article. With Proust, I'm pretty sure even my breathing and pulse slow down.

    1. You're welcome! And thank you for your note about the poem.

      I know what you mean - the taking time to reflect. About reading things written before everything was Now and Hurry Up and Never Unplug Because You Might Miss Something (written as if I wasn't one of them). I enjoy a lot of new writing, I sometimes do write short and quick - it's fun, it's instant gratification (well, sort of - for the first draft at least), and I can. Right now I am also doing some reading which is slower, more thoughtful and thought provoking. As you said, a different rhythm. And a slower time. Thank you for your comments.

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