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DONNE’S DARK DIVINITY
I was "blasted with sighs, and surrounded with tears," to quote one of John Donne's poems, as I finished William Giraldi's article "The Art of Reading John Donne: Sick Genius of Remorse" (March/April 2010). Never in the many years I've taught Donne's "Holy Sonnets" have I come across a piece about them that so shook my heart. The philologists and the critics may make their brilliant comments on the poetry of Donne, but Giraldi has risen above what I call commonplace criticism. Together with the poet, he experienced the "frightening collision of opposites," and I, along with both of them, have recognized that in poetry lies the deepest reality, whether it be filled with anguish or ecstasy or both simultaneously.
Grand Rapids, Michigan
LABOR BEFORE LAURELS
In response to Jonathan Scott's letter taking issue with Poets & Writers Magazine's coverage of writers holding advanced degrees (Letters, March/April 2010), I'd add that some of us who gained "competitive advantage" by going to grad school gained it by working damn hard. People who want to succeed usually find a way to do just that. They don't whine and make excuses—they just keep grinding. I scrubbed toilets for two years to pay for school. I'm not scrubbing them now.
WHY WE WRITE
I applaud the publication of "Why We Write: The Art of Perseverance" by Cecilia Ward Jones (January/February 2010). Her contributor's note states: "Cecilia Ward Jones is a writer living in Austin, Texas." That's all? "Oh, how self-consciously coy of her, not wanting all her publishing and/or academic credentials listed," I thought. "Of course she has such credentials or Poets & Writers Magazine would not be publishing her essay." Then I read the first two paragraphs and was shocked to find out she was an unpublished writer. How refreshing! I haven't seen such a thing—an article about the writing experience by someone who is (was) unpublished—in a magazine before. Good for you—and good for her.
THINKING OUTSIDE THE BLOCK
Thanks for Dennis Cass's article "How to Get Unstuck: The Psychology of Writer's Block" (January/February 2010). Articles about writer's block ordinarily make me want to crawl under the couch, as most lack any concrete tools for unblocking. And I'm afraid the "writing down the bones" approach doesn't really address the complexity of the creative process. Cass's article does, however, and it is refreshing, interesting, and helpful. I'm fascinated by his articulation of divergent and convergent thinking, and as a writer and teacher, I will use these more nuanced ideas about generating material both for myself and with my students.
Cass's article reminds me of an essential
creativity in adult life: play. Friedrich Schiller wrote brilliantly on
subject of play in On
Aesthetic Education of Man (1795). Adults, Schiller insisted,
maintain their ability to play because "man only plays when he is, in
fullest sense...a human being, and he is only fully a human being when he
Schiller advanced the notion that human beings must play with ideas,
objects, and the universe to develop their art, as well as to integrate
thoughts and emotions to maturity and "dare to be wise." Many thanks to Poets & Writers Magazine
for encouraging us writers to keep playing.
JACKIE ZOLLO BROOKS
A circumflex accent instead of a hacek was mistakenly used in Jaromír Horec's name in In Memoriam (March/April 2010). Sam Lipsyte's hometown is Closter, New Jersey, not Demarest, as stated in "Failure's Fortune" by Frank Bures (March/April 2010). In "The Espy Foundation: Oysterville, Washington" (March/April 2010), Marc Nieson's contributor's note incorrectly stated that his memoir is forthcoming from the University of Wisconsin Press. The book has not yet been accepted for publication.