Ted Mathys Recommends...

“I recommend grazing. When faced with a nebulous idea or impulse that resists being put to page, I often sit on the floor and surround myself with a cross section of books from different genres and historical periods that bear no relation to each other—novels, poems, dictionaries, trade magazines, scholarship. The more disparate the archive the better. I move quickly between them, flipping at random, noting turns of phrase, syntactical arrangements, sensuous nouns, whatever leaps out. Reading is essential for a writer, but this is not reading. To graze is to touch in passing, to brush against, to consume lightly and move on. It’s a process of intentional receptivity, of being open to text, to textures. Grazing precedes understanding and resists mastery. It brings to mind browsing, as in browsing a bookstore or opening your web browser. But those metaphors imply a final purchase or terminus. Instead, I’m interested in browsing as goats and deer browse on young shoots and leaves of shrubs, always on the move. There’s the danger, of course, that superficial reading leads to dilettantism and shallow thought. But I don’t graze in search of content. I begin with an unformed idea and graze until a pattern, a turn, or a formal magnet reveals itself and attracts my scattered shavings of thought.”
—Ted Mathys, author of Gold Cure (Coffee House Press, 2020)