November 12, 2009

Advice to Writers: Read Poetry

I've been told over and over, if you want to be a great writer--not good, but bloody great--you have to read poetry. Or at least sit close to poets every now and then. So, I try.

Case in point: an evening with Aislinn Hunter and Miranda Pearson where each launched a new book. Great readings, but I would need several hours to write on both. So I'm only going to tackle one.

Aislinn's latest, A Peepshow with Views of the Interior: Paratext, is a diverse, thoughtful collection of essays on our understanding of and relationship to objects in the material world.

For the record, I don't think I've ever conversed with a more intelligent person than Aislinn. Her ability to listen and respond in a sincere, informed way often leaves me breathless--if not a little intimidated. And this is evident in her new book.

A Peepshow... displays her wealth of knowledge, her understanding of philosophy and how it pertains to the world around us. Experimental in its forms--using everything from poetry to footnotes as a creative medium, but never lacking clarity--I consider the essays imperative for every writer, or artist for that matter.

A quote from the book:
Few of us have the stomach for obliteration. We want some semblance of our having-been to reel out behind us. Want to see oneself seen. This is the conundrum of the rock garden: raking the stones to erase our footsteps but taking comfort in the tracks of the rake. How it takes a storm to come and shuttle the stones into a place that bears no trace of us. Truth of the matter is we cannot begin to say something from the void of nothing. That was the first lie: In the beginning was the word. No: In the beginning was Form. An utterance needs a body to speak to or speak from. As for the dead, they become formless, but leave a trail of pebbles behind them.
Another item worth noting--and a testament to both Aislinn's and Miranda's apparent sincerity-- a few of their students also came forward and read from their own works. My good friend, Nelia Botelho, and a fellow student Kistie Singh were among the readers, and both were in great form.

Nelia and Kistie each compiled related poems from their own collections into respective chapbooks. Great-looking books with impressive poetry within. Nelia in particular (not to take away from Kistie) impressed me greatly. A poem from her chapbook, Undone:


Autumn reveals itself
In the skins of split fruits,
the burden of berries,
in the crackle of cornhusk
gilded in senescent light
the dry curled hollows of a husk unfurl
as scrolls before a great revelation

Autumn defines itself
in the silhouettes of crows
perched on pumpkins' thick ginger hulls,
whose sable feathers fold
like pious hands,

and in the stitched burlap
of a scarecrow's lips,
the vigilant eyes.

I think Nelia has a few chapbooks left if someone wants to purchase one. $7 (includes shipping), if you email her at: neliabotelho(at)

Miranda Pearson's latest is called, Harbour, and focuses on a person's drive to create territory in whatever space available. Look for it.


Joshua said...

I took Aislinn's creative writing class. One of the very few courses I ever took that helped me with anything. She's super neat.

Victor said...

Id like this post!