Tuesday, August 10, 2010

What Lists & Their Makers Ignore: the fact of bounding enthusiasm (for the written word)

It's easy to get snagged on personalities, cliques and even worse, seeming cliques—we perceive as one voice, one mind and exclusionary. Whether or not we think John Ashbery is the icing on the cake on the silver platter on the gleaming groaning sideboard on the waxed parquet flooring of literature, he's a good poet. I read him. I admire him greatly. I read many poets and admire them greatly, the living the dead the obscure the forgotten the neglected the famous.

Sunday I posted a Huffington Post slide-show on 15 overly praised writers. Fine and well. I could add another 15 to the list, as could anyone, but won't. In consideration of the slow accumulation of my soul embracing all good and comforting all bad (and weakened by that latter effort) I choose to notice—notice—the fact of bounding enthusiasm.

It's almost easy; I was born loving literature; not a struggle against my surroundings; still a little strange, strange. My mom wanted to write and I am one generation closer to being a writer. I add my little bit in honor of her.

Whatever our share, wherever we fall on lists, writing is a gift and as all gifts do, partakes of the divine, the divine being the sum total, the whole that's greater than the parts.

Writers and their willing readers are messengers. How can it not be so. Poets, you're messengers. Fiction writers, you're messengers. Essayists, you're messengers.

While lists of 15 most overrated writers are inevitable and not entirely reprehensible—it can be annoying to see favorites overlooked—what must be noted and is too often ignored are the wings, fluttery and phosphorescent, every writer has. How can there be a conference of the birds if the birds can't fly?

We must not lose sight of our joint and silly enthusiasm for the word. It offers focus and distraction, hope and terror, joy. I'm way beyond thinking I write because "I have no choice." I don't, true. At my last job (from which I was laid off)--I realized for the zillionth time, before being laid off, that upkeep and rent preclude art.

I was willing to write four hours on Sunday mornings and devote the rest of the week to Work and its attendant activities (sleep, laundry, tidying, friends). After I was laid off I wondered if it wasn't a meant-to-be gift—a bit more time to write. Yes it was a gift; not necessarily meant to be, but a gift nonetheless.

I'm all over the place as I often am in these postings. Sorry about that; it's a side effect of free association. Another side effect of free association is associating with The Ancient Association of Free Associators—of being a writer and loving the path, something far more important than any list.

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