So mr. delagar is sitting in on this poetry workshop up the hill -- you know, at the real university.
It's a graduate level workshop. You know, for real students.
A poem comes up on the worksheet today. It's a bit complex. It has big words in it, and allusions. Although it is a fine poem (it is a fine poem -- mr. delagar showed it to me) it is not well received by the workshop.
It makes me feel dumb, one of the students says.
It makes me work too hard, another says.
I just don't see what these images are trying to say, says another. This fox. These grapes. And what is this part here, about the broken vines? Or this whale?
It's elitist, is the most common charge. The vocabulary is outside the realm that your common reader might be expected to know, see, and so --
I am gibbering like a lunatic by the time mr. delagar gets to this point.
These are poets! They are writers! They are students of the language! And they don't know words like gibbet? They don't know what pule means? They don't recognize an allusion to Jonah?
I wanted to drive right up the hill and start ranting.
Because, you know, I've got these socialist leanings. I do. The voice of the people and yap yap yap.
But these young idiots want to be writers and they can't bother to read? Or learn their language?
It's your job to know the words! It's your job to read the texts! Read! Read! Read everything! Read widely and deeply! The Bible! All of it! Shakespeare, Chaucer, Milton, Ovid, Catullus, Homer, Gilgamesh, the Bhagavad-Gita, mystery novels, Jane Austen, Aesop's fables, Marie de France, Octavia Butler, both the Eliots, both the Brownings, everything, everything you can find, and never stop reading, and while you're at it read the OED for fuck's sake, read that monster every day, it's your JOB, these are your tools, if you're going to be a writer it's what you have to do, it's the bare minimum you do, you've got no business picking up a pen if you aren't doing that, did someone tell you writing was easy? HAH!
The poem made you feel dumb?
The poem did?
I got some news for you, son.
Poem ain't the dumb thing in that room...
All right. I'm going for a walk now.