April 02, 2008


Steven Augustine

"We need to work hard, pretty much all the time, to achieve moments of presence and wakefulness."

This is far too close to therapyspeak in its Zententious Noun-ing. I always considered Graham somewhat of a Hairpoet. Note the difference between the humor in Berryman's "thinky death" riff and the humorlessness of Graham's fuzzy dictum, "Find the strange—not the weird, but the mysterious."

Berryman was definitely "weird", lady.


But her basic advice--read and live--is pretty undeniable. One thing I like about being a writer is that no matter how lame or frustrating your day is, you can make the excuse, "Well, I lived, and that's research." It's the best and possibly only way to stomach those trips to the DMV.


I've been finding myself strangely drawn to poetry lately. My old complete Anne Sexton has been lifting itself off the bookshelf at me and I've been finding a weird comfort for a midwestern boy in her pages. I just bought a collection of contemporary Russian poetry. Garrison Keillor's "Good Poems" is also calling to me. I trust Garrison in almost all things. Is that silly?


P.S. I have to say that the try to stay awake idea sounds pretty good. Maybe she is spacey, but she's a poet: forgive her. The whole notion of using your senses and just paying attention is advice anyone should follow. It changes your day.


Thanks for the poetry inclusion, Mark!

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  • The Elegant Variation is "Fowler’s (1926, 1965) term for the inept writer’s overstrained efforts at freshness or vividness of expression. Prose guilty of elegant variation calls attention to itself and doesn’t permit its ideas to seem naturally clear. It typically seeks fancy new words for familiar things, and it scrambles for synonyms in order to avoid at all costs repeating a word, even though repetition might be the natural, normal thing to do: The audience had a certain bovine placidity, instead of The audience was as placid as cows. Elegant variation is often the rock, and a stereotype, a cliché, or a tired metaphor the hard place between which inexperienced or foolish writers come to grief. The familiar middle ground in treating these homely topics is almost always the safest. In untrained or unrestrained hands, a thesaurus can be dangerous."


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