Source: New York Magazine
“Poems begin by keeping awake,” writes Paul Agostino in Created Writing – Poetry from New Angles. That’s really how all of our writing should start, with writers being “awake” to whatever it is they are writing, not just slogging through a story, poem, or nonfiction piece just to get it written.
Agostino goes on to say, “Many people have been desensitized; they have been dulled by news reports, opinion polls, gossip magazines, food lines, lines at the Department of Motor Vehicles, routine jobs, complaining coworkers, nagging souses, laugh tracks on TV, and on and on.”
Your writing has to elevate them out of this drudgery, which means you need to elevate the story you are telling beyond the basic facts or thoughts. What style have you created that lifts your writing out of the everyday writing most of us are exposed to on a daily basis, whether in the newspapers or in e-mails, letters, or magazines. What makes your writing special?
“When people write or read poetry, however,” Agostino continues, “they can’t afford to get that glazed-over look in their eyes or simply mutter ‘yes’ during the appropriate pauses in conversation.”
The same is true about all good writing.
Here’s the beginning of a poem written quite some time ago by Sharon Olds, but it is newsworthy today, since the case has recently been reexamined. Notice how the words she uses are not extraordinary, but the images and the way she connects us to the news story through her own son take us way beyond the basic news stories of the time.
“THE MISSING BOY”
(for Etan Patz)
Every time we take the bus
my son sees the picture of the missing boy.
He looks at it like a mirror–the dark
blond hair, the pale skin,
the blue eyes, the electric-blue sneakers with
slashes of jagged gold. But of course that
kid is little, only six and a half,
an age when things can happen to you,
when you’re not really safe, and Gabriel is seven,
practically fully grown–why, he would
tower over that kid if they could
find him and bring him right here on this bus and
stand them together.