Learning Old Lessons Anew


The Writer’s Chronicle, March April, 2014

Sometimes the lessons writers learn keep coming back, ever new. In Sarah Ann Johnson’s interview with Richard Bausch, he tends to pan manuscript workshopping as a sort-of assembly line way of producing writing. Of course, there are ways out of that, one being to respect the writer’s work enough to amplify his/her style without changing it to titan instructor’s style. Bausch, in explaining his manner of deepening characterization, falls back on the old writer’s chestnut of involving the senses as much as possible in such a depiction. And finally, Bausch tells us once more that fiction must be about something. i.e., “the true subject of fiction, whether it’s comic or tragic or somewhere in between, is trouble.”

And you needn’t be a Southerner to give your writing a strong sense of place. Cynthia Neely, in her piece, ” Making Sense of a Sense of Place,” recognize foremost that place has a strong sense of power in all our lives – and she gives examples of how this plays out in poetry.

Perhaps the most intriguing piece in this issue is Tony Hoagland’s “Je Suis Ein Americano – The Genius of American Diction.” Hoagland reminds us that diction – even the blurred diction of the U.S.’s multi-language influences, is the main instrument of tone, that it serves to focus the story’s emotions and underlying concept. Too, besides nailing down cultural characteristics, diction can be used comically. Natsha Saje’s interview with Wanda Coleman tends to bear out Hoagland’s views on diction.

As has been the case of late, this issue focuses largely on poets and poetry. IF you’re feeling good about your own poetry, you may very well come to understand your writing in the montage of other modern poetry.



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