Thursday, August 6, 2015

I have been wasting time this morning scanning Virginia Woolf's letters from 1925-26 in search of learning more about her hopes and fears for the manuscript of To the Lighthouse. It seems, however, that most of her letters from that period are flirtations with Vita Sackville-West or gossips with her sister, Vanessa--interesting, of course, but not what I was looking for.

Not that it's any surprise, really, to watch a writer avoid talking about her writing.

I was looking at some of my recent poems this morning--thinking about the western Pennsylvania manuscript, thinking about the poems I've written concurrently that have nothing to do with that manuscript, thinking about how difficult it is to manage the expectations that readers have about one's writing. It is not interesting to keep writing the same kinds of poems, but so many readers are drawn to the familiarity of a style. It is not interesting to keep writing the same kinds of poems, but the experiments feel strange and unwieldy and dangerous. One reader says one thing, one says another, and in the end no one is any help at all. Nonetheless, the poems exist: sanded, polished, arranged on their rack.


David (n of 49) said...

A few years back Joni Mitchell was giving a concert featuring her new material. The audience started calling out for her to play her old hits. Her reply: "I'm not a jukebox."

Anonymous said...

And the audience booed when Dylan went electic. Things worked out OK for him!

Carlene said...

So, I am in a class with a woman who is obsessed with Woolf, esp. Lighthouse. I will ask her if there are other references out there...she has read (I believe) every single thing Woolf ever wrote...multiple times.

And re: resisting the call to try dangerously uncharted things...go for it. Yes, people have a "style" and it's often comforting for some readers to expect the "usual" but then, for others, it's like sounds like every other one. ugh. Be bold. =)

David (n of 49) said...

Re. Ms. Swift: "Stokin' the star-maker machinery / behind the popular song." - J. Mitchell, "Free Man In Paris" :-)