Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Language is a storyteller's right arm. A knight's sword. A dancer's limbs.

Its use is also all but impossible to teach. Mostly, we ape the writers we admire, widening and narrowing our range of imitation until we are left with something that is 'us'. A natural way to learn, but we have to be careful to sample widely. And beautifully.

To learn language, image, rhythm, I read poetry. A poet can strike your soul the way a master swordsman cleaves flesh: you don't see the cut, only feel the blade lay open the bone...

"Behold, the grave of a wicked man"

by Stephen Crane

Behold, the grave of a wicked man,
And near it, a stern spirit.
There came a drooping maid with violets,
But the spirit grasped her arm.
“No flowers for him,” he said.
The maid wept:
“Ah, I loved him.”
But the spirit, grim and frowning:
“No flowers for him.”

Now, this is it —
If the spirit was just,
Why did the maid weep?