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Passions in Poetry

Poetry....is life.

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Ron
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25 posted 03-23-2002 01:58 PM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

Bad fiction is when we write about our life. Good fiction is when we write about our life, but disguise it so well even we can't be sure what the mask reveals and conceals.
Phaedrus
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26 posted 03-23-2002 03:41 PM       View Profile for Phaedrus   Email Phaedrus   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Phaedrus


Ron

Isnít the first non-fiction by definition regardless of quality?
PoetryIsLife
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27 posted 03-23-2002 03:45 PM       View Profile for PoetryIsLife   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for PoetryIsLife

"Bad fiction is when we write about our life."

Ron, this makes no sense. How can you say that when we write about our lives, it is fiction? It is truth, it is fact. If we write about what we WISH our lives to be, then we are writing GOOD fiction?

"Good fiction is when we write about our life, but disguise it so well even we can't be sure what the mask reveals and conceals."

If you do this, you merely are losing focus on the truth, what is real. You are allowing yourself to be 'brainwashed' by the world you create, and thus, are living in a dream world.

~ Titus

"My body is merely the canvas of my soul."
         ~ The Night Owl

Brad
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28 posted 03-23-2002 09:31 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Bad fiction is when we write about our life and don't worry about the writing.

Given a choice between the facts, the real, the truth and good writing, choose good writing everytime.

Phaedrus,

I think that's what Ron means. There's bad non-fiction as well as bad fiction, but we might forgive non-fiction if it were written badly but still got the verifiable facts correct (but, you know, I don't think we should do that). This is not the case with fiction.

  
Ron
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29 posted 03-23-2002 11:01 PM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

My point was that every word we write is autobiographical.

When we try to write directly about our own life, it generally turns out badly. For lots of reasons. Probably the biggest reason, though, is that we expect others to care about the story just because we care about the story. Our feelings are independent of the words we write, but the readers sees only the words. It's very, very difficult to judge the quality of our own work when we also living it.

Even when we avoid writing about our own life, however, we should still write about our own life. What does it feel like to set foot on an alien and potentially hostile planet? No one knows. But we know what it felt like to be a frightened five-year-old walking into elementary school for the first time. We twist, we turn, we hide, we deceive. Sometimes, we even fool ourselves. But when the sun sets at the end of the day, every word we've written is about ourselves.
Brad
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30 posted 03-24-2002 02:05 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

I don't have any problems with saying everything written is in some sense about the writer (or is in some sense creating the writer  -- pretty much the same thing, right? Ron, you would say discover something new about yourself and I would say create something new about yourself.).

I thought, however, that people were trying to use truth as a kind of anchor for good and bad fiction or poetry, and I don't think that's a good way to go. I thought your point was similar. It seemed that you were saying, that you are saying, that another factor (I said writing, you said an amorphous mask -- concealing and revealing in uncontrollable ways.)must enter the process in order for it to be good.

Am I mistaken?

PoetryIsLife
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31 posted 03-25-2002 04:29 PM       View Profile for PoetryIsLife   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for PoetryIsLife

"Even when we avoid writing about our own life, however, we should still write about our own life. What does it feel like to set foot on an alien and potentially hostile planet? No one knows. But we know what it felt like to be a frightened five-year-old walking into elementary school for the first time. We twist, we turn, we hide, we deceive. Sometimes, we even fool ourselves. But when the sun sets at the end of the day, every word we've written is about ourselves."

I disagree... what if I write a poem about someone else's experience? Nothing in it has to do with me, I merely write for the other person. Then, thus it is not about me. It is about them, or about nothing, just written for them about an experience. If I desire to write about something detached from myself, it is not about me, It is about that something.

~ Titus

"My body is merely the canvas of my soul."
         ~ The Night Owl

Brad
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32 posted 03-25-2002 05:50 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Uh, perception and significance.

You wrote what you perceived to be (you saw it a certain way) and you thought it was significant (you saw it as opposed to something else).

It's still about you. Ron's point is pretty much impenetrable unless you want to redefine his terms.

Ron
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33 posted 03-25-2002 06:27 PM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

Geesh, Brad, you raised enough points in two paragraphs to fill a small book.  

Maybe later we can explore/discover/create the differences (or perhaps lack of difference?) between exploring, discovering, and creating. And I'll only briefly say that, yes, I think good writing is dependent on "truth," but probably only in the sense that it has to be internally and logically consistent. In other words, it has to "ring true."

The mask to which I referred, Brad, probably has less to do with the techniques of writing than with the psychology of writing. If you try to portray "real" events in your own life, I think the writing will often suffer for all the reasons I mentioned earlier, and a thousand other reasons I didn't mention. So, as writers, we instead lay a mask over those events and portray them as fiction. Some will lay a very thin mask over the events (risking the dangers of no mask), and others will lay a mask so thick and opaque even they have trouble discerning where reality and illusion diverge. Each writer has to paint their own mask, and it often seems to me that critics spend an inordinate amount of time trying to see through the writer's mask, to discern theme and message through personal history. Sometimes, I wish the critics would realize how hard it is for the cart to pull the horse. Sometimes, I wish the critics would realize the writing explains the history much better than the history can ever explain the writing. Most times, though, I just don't care enough about the critics to wish much of any thing.  

In one sense, this is an over-simplification, because I actually believe there are many different masks. Some may be conscious, but most aren't. The best writing, I think, is composed of many layers, each with its own mask, each with its own hidden meanings. This is where we leave the realm of craftsmanship and technique, entering the world of psychology.

A bit over ten years ago, while taking YACWC (yet another Creative Writing course) at UC Irvine, I decided I wanted my stories to be "deeper." I wrote two stories during that semester (one, Soothsayer, is posted in the Prose Forum, I think) where I purposely tried to weave a tapestry of hidden layers. Those were the last two stories I ever wrote that way, because I felt, and still feel, the story suffered badly because of the artificial manipulation. It was, nonetheless, a useful experiment, I think, because since then I've paid a great deal more attention to how the best writers seem to do it. And the answer, I feel, is a combination of courage and critical detachment.

The courage comes into play when those writers throw themselves into a first draft with no fear of revealing "too much." The words they pen generate (explore/create) feelings, and they use those feelings and insights to fuel the words that follow. They build upon what they've already built, sometimes layer upon layer, mask upon mask.

The detachment surfaces during subsequent drafts, when they look at the feelings again and decide if that layer helps or hinders the real story. At this point, I think they need to be able to step away from the feelings. Some layers, good as they might be, simply don't belong with other layers.

I'm still trying to decide which is harder to develop. The courage to reveal everything? Or the detachment necessary to evaluate what you first had to courage to say?  

(p.s. Titus, you can never write about another person's experiences. The best you can do is write about YOUR interpretation of those experiences. And you will inevitably reveal a lot more about yourself than about the other person.)
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