I’ve been thinking lately about what it is that makes words adhere to each other, and then adhere in one’s mind. Isn’t that, after all, what writers do? First they find the words that go together, seem ‘right’ for the purposes of the poem, story, or essay, and then they send them out into the world, hoping that the freshly conjoined words will find a place in the reader’s mind or, more accurately, the reader’s psyche.
In that ‘place,’ that environment in the psyche, those words can subtly, perhaps even without the reader’s conscious knowledge, change existing patterns. Make that reader move into a new place from an old groove. Compel the reader to consider the possibility that he/she may be in a place that is static, stale, smugly self-satisfied, or even wrong.
Which is why I like to acknowledge writing that has pushed me out of my comfortable groove. Much as I might resist it, I don’t want to be comfortable. I want to be challenged. I want to be dazzled. I want to be cracked open and glued back together in a new way. Every day.
These are the first lines of a poem by Holly Prado, a Los Angeles poet, from her book Esperanza: Poems for Orpheus:
“Why I Write”
the dog whose teeth
catch dinner, and
it’s raw, the blood
just starting to give off
its nourishment. . . .
Every time I read those words I am stunned. In just eighteen words she has captured the writer’s responsibility to go deep, to bite into the idea as would a hungry dog into raw meat, to draw blood rather than politely scratch the surface. This is how we appease the ferocious hunger in all of us for what is real and what is nourishing.
The response to good writing is visceral. It lodges in the gut, not in the intellect. We may not even know the extent of our hunger, but when we bite into something nourishing, it’s intensely satisfying.