Monday, July 09, 2007

My Vacation at an End, My Sentiments Precisely

Less Being More

It started when he was a young man
and went to Italy. He climbed mountains,
wanting to be a poet, but was troubled
by what Dorothy Wordsworth wrote in
her journal about William having worn
himself out searching all day to find
a simile for nightingale. It seemed
a long way from the tug of passion.
He ended up staying in pensioni
where the old women would take up
the children in the middle of the night
to rent the room, carrying them warm
and clinging to the mothers, the babies
making a mewing sound. He began hunting
for the second rate. The insignificant
ruins, the negligible museums, the back-
country villages with only one pizzeria
and two small bars. The unimproved.
--from Refusing Heaven, a collection of poems by Pittsburgh native Jack Gilbert

5 Comments:

At 2:55 PM, Blogger Scott said...

Wordsworth searched all day for a simile for nightingale. I search all day for yet another way to say, "Hey, The Cleveland Foundation is really great. Please send us money!" In the end, I think William had the more meaningful pursuit...

(That's a nice piece of writing, by the way, John. It probably describes the lives of half of the English lit majors I know. Thanks for posting it.)

 
At 3:10 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Scott, I agree that it's really lovely and evocative for probably lots of people, at least of a certain sort. I happened upon it in a bookstore in Portsmouth, New Hampshire last week, a store I'd never been to, and instantly knew it should be shared here.

But the dynamic of which you speak--finding new and interesting ways to say much the same thing--is one I think nearly everyone who writes for a living can identify with. It also explains much of the intent behind this forum--a place where we can all come to trade ideas, perhaps gain a little inspiration, and to commiserate over our shared challenges.

As a Jesuit-educated person steeped in the liberal arts, I think you know the real answer to your conundrum: write as much as possible about the endlessly interesting and unique people who are both touched by the foundation's generosity and those who provide it. As I always reminded my colleagues at John Carroll when I edited the university magazine, if we highlight the products (alums) and providers (faculty and staff) of the institution, telling compelling human stories about their work, the greatness of the place itself will shine through. No one wants to hear someone tell about greatness. They want to have someone show it to them, with interesting, evocative storytelling.

Good luck in your show & tell, Scott, and as always, thanks for reading and commenting.

 
At 3:36 PM, Blogger Scott said...

Well said, John. Our best stories also come from two main sources: Grantees and donors. There's no shortage of great tales to tell on either side. The challenge, as always, is to tell them in a compelling way that coveys the details without losing the "wow" factor.

 
At 4:13 PM, Anonymous MilesB said...

I like Jack Gilbert's poems a lot. On a first reading you want to say "That's it?" But then there's usually something about it, something not precicely articulated, that makes you come back to the poem and reread it. And that's when you start to "get it."

 
At 4:29 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Miles, I know exactly what you mean, because I had that very same reaction when, for the first time ever, I read his poetry last week. It just really grows on you, though slowly. Kind of like those simple and unimproved Italian villages of which he writes. And while I never expect to tackle poetry per se in my writing, I'm always interested in reading good poetry for clues on concision and vivid imagery. I admit the lifelong writing student in me can sometimes get in the way of just plain enjoyment, but they mostly go hand in hand. At least for me.

 

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