Writers Journey: Ancient Wisdom...

The Roman poet Virgil spent a great deal of time thinking about the life of a writer. In fact, his first major work spends many lines just dwelling on it. It is called The Eclogues and young Virgil wrote this daunting piece of work while looking for his patron in the arts. He rose to the eye of Augustus shortly afterward so the work has held some merit in the eyes of history. Questions of the writer’s life or the validity of art in the big picture are themes to be found all over The Eclogues which are set in a pastoral, idealistic setting in order to help overcome place and time and project the reader into a tranquil state for reflection. In Eclogue 3, two poets perform before a laboring farmer in the fields. Their names are Damoetas and Menalcas. They perform before the farmer named Palaemon. This farmer is busy irrigating his fields but he listens with some patience and attention to each poem recited by Damoetas and Menalcas. In the end, Palaemon can only admit that he likes both poems and then he wanders off to finish his tasks for the day because his fields are finally irrigated. Here, David R. Slavitt remarks in his discussion of Virgil, “Which doesn’t have an awful lot to do with art except to suggest that in the real world, it is difficult to get the attention of the public and almost impossible to hold on to it. The real world intrudes as represented by the farmer, who has practical concerns to deal with, is, at best, willing to listen but not much involved, and therefore – let us not kid ourselves – is not particularly knowledgeable either.” This insight dates to about the 1st...

Writers Journey: Writing is Ancient...

Writing is an ancient pursuit; in fact ‘writing’ existed before we wrote at all.  Stories have been a constant companion to human beings since before recorded history.  Before we had reason and science we had stories and when there was something we didn’t understand we strove to acknowledge it somehow through telling a story about it.  Stories are also a way to remember what is important.  It’s important as a writer to set aside all personal ambition for a moment and really stop and consider the history of the art of words.  We take words for granted so much today.  Nearly everyone can speak, and a lot of people can write.  Today it’s easy to push aside the veneration that writing, that story-telling in particular, deserves. Even an examination of language will confirm that language itself is special, even sacred.  Ancient Hebrew did not contain vowels.  It was conjectured that one possible reason for this omission was to preserve the sanctity of what was being written down for those initiated into its secrets.  If vowels are the ‘breath’ of words, then omitting them stole breath from those trying to read without understanding.  And when we look into the history of language itself, we begin to see in these examples just how important language was and still is today.  Consequently, if this fascinated you then I recommend reading David Abram’s book The Spell of the Sensuous: perception and language in a more-than-human world.  It’s an exploration of language throughout history and reveals more fascinating insights into language itself. When I talk with most aspiring young writers today, their main ambition in writing is to become famous first, and published as a byproduct of that fame.  Never mind the fact that fame itself is such a...