Feb 7, 2007

A Discourse on Writing

by Faith St. Clair

Why do Writers write? Some say it’s a way to make yourself immortal. Some write to influence others; to make a difference. Anne Lamont says to write as a gift, others say they write to purify/liberate themselves. Does it give us, as Writers, power over our pain? Perhaps it solidifies the knowledge we gain from our experiences. Still, some Writers claim that writing is what they were born to do – so…they write. Whatever compels a Writer to write, one thing remains consistent, Writers feel the need to write like most folks feel the need to breathe. And despite how good or poor or correct or brilliant ones words are, they are placed on paper in an effort to give oxygen to the sometimes stifling world around us.

I’ve written an Ars Poetica (a poem about the art of writing). Here’s my take…

Act I…

My corset suffocates me
My shallow breaths come faster and
The brown paper lunch bag is missing
From the wing I watch the curtain fly
Up with authority announcing royalty
My entrance – like a General yet
My legs stride with a toddler wobble
“I’ll see thee hanged on Sunday first!”

Shakespeare sits front row center
His legs cross as do his arms
His right ruffled cuff hides his heart
The other hand strokes his matted beard
Starting at his jaw and drawing forward
Till he stretches out one last
Wiry whisker between thumb and forefinger nails
His motion constant, Act I, Act II, Act III…
Stroke, grab, begin again

I smell his poetic wax melting
His dusty leather libraries full of pantaloons and semicolons
His purple velvet breast puffs
Of regality and his robe judges my interpretation

He sees the puddle of sweat in my bodice
Juice squeezed, steaming between my breasts
Laces ready to surrender from strain
Formal skirts weight me with clumsiness
I glide the steps but my pearled slippers cannot navigate
I miss the last step
Petticoats sprawl of the floor
I’m trapped beneath the wet laundry on the stage

Act I climaxes but do I?
My line…nowhere
To be found
Time to exit and I forget where
Did I come from? Why?
Am I here? Where am I? Going?

The audience answers
Guffaws avalanche
The old master scourges me
With a drop of his head

Yet I re-enter projecting
The story leaping to be told
Putting the knave in stocks
Writing his pumpkin trunks to death

I’m scared wordless….for two reasons…..

First, I’m scared to death my work will never measure up to the quality which would bestow upon me the proper title of “writer”.

Secondly, I think of great writers like Poe, Plath, Dickinson, Paine, Blake, Shelley, Wilde, Wollstonecraft, Beckett, Byron, Hemingway (to name a few), and just a hair past all their brilliance lies destruction, adultery, mental illness, depression, homosexuality, alcoholism, broken marriages, suicidal tendencies, etc., etc., etc.

I refrain from writing too vigorously; I don’t want to be that brilliant if it means that it is coupled with madness. I think I’d rather put my pen down.

But somehow, even amidst those trepidations, I continue to write, subjecting myself to the judgment and scourges of the worldly critics while at the same time holding at bay the associated neuroses because, as Aristotle reminds us, “excellence is not an act, but a habit” and…I need to breathe.


  1. Brava, my dear friend, Brava! I loved your post...felt it, tasted it, smelled it, heard it, envisioned it. Faith, I am in awe.

    For me, the words solidify that knowledge I am gaining. Writing words makes me stop and think about how I really feel...writing helps me bring my Inner Self to the surface and gives her the courage to speak.

  2. Faith,

    Loved your post--especially your Ars Poetica. I always wanted to be a poet, but, alas, am only a versifier. You, my dear, are a poet. The poem is wry, spry, cunning, and full of marvelously stage-set surprises.

    Well done!


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