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Whenever I’ve been given reason to question myself about my own thoughts on writing, to attempt in some way to shape a coherent statement of what might qualify as a writing philosophy, I have always been exceedingly reluctant to do so. I’m not at all entirely sure why this is so, but I think it may have something to do with my general uneasiness in talking much about the process of writing itself. I think this is the result of the fact that I really do not understand, with any amount of clarity at all, just what happens and why it happens when I am in the feverish urgency of writing something new. All I know is that something drives me to write and I write. It’s really as simple as that. What it is that triggers to urge on one day may not be the same on another.

I know only that writing happens for me and it may happen in a certain way, under certain conditions and usually at certain times – usually in the mornings for me. I can not say anything about how writing happens for others, though in talking with countless of my writing colleagues I have come to understand that writing happens differently for different writers. Writing is distinctive and individualistic, not just in the finished work, but in how that writing comes into being. Just as we are differentiated from one another as human beings by our DNA patterns, we are quite likely differentiated as writers by the many little complexities and intricacies of the ways writing happens for us.

I think it was Alden Nowlan who was asked at one time by an interviewer some question like “Why do you write?” It was a question that shook Nowlan completely, as if the notion had just never occurred to him at all and the question was one that caught him entirely off-guard. His response was something to the effect, “What else would I do?” And to some extent this is certainly part of what I believe about writing and those who write. We write because we have to write and because it’s something we can do, something we can(though not always) derive pleasure from doing, and because if we don’t write we often become unhappy and probably unhealthy as well.

Ever since I began writing seriously I believe I quickly realized that whatever I was going to learn about writing was going to be through a process of self-discovery, in other words through the act of writing and rewriting itself and especially in the light of all I had read and admired in other writers. I was therefore happy to read Ted Kooser’s words in his volume, The Poetry Home Repair Manual, where he articulated what I have always felt true about my own writing, if not about all writing generally. Hughes opens his book with these words: “Most of a poet’s education is self-education, and most what you’ll learn you’ll teach yourself through reading and writing poems.” Amen to that, I say. Writers are drawn to writing usually because of what they’ve read and the more one reads the more likely will follow the desire to write for one’s own purposes.

My love of poetry was fueled when I was a boy growing up on a farm and going to a one-roomed country schoolhouse named after a Norwegian poet and playwright, Henrik Wergeland. Of course, I knew nothing at all about him at the time. All I knew was that I discovered at about age eleven or twelve that poems had the power to stir the imagination and the emotions, to appeal to the deepest and innermost part of me through its sounds and rhythms, and that poems often could tell some cracking good stories in the bargain. I was irrevocably hooked on poetry at an early age, though I didn’t know it at the time and wouldn’t rediscover it for many years.

So for me, as a poet, the very qualities that drew me to poetry in the first place are the qualities that still nourish my desire to write – language that has the power to stir the imagination, to engage the emotions of the reader, to resonate with the reader’s innermost being, to stir the blood with the pulse of sound clashes and rhythmic movement. And I’ve never lost the desire to use my poems as a vehicle for narrative, for capturing the little scenes and stories that constitute human hearts in interaction. In some respects, I am a twenty-first century poet throwback to the ancient storytellers and minstrels, to Chaucer and all those who followed in his footsteps.


Glen Sorestad's works copyright © to the author.


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