I was talking to a young poet this week and I found myself quoting from the editorial in our print edition. I think it might be worth quoting from it again. This is the opening:
"My favourite bit of writerly advice comes from Ernest Hemingway. In Death in the Afternoon, he recommends that you think hard about an event in order to arrive at the most significant details. What you're trying to discover, he says, are the specific sights and sounds that make that event so memorable. I like this partly because surprisingly few writers seem to do it. Here is Hemingway describing what he has "really seen" at a bullfight:
"'When he [the matador] stood up, his face white and dirty and the silk of his breeches opened from waist to knee, it was the dirtiness of the rented breeches, the dirtiness of his slit underwear and the clean, clean unbearably clean whiteness of the thigh bone that I had seen, and it was that which was important.'
"Yes, you think, that must have been incredibly dramatic, and while it's true that there is a certain amount of, shall we say, overeager reiteration in this account it's also worth noticing how Hemingway has found precise, specific details in order to communicate things properly. Pick up a book some time and look at the adjectives. If there's a cup of coffee, is it "steaming"? Is there a "monstrous howling"? (I found these more or less at random.) So much prose seems to be simply a means to an end; a medium that transports you, relatively painlessly, from one climax to another. Good prose, on the other hand, approaches the truth of things; it's one in the eye for so many of the magazines and tabloids and video games that are currently attempting to shape our world. Good prose is moral, in other words."
I stand by this, and it applies to all of our writers, I think. But not just the writers: all those people who are attempting to create something beautiful and true to itself in a world that, often, doesn't give a toss. This week we extend our thanks, once again, to Nick Coleman, to Neil Astley for providing another poem that will soon be published in Bloodaxe's Staying Human and to Pema Chödrön and the Shambhala Press for allowing us to share her words. Also to: Louise Peterkin; Martha Shepherd; Noah Rasheta; Sarah Dixon; Carolann Samuels; Zita Iszo; Chella Courington; Fizza Abbas; Agnes Marton; Marion Oxley; Josephine Balmer; Tom Raymond; Suzanne Lummis; Simon Thomas Braiden; and Brandon Robshaw. It would be a dull old world without them.