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    playwrites

      Those who can,

      ...DO...
      *Creative Writing Article*

      David Johansson..page3

      POETRY


      Many academics argue that T.S. Eliot is the father of modern poetry, and critically speaking, this is probably true, but the greatest advice to modern poets came not from Eliot but from William Carlos Williams, who, along with his goofy red wheelbarrow and his rain and his chickens, coined the credo of the imagist movement: "No ideas but in things." Again, like all advice on how to create art, the comment is indirect, oblique, aimed at the part of us that is psycho-logical rather than logical. Like Zen, it indicates without pointing, directing us not to the abstract world of language, but to the concrete world of objects. To illustrate, the next time a learned academic is thirsty, write the word "water" on a piece of paper and hand it to him. Chances are he'll try to drink it. In other words, don't mistake the mental conception for the material reality. B.S. instead. That is, Be Specific. Don't write a line like, "and then my soul billowed ever outward into the universe," because the reader doesn't know how your soul looks, tastes, sounds or smells, and they sure don't know how it acts when it's "billowing." Instead find the thing that represents the soul: the bumper of a Ford car, broken teeth, toenails . . whatever. The unconscious is a symbol factory, but these symbols whisper rather than clang -- which is why so many writers compose as soon as they wake up, then revise later in the day when their more intellectual faculties have rubbed the sleep from their eyes. In this instance Eliot does have his place, for in his notion of "the objective correlative" (which sounds a lot more complicated than it is) he asks the poet to discover the object which correlates to the abstraction: the Rolls Royce hood ornament symbolizing wealth, the black raven symbolizing death . . . and so on. And from a writer's perspective, if popular culture is good for anything, it's the rapidity with which it produces and discards icons, ready-made objective correlatives, cranked off a line as fast as Big Macs. The trick is to find your special sauce, your voice, the world of the concrete in which you're comfortable -- whether it's archery, sailing, scrimshaw or needlepoint. Doesn't matter. Like Faulkner, you may discover all your universe in a place the size of a postage stamp. All that remains is to employ your tongue.

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