Here at the Residency, we are having a long series of conversations about writing and books, poetry and the music that connects words to story. If words simply hang in the air and are not laced together, they don’t make anything. If a spider crosses and criss-crosses the air and doesn’t make any kind of pattern, it will never catch any insects. To catch its dinner, the spider will need to lace together those web strands into a sort of pattern, and it is both a trap and a beautiful thing. It is not simply a trap for killing insects, a trap for killing, it’s more than that. We’ve all seen a web shining in the sunlight, the water drops hanging on those shining strands which you can see light through. The light is everything we ever wished for as it climbs through the strands, through the water drops into us.
That’s what story should do. All that language participating in a sort of dance on the page, the language, the words themselves have become performative, the words are climbing through air like honeysuckle threading a terrace, the terrace becomes more than a terrace, it’s not a curtain of color.
Besides the conversation about poetry, there are the storied bands of light of conversations among writers at these events that’s a lot of desire, passion and wild space. Writers present themselves to other writers at these events in a way that they think works. One will stay quiet, wait to hear from others, maybe because they’re shy, maybe because they’re playing the deep writer. Some aren’t playing at anything at all, just lurching and crawling from bar to reading and lecture. I like those writers because I’m one of them. I’m not trying for anything myself, just to do a good job with my lecture, readings and workshops and have a good time. I’m not trying to impress anyone so I’m a little confused by those who are trying to impress anyone with the fact that they have read everything C.K. Williams wrote or especially if you have read everything written by David Foster Wallace and/or Thomas Pynchon, because if you have read those authors and perhaps in addition you have read Proust and a Russian novel or two, why then people should just get out of the way when you walk through the hallway or better yet, they could think about kissing the hallway floor where you walked. At conferences sometimes, I meet people who are just like that, bragging to other students about what they’ve read and how many books they read every moment and the others are supposed to think, Yes! I wish I could be you! But they don’t wish that at all. No one ever wishes to be a wanker. The person we wish we were is super cool and doesn’t care what others think of him/her. That laid back, slightly askew look is far more appealing than reading Pynchon. The body falls in love with the body loosely tossed limply across a bar stool. The machine like writer who hands out pieces of him or herself to impress others doesn’t even succeed in impressing themselves. Relax, I always want to say at conferences. Enjoy yourself. Fortunately, most of the writers at the University of Nebraska MFA program are having a pretty good time.