Rewriting Reading

“In reading we are reliving our temptations to be a poet.” Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space, xxvi.

What do you do with a sentence like this? This sentence sentences us to rethink reading all over again. We take for granted the very task of learning to read and the battle we went through in coming to some degree of facility in this quotidian task. We forget how we battled to make sense of those pesky letters that sometimes played tricks on us. First a “gh” is a “ghost” then we think it “through” until we have had “enough.” Reading is hard work. It is brain breaking work to wrestle some sense from those pictographs that have morphed over the century: sights made sounds made sights all over again. These sights are now sites for contention and confusion.

Bachelard knows something of this battle which is reading, which is writing, which is seeing, which is being attentive to where we are and to what we see. He knows well, as the fine philosopher that he is, that where there is wrestling, there is truth and so he invites us to play Jacob and to refuse to defuse this battle until a blessing bids us “farewell.”

What is the blessing that reading bestows on us? Bachelard seems to suggest that this blessing is behind our hidden aspiration to be a poet. But why a poet? I’m not sure that I’m convinced. I can imagine that many aspire to be a movie star, or a musician, or a great athlete. But a poet? Maybe we need remember what poetry is. The very word poet comes from the Greek word for making. Poets make. They craft confusion where “common sense” stifles vision. They incite inspiration where duty has dulled passion. Poets turn the world upside down. Luther once said that the Holy Spirit is the best poet of all: arresting our self-certainty and cutting our apron strings to pious platitudes. Tongues of fire consume satisfaction with the status quo and demand that all be given voice, especially those who are under-valued, under-represented and under-ground.

When we read, we relive our temptation to be a poet. When we read poetically we serve notice of our “No” to complacency. May your reading feed your writing; may your reading set your pen on fire; may your reading rewrite you.

10 thoughts on “Rewriting Reading

  1. jannatwrites says:

    Some writing does require more brain power to read. And, sometimes I’ll read something somewhere that takes me down the ‘what if’ path…which leads right to a story!

  2. agjorgenson says:

    Agreed! Reading sometimes begets writing that I never imagined. They feed one another in so many ways.

  3. SolsticeSon says:

    Engaging piece–a good read, thanks. Reading certainly inspires prose and some say you must read to write. I find myself writing more than reading, but spurts of involved reading always catalyze innovative thought.

  4. agjorgenson says:

    Thanks! Yes, I too find that when I dry up a good short story, essay or poem motivates and inspires me.

  5. diannegray says:

    I love poetry and I also love song lyrics (after all they are very poetic!) Sometimes I get ideas and inspiration for entire stories just from one line which just goes to show how incredibly powerful they are 😉

  6. agjorgenson says:

    Yes, I have to admit I wasn’t thinking of song lyrics, although they really are the way that most people experience poetry. Good insight!

  7. I’m not even sure exactly what to say, other than you’re whole approach to writing is beyond beautiful. You have really caused me to stop and think about why I write and what else I can do to improve. Thank you and God Bless!

  8. agjorgenson says:

    Many thanks for this kindness! Writing is really a gift, and so too is reading. Bless you as you do both.

  9. shoreacres says:

    Because I read so early, so easily and so voraciously, most of my early reading stories are humorous ones about what happened when I stumbled in beyond my depth – such as the night I stumbled into the middle of my parents’ bridge club to inquire about the meaning of “sterile”. WIth a look, my mom said, “Oh, that means something that’s really clean.” I pondered, and then said, “No, that can’t be right. The book said the man and woman couldn’t have a baby because it was sterile.” While they played bridge, I’d found “Cannery Row”, and was busily expanding my horizons.

    But that’s the point. Poetry and poetics push our boundaries, compel us to see the world around us in new ways, and then reconstruct it. Over the years I’ve come to believe the basic distinction is between living words and dead words – and that a society filled with dead words will produce its own varieties of death.

    Once upon a time, I had a professor who scared the living daylights out of us. He had a sign above his desk that said, “Creato, Ergo Sum”, and he was given to teaching about words and The Word from texts like “Moby Dick” and anything from Faulkner. Once, our assignment was based on “The Scarlet Letter”. We were to choose which letter we should wear, and explain why.

    And every now and then, he’d plant himself and eye level before some hapless student and roar, “Your words are BEAUTIFUL! Your words are ELEGANT! But are they TRUE???”

    I forgot those classes for a while, but when I started blogging, they came back in exquisite detail, and I was grateful again for what he taught us.

  10. agjorgenson says:

    What a great story about your expanded horizons! And what joy it must have been to learn along with someone pushing the envelope so to eclipse cogito by creato. Thanks for your thoughtful and delightful comment.

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