|Sailing this past Saturday|
(this has nothing to do with this post!)
I have been blessed to attend two workshops over the past five days that have provided me much to ponder when it comes to the written word (writing or reading). The first was this weekend. A church in Savannah has an endowed lecture series and this year they brought in Anna Carter Florence, a professor at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Alabama. Her topic was reading scripture. Unfortunately, I was only about to be at one of her three events and for this particular one she started off handing out a copy of Genesis 3. She had us focus on the first six verses and divided up the room and had us count the number of nouns, verbs and adjectives. I don’t remember the exact numbers, but there were 20-some verbs and 20-some nouns and only two adjectives in this passage. Florence suggested this ratio (10-10-1) is typical for the Old Testament. Although I often get tired of writers who over-use adjectives, I sometimes find myself guilty. But in the case of scripture, her point was that because there are so few of them, we should pay special attention. The adjectives in this passage provide hints into the serpent manner of being (he’s crafty, so we better watch out) and the pleasing manner of the forbidden fruit. She also had an interesting insight into nouns and verbs in the Old Testament. The nouns, because they are so foreign or other-worldly to our lives, tend to create distance with the reader, but the verbs have the power to bring us into the story. I have often heard the mantra to use strong verbs in writing, and the way she suggest they are used in scripture provides a bit of a twist on this logic.
Then, last night, I attended the Savannah’s Writer’s Group meeting in which a local professor, Tony Morris, at Armstrong State spoke. Not only is he a professor, he also is the editor of the Southern Poetry Review and the facilitator of the Ossabaw Island Writer’s Retreat. He began reading a poem from his upcoming book, “Pulling at a Thread,” to be published by Main Street Rag in May. The poem, “Radar Love,” (with proper homage to Golden Earring) describes a road trip early in his life while it to the lyrics of what he refers to as the best driving song ever, while looking forward into his journey through life (even to the birth of a son years in the future). I am going to have to buy the book just to have the ability to read that poem!
Morris then went on to present an essay that drew heavily upon his son’s development in the world. A child’s early questions, “what’s this?” “what’s that?” and I want it!” are all aspects of desire that the writer must use to draw in the reader into the story. It is through encountering the world that his son learns not only about the world, but about himself. Knowing others (and other things) allows us to know ourselves. He concluded his presentation telling us that “our job as writers should be to pull our readers into our dreams and keep them there so that our dreams may become theirs.” It was a good evening and I wish I had a manual transmission vehicle as I drove home with “Radar Love” playing in my head. It was almost as if I was back in high school!
By the way, until I looked it up, I always thought this song was "Rate Our Love" not "Radar Love," which seems to create some conflict with it being a good driving song because radar (in the hands of police) is to be feared and not loved when driving...
I’ve been drivin’ all night, my hand’s wet on the wheel. There’s a voice in my head that drives my heel. It’s my baby callin’, says I need you here. And it’s a half past four and I’m shifting gears.