Finding my way with words

Finding my way with words…

What a strange thing, this struggle finding something to write. Life is never empty and always full of at least enough interest to fill a paragraph or two. It continually amazes me when someone can render readable jewels from the dungish fodder life tosses their way. I suppose such narrative prowess belongs to the realm of poets, novelists, troubadours and storytellers. I’ve been a willingly geeked-out participant in their literary entourage my entire life. Perhaps only as admiring onlooker, but from time to time venturing into their territory – cautiously, with reticence, but always possessing an eagerness to be acknowledged in their illustrious company.

Many journeys have I keenly undertaken as some writer, deft of phrase and swift of word, has led me into places both simple and strange, dark and macabre, airy and transforming. My own meager, quaint words are a stuttering effort toward unlocking similar doors for others to enter.

As I’ve stated elsewhere, I’ve had a love affair with language since I can remember anything at all. Words, like the clink of ice and water in a frosty glass, assuage my gnawing thirst for the beauty, passion, or meditative pause they offer. As chilled water rushes down a parched gullet cleansing and renewing along the way, words nimbly used bring similar rejuvenation to my spiritual throat.

I’ve had friends along the way who have helped nurture this love for language. The great poets have helped seal the deal in my pursuit of words and their meanings. John Donne with his inimitable “three person’d God” or the unforgettable Wordsworth, whose Romantic era pontifications opened to us the rooted origins of wisdom brought us
The Child is father of the Man;
And I could wish my days to be bound each to each by natural piety.
Emily Dickson holds second place to no preacher with such prophetic words as these:
Behind Me — dips Eternity —
Before Me — Immortality —
Myself — the Term between –
Gerard Manley Hopkins takes first place for me. It’s hard to top such lyrically perfect sentences as “He fathers forth whose beauty is past change” or “The world is charged with the grandeur of God.” Closest to many hearts might be “the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…”

I’m well aware that I’m not alone in this love. Many fellow writers and bloggers share the giddy, geeky excitement of a well-turned phrase, well-placed modifier, well-spoken sentence and well-written story. I am always challenged and delighted by the work of these friends on this journey of words (prepare for shameless plugs). Barbara Lane, whose approachable, touching and personal tales always delight, Lesley-Anne Evans, a fellow poet and Canadian, Christianne Squires, who writes deeply on the spiritual life, and Seymour Jacklin, poet and master storyteller introduced to me by Barbara, to name but a few. All of these and more have provided a backdrop full of letters, words and sentences that have moved me beyond all reckoning.

Marilyn Chandler McEntyre proffers intentional steps in reclaiming and reinvigorating language from its present morass in her book Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies. She asks all the right questions, premier among them being, why worry about words? Her answers have had me glued to this book as she butters my lexical toast with rich, creamy goodness (should I have chosen a different metaphor here?).

The reclarification and reinvigoration of language is necessary in order for it to once again communicate, heal, unite, instruct, and draw us into mystery. She even goes so far as to suggest that our protection of language is a moral issue in that it has become so entangled in corporate and war-speak as to be largely impotent in regular conversation. Language has been effectively retrofitted to serve the causes of dominance and conquest. Good conversation is like wool on the spinning wheel, creating something of warmth and substance, drawing us to comfort and community.

I will save the rest of my thoughts on Ms. McEntyre’s wonderful book for another time. Suffice it to say, words are my friends, or at least acquaintances with whom I hope to be on the waiting list to be invited into that great feast of letters, subtleties, and the whirling dervish of dancing metaphor – a veritable stew of yummy lingual goodness.

If I can get in the door, I’m hoping to get an autograph.

3 thoughts on “Finding my way with words

  1. Thank you so much for the “shameless plug”. I enjoyed reading this post, too. It filled me with sehnsucht. I find words completely spellbinding. To make meaning with black marks on white pages is nothing short of sorcery, but that longing to do more is always between the lines; a sense that words are never enough.

    Thanks for sharing some of your long dead companions in literature. Donne opened up new horizons and guided me, too, for a while. John Clare is a another poet who pointed the way. Currently, I am most conscious of my debt to George MacDonald and to Coleman Barks’ translations of Rumi. If you ever run out of ideas for blog posts, it would be nice to hear more about the part that writers like Hopkins and Wordsworth have played in your life and growth 😉

    Following your thoughts with interest ….


  2. Thanks much, Seymour. Barb and I joke about being book nerd/word geeks. This self-imposed (and often given) title is worn with considerable pride and some consternation. Said consternation for me lies in an internal ache to find my way more nimbly with my own words inspired from pens more capable than my own. Barb has directed me to your amazing narrative podcasts. Keep up the good work!


  3. Thanks very much for the mention, Rob. It’s a comfort to me to be among friends like you who test their ability to put words to experience. Thank you for encouraging me to do so. It means a lot. Write on, my friend, write on.


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