Monday, November 14, 2011

Literary Review

Last night, Masterpiece Theatre produced a play, from Christopher Reid's poem,  The Song of Lunch,  by the same name. It is a dialogue between two people, in which a narrator, one of he characters, gives voice to the inner thoughts of the man, a publisher and writer, who meets his ex-beloved for lunch. (Alan Rickman)
            The stream of consciousness narration is pure poetry, and even the exchanges between his ex, (Emma Thompson) in which she points out the man's lack of awareness of anything but the voice in his own head, including herself and the truth she shares with him, even while that is what he is obsessing about. The language is totally beautiful, but he fails to grasp the deeper significance of her coming to meet him, the opening she gives to him in mentioning the monotony of her own life and marriage in its routine, the touch of her hand on his, offered in compassion, his response which is sexual/physical, rather than empathic, which she wants from him. His continuous obsession with his own voice continues, and drowns out the truth of the remaining bond between them.
            She tells him twice of his failure, in the moments they have between them in the restaurant, alluding to their relationship, and his shortcomings as a writer, which sinks in enough to  make him more numb and deeply miserable, and then which he escapes by running to the roof where he falls asleep, long enough to wear off his drunkenness from the wine. When he awakens, and returns to the restaurant, he finds his ex gone, having paid their bill, the crowd has disappeared, and the restaurant owne, whom he remembers as once being charismatic, has grown old and dull in the corner of the restaurant. He only recognizes the man's identity after he has turned to leave.
            (Of course the owner is a metaphor for himself.) The entire monologue (or dialogue if you include his ex's words to him ) is amazing. The reality and insight behind the words and between the lines is brilliant, and something every artist/ writer might strive to accomplish.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Courting Your Muse

Autumn Concert. Mixed Media Collage. By Ruth Zachary©


No one starts out being a great writer. But we all have the potential to become one.

I really believe this is true for nearly everyone, and yet I have so much to learn. I want to try to access the intuitive process of writing , and identify the ways to capture that elusive muse.

I believe the Greek muse, named Euterpe, muse of Music and Lyric poetry, resides in our brains, specifically in the right brain. Calliope, their muse of Epic Poetry, probably resides in the left-brain, as she would govern words and speech, a left-brained function. 

Ideas about the intuitive process in creativity and creative writing have also been around for centuries. Rational process has been identified with exposition writing for a long time as well.

Some others went a step farther, saying there were two separate processes during writing. Peter Elbow, in Writing with Power, (1981) said, “ Writing calls upon two skills that are so different that they usually conflict with each other: creating, and criticizing…. (Writing calls on the ability to create words and ideas out of yourself, but it also calls on the ability to criticize them in order to decide which ones to use.)” Elbow understood there were “two mentalities needed for these two processes, and that they flower most when they get a chance to operate separately.”

Elbow also said writers don’t suddenly arrive fully matured, that each piece of writing needs time after its birth to change and grow and reach it’s potential, and also that you “probably won’t find a pearl if you only pick up oysters once a year. ” (Advocating practice)

I mention this because regular practice also makes access to the intuitive process more available. Elbow’s book also focused mostly on exercises and mechanics of writing. Some of his exercises do seem inclined toward accessing one’s intuitive skills, such as one advocating “Free Writing” in which one writes rapidly.

In all the classes and workshops I have been in since the 1990s, including the class I attended at UNC in 2007, the emphasis has been on writing exercises, or writing about a particular topic, or forms of poetry.  Exercises can be wonderful for broadening a writer’s levels of skills, and familiarity with many kinds of writing. This awareness is just as important as learning to use the right brain in creative writing.

But being able to access that mysterious and miraculous place where a poem seems to write itself, has been a rare experience and seldom am I sure how to get there. I think even when teachers wanted to pass along what they sensed about intuitive writing, they didn’t know how to get it across.

In 1997, a WMU poetry professor, John Rybicki moved to my neighborhood in the country and started a class in his home and I signed up. He offered many exercises that triggered the creative process, and because I had read Rico’s book, Writing the Natural Way, I began to identify situations in which others and I talked about accessing an intuitive mental space.

I still knew no specific means for getting there, other than trying to recreate
the conditions which created that space. I believe this varies for different writers.  In my next post, I will list the situations and conditions and practices that seem most likely to put a writer into that right-brained state for writing creatively.

All images and writing are the Copyright of Ruth Zachary©


Sunday, January 30, 2011


What I have Been Up To...

One thing I have done is finish my book, The Woman Who Named Herself,  my first book of poetry, meant to honor women who have chosen a name other than their birth name, as an affirmative act of naming themselves, in a society where too often they, and I have been defined by others.

It is also about Lesbian women, but others have told me the book is about more than that. To paraphrase, one woman told me I had a way of expressing emotion that opened her eyes about what poetry could be. She said her experience in the world of journalism, academia and law had closed her in a box she had not known was there. I will not use her name as I do not yet have permission.
But I believe her comment opened my eyes too, that many experiences recounted in the book are ones that many women may relate to.

The image above appears on the cover. The book was published by Xlibris. To order, call 888-795-4274, or order on line at or

Other things that have occupied my time have been 1. serving as UU Church Board Secretary, and 2. starting up a new arts group and arts program in my church, named Chalice Arts, to promote arts expression in our church and in our community. If you are interested in following our events and activities, visit our new blog at .

 I am the featured artist in a solo show in the church, Montage and Metaphor. I have around 30 images in the exhibit, interspersed with poems written about subjects related to images in the art pieces. I gave a talk about the connections between montage and writing poetry in January.

I am planning another poetry program for the Greeley Poetry Club in March, about Courting Your Muse, and will say more about accessing the right brained process in writing poetry. No doubt my efforts in researching this talk will result in an overflow in this blog, in the future.

I want to say, in the few months I have been away from this blog site, much has changed in Google's blogging program. The "Design" options are wonderful, and what you write is now what you get, when the post is published. Thank you Google. It is now a pleasure to enter comments and images!  (This is in bold, on purpose!)

© Ruth Zachary.