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The Muses Among Us

Some words from Kim Stafford’s lovely book

“In my experience, all pleasure in writing begins with a sense of abundance–rich knowledge and boundless curiosity.”

“…for the writer what I call “tricks of beginning,” those initially natural but incrementally more complex and sustaining experiments with language that simultaneously honor the voices around you and the voice within you.”


“… My life of writing is rooted in the fragment…”
“There is a story in my family that my grandmother’s physician, during her pregnancy, prescribed an hour of beauty a day. There is no report of dietary restrictions, exercises. No, she was simply to take her music, or her sunset, or the unworked colors of the quilt spread by the lamp before her. While others did chores, she sat on the porch and watched the slow inevitability of the twilight, heard the crickets chanting the beginning of the world night by night. She was to take the roll of pasture by evening’s mist, the looming shape of barn and of elm, the warm September moon hung low over the corn rows. She was to take these things to nourish her child, my mother, within her. I feast on this story. It teaches me the fundamental practicality of close witness of the world, which is the beginning of art.”


On keeping a notebook:

“…instead of staring at a blank page to gather my thoughts, I leaf through the little notebooks to be reminded of many rich beginnings. The question then is not ‘What shall I write?’ but rather ‘Which, of the many beauties in my notebook, do I wish to carry forward?’

My own writing routine surges in a stream of notebooks, letters, and drafts of stories, songs, and essays, all in simultaneous development. A certain amount of chaos flavors the whole rush.

Gifts of rich lore surround us all. While others seem to observe these offerings on occasion and by chance, noticing and then letting them go, I make the hearing and recording of them my mission as a writer, and a key invitation to writing students. Dreams get away if we don’t tell them, or write them down. Thoughts do the same. The writer’s greatest chance may be devotion to the passing fragment. It is small, but it is pure, and it may hold a compact infinity. You heard it for a reason.”


On writing daily:

“Writers know this when they are writing daily. With the first stroke, the hand may swim, the pen glide. The cold glass of the window brightens; the rug has a biography. Sweet tension of silent meeting throbs in the room. Unsaid words grow powerful, wish to speak out. Ideas gather their bones and rise up. A face becomes a life, a place a story. Everything speaks, or is powered by silence. Everything dreams aloud. The pen grows numb with haste, yet calm with plenty.”