william stafford | what’s in my journal

3 12 2007


Poetry Dispatch No.159 | March 15, 2007

I’m always dismayed when beginning writers decide to take a class on “Journaling.” (A term I hate almost as much as “blogging.”) I’m even more dismayed, when accomplished writers in a workshop situation spend more than a half hour on the matter— even worse, attempt to teach a complete course on the journal or notebook.

To me, “How to Write a Journal” is akin to “How to Walk.”

“Born writers” (and artists) instinctively move toward recording impressions and ideas they sense will be of future importance in their work. They are either forever looking for scraps of paper and a pencil/pen to ‘take note’ or religiously carry with them (in pockets, purses, portfolios, glove compartments, etc.) the tools of their trade to mark the moment in a meaningful way.

No one should have to be taught how to do this or told what to record.

The real writer just knows. Norbert Blei


What’s in My Journal by William Stafford

Odd things, like a button drawer. Mean
Things, fishhooks, barbs in your hand.
But marbles too. A genius for being agreeable.
Junkyard crucifixes, voluptuous
discards. Space for knickknacks, and for
Alaska. Evidence to hang me, or to beatify.
Clues that lead nowhere, that never connected
anyway. Deliberate obfuscation, the kind
that takes genius. Chasms in character.
Loud omissions. Mornings that yawn above
a new grave. Pages you know exist
but you can’t find them. Someone’s terribly
inevitable life story, maybe mine.

from Crossing Unmarked Snow, University of Michigan Press