George Moses Horton wrote poems, and for a very long time he attempted to sell these poems to purchase his freedom from slavery.
In the winter of 1959, Richard Wilbur was told that a word in a poem he’d submitted to The New Yorker had to be changed. It possessed the “wrong connotation” for the magazine, the interim poetry editor wrote, relaying the wishes of editors higher up on the masthead, including, presumably, William Shawn himself.
There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.
Fast advice to new writers who bemoan the intensity of the discipline sometimes includes throwing around that Hemingway quote about the typewriter and the bleeding. It’s pithy and ironic and makes the more seasoned writer quoting it sound like they know something Hemingway did. It also inspires hilarious imagery: to each writer, his or her own brand of macabre. I keep it simple: me swathed in Civil War-era head bandages barely able to crawl from a drippy crimson keyboard to the coffee pot for yet another cup of Whatever It Takes so I can get that paragraph right.
Recently I was talking to my freshmen about the value of silence. I am embarrassed to admit how long it took before I recognized the inherent absurdity of the situation. I was like a member of the audience in Lisel Mueller’s “Brendel Playing Schubert”:
We bring our hands together
in applause, that absurd noise,
when we want to be silent. We might as well
be banging pots and pans,
it is that jarring, a violation
of the music we’ve listened to
without moving, almost holding our breath.
The pianist in his blindingly
white summer jacket bows
and disappears and returns
and bows again. We keep up
the clatter, so cacophonous
that it should signal revenge
instead of the gratitude we feel
for the two hours we’ve spent
out of our bodies and away
from our guardian selves
in the nowhere where the enchanted live.
It’s been said that Cheez Whiz is one molecule away from being plastic, and I actually don’t like it at all, but the song is catchy right?
Cheez Whiz has nothing to do with the Inklings because I am certain none of them would have deigned to touch it with a ten-foot pole. “Not authentic enough,” perhaps Tolkien might say. Or he might have been suspicious that it was made with a machine. (George Sayer relates, “[J.R.R. Tolkien] said whimsically that he ought to cast out any devil that might be in [a recorder] by recording … the Lord’s Prayer.” Tolkien hardly even used a typewriter and Lewis wrote everything by hand.) However, while Cheez Whiz might add personality, the Inklings most assuredly had personality. And happy ones at that! And it’s something that might be overlooked when reading their works. This is notable because it’s relevant to recognize that these literary heroes were also people.