We were sitting waiting in the conference room for our course to start. It was a marketing seminar for writers. Sue sat next to me, and somehow we started a conversation about the language. She writes poetry and obviously the language is her tool and mastery of it is her paramount objective. She writes mainly for children, but after reading her poems, I’m amazed how much her work applies to adults. The most recent poetry collection is titled Not Just for Kids and reaches well beyond the targeted audience of 4th – 8th graders.
One of the poems got my attention.
I’m redefining how I learn
and what I hold as “fact.”
I’m taking cues from “bites,” not news,
then judging how to act.
I’m finding fault with literature,
with letters, books and notes.
I’ve very little patience with
my elders’ thoughtful quotes.
This lack of zeal for Who, or What
for When, Where, Why of How.
Is not about a simple trend
or just what happens now.
It isn’t like a nagging thought
that will not go away.
It’s more than just a sometime thing –
it’s really here to stay!
So, what’s the point of “knowledge” then,
if “access” is the key?
Should research, tests and proven truths
mean anything to me?
Or am I on my own to grow,
to pick up what I can?
Could robots manage just as well?
Is this the end… of man?
Sue J Barry
So the conversation turned towards the beauty of the language. We both thought that a well-written composition can be seen as an art object and can evoke feelings as such. We gave the examples from English classics and I brought the examples of Polish bards, whom I read in my high school times. After re-reading them recently, I was amazed how much beauty I discovered in them now, having lived a few years longer and reading a few more books. Then I told her about ordering my newest book from Amazon. It’s “Yahoo Style guide: Writing for a Digital Audience.” The book is about publishing on the web, getting quickly to the matter, keeping the writing simple and getting to the next point before the short time of reader’s attention span expires. Short, simple and front loaded. The science of the page reading was helped by computerized scans of our eyes, where attention focuses on the left upper corner of the page. Then you go to the next page. Bulleted lists are crucial and often make the essence of the work. You must identify your audience and write for them. The computer does spell check and gives you word options. Also does proofing. Then you can do it again – spelling and grammar check, assess Flesch Reading Ease score and Flesch – Kincaid Grade Level score and then check readability statistics…. The next thing will be to program the computer and the robot does all the writing for you! I suppose you can describe your feelings in 140 characters. Just their quality and the intensity will be limited. You can also design “David” on the computer and have a machine do 3-D printing.
Then I go back to epics of great masters. For me, the measure of any piece of art is the ability to go back over and over, and each time discover something new and enjoy it even more. And when you look at it a few years later, you will always find another beauty. Because your education is a sum of the knowledge and experience, those pieces of puzzle you acquire throughout your entire life. Suddenly, a funny thing happens. After the years, the pieces of the puzzle start to magically fall in place and fit together. Satori! All of a sudden, one tends to see the entire problem much better from way above than from the ground level.
So the ideas of “Writing the book in 30 days” or “How to communicate in 140 characters” have little value to me. Although I do see a tremendous advantage of the word processor over the longhand in working on the book. Again, there is no either-or issue. As always, the art of decision-making is where do we draw the line.
The mentioned poem, Beyond Education, is to be published soon in the collection Circuit Tree. Sue had already published two other ones : Poet Tree and Toadly Twisted.
And her poems rhyme!