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Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Light and language

Candlemas Eve: no doubt this year we are all looking for more candles in the dark. For me, more light goes with clearer language and less jargon and less political correctness (a kind of jargon of thinking  and language together that obscures sight.)

I have been rereading colonial materials that I haven't read since graduate school, and marveling again how literate and bright the godly (as they sometimes called themselves) were. The level of literacy among Puritans was astonishing, and since the great migration of 40,000 souls to the Massachusetts Bay Colony (and more elsewhere) tended to leave out the very poor and the very rich, they possessed a greater harmony and order and agreement than one might have expected of so large a gathering in and spreading out through a wilderness. Like us, they held some convictions that have lasted but also some that were mistaken and put a kind of darkness in their eyes and brought many to grief. And this led to their own decline in power and to change. It's a lesson.

I'm still considering what I want to accomplish in words this year. I want to finish the novel that I'm working on, despite lots of travels away from family that will break up my time. And I will write "13 Way of Looking at Form," which I have promised for the Buechner workshops. I have some poetry manuscripts that will be looking for home, and I ought to finish up or tidy up some prose manuscripts that have been lying about, waiting for me. I have taken the path less traveled in recent years, weary of a literary world ruled by marketing, and in some ways that has been good for me and in some ways bad for the visibility of my books. I need to bend my mind to what I can do there. And I must eventually get to the matter of right reversions for prior books and reprints; I hold rights to a number of books and have been asked about reprinting them. But I want to do this myself, so that I can do exactly what I like with them. So far, I have not found the time, and I know that a mother of three young adults may frequently not have time. But I'm hoping to do something about the reprints before the next winter begins.

And there I am. Still wishing for more time and more light....


  1. Marly, I have been reading Paul Johnson's History of American People, and he corroborates your point about early colonists' literacy, but he adds that literacy was driven by an essential book and the need to read it: the Bible. Indeed, without early American commitment to the Bible, God knows what would have happened to the American experiment. I wish the vocal rabble in 2016 would embrace the examples from the past. Best wishes, Marly, from a latter day pilgrim on the Gulf coast.

    1. They also produced a huge body of work in the form of sermons, diaries (everybody--well, usually men--had to keep track of spiritual ups and downs), spiritual autobiographies, Indian captivity narratives, poetry (of a great variety of lengths and forms, far more than in our day), etc. Anne Dudley Bradstreet and Edward Taylor are both fascinating poets.

  2. I too am trying to figure out what it is I intend to accomplish with words this year--and am dismayed that it's already February! I've decided that if I can get meet three or four of my major goals in 2017 despite the world's nonstop attempts to bombard me with political ephemera, I'll be pleased with myself.

    1. Heh, yes! Agree.

      I was disappointed that I got alternate rather than a fellowship at the American Antiquarian Society, but they just gave me nine days for research there, yay! So that's going to help me with my novel...


Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.