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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

William Stafford; thoughts on 'voice'

William Stafford: From his book Crossing Unmarked Snow--Further Views on the Writer's Vocation

What advice could you give somebody who's trying to get some sort of definitive voice, some voice that's constant throughout their work, and can't do it?


One part of me says you're lucky. You can do all kinds of things. So long as you have the impulse to do all those things I say, that's good. That's part of you. And especially maybe that's part of youth. I hope it's part of me too, to be various. Keep on being various. I'm not trying to get myself in a groove. The very spaciousness that you feel may be part of your true voice. So I think the way to do it is not to try, not to choose a voice: one of your voices decides, that's me from now on. But instead to keep on giving your attention where it is solicited most coercively by the impulses you have when you're writing. And that will be you. I mean you will be distinctive because you are different. Everyone is different. So the achievement of a different voice is not an achievement, it's a plight.

Your voice is fastened on you. And you can keep people from knowing what that voice is, but I don't think that you can get a voice that's any good without letting your whole self be that person. So I keep hearing people say you should find a voice and then use it. And they want to be, they want some, Dylan Thomas, or some sonorous voice, whereas maybe their true voice is some kind of whining voice. Well, that's what they ought to do. Then pretty soon they'll become Kafka or someone. And you imagine Kafka says I'm going to be like...and then chooses someone he couldn't possibly be like anyway, though he could fake it. But we wouldn't have Kafka.

...and a few more words from Stafford

"I don't want to write good poems; I want to write inevitable poems-given who I am and what I know, they will come directly from their beginnings."

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