Friday, May 20, 2011

Read the Old Masters to Steer Clear of Period Style

My greatest insight today from the Queens MFA alumni conference: William Butler Yeats apparently advised a young poet who had sent him some of her poems to read and study lots of dead poets rather than contemporary ones. Reason? You don’t want to pick up too much of the current period style because you don’t have enough perspective on it to realize that it’s a certain way of writing. And you don’t want to sound like everyone else who’s writing in your time. Read and absorb the old masters to freshen up your own style, to see what else is possible.
Thank you, Morri Creech, for sharing this insight during your seminar on Sound Across Genres – you’ve given me another argument for why I make my students read classic memoirs, in addition to contemporary ones. So the question to my readers is: What are some of the memoirs you consider classics?

1 comment:

  1. M.M.Kaye's 3 part memoir is one of my favorite. I'm not sure how well known it is here in the States. I also like Cheaper by the Dozen- Don't Let's go to the Dogs tonight:An African Childhood- although not written long ago - I find it quite well written- however, another friend of mine who was born & raised in Zimbabwe seemed to not care for it at all- she was vehemently opposed to the book (thus making me want to read it)...Mark Twain's memoirs are great....and on and on the list can go...I do tend to like the older memoirs, as I find the newer ones tend to be more 'gossipy' then true memoirs.