Robert D. Richardson – First We Read, Then We Write – Emerson on the Creative Process.
University of Iowa Press $15.00
Published March 2009
‘Writing was the central passion of Emerson’s life. While his thoughts on the craft are well developed in “The Poet,” “The American Scholar,” Nature, “Goethe,” and “Persian Poetry,” less well known are the many pages in his private journals devoted to the relationship between writing and reading. Here, for the first time, is the Concord Sage’s energetic, exuberant, and unconventional advice on the idea of writing, focused and distilled by the preeminent Emerson biographer at work today.’
This book will result in many paper-cuts; the words of Emerson are sinew and vascular, they fight to get up of the page and into the mind.
‘The way to write is to throw your body at the mark when your arrows are spent.’
Emerson may be recalled as a granite bust, but, this study revives and reveals him to be the flesh and bone reading candour and writing valour embodiment that he encompasses.
We are privy to the thoughts, some taken from private essays, of Emerson in relation to reading and writing. This book is not just for the cajoled writer but also the inquisitive and discerning reader.
Did you know that there are four types of readers? Emerson classed them as: the hourglass, the sponge, the jelly-bag, and the Golconda. Emerson held reading with respect saying that, ‘I expect a great man to be a great reader.’ His advice is to be a discerning reader; ‘There is a great secret in knowing what to keep out of the mind as well as what to put in.’
While I am sharing quotes I will share this also: ‘the first rule of writing is not to omit the thing you meant to say.’
OK, just one more quote, ‘all that can be thought can be written.’
I lied; I have a few select quotes to share. ‘Language is fossil poetry,’ says Emerson, and the role of the poet is to re-attach things to nature. Genius is the activity which repairs the decay of things.’
Writers, let’s take Emerson’s advice, tense your string, ready the arrow and release it all at the mark. Readers, stay precious about the material you read.
After consuming this book you will need more, so read why not read The Poet?