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Essays, Memoirs, and True Stories

That Terrible Thoreau

As the class winds down, I go over the answers to the quiz: Thoreau moved into his ten-by-fifteen-foot cabin on July 4, Independence Day, 1845. He chose that day to make the point that political independence is just the beginning. We’re not completely free until we also throw off our inner masters: greed, laziness, ignorance.

Essays, Memoirs, and True Stories

The Typewriter In The Basement

Once again a student asks me why I became a writer and this time I say: Because of the staggered, staccato music of my dad’s old typewriter in the basement. Because when he really got going, you could listen to it like a song. Because after a while you could tell if he was writing a book review or a letter just from the shift and drift and thrum of the thing. Because it sounded cheerful and businesslike and efficient and workmanlike and true.

The Dog-Eared Page

Shakespeare’s Sister

excerpted from
A Room Of One’s Own

Now my belief is that this poet who never wrote a word and was buried at the crossroads still lives. She lives in you and in me, and in many other women who are not here tonight, for they are washing up the dishes and putting the children to bed. But she lives; for great poets do not die; they are continuing presences; they need only the opportunity to walk among us in the flesh. This opportunity, as I think, it is now coming within your power to give her.

Essays, Memoirs, and True Stories

Small Time

From outside, Jumbo’s was nothing more than a black-painted steel door in a brick wall, above which was a sign with a grinning yellow clown. When a customer came or went, the door would open for a moment, and I could glimpse the rich blackness of its interior and smell stale beer and cigarette smoke. Especially in the evenings, the illuminated yellow clown sign called out to me.

The Sun Interview

The Molotov Cocktail Of The Imagination

David Mason On The Power Of Poetry

But getting back to your question about poetry and prose: Poetry, by moving from line to line, can create shades of meaning that prose can’t. So, whatever else it’s worth, poetry is valuable because it gives us a different experience of language. It gives us an experience that we cannot have by other means. And without that, we live a more impoverished life. I’ve been as moved by novels as I have been by poems, but I’ve been moved by poems in a different way. I’ve been brought to laughter and tears by a different route.