On Looking: EssaysAbout a year ago I was discussing where we write with my memoir class. One student, a flight attendant, said that he often wrote on the plane during his break on long distance flights, but that he always read before he wrote to get into the mood.
I haven’t been that systematic about reading before I write, but I remembered his recommendation because I’ve noticed lately that reading Lia Purpura‘s work makes me want to write. I had printed out one of her essays from Orion Magazine and read it on a Sunday morning, and next thing I knew I had spent the day typing furiously into my laptop. I put her essay collection On Looking on my Amazon wish list, and a friend gave it to me for my birthday. Now I read snippets of her lyric essays and I’m off writing.
Reading her play with words and being exposed to her magical powers of observation somehow make me want to do my own creative thing. She’s not a writer I would read to be absorbed in a story, to find out what happened next, or to see how someone dealt with adversity. That kind of reading is, in a way, counterproductive to my own writing because it pulls me into its world rather than prodding my own. Poetry will inspire me to a degree – it offers me a little lens to see the world differently, to nudge, and it gets the mechanics of words going. But poetry also often requires a good deal of concentration that leaves me contemplating rather than producing.
Lia Purpura is a poet. Thankfully, along with her poetry, she also creates lyric essays that invite me along, effortlessly, to immerse myself in her unique view of the world, to see with her “jeweler’s eye” (as Luc Sante puts it so perfectly on the back cover of On Looking) and that, without fail, always inspire me to work to create my own. That is, I believe, what you call a muse.
Is there a writer who inspires you to write?