I like to read a lot of hard stuff that my ‘betters’ say I’m not qualified for.  You understand: you don’t have a PhD? You want to write well?  Don’t even consider it, they say.

You want more education and can’t get a grant, you have to keep working?  You’re in love and can’t spend much time and money on school? Try libraries and adult education, college courses and community colleges as you wander through life. It’s not perfect, but surprisingly effective. One course with a good teacher, someone recommended by a friend or another human, can stick with you for years. A good reading list takes a long time to go through a couple of times, too.

M Davis says: read difficult poetry while you write poetry or as you live. Glory in, enjoy your intelligence. What does it matter what ‘the experts’ say?  Start with Irishman Wm Butler Yeats for teaching you about the sounds of words, creating a world where you can express yourself. He wrote lyrics (short poems), love poems, nature poems, poems about magic and mythology, poems about ever-increasing control, long poems, poems about friendship, his children, being cynical, being wise, being, plays, songs, what he felt like.  Here is part of a poem that helps keep me going when everyone seems to know more and have more than I do.

BE you still, be you still, trembling heart;
Remember the wisdom out of the old days:
Him who trembles before the flame and the flood,
And the winds that blow through the starry ways,
Let the starry winds and the flame and the flood
Cover over and hide, for he has no part
With the lonely, majestical multitude.

Wm. Butler Yeats wrote many beautiful love poems, too.

The ‘old days’ in line 2 above: he means Irish folk lore and magic. He was lucky and had a solid education and family; but he wrote about and consulted ancient Celtic wisdom.  He also helped out lots of other writers and playwrights, like Synge.

Why do the anthologies we’re forced to read have every writer’s silliest, most boring works? And we have to read them in 1 day? I learned about Yeats by reading COLLECTED POEMS in Kathmandu, in an Indian paperback. Every time I think anthologies are better, I walk away shaking my head after an hour with one.  Isn’t it funny how people abroad always assume we’ve had perfect educations?  My math teacher eloped when I was in the 9th grade. So much for Algebra. My English teacher in the 7th grade didn’t know how to use a dictionary.  Until I was a sophomore in college, I couldn’t find a teacher who knew how to pronounce the title of this book: Les Miserables (by Victor Hugo).  I’ll bet you have similar stories.

Yeats also wrote about what we’re all experiencing now: economic pressure. Control from outside that smashes personal life and art.

You’ll find, reading ‘difficult’ things that if you go a little slowly at first, it’s worth it. You can read a sentence or line and understand it as easily as you can understand a porn story or a sound bite of violence.  And you’re smarter afterwards, too.

Don’t be discouraged by references you don’t have a clue to. Use the Net to learn about who the heck Herodotus is, or wait awhile. It’s still a good poem. It’s not important to understand every single reference, either. Your school might have tried to make you think so, but it isn’t. Who was Helen and what was her trouble with fools?  Type that into your search bar. 1 second later the answer is yours.  

Keep on keepin on.  Don’t limit yourself. No matter what the world says and has said to you since you were 7: work hard and learn everything. Leave your phone in your pocket, leave your calculator at home. Figure math out in your head. Make your monthly budget while standing in line.  Take good care of yourself, too. Remember fresh fruit and vegetables as well as what fun the dance floor is with all your pals. 

The sun’s stronger again in a few weeks, and I’m starting to plan my escape. What are you doing? Thinking? Reading?  Roaming? Keep writing.  Love from Thailand, Mary Ann  


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