Heaney and Failure of Memory

This morning I am thinking about Heaney and his essay “Feeling into Words”. I first read it in Hochman’s poetry class. This essay lists a bit of Heaney’s aesthetic and some of his obsessions. We are reading it in my poetry class.

In this essay Heaney explicates his poem Digging and explains how the idea of cultural digging for meaning is the same as a personal digging or sifting through memories and connections with his pen is just as noble and powerful as physical labor. This makes me think of the Abuelito who laughed after my second degree when I still couldn’t find full-time employment and my short stories and writings were continually failing to do much. Well much in terms of money or status as Abuelito would see it.

So I think of Heaney this morning as I find myself struggling to stay focused on the Cornbread Baca project. When I find myself stuck with the direction and the sensibility to approach the ideas I have. Just get it down as Cisneros advises. But some mornings you just can’t. You think too hard about what you’re trying to say and how to approch a scene and blah blah blah.

But Heaney speaks of models and word play and triggers that got him going. Also he implies that the notion of representing a culture drivees or motivates him to write or continue to dig. I sit patiently this morning and wait for those triggers. Heaney in this interview with Charlie Rose also admits that writing for him is mostly remembering and finding those original feelings or perceptions.

My first reaction is that I am continually amazed what is available on youtube or on the internet. I remember back in the day you missed a program and that was it. It never turned up again if you missed it. Yes, there were re-runs but interviews or programs such as this seemed only for the prepared. This has changed as I find more and more in terms of educational materials/interviews available online.

My second reaction is to agree that writing–at least for me–is about remembering and reflecting on the old neighborhood and my own high school experiences and my family experiences. But I do believe the idea of creating the conscience of a race like Joyce states in A Portrait of the Artist —another text that Heaney alludes to in his essay–seems ambitious and pretentious but a strong motivator. Especially when I feel no one is telling the stories from Pueblo and Huerfano Counties.

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john paul jaramillo

John Paul Jaramillo’s debut story collection The House of Order was named a 2013 Int’l Latino Book Award Finalist, and his most recent work Little Mocos is now available from Twelve Winters Press. In 2013 Latino Boom: An Anthology of U.S. Latino Literature listed Jaramillo as one of its Top 10 New Latino Authors to Watch and Read. He is currently a professor of composition and literature at Lincoln Land College-Springfield, Illinois.

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