Keys to good writing?

After the late, acclaimed poet W.D. Snodgrass read in a literary series I ran in the late-1980s, he and I went out for dinner, and we talked about a lot of things that night.

snodgrassbeardHow many Pulitzer Prize-winning poets does one small swath of rural New York State need (Hayden Carruth lived nearby and the two shopped in the same little stores)?

At what points do the performance of music and the performance of poetry meet? And diverge?

Why weren’t he and his brother on better terms?

How do you cook fish in a microwave?

He also talked about typewriters, or more accurately the unrealized potential of the newish word processors of the day to improve writing. Since word processors made editing/rewriting something like painless—no need to retype a whole page to insert a better word, say—there should be a marked improvement in the clarity and precision of writing. But was there?

He didn’t think so. Neither did he think microwave ovens had done much for cooking. Except for cooking fish, he said.

These days, of course, typewriters are being rediscovered by the hip (probably more for nostalgia’s sake than out of a quest for the perfect word). And I can’t help but remember that conversation with Snodgrass when I happen across an article like this one.

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