On Spouting Nonsense
A Writer’s Book of Days (09/01) – “Even the lightning spoke well of them” (after W.S. Merwin)
I’ve reread the writing prompt six times now, and each time I’m more baffled than the one before. I finally looked up the poem, “The Broken,” and I can’t decide if it’s about spiders or about clouds. Perhaps it’s about both.
Reading intensely into others’ writing was never my forte. Metaphors and deeper meanings often go straight over my head, a weakness that impacted my overall performance in the critical reading class I was required to take in college. My professor was a poet and novelist, and my papers were mostly returned covered in red ink, implying I didn’t fully understand what Maya Angelou or Salman Rushdie was trying to say. “You take things too literally,” she told me. I was trying my hardest, yet the steady stream of Bs and Cs deflated me.
The next poem we read was about New York City. I don’t remember what it was about, but I decided to spout some nonsense about it in the related paper. It took me all of five minutes, unlike my carefully crafted papers preceding it. The words that flowed from my pen were utter fluff. One bit I wrote went something like this: “The subway is Manhattan’s lifeblood, pumping through the veins of the dark tunnels, and the commuters are the cells. New York City would die without them.” I groaned. My head hurt. I wanted to gag myself with my Papermate. I didn’t believe a word of what I was writing.
The next day, she placed the paper in front of me on my desk. The bright, red ink across the paper screamed, “YES! YES! YES! I KNEW YOU COULD DO IT. ”
I finally received an A+.
I hated what I wrote, and I was rewarded for it.