I recently received this Anaïs Nin quote from a writer, along with a good submission to Room. We rejected the submission, encouraging her to rework and submit to the upcoming Mythologies of Loss issue, but since then, Nin's words have replayed in my mind like an earworm.
Her full quote is, "We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection." It reminds me of Edward Hirsch's excellent explanation of the difference between modernist poetry, and poetry that comes from that retrospection, in this case, Pablo Neruda's:
The great modernist writers, like Joyce or Eliot, often present us with an idea of the artist presiding over his creation like an objective, all-powerful god, but Neruda presents himself as writing from inside the experience of his own creation, trying to figure out what he is writing about, taking us through the logic of his thinking.
(From the highly recommended, How to Read a Poem, And Fall in Love with Poetry.)
A recent, personal, profound loss brought, along with the usual grief, a wave of dread that must be unique to writers. I would be writing about this one day, I realized, and I really didn't want to "taste" this twice.
But as writers we must. The Nin quote might be more apt with a small change in punctuation and grammar, "We write. We taste life twice."
If loss is anything, it is lonely. But perhaps the intimacy of the page shared by writer and reader can make it less so. When establishing the theme for this issue, I figured there must be other writers out there who are re-tasting through retrospection personal tragedies, re-framing things, exploring the insides of the experience. I thought these writers could come together and share the logic of their thinking (their "mythologies"), lighting the way for others who have, or who inevitably will, lose someone or something dear to them (that's life).
So far, having seen some of the elegant, beautiful, and sometimes haunting submissions received at Room, what I imagined is true. If you are a writer with work on the theme of loss, consider sending us your best poetry, fiction, or creative nonfiction. Deadline is August 15th.
Rachel Thompson is the author of Galaxy (Anvil Press, 2011, winner of the SFU First Book Competition), and a collective member of Room magazine (i.e. the live human who first receives your poetry submissions). She is the editor of Room 36.1, Mythologies of Loss, to be published in Spring 2013.