Monday, July 17, 2006

Journalists and poets

I enjoyed reading the interview in CJR Daily with Priscilla Long, the writer who won this year's National Magazine Award for feature writing. There are some wonderful ideas in the piece -- particularly that journalists could benefit from reading poetry.
Yet I hesitated to link to the interview.
My concern -- born of experience -- is that the writers most interested in producing stories that read like poetry are seldom talented enough to do so. The result is too many magazines with too many awful stories by reporters in love with their own tortured prose.
And I don't want to link to anything that could possibly lead to more overwritten stories.

Yet there are those few journalists ... gifted, open to learning ... who can be taught to write like poets. And to them, I say, read this interview.
(I'd like to link to Long's award-winning essay, "Genome Tome," which appeared in the American Scholar. But it's not available online.)

For an earlier post of mine on poetry, click here.

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  1. AnonymousJuly 18, 2006

    As an English major looking for my first break into journalism, I remember an interviewer saying, "So you can parse a poem. That has nothing to do with journalism." To her, many moons later, I give a belated HA!

    Poetry teaches us about the rhythm and the flow of words, of the importance of surprising readers with the unexpected, the beauty of language. And, especially important for long-winded writers like myself, it also teaches how to say something meaningful in a very few words.

    Great post!

  2. hi Paul...

    one thing that's come to me over years of writing (and the study of english language and literature) over the study and writing of journalism is that a sense of words and their tone/rhythum is inherent. Either you got it, or you don't. If you have it, run with it--be whatever kind of writer you want. If you don't, be happy with the notion that you can get the story straight--for you might have it much easier in our linear world than those who are both cursed and blessed with that good ear and creative temperment.