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Wordstock: Emily Warn and Ursula Le Guin

I’d thought I’d lurk around Wordstock on Saturday, but I elected to write instead. But I did come for a substantial portion of Sunday, above and beyond the session I was moderating.

First I went to see Emily Warn and Ursula Le Guin, both reading poems. Warn read several, then Le Guin read one long magnificent one called “The Conference;” a conference, it turned out, of gods.

I loved Warn’s evocation of the mind as an off-kilter wobbly gyroscope with flimsy wiring and dull mirrors.

I asked a question during the Q & A, and I was vaguely taken aback by my own intensity as I asked it. Le Guin had spoken about discovering A.E. Housman at thirteen, which was, she said, a good time to discover him because “you got the big gloom that tasted so good at thirteen;” and Warn had talked about poets that she’d read in high school, without analyzing them, without any training in literary theory. I demanded to know how they read now without taking the work apart analytically. (I find it harder and harder to fall into books without trying to reverse-engineer or otherwise deconstruct them.)

Warn said that you had to find work you love, and also work that you can’t even try to imitate. Le Guin said that she’d never been trained to read critically, and that she’d studied Romance languages in college instead of majoring in English precisely because she wanted to avoid being told how to read.

Also, Le Guin’s mention of A.E. Housman made Warn recommend A.E. Stalling. Based on “A Lament For The Dead Pets Of Our Childhood,” I will definitely seek out more from her.

Also also: this short interview with Le Guin, about Portland literary culture among other things, is worth reading, too.

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