When Words Are What You Love Most of All

The writers who visit you in class, when you’re still a student—especially if you’re young and impressionable—these writers stick with you for a lifetime.

I recall vividly a visit from Dana Gioia to my undergrad poetry class, then his reading afterward, and handing him a book to sign. I thought there was no person more intrinsically a writer, so thoroughly in his being and essence someone who loved words. He was nothing less than a prophet.

In her essay for Glimmer Train, Marian Palaia describes Barry Hannah, a writer who made a dramatic impression on her. She writes,

The way I saw it then and still see it today: Barry was blindly in love with everyone and everything, and words are what he loved most of all, and they are what he had with which to express his love. He didn’t hedge his bets, and the sentences he fashioned—those holy, celestial, bonkers sentences—oh my god. As Wells Tower put it after Barry died, “He wouldn’t leave a sentence alone until he’d electrified every word… After Hannah, you couldn’t let yourself write a ‘Then he picked up a coffee cup’ sort of sentence ever again.”

Read more from Palaia: Words, and Barry Hannah, the Guy Who Taught Me to Love Them.

Also in this month’s Glimmer Train bulletin:

Posted in Creativity + Inspiration.

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She is the publisher of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors, and was named Publishing Commentator of the Year by Digital Book World in 2019.

In addition to being a columnist for Publishers Weekly, Jane is a professor with The Great Courses, which released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. Her book for creative writers, The Business of Being a Writer (University of Chicago Press), received a starred review from Library Journal.

Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.

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Cathy Shouse

The is all so true, Jane. I’ve Kondoed (See “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo) a large number of books to new homes, yet my worn copy of “The Poet’s Choice: 100 American Poets’ Favorite Poems” remains “sparking joy” on my shelf. I was mesmerized by Lisel Mueller reading her wonderful work, “The Blind Leading the Blind.” I can still see her behind a podium on stage. She signed my book on that page, dated it, and noted that we met at the Indiana University Writers’ Conference in my college days (year omitted!). I’ve read so many… Read more »

PJ Reece

I open a novel to its first page looking for the electrified sentence or phrase. If I don’t see it, I might not read on. Is that asking too much of an author? I’ve landed on Patrick DeWitt, lately. He turns me on. My wife is only happy reading Alice Munro. These authors, their love of words overflows onto us.

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