The Invisible Underside

I’m deep in writing mode at the moment. I’m also deep in re-writing and proofing and a range of other things. And reading, always reading. I’ve been reading Eireann Corrigan, an author I discovered by accident when I inherited the Writing for Children course at Curtin University from Georgia Richter. Readings from the course’s previous incarnation included a short excerpt from one of Corrigan’s books (a YA poetry memoir titled You Remind Me Of You) – just a few poems but enough for me to immediately see that this was great stuff, and wonder why I hadn’t heard of her before. I haven’t managed to track that book down yet but I did find Splintering – a YA verse novel – and was reassured that Corrigan is as fiercely talented as those first few pages – even the first line, which made me stop in my tracks – had me believe.

Here is that rarest of things – a verse novel which doesn’t sacrifice the focus and richness of language poetry demands in the service of narrative, which achieves, effortlessly it seems, that precarious balancing act or fusion in which both elements pull equally together.

Effortlessly.

It seems.

The writers reading this are smiling their wry writerly smiles right now. Because they know exactly how much effort goes into effortlessly.

I know that too, but had forgotten, being so caught up in the rolling sweep of the work, which makes you feel somehow that this is a writer who thinks, talks and dreams in poetry. So I was reading and my head was playing out its own delightful narrative, which goes a little something like this:

ah, this is amazing. wow. oh, this is a writer. i wish i had written this. i wish i could write like this. call myself a poet! call myself a novelist! can’t do either as well as she is doing both at the same time. i want to read this over and over i want to stop reading this right now.

You know how it goes. Inspiration. Deflation. One smooth package.

And then I saw this:
da761-splinteringcropped

Do you see it? the his car? As a proofreader, I can’t help noticing it. As a writer, I can’t help feeling happy because of it. Not because I found a ‘mistake’. I don’t care to gleefully track down errors in other people’s work (unless I’m being paid, that is, when my glee knows no bounds). It’s not that I get a kind of bitter thrill because despite the work being so stunning it still contains a typo, so there! It’s not about the typo.

It’s about the invisible underside. It’s about all the not-there lines and words and images and phrases. The ones that were rejected. The ones that were endlessly tweaked and hammered into shape. That were deleted and restored, then deleted again. The ones that make the deceptively effortless surface so, well, deceptive.

It’s simply that the his car makes me see the writer at work behind the poem, pushing to make every line the best it can be.

And when I’m deep in writing and re-writing and proofing, it helps to remember that eventually, at the end of it all, there will be a smooth surface, of sorts. And maybe someone will read what I’ve written and say ah, i wish i had written this.
But if they don’t, it won’t matter. Because I’ll be glad I did.

In closing, may I just add:

i) check out Eireann Corrigan’s work.

ii ) please, Eireann Corrigan, don’t write to me and say actually OMG it just all came to me in a big rush, you know? Well, I doubt there’s any fear of that. You do not strike me as an OMG-er. This is one of many things for which I have been thankful lately.

iii) many things for which I have been thankful lately will be covered in a new post soon. I am feeling rather gluttonous in my good fortune.

2 thoughts on “The Invisible Underside

  1. Mary Witzl

    I worked for years as a proofreader, so 'the his' just jumped out at me. (Proofreading can ruin the whole experience of reading if you don't learn how to turn it off.)

    I do see what you mean. Finding a typo like that in prose that reads so fluidly is like spotting a bit of mortar oozing out of a virtually seamless join.

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  2. Meg McKinlay

    I like that image, Mary! I really hesitated to post that snippet because it feels like nitpicking but as I said that wasn't my intent. The effect for me was rather that it exposed the artifice – as you say, the fact of the construction behind the smooth surface, which has been of some comfort to me lately as I struggle with my various recalcitrant WIPs.

    Proofreading is odd work, isn't it? I don't know that I'll ever manage to stop noticing things but I have certainly learned not to let it interfere with the flow of reading, so that I'm able to see things but just move on.

    I must get over to your blog. I meant to comment on your 能力試験 post but it seems a bit belated now.

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