Sunday, June 22, 2008

Thought for the Day

The best argument for eloquence is that it is a skill and therefore an imperative. If you think you are good at something, you do it, even at the cost of wasting your life in its service. A writer who, on a particular day of need, can't find the words is appalled and terrified that he'll never find them again.


If the question of egotism is raised, you can answer that the words you want to find for yourself are in the language anyhow, even if they're hiding, so it's only decent to bring their beauties out; it's like doing the best you can for your country. Like hang-gliding again: practicing a skill, you'll feel like a bird, wings outspread, capitalizing on the constraints that commonly weigh you down. The constraints--or the sins--are in language, so you exercise your talent for finding ways to circumvent them, ways of being free, or enjoying the exhilaration of feeling free.

-Denis Donoghue, On Eloquence, Yale University Press (2008), pp. 168 and 169.


Blogger Macy Swain said...

I like the "liberation" aspect of this quote. I sometimes tell my students that occasionally they should go to the word orphanage and take a lonely word out for a day at the circus. Some words just don't get to go out enough.
In a recent poem draft the first word of the first line was "effulgent," and I wondered if it was just too effete. But I kept it in because I wanted to.

4:31 PM  
Blogger Collin said...

I've heard so much about this book I've got to go pick it up. And the cover is gorgeous.

1:19 PM  

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