Rita Dove, Edwidge Danticat, and the New York Times

[By Jerry W. Ward, Jr.]

Reality evaporates, and a quark restores reality. The change escapes notice. Good. The reaction allows writing to produce stasis, the five-dimensional space in which we write.

If your mind, spirit, and body demand that you write, write. But be honest, or, as we said in the flame-blooming 1960s, be “for real.” Writing that gains the world’s respect is not a spewing of disassembled feelings nor is it a pampering of your ego. Writing is work, a disciplined discovery of patterns and ideas in words. You must have a sense of human history in order to know your address in time. you must train yourself to cope with rejection and use it as a reason to perfect your craft. Before you begin writing, read widely and wisely. Study your tools—words and the options for organizing them. Study how and hwy your literary ancestors, be they poets, philosopher, or historians of science, have used the tools to communicate effectively. Chew language slowly and reflect deeply on the ideas the flavors release. Then write. Know for whom you are writing and why. Above all, discipline yourself and let your writing become an act of love, a gift of talent for now and the future.

In a future, writing or literature becomes a tool for interpreting the non-literary. Consider the New York Times article “Dominicans of Haitian Descent Cast Into Legal Limbo by Court” by Randal C. Archibold. A strong interpretation of the article requires reading Rita Dove’s poem “Parsley” and Edwidge Danticat’s novel The Farming of Bones (Soho Press, 1998; Penguin, 1999). You can, of course make sense of the article by referring to those works of history listed in Danticat’s “Acknowledgments” (311-312), which itself acknowledges “Rita Dove’s wonderful poem, ‘Parsley.'” But the works by Danticat and Dove provoke a nuanced appreciation of time’s eternal return in the linked story of the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

Genuine writers do care what the world thinks of their work and how that work gets rewarded in acts of understanding. Genuine writers hold fast to the wisdom of Langston Hughes. They are for real and free within themselves, so that a future can grasp reality’s evaporation and reappearance.