SWP: Telling Stories (Week Three)

Fiction writers that have come to Naropa are often looking for that poetic influence we won’t find at more traditional writing schools. Poets have a passion and care for their words that is inspiring. But fiction writers have much to offer one another and even to poets, a passion and care for telling stories.

This is why I was surprised that Tuesday’s panel of the third week was called Telling Stories ?, yet the only fiction writer on the panel was the chairperson Samuel Delany. It wasn’t a surprise that he made some of the most profound statements about stories. During his remarks he talked about story being the very foundation of the universe. Einstein’s theories, for example, are merely complex and intricate stories. The world, he said, is made up of stories. This reminded me of two quotes I keep in my mind all the time:

Fiction gives life its form. ? ~ Jean Anouilh

and

Stories are tools for living. ? ~ Kenneth Burke

This is where the conversation should have begun. But Delany made them as closing remarks just before the question and answer period. This would be my chief complaint about the SWP: Many wonderful poets and writers raised many important issues, but very few of the discussions went below the surface.

But two other panelists did make some noteworthy statements.

Meredith Quartermain talked about telling stories to ask questions and disrupt norms ?. She emphasized the role of stories as interruption. Interruption is the key, ? she said. Interrupt the art, interrupt education, interrupt work. ? Good stories do that; stop you cold.

And Hoa Nguyen talked about a transition she made in her poetry after reading thousands of women’s birth stories. She was looking for the essential information in a story ?. And has incorporated that into her poetry.

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