Some Words About Words

A Blog by Ted Bowman
Tell me if I’m sharing too much, if I telling you more than you want to know about me. For years, I have been in love with words. My wife, children and grandchildren know about my love affair with words. And, yes, there have been times when each of them has been jealous of my predilections. But, they have put up with me and my love of words.
This web site asserts that words work well. It is sites like these that have “enabled” my tendencies. Another is a book store or is it are bookstores (help me with words). I have recently wondered about the wisdom of neighborhood book stores. My wife and I are downsizing (an American word according to etymologists). We did have 19 book shelves in our home, a sign of a probable preoccupation with or love of words or, at worse, a hoarding tendency associated with words and books. I don’t know if I need help or not. What do you think?
Earlier this year I attended a Words Work Well residential workshop at Whatton Lodge, sponsored by Lapidus Scotland. My rehabilitation, if I needed such, was not helped by the creative group of practitioners who also loved words. In fact, they reinforced my use of words. The Whatton Lodge event did not address withdrawal or downsizing or moderation. I left there with lyrics to music, prompts from photos, and ways of using the visual arts to elicit words of awe, inclusion, or loss. Does Lapidus Scotland know the sorts of people and events they are supporting?
If you are reading this strange blog, you too may be sliding into a love of words and their uses.
As a reality check on my mental health, I decided to consult with a few colleagues. Here are examples of words about words that reinforced my love of words. If I am addicted to words, I assert it is a positive addiction AND I am in good company!
What words cause or invite you to also love words?
What is one to make of a life given
to putting things into words,
saying them, writing them down?
Is there a world beyond words? – Wendell Berry from Given: Poems (2005) Emeryville, CA:
Avalon Publishing Group, Inc.
Two girls discover
the secret of life
in a sudden line of
I who don’t know the
secret wrote
the line. They
told me
(through a third person)
they had found it
but not what it was
not even
what line it was. No doubt
by now, more than a week
later, they have forgotten
the secret,
the line, the name of
the poem Denise Levertov from O taste and see (1964) New York: New Directions
Publishing Company.
Be careful of words,
… Words and eggs must be handled with care.
Once broken they are impossible
things to repair. Anne Sexton from The awful rowing toward god (1975) Boston:
Houghton Mifflin Company
I would argue that gossip done well can be a holy thing. It can strengthen community bonds. Kathleen Norris from Dakota: A spiritual geography (1993) New York:
Ticknor & Fields
We never write alone, but by a ghost:
a blue spirit tangles our words
makes our work sister and brother,
related through strings we tie and tug
to pull us through the years
Heid Erdrich from The Mother’s Tongue (2005). Cambridge: Salt
Why Writing?
It says the unsayable.
Gives voice to the voiceless.
It’s a lifetime’s work –
Handwork, whole body work.
It gives form to chaos.
It reflects the present moment,
Changes the past
And creates the future.
It can exist forever
Or completely disappear.
It is what it is.
It can always be changed.
It’s where the impossible
Becomes the possible.
It takes us out of ourselves
And into ourselves.
It is where we live our unlived lives,
Where we can surprise ourselves.
It is fire.
Only we can write our writing.
by Victoria Field from Writing Works (2006), a resource handbook for therapeutic writing workshops & activities. London: Jessica Kingsley.