On the craft essay
Don’t tell me the moon is shining . . .
In a letter to his brother, Franz Kafka passed along some memorable writing advice, later paraphrased in an apocryphal quote, “Don’t tell me the moon is shining, show me the glint of moonlight on broken glass.” Don’t tell me . . . show me. Maybe you recognize the almost tiresome workshop aphorism embedded, “Show, don’t tell,” albeit more evocatively phrased.
Apart from its instructive value, Kafka’s quote especially resonates with me these days when the cultural mood feels enduringly dark. How I often long for some light, whether that light be good news, fresh perspective, a new direction, or the very real relief of a light heart. Show me some light—please? Perhaps what Italo Calvino referred to as “Lightness” in his essential, Six Memos for the New Millennium, lightness as opposed to heaviness, the weight of the world, of our past, and importantly in our writing. He described it as “the search for lightness as a reaction to the weight of living.” Writers often examine that weight, and in doing so lighten if not lift it for us by giving us greater understanding and empathy.
And what could be more weightless, more transcendent than the light of the moon? Which brings me, first, to the luminous image topping this page, one of featured artist Gian Paolo Dulbecco’s many wonderfully mysterious paintings—full of lightness, if you will—found on his website and gracing the pages of this, our Fall 2022 Craft Essay issue.
No tired prescriptions here! Like the moon wandering across a broken landscape, you’ll also catch the glint of a veritable wealth of fresh ideas, exercises, and inspiration to put to work. Five remarkable teaching poets explore ways to renew your writing practice. Rebecca Foust shows how using form liberates the writer and even tricks you into having fun. W. Todd Kaneko steals some moves from pro wrestling to demonstrate how to build up your own writing chops. Chloe Martinez’ reflection on ars poetica offers a new lens on the practice and your poems, and Annie Kim, herself a recent journaling convert, shows how and why keeping a notebook frees the imagination and leads to unexpected new work.
AND, not to neglect Amorak Huey’s timely look at what makes a prose poem dazzle, if you’re writing prose poems, don’t miss it. We’ve just opened submissions for our next all-prose poem issue due out next spring, 2023. If you’re hoping to submit, please DO be sure to read not only our two previous prose poem issues Spring 2022 and Fall 2021 found in our Archives, but also Huey’s, “The Prose Poem and the Startling Image,” before you consider what to send our way. You’ll be glad you did.
We so appreciate each poet’s generosity as well as craft issue editor and contributor Annie Kim who brought them together. We’re excited to share their insights on the craft of writing with you. There is enough in this issue for your own writing—beginner or accomplished, poetry and prose—to keep you busy reading and writing through the coming days of autumn and the winter months ahead.
So dive right in, take notes, try a new lens, make some moves, have fun, and startle yourself! These poets and essays are in a word, brilliant. You can quote me on that.
. . . show me the glint of moonlight on broken glass.
from the Ether,