Turn The Page: Writing The Australian Crawl by William Stafford

I will admit that this book was a hard one to read for me but I wanted to persist with it because it was recommended to me by a friend and, despite the fact that I don’t agree with a lot of the things said, I am glad that I read it. I found myself carrying on a dialogue of sorts with book — it gave me a foil against which I could sharpen my own idea of what it means to be a writer and what the art of writing is for me. There were some ideas that I liked a lot but in more than one essay I felt that he had me on board for most of the time and then let me down at the end by kind of wimping out. Stafford seemed somewhat uncomfortable with his role as a teacher of writing and as an essayist, which I can understand, given that what I took to be his main philosophy being based upon techniques that shy away from the idea of technique. It is almost as if Stafford is advocating a hands off approach to his writing — a respect for the natural processes; an unwilling to codify specific practices. As I say, some of what he said really resonated with him — some of it did not. His insistence (perhaps too strong a word given the general tone of the book) on a lack of intent in the writer went well with his egoless approach to everything but after a while seemed to make the writer almost incidental to his work. Stafford was self-deprecating to such a degree that it is amazing he ever managed to put out as much writing as he did. Perhaps I misunderstood him but I don’t think i went away from this book without learning a few things. For me the views of Stafford were better served and crystallised into something more robust in the section which collected various interviews with the man. I would have liked more examples of his poetry included and I have to say that following this I am interested to actually read more of his actual work.

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