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Thursday, 18 November 2010

Chew your poems properly

Chewing There are a number of different schools of poetry. One I’ve been wondering about for a while has been the School of Quietude but I’ve never been able to find a decent definition until now. In his blog, Seth Abramson writes extensively about the subject before trying to present a potted definition. This is what he came up with:

In short, the School of Quietude is simply this:

The belief, as exhibited in and by certain contemporary poems, that the near-totality of words in an individual poem should be employed in such a way as to utilize exclusively their transcendent rather than immanent meaning.

To the extent this proclivity, as to word usage, commonly generates a poem whose individual on-the-page "marks" constitute merely an "echo" of the visualisable universe of matter the poem evokes, the actual words of the poem may be considered Quiet.

They are Quiet in the sense that they are not permitted their full expression as "words-qua-words," but instead remain merely signifiers of a series of referents whose acknowledgment, comprehension, and internalization is the most important work of the poem.

This article is not really about the School of Quietude, but that is not what has piqued my interest so much as something Abramson says in attempting to define it. The guy’s a lawyer and so that’s why the definition is a bit on the convoluted side. Assuming his definition is accurate – which I am going to do – then I find I have a problem with it: I’m not sure I agree with anyone who suggests that you can only expect someone to read a work transcendentally. Well, you can expect them to. I’m just not sure it’s possible.

Before we go on we need to understand two words: immanent and transcendent. In the same article, Abramson says:

The greatest divide in poetry, by far, of the past hundred years has been between poets who treat language as a locus for imminent meaning and those who treat it as a locus for transcendent meaning.

It’s a typo but one that caused me (and others) a lot of confusion because ‘imminent’ is not the same as ‘immanent’:

Imminence: The quality or condition of being about to occur

immanence, 1. Existing or remaining within; inherent: believed in a God immanent in humans. 2. Restricted entirely to the mind; subjective.

The two terms are actually religious expressions. According to Wikipedia:

Immanence, derived from the Latin in manere – "to remain within" – refers to philosophical and metaphysical theories of divine presence, which hold that some divine being or essence manifests in and through all aspects of the material world. It is usually applied in monotheistic, pantheistic, or panentheistic faiths to suggest that the spiritual world permeates the non-spiritual, and often contrasts the idea of transcendence.

In religion, transcendence is a condition or state of being that surpasses physical existence and in one form is also independent of it. Although transcendence is defined as the opposite of immanence, the two are not necessarily mutually exclusive

The way I understand them is in music terms. If you go to a piano and hit the A above middle C you expect to hear a single note. Let’s call it a monotone. Early synthesisers were monophonic. They could only produce one note at a time. A piano is polyphonic – you can play chords. The fact is that if you hit the A above Sine wave_440Hz middle C the sound that you hear is not as simple as you think it is. It contains overtones. The pitch of the A above middle C is 440Hz, i.e. 440 vibrations per second. At the same time you’ll also hear the 1st overtone (880Hz), the 2nd (1320Hz), the 3rd (1760Hz) and so on. Sound is more complex than it first . . . er, sounds.

I don’t ‘hear’ the overtones . . . well, I do hear some of them but not on a conscious level . . . but I can do the maths and work them out. I may not be able to perceive them but I can conceive them. The way I understand “immanent meaning” is that it’s the first thing we are hit with, the fundamental note; the “transcendent meanings” are like overtones. So we have a sound, a basic meaning, and then we have overtones which not everyone hears and those are the hidden meanings starting with simple metaphors and moving through personal connections.

For example, it’s not that uncommon an expression in Scotland to say that someone’s “away the Crow Road” meaning that he’s died. Residents of Partick, Broomlands, Jordanhill, Anniesland and those who’ve read the book or watched the television dramatisation of Iain Banks’ novel The Crow Road will also know there’s an actual Crow Road in the west end of Glasgow. Only I know that my dad and I walked up it when I returned to Glasgow about fifteen years ago. So anyone reading my poem ‘A Drink Up the Crow Road’ which I wrote on the anniversary of my father’s death will probably get some of the “true meaning” of the piece but I doubt anyone would see the irony in the piece: my dad and I never went for a drink together, despite living in Scotland where it would be an everyday occurrence for a father to take his son for a pint, we never did. In fact the only time we ever had a drink together was when I made some homebrew and he tried some. Lethal stuff it was too. More importantly there are no pubs on that stretch of Crow Road.

Crow Road

Crow Road viewed from Partick

What though is the immanent meaning of “Crow Road”? What about the people who live on or near Crow Road in North Walsham or the Crow Road in Spittal or Keswick or the one in San Antonio even? Meaning is like energy. Words on a page have potential meaning. I wouldn’t necessarily say that’s a more accurate way of putting it than ‘immanent’ but I find it easier to understand. Once the words get into our heads they become kinetic, alive; they react with and respond to the environment in which they find themselves. But no matter where they end up, unless it’s in the mind of someone who doesn’t speak English, the first obstacle the reader will have to get over is what the words ‘crow’ and ‘road’ mean: a crow is a big black bird and a road is, generally speaking, a public way. They might think that I’m talking about a straight road because that’s how crows fly and the fact is that Glasgow’s Crow Road is quite straight apart from the section my dad and I walked up.

So what’s the difference between perception and conception? In poetic terms we see a word like ‘crow’ and we think ‘big black bird’ because that’s what it is. Ask a kid what a crow is and that’s what they’ll tell you. It’s a big black bird. That’s what we see. We don’t seeCorvidae’ or ‘passerine’ but what we have learned and experienced forms our conception of what it means to be a crow. A member of the Crow Nation will view the bird quite differently to me. As would a Buddhist. Or a Korean. Language is reductive. It reduces an object to its basic elements.

In his book The Meaning of the Body: Aesthetics of Human Understanding, Mark Johnson uses the terms “embodied meaning and immanent meaning to emphasis those deep-seated bodily sources of human meaning that go beyond the merely conceptual and propositional.” He says:

If we reduce meaning to words and sentences (or concepts and propositions), we miss or leave out where meaning really comes from. We end up intellectualising human experience, understanding and thinking and we turn processes into static entities or properties. (p.11)

I learn things through my body. Crow Road is not simple the name of a rather long road in Glasgow. I have experienced Crow Road over many years. I have travelled up and down it in cars, in vans and on public transport. I have walked much of the length of it, mostly alone but not always. In addition to my father I’ve walked along it with my wife and my daughter but not my mother. I’ve written poems on it. I’ve carried shopping up it. I found a photo of a woman on it that I still keep in my wallet. I’ve had an asthma attack on it. When my mother died Carrie and I took a mirror into an antique shop there to see if it was worth anything and ended up leaving it there and forgetting about it. I’ve lived in flats on both sides of it. Crow Road means something to me and that meaning is built up of more than simple facts. I can feel Crow Road under my feet. I have a physical and emotional and intellectual connection with Crow Road.

The Crow Road in the poem is an imaginary place though. It’s where the conversation my dad and I ought to have had before he died happens; the poem was written a year after his death. A pragmatist would quite rightly jump on that point:

(for my dad who died a year ago today)

Come on in lad, come in.
You'll take a drink won't you?
It's an unusual brand of truth –
I think you'll like it.
imperial-pint-glass Mind, it's an acquired taste,
a bit on the bitter side.

Just sip it to start with
or it'll give you the heartburn.
That's my boy!

Happy anniversary son.

Wednesday, 11 December, 1996

The father in the poem is also imaginary. That’s not how my dad talked, not his phraseology at all. I don’t think he ever called me ‘my boy’ or ‘lad’ in his life; he called me his son but ‘son’ as an endearment was not one of his either. He did suffer from heartburn quite badly. It was years before I experienced it myself which took a bit of the romance out of the expression.

For me the meaning in this poem is one that transcends the actual marks on the page. They don’t contain my meaning. They evoke it. They are a record of something that never happened. There is nothing to perceive. That said I do superimpose the feeling of sitting in a pub but no specific pub just a common-or-garden working man’s pub. Imagination is a projection of experience.

When I ask most people what my poems mean I’m generally met with an awkward silence. This is not necessarily a bad thing. In his book Mark Johnson makes this point about meaning:

One of the greatest impediments to an appreciation of the full scope of embodied meaning is the way philosophers of language focus almost exclusively on language (i.e. spoken and written words and sentences) as the bearer of meaning. Anything that doesn’t conform to this linguistic model is defined, by fiat, as not part of meaning proper. This language-centred prejudice leads many philosophers to overlook the deepest roots of meaning. (p.209)

I’m a writer. I work exclusively with words. And one of the first things I look for in any poem is meaning. What I have to recognise is that the resultant meaning that a piece of steam kettle writing produces in me is not something that can quickly be reconverted into words. Water can be turned into vapour with ease but try getting that vapour back into the kettle afterwards. It’s everywhere, on the outside of the kettle, on the walls, the windows, even inside you. But it’s still H2O.

I gave a collection of poems to a family friend once and she handed it back to me with very little comment other than the fact she’d kept one of the poems because it meant something to her. She didn’t tell me what. Not because she was keeping anything from me. She simply didn’t have the words to express what the poem meant to her.

Question: Is a text there to be understood or interpreted? He’s a good example:

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise Him on the heel. (Genesis 3:15).

Most Christians accept that verse as a prophecy, the first mention of the Messiah. It’s not what it says but it is what it means. Do you think Adam and Eve realised that? Who knows. Was God even talking to them? (Actually if you read verse 14 he’s addressing the serpent.) And even if they did have an inkling do you think they imagined he was talking about thousands of years in the future?

1. (tr) to clarify or explain the meaning of; elucidate
2. (tr) to construe the significance or intention of to interpret a smile as an invitation
3. (tr) to convey or represent the spirit or meaning of (a poem, song, etc.) in performance

The thing about Biblical prophecies is that they are open to interpretation. Some even have multiple interpretations having minor and major fulfilments. I think poetry is like that, an obvious or at least fairly obvious meaning, something you can take away from a superficial read, and then there’s the deeper meaning that only comes after you’ve fully assimilated the piece.

This is perhaps one of the reasons I’ve struggled with . . . let’s just call it hard poetry. I’ve not allowed myself time to live with it. Meaning is not a constant. Anything can take on new meanings. I remember a song called ‘Drive’ by The Cars. It was famously used as part of the Live Aid concert in 1985, as the background music to a montage of clips showing poverty-stricken Africa. Now, when most people my age hear that song that is what we associate it with. The song’s original meaning has been subverted. This was a very melancholy song written from the perspective of a guy who's watching a woman (who he presumably used to date) "going down the tubes," trying to get her to take a hard look at what's going on in her life. It’s nothing to do with starving kids. Or is this a case of transcendent meaning? I don’t think so. It’s just what Pavlov did to his dogs: they heard a bell and got food, we heard ‘Drive’ and got images of starving kids. But someone somewhere thought to pair up the video and the song. That someone saw more in the song than was there. For him (or her) the meaning transcended to another level. Or they might have just thought it was a cool song to go over that film and just the right length too.

As a writer I can’t say it doesn’t concern me how people read my poems although I suspect I’m more concerned by how we all read poetry. Or that might be read in general. I am continually bombarded by information. It’s not always text-based but much of it is. Most of the poetry I read these days is online and I wonder how much time I give to these pieces because that’s probably how much time others devote to my poems. They read ’em and move on. Do any of us live with poems? This is where I believe the Internet does us no favours because we don’t go back to stuff. We read ’em and move on, read ’em and move on. That’s one of the reasons I wish people would buy my book of poetry, not to make me rich – you all know I’m never going to be rich – but because I think if people have my poetry around for more than the few seconds it takes to read one online they might start to see beyond the words on the page. Whether they’ll have a transcendent experience, well…

stockphotopro_4352997LWG_ My mum was fond of saying, “You are what you eat,” which means when she died she was probably 55% water and 45% microwave chips. I don’t recall she ever told me to chew my food properly but she probably did. She certainly told me to eat my greens. I think what I’m saying here is that to get the most meaning out of our poems we need to chew them properly. Picking good poems to nibble on in the first place is important too but I think that’s probably a topic for discussion another time.


litrefs said...

I think what I’m saying here is that to get the most meaning out of our poems we need to chew them properly. Picking good poems to nibble on in the first place is important too - yes, but there are only so many hours in a day. Deciding to commit yourself to a book is entering a relationship where you are knowingly (often deliberately) exposing yourself to influence and change. Psychologically it's rather difficult to spend a lot of time with something/someone then walk off at the end saying it was all a waste of time. So choose those books with care.
I naively read "immanent" to mean "sound and appearance" and "transcendent" to mean viewing the language as transparent - Realist or Symbolic. The "Is a text there to be understood or interpreted?" question is well worth asking. Canonical texts are repeatedly re-interpreted, but they have a captive audience: readers who already believe or who have set books to read. Once you can get a reader to believe, the rest is easy - you can produce Rorschach poems and let the readers do the work. An effective strategy is to produce Rorschach poems with tantalising constellations of meaning embedded in it - something like "slick in the lactic stale of sextet/they crabform in their calculus/and listen to the music that kilts and sucks their scarab-wracked skin/tantric and crystal/a tryst/rustic and cusp" (by Lisa Mansell). If you believe in meaning there's enough to tempt you in - there's both immanence (more sonic than typographic) and transcendence. Go in deep enough and you'll have trouble explaining to non-believers why you like it.

Next topic: Hermeneutics :)

Poet in Residence said...

A phrase like "when she died she was 55% water and 45% microwave chips" is, I find a good starting point for a poem. With a phrase like that I think you can go places.
I've also been looking today at definitions of a poetry, or more exactly poets, and I've come up with 'Word Wrestlers'. That's a kind of poetry although I don't claim it to fit with anybody's defintion. It may do, may not. That's by the way. It's what the poem does that matters in the end. And, of course what it does, depends on the reader. I sometimes reread some of my own poems and find 'revelations' (probably about my inner psyche as much as anything) which I hadn't seen before.
My grandma said when the crows came my grandad would die. They came and sat on the roof and he duly popped his clogs. Perhaps he believed it too.
Good luck,

awyn said...

You were wondering about "how we all read poetry." I think people who write poetry read poetry different from non-writer readers. I think poets see (or look for and don't find) more than ordinary readers. As both writer and reader, some poems reach out and grab me right away, pulling me in because of their words and the way they're used and/or the resonance I find through the perceived meaning. There are, as with anything else, gradations of significance involved.
What poems/books do you keep and re-read, wouldn't dream of parting with, recommend to others, etc., and which ones are like chewing on a piece of gum--flavorful at first bite but not something you would go on jawing and jawing about, much less wrap up and save for later.

Not all stories or poems affect us profoundly but some do. It's the dream of every writer, I think, to pen more of those kind, or at least the kind that readers want to return to again, to recapture that remembered first flavor, to chew on it a bit more, so to speak, let it "stick" (and here's where my gum metaphor begins losing its freshness, stretched to the popping point even, ha ha, so I'll just spit it out and say, the poems in your latest book have gone through several chews already, Jim, and the pleasure is definitely still there.

(By the way, I'm not a gum chewer. But it fascinates me how some people can work a piece of gum for an entire day, and then some; my jaw gets tired just thinking about it!)

Conda V. Douglas said...

Jim--interesting post, and I agree that part of the problem of the Internet is that everything is a bite sized snack. We get accustomed to tastes only and never get a try meal.

I'm reminded of my college senior thesis paper, on the poem "Lapis Lazuli" by Yeats. I lived with that poem for months and to this day I believe it still shapes my perceptions.

Jim Murdoch said...

Litrefs, I know what you mean about choosing books with care. I’ve spent three hours in a bookshop and come out with nothing. When you’ve only got enough money in your pocket for one book how can you possibly choose? In that respect I don’t much care for bookshops. Also I’m not a quick reader – I find reading hard, it takes commitment – and so I do choose books with care. Poetry I find especially hard to pick which is why I actually own very little and what I do own are usually anthologies rather than chapbooks.

The Lisa Mansell lines just lost me. It sounds fine but I can’t find a meaning to hang on it. I can’t ‘go deep’ because it’s impenetrable. What I want to know is how to read something like that. I’m a poet and it annoys me so it’s no wonder that non-poets get turned off. I believe in meaning and I’m sure I could impose meaning on this but I don’t feel the poet’s met me halfway.

Yes, Gwilym, I also find reading some of my old poetry interesting – especially when I can’t remember what the piece was about. The title poem in my poetry collection is exactly like that. It was a poem written in code, one purely for me to jog my memory. I don’t think I ever imagined I could forget the event that prompted it. But I did. I’m reminded of the quote from Robert Browning when once asked the meaning of one of his more difficult poems. ‘Madam,' he replied, ‘When I wrote that only God and I knew what it meant. Now only God knows.’ The circumstances under which he made the remark differ depending on who you read but I’ve little doubt he said something of that sort somewhere along the line.

Annie, my goal in life, as a poet at least, was to write ‘Mr. Bleaney.’ No poem has ever had such an effect on me. And every time I sit down to write a poem I’m trying to capture the feeling I got when I first read it. It’s not Larkin’s best-known poem and probably not even his best poem but it was the perfect poem for me at the time. I have several poems that I think come close and please me – the last poem in my collection, ‘The Poetry of Regrets’ is one – and a few weeks ago I actually took the bull by the horns and rewrote ‘Mr. Bleaney’ and I have a blog written which I’ll post in a couple of weeks where you can see how I did. I read both poems to my daughter when she was over at the weekend and she said she preferred mine which was the right thing to say.

My father used to chew the same piece of gum for days on end. It didn’t seem to matter to him that there was no flavour left.

I’m glad you’re enjoying the collection. I’ve just done a Q+A about it and one of the points I made was the fact that I expect people to meditate on the poems, that a poem is like the tip of an iceberg, and it’s only once you take it inside you and live with it for a while that the rest of it starts to appear.

And, Conda, I think what I hate about Internet poetry is the fact that we read it, perhaps enjoy it, and then forget it. Most of the poetry I read these days is online – every day I read something – but after I’ve read the piece, perhaps made a comment on it, that’s it. I don’t save a copy and I virtually never go back. Every day there are more poems. Every day, more and more poems, a never-ending torrent of words. That’s why physical books are so important. I have books of poems that I bought twenty or thirty years ago that I still pick up every now and then. The words haven’t changed but I have and poems I might not have got at twenty-one now I’m fifty-one I look at them with new eyes.

litrefs said...

What I want to know is how to read something like that - I found "how to write a poem" (John Redmond, Blackwell, 2006) useful. This isn't your average beginner's book - "A founding assumption of this book is that, far from being helpful, many popular ways of thinking about poetry are tremendous handicaps". Its thematic building blocks build up to an examination of a Jori Graham poem or 2.

I don’t feel the poet’s met me halfway - "We read according to an undeclared handicap system, to the specific needs of the author. We meet the novelists a little way, the poets at least halfway, the translated poets three-quarters of the way; the Postmoderns we pick up at the station in their wheelchairs." (Don Paterson, "The Book of Shadows")

Dave King said...

As an intro' to the two concepts on immanence and transcendence that's as good as it gets, I think. I'm not sure, though, what the significance is for us as would-be-poets or even readers of poetry. We don't sit down and say to ourselves, "Right, today I'm writing a transcendent poem!" Or at least, I don't.

One of the most potentially valuable points you raised was the fact that words can acquire new meanings. I thought some discussion on the commonest ways in which this can happen might have been useful.

Excellent post.

Jim Murdoch said...

I’ve added that book to my Amazon Wish List, Litrefs, and I love the Paterson quote. My problem is that I always give people the benefit of the doubt. I cannot believe that grown men and women would deliberately write tripe and so I assume the fault is mine. Now I’m not saying I’ve never written anything esoteric in my life because I have and I accept that the audience for such a poem will be severely limited but they’re the exception rather than the norm. A poem is there to be read not to show off.

And, Dave, I have to say I never thought about that. It’s a good point and might be a good idea for a whole post, just how many different readings a poem could have.

Rachel Cotterill said...

In my academic life, my specialism is pragmatics: the layer of meaning beyond the literal (semantic) meaning of the words. It's almost entirely contextual. Interesting to read about some similar concepts in a very different (poetic) context.

pcd2k said...

I suspect poetry is much easier to contextualize, once heard :-)

Jim Murdoch said...

Well, Rachel, if you fancy putting up an Idiots Guide to Pragmatism on your blog I’d certainly read it.

And, pcd2k, I’m not so sure. I’m assuming by ‘heard’ you mean read aloud. I find I get lost very quickly when hearing poetry read unless I already know the poem well.

Sangu said...

I loved the title here - it's so apt for poetry. I used to find poetry really hard to understand and appreciate, until I discovered T.S. Eliot and really stopped to 'chew' on it. It's amazing how much more you grasp and enjoy when you chew, as opposed to just gulping and swallowing. Guess our mothers teach us right ;-)

Jim Murdoch said...

This is something I suffer from all the time, Sangu, and not just with poetry. As you know I post a book review every week which means I have to read a book every week and the simple fact is that many of those books deserve a second read but I simply don’t have the time to because there are always more books in the queue. I started this year with a shelf full of books to read and I’ve finished it with a shelf full. And up above is the shelf I’ve read.

Elisabeth said...

The poems I studied at school and to a lesser extent at university are the ones that stay with me, Jim, odd poems when I think on it, poems like Milton's On His Blindness.

I'm afraid I agree with you, I tend to read poems on line in one gulp and then move on.

Stories stay with me, and sometimes images but poems tend to leave an impression a sort of afterglow of feeling , but they are harder for me to hold onto. I wish it were otherwise.

Thanks for this post, Jim. I found it riveting. Transcendence or immanence. I'm glad to have those words defined. In the end the word for me is resonance.

I resonate to words - and meanings, the choice of words, the juxtaposition of those words with other words, the crafting of phrases, clauses, sentences, the building bricks of poetry and all the wonderful white spaces in between, the gaps where there are no words - to me these make up poetry at the concrete level, the rest comes down to a sort of musical magic and subjectivity.

Jim Murdoch said...

I don’t think this applies only to poetry, Lis. I used to feel for journalists back in the day. What was news in the morning became chip-wrappers that evening. All that stopped years ago. I suppose people got tired of the ink coming off on their hands but I miss it not that I visit chippies very often these days – can’t afford the calories. At least with the Internet news articles hang around so much longer a fact for which I am grateful because it makes my research so much easier.

I’ve just finished an article about the Scottish psychiatrist R D Laing – in particular his book Knots and how much it affected me when I first read it. The simple fact is that I have lived with those poems for over thirty years. You can’t simply read ‘em, get ‘em and get on wi’ it. Poems like that you need to return to. I know one person who says she prints off copies of poems she reads online and connects with and keeps them and I feel guilty for not doing the same but the fact is I don’t read anything properly these days or very little. I can’t speed read but I’m good at scanning.

Part of my problem now is the feeling I have to catch up. If I hadn’t spent the last thirty years working myself into the ground I could have read so much more. People are always dropping names of writers that not only have I not read I’ve never even heard of them. And so I rush everything. Much as I love the Internet part of me hates it too. It encourages us to overreach ourselves. I have all the time in the world but I never feel I have enough and I never feel I do enough with the time I do have. I wonder what would make me happy?

Elisabeth said...

I look forward to the RD Laing piece, Jim.

We must go easy on ourselves. We are only human. There is so much to read and to understand. How can we get to it all, and then absorb it.

I have made a bargain with myself of late. I refuse to pretend I know of something or someone when I don't and also I will not beat up on myself for all the books I have not read.

I will be grateful for every new and meaningful introduction I come by and accept that there's so much more to know and read, but I only have one lifetime.

Thanks, Jim.

Jim Murdoch said...

I made that deal with myself a long time ago, Lis, but people are quick to assume you know more than you do. I remember talking to an old woman about the four Greek words for ‘love’ once and her response was, “Oh, he knows Greek too.” Er, no, I knew four Greek words and I doubt I know many more now; my Latin is only marginally better. People have always assumed that I’m only ever giving them the tip of the iceberg and there’s this huge amount of knowledge, understanding, wisdom and insight there just below the surface and if only they spent a bit more time with me I’d have the time to share it with them. Well it just ain’t true. I admit to being intelligent but all the rest is smoke and mirrors. The thing is no matter how much I tell people that they refuse to believe me; they imagine I’m being modest. I’ve pretty much exhausted my knowledge of poetry and so every article I write these days requires research and all I’m doing is sharing what I’m learning as I learn it. I’m like the teacher who is one lesson ahead of the class he’s teaching (been there, done that). And for some reason that embarrasses me.

Elisabeth said...

You underestimate yourself, Jim. It's not just about the knowledge you share. It's also about your slant on it, and that's idiosyncratic, it's yours and it's new to everyone else other than you. I have to convince myself of these things while I struggle to write my thesis.

There is nothing essentially new in terms of all these ideas we explore, but our own individual slants on things make all the difference. You're the only one who can write as you write. And that's what makes it special.

If you knew everything, and had no doubts at all, then I imagine no one would want to read your writing.

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