Our Grief Is Not A Cry For

Parallelisms, reversals, verbal play—do these lines, singly or together, make up writing we might call 'creative? In a world that faces increasing numbers of unsolved public questions, should writers aim to preserve a distance, not get involved, or, on occasions when involvement beckons, stick to the well-tried writing-workshop approach of 'show' don't 'tell'? The slogans exhibit features we might well describe as creative, not least because to awaken response they make strange what was familiar: 'Let's try Pre-emptive Peace.'

In the words of the American poet and essayist Eliot Weinberger, 'In all the anthologies and magazines devoted to 9/11 and its aftermath, nearly every single writer resorted to first-person anecdote: 'It reminded me of the day my father died.'; 'I took an herbal bath and decided to call my old boyfriend.'. Barely a one could imagine the event outside the prison cell of their own expressive self.'

Weinberger's comments ask serious questions. Should students of creative writing continue to be encouraged to focus on personal experience as their foremost subject, and so risk neglecting themes such as war, poverty, terrorism, global warming, human rights, racism, marginality? Can the right 'anecdote' bridge the gap? Is the 'expressive self indeed a prison? Must sloganised writing be the alternative, and, if so, is it desirable? Or is there still room for the personal voice whether or not this is attached to an issue or a position? My own reaction to these dilemmas is that they should be debated. Two points of guidance spring to mind.

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