Thursday, June 14, 2012

Praying to Bob Cohen

I met Bob the first day I attended the Bandon Writers' meeting at the Unity Church. I almost didn't go, a church was the last place I wanted to go to share my writing. The room was small, cozy, well lit from many windows. Some people even pulled the shades because the light was too bright for them.

Bob, and John, and another John, and Bill and Mary and Anne, and...Names blurred those first weeks. What didn't blur were the stories each told. I began to look forward to the stories.

Bob read his poems in a soft voice. Funny, I thought, he looks like he'd have a big voice.  His  poem on that first day, was about a kid in a playground, throwing sand at another kid and then running away in a hurry. In this poem, he revealed the need to get back at a bully, to attack him and make him pay for the acts he had committed. (That's what I remember about that poem.)

I was beginning to share some memoir pieces at that time. First person narratives. While everyone was concentrating on "fixing" my syntax here and there, Bob told me that I didn't have to fix anything if what I wanted to capture was the very essence of my soul. "That's who you are now, as you retell your story, and your reader will feel and know you intimately if you use the language you normally use."

On days when I need to get something out on paper, I think of Bob Cohen, now dead and gone. I think of how he would start to capture that feeling, that scene, and I accept who I am, the limitations of my skills, the ordinary topics I concentrate on.


  1. Bob Cohen was certainly right when he told you to write as you speak. I agree with him. When one is writing a personal narrative, or especially poetry, one should not worry so much about syntax. When one's first language is not English, it is even more important to make sure your voice comes through by using the syntax, the expressions, the vocabulary that one would use in one's first language. I used to give my students permission to write original poetry in L1 -the "mother tongue." This gave them more freedom of expression. They then really enjoyed trying to put that poem into English without losing the heart of it all by trying to write the same thing in English.

    Editing can always come later is necessary. In the meantime, do as Bob said to do. I think you are an awesome writer. Your poetry is wonderful.

  2. Bob and Retired English Teacher are both right! Your memoir was wonderful just as you posted it. I loved every segment of it!

    1. Eva, without you and a few others who followed and encouraged, I couldn't have completed it. My Brian had read and commented as well. Wonderful memories of him and his questions complete my experience of that voyage of memory.
      Thanks for your continuous support, dear friend.

  3. " . . .Bob told me that I didn't have to fix anything if what I wanted to capture was the very essence of my soul." I love that advice; thanks for sharing.

    1. Wanting to write is one thing; but, being encouraged to do so at the right time is precious stuff.
      I'm glad I had/have friends (virtual and neighbors) who are kind enough to offer supporting words.

      Thanks Diane.

  4. I love the advice he gave you. My grammer sucks and trying to write poetry or any at that matter is a joke! Yet I'm trying but there are days I can't seem to get my words down on paper to express what I want to say.

    His advice gives me hope to just be who I am and hopefully others will like what I write.