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Writing as a way of knowing

Writing fiction is often seen as making something up, having little truth value.  But is that accurate or is literature another way of knowing?

Freud once said that wherever his science and insight went, poets had already been there. In other words, poetry and other literature is a way of knowing, not just an escape. Poetry speaks from one unconscious to another, freeing us up to see the world in radically new ways. In a class I attended last night, one of the members defined literature as something that “changes one’s life.” Beyond a doubt, Emily Dickinson did change my life. So did Shakespeare and John Donne. Walt Whitman too.

More than teaching me about poetry and drama they made it OK to make the journey within, to have feelings about life, death, sexuality and infirmity– and God. All believed in God but Whitman and Dickinson were my introduction to mysticism, to an encounter with God that colors all of life, that is capable of encountering in the vagaries of life.

These are lessons that continue to change my life. Funny, I can’t even put these insights into words, but that doesn’t matter.

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