And the News Headlines Are…..

To start the day with the newspaper or to start the day with freewriting. That is the question. Well, for me, anyway.

Today it was the newspaper. Bad move. Admittedly, I’m a news junkie in spurts, depending on what’s going on in the world. This morning, I almost passed on the paper because Brett Favre was on the front page (Why? Can’t he just actually retire already?) and it bugs me when more important stuff is buried in subsequent pages to allow for the random sport figure’s spotlight. But I opened the paper up anyway and that was that. I grumbled over the Taliban‘s latest tactics, mourned for losses in Pakistan, laughed at Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty‘s paltry showing in the latest Iowa polls around possible presidential candidates, thought about the whole debate over a mosque near Ground Zero. Forty-five minutes later, I was very far away from writing any poetry.

And there you have one of the biggest battles this writer wages on a daily basis: the battle of big important world news that needs attention from all of us versus the desire to create pieces of writing that take people out of their daily reality for a minute. Art is all its forms can be a laser focus on problems in the world or it can offer an alternative to that which overwhelms us. And, yes, that’s important.

So, do artists have a responsibility to remove themselves once in a while from the barrage of world news so they can hone that offering that allows people to take a breath? Or, is their responsibility more to stay engaged, to use what’s going on like a hammer to shatter harmful practices? Is it both? What do you do as a writer? And how do you start your morning?

Chime in.


Reading about the many people injured by war, flood, and other events in today’s paper reminded me that Doctors Without Borders is out there trying to help without regard to politics, religion, country. They do amazing work. Check them out here.


  1. I'd say writers have a responsibility to place themselves where they want on the news spectrum. Left, right, center. Some poets are activists, some not. I read a great deal of world and national news, have strong opinions, but you won't find me commenting on them on my blog. I'm not comfortable either in the role of middleman or rabble-rouser. There are enough sites out there that cater to political back and forth and writers that do it very well. (John Scalzi for one)

    My first responsibility in my mind is to myself and my writing. Selfish? You bet. You won't find overt political statements in my work but anyone that knows me or reads over a period of time can begin to tease out my political views. Maybe. I have war poems – are they pro or anti or just statements? I leave it to the reader to decide.

    I think the danger is that if I let myself, I could easily become an activist writer, and lose the subtleties. So for me, it's me first, and I'm okay with that.


  2. It's more than 25 years since I wrote my last poem. I am a fiction author now, and I feel I must include quite a lot of fact inside my fiction. This lends an air of credibility to the whole story. In my forthcoming book, According to Luke, most of the locations, props, procedures, history and artifacts are real, and can be researched by my readers. This is rather fun. People start to wonder if the whole story might be true… hm, is it?
    Doing this has made me go back to a number of books I have read, and research what the authors use in the way of fact. It's an interesting exercise.


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