Monday, 28 July 2014
Author Interview with Laura Inman, Author of The Poetic World of Emily Brontë
The Poetic World of Emily Brontë presents selected poems by Emily Brontë, biographical information about her, and insights to Wuthering Heights. The poems are grouped by thematic topic, preceded by discussions of literary context, Brontë’s life, and Wuthering Heights. Interpretations follow each poem enabling any reader to appreciate and enjoy her poetry.
Emily Bronte is best known for her novel, but her poetry is of equal merit and comprises virtually the only other work by her for us to read. The poems are also of great interest in their biographical value; it is a premise of this book that Emily Brontë’s poetry provides otherwise unknowable information about her personality and beliefs. Conversely, the biographical information gives insights to the meaning of her poems. Knowing her poetry also enriches one’s reading of Wuthering Heights. Unlike any other collection of Brontë’s poetry, this book presents selected poems grouped by thematic topic: nature, mutability, love, death, captivity and freedom, hope and despair, imagination, and spirituality. That approach and the accompanying discussions of the poems aim at ensuring that all readers will take meaning from the poems and develop an affinity for them.
Hello, and welcome to Roxy’s Reviews.
Thank you so much for taking the time to visit with us today.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself.
I have a blog, thelivingphilosopher.com, that reveals anything of importance or interest about me because ideas I have on literature, philosophy, life, alcoholism, human nature, etc. have been deposited there in one form or another. I value personal freedom, hold reason as more valuable than emotion, revere self-sufficiency, and find most of what goes on in the world amazingly horrible (much of which we have just become acclimated to accept) or foolish. I read Barbara Tuchman’s book on the 14th Century a long time ago and remember her central assessment and partial explanation of that era as a world run by drunken teenagers—literally, young people who drank a lot. What is our excuse?
2. What inspires your writing?
For literary writing, I am inspired to write when I think I have found something new about a literary work. When I wrote an article on Wuthering Heights, I had made a discovery about Emily Bronte’s personal numeric symbolism. For my article on Bronte’s poems, I was interested in the untreated topic of the centrality of death in her poetry and how her poetry could serve as consolation for grief. I was inspired to write an article on John Keats when I discovered that Keats’s personal philosophy was in line with the Roman Stoicism of Seneca and that his philosophy influenced themes in his poetry. With regard to my book The Poetic World of Emily Bronte I wanted to write a monograph on Bronte’s poetry which would give a clear understanding of it to readers and allow me to spend long hours reading her work and contemplating her work and life. For other kinds of writing, like blog posts, I am inspired by things I read in the paper or that have happened to me, frequently taking a look at such events from the perspective of Roman Stoicism. I also like to write by assignment, so to speak; if I hear of a writing contest-- anything form 200-word fiction, to writing about the way to live a good life, to writing a poem on the subject of noise -- I like to write in response and am heedless of “winning” the contest. That’s where having a blog is great—if I want to share my writing, I can through the blog or at least have a repository for everything that I consider finished work.
3. Please tell us more about The Poetic World of Emily Bronte?
This book should appeal to anyone who likes to read poetry or read about poetry. Those can be two very different categories. I like reading introductions to and essays about literature, which is a different kind of read than the literary work itself. Also, the biographical content in my book cannot be discounted. My book is in large part an investigation of Bronte’s thoughts and personality. I would have liked to write a biography of Emily Bronte, except there is really nothing new to add as a pure biography to those already available. I have to imagine that anyone who has read Wuthering Heights would find much to enjoy in my book because there are so many references to it and insights. I have at times felt like I was waging my own little campaign to get the public to stop thinking of Wuthering Heights as a love story. The discussion of that novel in my book, among other things, furthers that mission.
4. In the overview of The Poetic World of Emily Bronte it states – “Knowing her poetry also enriches one’s reading of Wuthering Heights” – how so?
In her poetry, Bronte, develops ideas on certain topics, such as childhood, death, nature, and grief. Once one is familiar with those thematic statements, one can discern them in the novel where she treats those same topics. One could take the novel as a starting point and say that knowing it makes her poetry more understandable; however, in approaching the novel, other factors, such as plot and one’s preconceived notions, might obscure the ideas, so that the thematic guidance of her poetry is particularly helpful. Although there is a school of thought that determining what the author meant to say thematically is not important, I think that it is. As a writer, I have something I want to impart as an idea, whether in non-fiction or fiction; if a reader takes away something I didn’t even know was there, that’s all right, but it is also worth understanding what I intended to say.
5. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
I don’t see any reason to write unless one can’t feel at peace without doing it. Others might read what one writes, or they might not. An audience is not necessary. As I read in a letter by the Stoic Seneca with regard to an audience: “Few are enough, one is enough, none is enough.” For writing to be satisfying and not frustrating, I think it does require study and practice. First comes reading. No one can write anything without reading the kind of thing he or she intends to write. As a teacher, I was always amazed when the curriculum called for kids to “write a poem” when they had never read any or almost none. That is a pointless exercise in my rather opinionated view. Before John Keats wrote he immersed himself in Shakespeare and Milton and Dante. When he was not “in cue for writing” as he phrased it, he would open his Shakespeare. Likewise, at the high school level, students are asked to write essays when they have never read them. They read fiction and then write about it—they should also read a lot of essays about fiction (literary essays) before trying to do that. So in terms of advice -- read, practice, and write for yourself.
6. Who are some of your favourite authors?
Obviously, Emily Bronte would be on the short list. For poets, I like Shakespeare (I like reading his sonnets more than his plays), John Keats, Byron, Tennyson, Shelly and Swinburne and some poems from the WWI British poets. For novelists, I enjoy the 19th century writers, in particular, Austen, the Brontes, and Trollope. I would not include Dickens, however. I would add to the list of favourites Wharton and James, and if I were to include somebody modern, I would say that I enjoy a Ken Follett novel. I like reading biographies of writers also, and Andrew Motion’s biography of John Keats is one that I read from time to time. On that note, I read books that I like over and over, sometimes just parts and at times all the way through for the umpteenth time.
7. You were an attorney, what are the similarities between the world of law and the world of writing? If any.
The shared aspects between lawyering and writing are thinking critically --analysing and synthesizing information—and communicating ideas in writing. Some lawyers do that more than others, but any good lawyer should be adept at critical thinking and clearly putting thoughts on paper with due observance of grammar, syntax, and best word choice.
8. When you are not busy writing, what can you be found doing?
Mostly I attend to the everyday business of living, which seems like trying to keep things in place, literally and metaphorically. I spend a lot of time with my dog and I ride horses, although that latter activity means spending much of my time in the car getting to the horse. I don’t have to be actually sitting at the computer to be writing, since I am writing things in my head while doing all those other things. I read, but would almost never sit down to read any time but at night.
9. What is the best advice you received in life? And what is your secret to success?
I can’t think of any piece of advice that someone has given to me directly. I did always want a philosophy for living and developed a couple of ideas while in college: everything is an end in itself and don’t have regrets because you would do the same thing given the chance to do it over again. The big help in dealing with life came from reading the letters and essays of Seneca. I got the best advice from there. Success is self-satisfaction and tranquillity of mind. That is a perpetually moving target, but at times I feel that at least I have the target in sight.
10. Are you currently working on any special projects, writing or other? Can you tell us a bit more about them?
I wrote an abstract in response to a call for papers by a professor through the Modern Languages Association on what constitutes the good life, particularly in the global community. If she is interested in the abstract, I will complete the paper. Actually, I am writing it anyway and will put it on my blog if she does not accept it.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Laura Inman is an independent scholar, free-lance writer, tutor, and retired attorney. Her interest in Victorian literature has led to the publication of two articles on Emily Brontë: “ ‘The Awful Event’ in Wuthering Heights,” Brontë Studies Volume 33, Part 3, November 2008, 19 2002, and “Emily Brontё’s Defeat of Death and Unintended Solace for Grief,” Victorians: Journal of Culture and Literature, No.121, spring 2012. She holds a J.D. from The Law School of the University of Texas at Austin, a B.A. in French from the University of Arizona, and a Masters in English Education from Manhattanville College in Purchase, New York. She is a New York State certified teacher in English Language Arts and French. She writes essays and creative pieces for on-line magazines and blogs and for her own blog, thelivingphilosopher.com.