A poet and essayist likens writing to witchcraft, love, and “the craft of getting someone to love me.”
As a teacher, Boully (Creative Writing and Literature/Columbia Coll. Chicago; of the mismatched teacups, of the single-serving spoon: a book of failures, 2012, etc.) was visited by a textbook representative who offered her many books to help teach her students the craft of poetry or nonfiction writing. Horrified, she recalled the exercises she had encountered as an undergraduate, which resembled “therapy: confronting an experience with the goal of moving beyond it to free oneself from buried trauma.” For Boully, the process is far different, rooted in a philosophical journey for meaning, sincerity, and, not least, love. “I expect my students to essay fiercely and obsessively,” she writes. In her own work, an essay “may begin with a suspicion. I follow that suspicion until it gives me something I might have been searching for.” The pieces in this captivating collection—versions of which were previously published in literary journals—reflect Boully’s discomfort with genre: some are prose poems, some collages of fragments, bits of “veiled memoir,” and evocative digressions. “It seems to me,” she writes ruefully, “that the inability to accept a mixed piece of writing is akin to literary discrimination.” The author’s prose is reminiscent of Lydia Davis’—spare, elliptical, unexpected—and sometimes, in her rhythmic cadences, of Gertrude Stein’s. In the literary world, Boully confesses, her genre-bending often causes consternation. “I may look like an essay, but I don’t act like one,” she writes. “I may look like prose, but I don’t speak like it.” She may look like a poet, too, or a fiction writer: “The need to write fictions,” she offers, “arises from the desire to say one thing and mean another.
Graceful meditations on love, loneliness, and the magic of words.