What Hemingway Learned from Cezanne |
You must build a sentence like a mountain. You must start someplace flat. Someplace where you can stand and see the land roll out for miles. You must let the wind die down. The rain clear. Then you may bring them, one block at a time. You must pile them upon one another and lean each new one closer to the center so that it will hold as it rises toward the sky. Each piece must be inevitable, like a scripture you cannot erase. You must use the colors of the earth. Colors with a sense of gravity. Colors that over time dig roots of their own and feed off the rest. You must leave places for animals. Caves and gullies. Tall stands of pines. Streams that begin as snow and melt and gather and gush and fall quiet on the flats where trout live their secret lives. If there must be people in this landscape, let their lives be the troubled lives of good people who would like to follow these mountain paths back up to the top but cannot find the way.
David Shumate, poet-in-residence, Marian College, Indiana, teacher of writing and literature.