Friday, June 28, 2013


A segueway with advice on writing from Hemingway in his studio:

"It was wonderful to walk down the long flights of stairs knowing that I'd had good luck working. I always worked until I had something done and I always stopped when I knew what was going to happen next. That way I could be sure of going on the next day. But sometimes when I was starting a new story and I could not get it going...I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, 'Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.' So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there. It was easy then because there was always one true sentence."

Then, on to the Luxembourg Gardens ~ Hemingway would write about meeting Gertrude Stein in the gardens. I couldn't walk through them without thinking about that chance encounter and where it might have taken place.

"If I walked down by different streets to the Jardin du Luxembourg in the afternoon, I could walk through the gardens and then go to the Musée du Luxembourg where the great paintings were that have now mostly been transferred to the Louvre and the Jeu de Paume. I went there nearly every day...I was learning something from the painting of Cézanne that made writing simple true sentences far from enough..."

The Musée du Luxembourg - we went there to see the Chagall paintings. It is very near Scott and Zelda's apartment.
The Chagall paintings still inspire, even if the Cezannes have been moved! What florid, lurid inspiration - red skies, floating peasants, crescent moons - all indicative of a period of Russian history. The paintings are our photographs of how life was perceived in a time and place before technology made it available. Words do as well. I'm thankful for those who recorded it all for us - and that we can revisit them today.

All of this fits in perfectly with one of the sessions in our writing retreat. It was called the Ekphrasis exercise, and we practiced it while looking at the paintings at the Musée D'Orsay. The definition of Ekphrasis means "description" in Greek, and according to, ekphrastic poem is a vivid description of a scene or, more commonly, a work of art. Through the imaginative act of narrating and reflecting on the 'action' of a painting or sculpture, the poet may amplify and expand its meaning. A notable example is 'Ode on a Grecian Urn,' in which the poet John Keats speculates on the identity of the lovers who appear to dance and play music, simultaneously frozen in time and in perpetual motion..."

We were to study a work of art that inspired us, write about it, and learn something from observation and even the style used by the artist. It was one of my favorite sessions. 


  1. How inspiring all this retreat must have been for you. I get inspired just reading about it. And, on another note. I was so upset when they moved the Jeu de Plume and incorporated it into the Musee de Orsay. I got to go to the small and enchanting Jeu de Plume and loved it.

  2. I had no idea Aunt Latane! Thanks for sharing that bit, though I'm sorry it was an upset for you.