Friday, October 28, 2016

Descriptive Writing From Two Authors And Their Timeless Shores

This week marks the anniversary of the birth of two Western writers who cherished their lives at the ocean's edge and shared that love with millions of adoring readers. They are the American novelist, Pat Conroy (1945-2016), born on the 26th, and the Welsh poet and short story writer, Dylan Thomas (1914-1953) born on the 27th.

Conroy, who died earlier this year was nothing less than a Lowcountry treasure. His rich descriptive writing and intense webs of characters forged out of family and place always returned to the magic of South Carolina's islands in the sea: 

Charleston has a landscape that encourages intimacy and partisanship. I have heard it said that an inoculation to the sights and smells of the Carolina lowcountry is an almost irreversible antidote to the charms of other landscapes, other alien geographies. You can be moved profoundly by other vistas, by other oceans, by soaring mountain ranges, but you can never be seduced. You can even forsake the lowcountry, renounce it for other climates, but you can never completely escape the sensuous, semitropical pull of Charleston and her marshes.  
                                                                                             The Prince of Tides

Conroy during an interview at Chapel Hill, North Carolina in 2014
Almost thirty years have passed since my personal immersion in the coastal environment Conroy describes. I recall those late evenings reading in the den and at first suddenly feeling, then hearing the low frequency vibrations from ship screws in the Savannah River channel a few thousand feet away. It's an experience one cannot have watching the massive vessels moving through the Tybee Knoll Cut Range at the mouth of the Savannah River. It takes the quiet and the dark for one to merge with the event. That may seem like an odd recollection out of the complex catalog of island experiences, but it approaches the unique and remains one of many fondest memories. For the most part - small flashes of creativity being the exception - I simply enjoy those memories. Pat Conroy, on the other hand, took the everyday and unique events in his life journey and turned them into some of the most lyrical writing of our time. I'm so glad he did.

Many critics and authorities note that Thomas's recitations are spoken words that approach song. You can form your own opinion listening to the poet reading Poem in October, his recollections of his thirtieth birthday. Audio quality isn't the best. I suggest earphones and closed eyes for this sound journey if you choose not to read along.

What an unforgettable voice. I was in elementary school when I first heard a recording of Thomas reading his work. There's a good chance few students in any grade have that opportunity today. That is unfortunate because we often think education has come a long way over the last five decades. Perhaps it has, but somewhere on that journey we have undoubtedly lost some very precious cultural experiences that have made us who we are as a people.

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