Thursday, April 23, 2015

Elizabeth Alexander

In her memoir,The Light of the World, Elizabeth Alexander writes about her husband Ficre Ghebreyesus, who died shortly after turning 50.

From the author's Q & A with Michele Filgate at Salon:

Ficre was an artist and you talk about that a lot in the book, and about his style. And in one particular passage you write: “Ficre did not paint what he saw. He saw in his mind, and then he painted, and then he found the flowers that were what he painted. He painted what he wanted to continue to see. He painted how he wanted the world to look. He painted to fix something in place. And so I write to fix him in place, to pass time in his company, to make sure I remember, even though I know I will never forget.” I thought that was a beautiful way to talk about the common human instinct to hold on to our loved ones. I’m wondering how you wrote about someone that you knew so well and that you loved so much without idealizing them. How do you write from an honest place about a person who means so much to you?

Yeah, that’s a challenge, isn’t it? The quick answer is, I don’t know. I just did it. It’s mysterious. But I think also one thing I was aware of, and this is to the word “nostalgia,” I knew I had to write this book quickly…I had to write it when I was still in it. Because I thought if I’m too far away I would forget things. But I think it’s not about forgetting things. I thought I might idealize things. And so I wanted to be able to just be in such raw feeling and experience that I almost didn’t know what I was writing. I was just writing. And I just really, really was clear that I was kind of racing against the clock, because of course you never stop missing the person. You never stop breathing. But you do pull yourself together and keep on.

I’ve often heard that you should wait to process things that you have gone through before you write about them. But I love that you’re saying you wanted to process them in the actual moment. So I’m wondering, do you think the writing would’ve been different if you waited years to write about this?

Oh, I’m...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue