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Your Memoir: an Arrest of Disorder

Each poem clarifies something. But then you’ve got to do it again. You can’t get ‘clarified’ to stay so: let you not think that. In a way, it’s like nothing more than blowing smoke rings. Making little poems encourages a man to see that there is shapeliness in the world. A poem is an arrest of disorder.

—Robert Frost, poet

Generating the arrest of disorder of life

When I read the quote above, I did not have to make much of a leap to sense that the words “An arrest of disorder” apply to the task you and I undertake when we write memoir. As the poet so is the memoir writer engaged in art making: the creation of meaning.

More than anything perhaps, we want an arrest of disorder. Disorder seems to be everywhere in life. And so, we take our raw material—the events of our lives and of the lives of the people who surround us—and endeavor to make meaning of it all. In short, we take up our mishmash of events, our disorder of memories, and attempt to make order—or, at the least, to create an arrest of disorder.

This rendering of order proves to be soothing. It is what we deeply wish to achieve in our lives—to have all the disparate and seemingly meaningless (or at least random) occurrences, wishes, pains somehow come together coherently, meaningfully. It all happened, we realize in an “A-ha!” moment, for some reason rather than by chance.

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2 Responses to Your Memoir: an Arrest of Disorder

  1. Wayne Groner July 12, 2011 at 4:26 PM #

    Frost’s quote reminds me of my favorite writing quote, attributed to Robert Louis Stevenson: “It’s not enough we write to be understood; we must write so we cannot possibly be misunderstood.” When we arrest disorder we are doing away with being misunderstood.

  2. Denis Ledoux July 30, 2012 at 3:42 PM #

    Thanks for the comment. We writers are a complicated lot, aren’t we?

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