Barry Lopez spoke as a visiting writer at Pacific University’s MFA program winter residency. I loved his introduction: “When you show up, you bring big trouble.” This from the soft-spoken writer who documents the connection between land and people. He answered the questions: Who are you? Where are you from? and Why are you here? in a sense, teaching us by example what we need to do in our writing as we claim the authoritative voice. Barry pointed out though, that the reader is the one who grants the authority.
“To write,” he said, “is to enter into a moral relationship with oneself and with the community.” Having the ability to write down what you mean, and a stranger being able to comprehend it, truly, “you are in the landscape of miracles.”
Barry shared a beautiful word, the Japanese kotodama, which means the soul or spirit of a word, the spiritual interior of a word itself. He reminded us that we must write with a bow of respect to the material and to the reader.