Peter Turchi | Book Cellar | Literary Events | Chicago Reader
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Peter Turchi 

When: Fri., April 3 2015
If you start to consider that the act of writing may be more a strategic arrangement of information than a spontaneous outpouring of pure feeling, you may come to a conclusion similar to the one reached by writer and creative writing professor Peter Turchi: that it's actually not that much different from solving a jigsaw puzzle, or one of the logic problems that, to his regret, have been eliminated from the GRE. For Turchi, this realization came as a relief. "I've spent a lot of my life doing puzzles," he explains. "I always thought it was a guilty pleasure and of no use." Instead, it became an excuse to write his new book, A Muse and a Maze.

"Once you recognize writing as a puzzle or a problem to solve," he says, "you recognize the constraints. But it makes you more flexible. Once you define the problem clearly, you can move the points around." Some poems, like Elizabeth Bishop's villanelle "One Art," he argues, actually gain their power from their use of form. Throughout the book, Turchi combines puzzles and discussions of magic tricks as well as conventional literary analysis to show how arranging information to deepen the sense of mystery can make writing more interesting. "I wanted it to feel like fun," he explains. "I like word puzzles, the quavering of language, the way they interrogate the meanings of language." At its best, writing is a lot like that: a combination of logic and intuition. "But intuition comes from practice," Turchi says, "like practicing an instrument day after day. Eventually you're able to hear that one solo is better than another. You know it, even when you can't say why." —Aimee Levitt

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