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Reality and Fiction

Colum McCann > Letters to Young Writers > Reality and Fiction

At certain points in history it is only the poetic that is capable of dealing with brute reality. The writer arrives at the conjunction of these two forces — reality and fiction — and makes a decision about how to proceed. There she stands, on the edge of two tectonic plates. What she has to do, then, is let the facts go. Let the figures go. Let the simplicities disappear. Let the soundbites drown. She descends into language instead. Bravely and elegantly. Into the abyss. The poetic gives shape to the brutality, but it also gives meaning and credence to its destruction. Only that language which is capable of reaching the poetic will be able to stand in opposition to that which is wrong. Nothing short of your best will do. Make it sing.