Say anything. Free-writing, free-associating, and keeping a journal are all ways to move from silence into words…(‘Say anything’ is another version of William Stafford’s famous advice: ‘There’s no such thing as writer’s block; you need only lower your standards.’)

Jane Hirshfield
Reconnecting After a Silence
Poets & Writers Magazine January/February 2018

need to rebuild

November 17, 2018

In general, I look for placeholder language when I revise. That is, moments in poems where the language seems to get habitual and is, let’s say, falling down the stairs in an uninteresting way. Those are the spots I need to tend to. Often, those spots are indicative of larger structural issues I need to address. Like, I need to rebuild the stairs so the falling down them gets more interesting. Or, I need to remove the railing so the falling can happen more quickly. Or, I need to install a new spiral-y railing so the falling knows where it’s going. I realize I’m extending this falling-down-the-stairs metaphor very, very far. But what this metaphor also demonstrates is that for real revision, I need to immerse completely in the world of the poem; I have to move through it intuitively and with everything I’ve got.

Chen Chen
Interview with Allison Peters for the Michigan Quarterly Review

Light and reflections by Andrea Moore

Poems, even when narrative, do not resemble stories. All stories are about battles, of one kind or another, which end in victory or defeat. Everything moves towards the end, when the outcome will be known.

Poems, regardless of any outcome, cross the battlefields, tending the wounded, listening to the wild monologues of the triumphant or the fearful. They bring a kind of peace. Not by anaesthesia or easy reassurance, but by recognition and the promise that what has been experienced cannot disappear as if it had never been. Yet the promise is not of a monument. (Who, still on a battlefield, wants monuments?) The promise is that language has acknowledged, has given shelter, to the experience which demanded, which cried out.

John Berger
And Our Faces, My Heart, Brief as Photos

good writer

November 6, 2018

You want to be a good writer? Then pick subjects people don’t want to hear about. Fuck decorum. Insist on showing sickness, perversion, anguish and squalor. Tell them about death and oblivion. Show them jealousy, indifference, frustration and the absence of love. Be abject, and you’ll be true. Follow the pack and you’ll be just another tired hack –

silently weeping

November 4, 2018

In the novel they say omit nothing, harvest the entire goddamn world
In memoir they say the self is silently weeping, give it a tissue
In poetry they say the arrow may be blown off course by storm and returned by miracle

Alice Ostriker
The Liberal Arts


November 4, 2018

Folk legend, fairytale, myth are thought of as escapist, but in reality they’re not – they’re distilled metaphor and truth.

Alan Garner
Interview for BBC TV programme Sleuths, Spies & Sorcerers

the beauty of our longing

November 3, 2018

Into the trees

You cannot write alone, no more than you can be alone inside your own poems. The muse is not only, in contemporary vernacular, an inspirit but a facilitator…the acknowledged or unacknowledged antagonist… the opposition that creates the energy and story of the poem…the need and the means. It provides the imagination with context, and when all is said and done, the text itself. The freeness of our trees, the birdies of our birds, the pity of our forgiveness, the beauty of our longing, our paralysis, our prevarications, our palaver, all may saturate the colours and textures of our poems, but they are masks over the singular face of the archetype.

Stanley Plumly
Autobiography and Archetrype

sun and grass

I think there is a general misconception that you write poems because you “have something to say.” I think, actually, that you write poems because you have something echoing around in the bone-dome of your skull that you cannot say. Poetry allows us to hold many related tangential notions in very close orbit around each other at the same time. The “unsayable” thing at the center of the poem becomes visible to the poet and reader in the same way that dark matter becomes visible to the astrophysicist. You can’t see it, but by measure of its effect on the visible, it can become so precise a silhouette you can almost know it.

Rebecca Lindenberg
Why Write Poetry?

man on fire

October 27, 2018

If prose is a house, poetry is a man on fire running quite fast through it.

Anne Carson
Interview with Kate Kellaway in the Guardian newspaper 30th October 2016

charged with presentiments

October 23, 2018

Scotland Fog - Skyler Brown

Writing on the subject of Innocence and Memory, the Italian poet Ungaretti noted that if memory referred only to the past, it would lead to despair. Instead, he called memory a word ‘charged with presentiments,’ which opens forwards as well as backwards in time and thereby contains seeds of renewal — echoing the myth of Mnemosyne who gave birth to the muses who tell of what is and what will be as well as what was.

Words have this range, Ungaretti observed, because of the imprecise personal associations that they evoke. What lifts a word from the pages of a dictionary to make it a living force with the potential of approaching truth is not its denotation but its connotations: ‘this margin of infinite allusions through which imagination and emotion can wander.’ This margin of connotations derives from experience with particular people, places, and things, and their related words. Through these imprecise associations, Ungaretti argued, words most accurately articulate experience, as their indeterminacy lives actually within ourselves. We ourselves are compounds of error, ambiguity, and possibility which overflow bare denotation. Poetry, said Ungaretti, has always used this allusive quality of memory in order to approximate reality.

Louise Chawla
In the First Country of Places: Nature, Poetry, and Childhood Memory