writing imaginative material

February 23, 2019

Find your own writing time. Everybody will have a slightly different time of day, I have yet to meet the person who thinks the early afternoon is good, but I expect there is someone out there who thinks that that’s a good idea.

For me it’s very early in the morning, partly because the house is quiet and partly because I feel I’m stealing a march on things and that makes me feel good.

I think there might be some kind of hook up between what happens in our minds when we’re asleep and writing imaginative material. I think good poems get written, as no doubt good paintings get painted, as a result of these two things coming together in an appropriate way.

Andrew Motion
Top 10 tips for being a successful poet

the rhyme changed my life

February 23, 2019

When I was 12, I wrote a poem that concluded in a very simple rhyme. The poem was nothing special but the rhyme changed my life. My parents were string quartet violinists; when I made that rhyme, I thought, This is my music…

I pretty much write all the time and don’t follow any particular routine or practice. I almost always write the first draft (or two or three) in longhand and move to a computer later; this is true for novels, as well as for poems. I write in spiral notebooks – grabbing whichever comes to hand, which means the same notebook may hold paragraphs from different stories and lines from various poems and a book review or essay. I would so love to be more systematic but I work on a lot of things at once and the result is, paper everywhere, with no way to organize it.

Writing in any form is a “journey of discovery”. Writing poetry is how I think, and learning what one thinks is terrifically exciting: That’s the journey, that’s the illumination. In any given poem, I want to make the idea of it as clear as possible -which is not to say an exposition but an unclouded vision.

I also have a great desire to include all kinds of things in my poetry; that is, to take on, in my poetry, different worlds, as in science, history, language, philosophy, visual art, music, religion, etc. I am interested in all these things, and it seems natural to me to want to write about them.

Kelly Cherry
Interview with Maureen Doallas for tweetspeak

your poems

February 23, 2019

Spend time with your poems before you write them. Be patient, if they’re obscure. Calm, if they provoke you. Wait for each one to take shape and reach perfection with its power of language and its power of silence.

Carlos Drummond de Andrade
In Search of Poetry

longing for something

February 21, 2019

So I perversely circle the late stars, drowsier and drowsier, sleepily longing for something..nothing – talking, working, eating, wondering always who am I?

Sylvia Plath
The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

the poems that I like most

February 21, 2019

I never quite believe it when poets say that they’re not writing out of their own feelings, and when that is the case, I tend not to be terribly interested in what they’re doing.

I don’t mean to say that they are writing bad poems, but those aren’t the poems that I like most. The poems I most like are where the engine is a very emotional one, where the warmth of strong feeling is very powerfully present in the thing that is being given to us. I think poetry is a rather emotional form and when it isn’t that, I’m not very interested in it.

Andrew Motion
Top 10 tips for being a successful poet

Writing off the Subject

February 21, 2019

A poem can be said to have two subjects, the initiating or triggering subject, which starts the poem or “causes” the poem to be written, and the real or generated subject, which the poem comes to say or mean, and which is generated or discovered in the poem during the writing. That’s not quite right because it suggests that the poet recognizes the real subject. The poet may not be aware of what the real subject is but only have some instinctive feeling that the poem is done.

Young poets find it difficult to free themselves from the initiating subject. The poet puts down the title: “Autumn Rain.” He finds two or three good lines about Autumn Rain. Then things start to break down. He cannot find anything more to say about Autumn Rain so he starts making up things, he strains, he goes abstract, he starts telling us the meaning of what he has already said. The mistake he is making, of course, is that he feels obligated to go on talking about Autumn Rain, because that, he feels, is the subject. Well, it isn’t the subject. You don’t know what the subject is, and the moment you run out of things to say about Autumn Rain start talking about something else. In fact, it’s a good idea to talk about something else before you run out of things to say about Autumn Rain.

Don’t be afraid to jump ahead. There are a few people who become more interesting the longer they stay on a single subject. But most people are like me, I find. The longer they talk about one subject, the duller they get. Make the subject of the next sentence different from the subject of the sentence you just put down. Depend on rhythm, tonality, and the music of language to hold things together. It is impossible to write meaningless sequences. In a sense the next thing always belongs. In the world of imagination, all things belong. If you take that on faith, you may be foolish, but foolish like a trout.

Richard Hugo
Writing off the Subject
The Triggering Town

almost a nonlanguage art

February 19, 2019

Poetry is not just an outpouring of feelings into words; diaries are good places for that. Nor is it use of words merely to convey information, as newspapers are purported to do. OK, so we all know that poetry’s medium is words — but don’t be fooled by that “fact” into thinking that poetry is made of words. “Pure poetry,” poet Russell Edson says, “is almost a nonlanguage art.” I think of poetry as a right-brain activity, using image, sensory gatherings, spatial impressions, free associations, music, and creative perception, and only casting its line into the language lake on the left to fish out the words to articulate it. If you read it only for the words (information, feelings, experience) it will not awaken and inform your full feelings and experience but will frustrate you in its seemingly mad illogic and leaps.

Alice B Fogel
Strange Terrain

a place filled with secrets

February 19, 2019

My poetic life started before I was even born, I believe, but really I’ve been a working poet for about a decade. As a child, I’d notice things the other children didn’t; I saw the world as a place filled with secrets, in-between colours, textures, whispers, and hidden spaces. I could make a world out of the smallest moment. I still do. Being a poet feels like having two bodies — one in this world, and one in some other. Does this sound like you?

Lisa Marie Basile
If You Want To Become a poet

never write again

February 17, 2019

When I am locked out of the gates of literature, I despair, brood, obsess. I believe wholeheartedly that I will never write again. I pursue this line of thought to the bitter end. It’s an excruciating process, but there are no shortcuts on the road to writing. I’ve come to consider the atmospheric disturbance that exists at the edges of laying honest sentences across a page to be character-building experiences. After all, writing demands resilience, self-respect, discipline. More exhilarating, perhaps, is the fact that it requires an equal measure of disobedience. It makes little sense, then, to pursue efficiency in lieu of the chaos writing causes when we are at a loss for how to begin the telling. So often, the inability to write is a sign that we are not yet ready to be honest, or reckless in our pursuit of subject matter. In the face of such a tall order, the only thing I know to do is to resign myself to the unpleasant experience of waiting patiently at the gates. To pass the time, and to build up courage, I return to Kafka, Nietzsche, Nabokov, Lispector. Eventually, I’ll read a sentence like, ‘Now I know how, have the know-how, to reverse perspectives…’ Suddenly, I’m reminded of how alien the world feels to me, and, before I know it, I am writing again. All I had to do was suffer long enough to remember that I am only spying on this strange and sublime world momentarily, and that I don’t have any time to waste.

Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi
Poets & Writers 2nd August 2018

to be disconnected

February 16, 2019

Communication between disconnected parties — I like that! It makes me want to get personal and psychoanalytical rather than theoretical. But theory and my gut tell me that most communications are between disconnected parties. The poet and her reader? My Facebook page and my friends? Which of those nouns ought to be in quotes? Certainly, our communiqués — our tweets and texts and two-sentence Facebook life-story-announcements—share more, stylistically, with Raymond Chandler than with Edna St. Vincent Millay or most any other traditional lyric poet. When you think of it, we’re a society of world-weary, world-poor detectives: did u c him? yes. when? last night. what was he wearing? omg and a : ) thrown in for an idiot criminal’s good measure. I wrote “The List” before I ever texted anyone; but I think I knew what it felt like to be disconnected.

No one in my family had ever considered being a writer. It was difficult enough, I suppose, for them to get by in spoken English, and you tend to speak tersely when you don’t know a language too well or when you don’t feel very powerful in the dominant culture that speaks it — except for my mother, and she stopped writing to have a series of mental breakdowns back in the 1950s. Obviously, some writers use terseness in response to grief sometimes; some writers use it in response to technologistics. Maybe grief and technology are one and the same — or maybe they’re becoming one and the same.

Janet Kaplan
Interview with Adrienne Brock