Perhaps a poem is a spell spelt out to test how much reality we can bear. Not much, as we know. Language offers itself as a gleaming shield against the overwhelms and the anguish. Death and loss are hard to bear. Our dead look at us when we’re not expecting that look, we’re never prepared, and that look feels like a disconnect and a connection. All these things are bewildering and not simple. The poem recounts them to the poet in us and through its alchemical mingling of truth and lie, mystery and illumination, makes our anguish into a story, a song. Among the mad noise of the world, it offers its still small voice, as some kind of compensation for things too awful for anyone to think about for too long.

Penelope Shuttle
language as a gleaming shield

If I create a female character, I would like to be able to show her having the emotions all human beings have – hate, envy, spite, lust, anger and fear, as well as love, compassion, tolerance and joy – without having her pronounced a monster, a slur, or a bad example.

Margaret Atwood
The Curse of Eve – Or, What I Learned in School

engaged with my work

June 20, 2020

Technique (in writing) is mainly what I care about – it’s what keeps me entertained and engaged with my work on a day to day basis. I think any artist will tell you that – and probably most athletes as well. To be good at anything, whether dance or painting or Olympic diving, you have to be really, really attentive to detail. And you also have to be able to forget about technique in the heat of the moment – you have to know your technique so well that it’s second nature. But you never stop trying to refine it.

Donna Tartt
Interview with Laurie Grassi for 8th November 2013 issue of Chatelaine Book Club

linguistic expression

June 16, 2020

Poetry is the most versatile, ambidextrous and omnipotent of all type of speech or writing, yet, paradoxically, it is the only one which is unified by a single exclusive feature, that which enables us to identify it and which separates it from every other kind of linguistic expression. This element is the keystone of my definition of poetry and it is called ‘the double pattern’…. One half of the double pattern is made up of devices, effects, habits and frames of reference that poetry shares with all other linguistic discourses….The other half of the pattern pulls against this, it announces the text as a poem by marshalling aspects of language into patterns that serve no purpose elsewhere in language yet which play a role in the way the poem is structured and, most significantly, in how it discharges meaning.

Richard Bradford

Poetry: The Ultimate Guide

I begin my writing day with reading poetry and keeping a poetry journal. I write about what moves me, what I notice, and what “wonders me,” as my dad says. What wondered me during this pandemic edition of National Poetry Month was how every poem felt like it had more heft and breadth than it would on a regular April day. And whatever every poem was actually about, it was suddenly about This, about Now, about COVID-19.

Megan Willome
Pandemic Journal: an entry on how we read poetry

Today we live in a society in which spurious realities are manufactured by the media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups, political groups… So I ask, in my writing, What is real? Because unceasingly we are bombarded with pseudo-realities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms. I do not distrust their motives; I distrust their power. They have a lot of it. And it is an astonishing power: that of creating whole universes, universes of the mind. I ought to know. I do the same thing.

Philip K. Dick
How To Build A Universe That Doesn’t Fall Apart Two Days Later
The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick: Selected Literary and Philosophical Writings

steadily write novels

February 20, 2020

From the age of nine or ten, I was passionately certain I would be a writer when I grew up.

Now I’m forty-two, and my first book has just come out.

If I could talk to ten-year-old me about this, she would be appalled. What have I been doing for the last thirty-two years? Shouldn’t I have had a novel out by twenty? That was always the plan. I was going to get my career started early, get popular, get rich, buy a house in the country, fill it with dogs (I was ten. Dogs were still better than boys.), and steadily write novels while simultaneously answering letters from my adoring fans. It was my destiny to be a writer. I had a knack for writing stories, and I loved doing it, so how could I not succeed? As I progressed through my teens, I started picking up those writing and publishing guides no one buys any more because all the information is online now. There was no Internet during my teens. We got our first computer when I was thirteen, and it wasn’t connected to anything but the wall. I learned about the publication process the way I learned about everything else: by going to the library.

Boomers tend to heap scorn on Millennials for being entitled enough to assume they deserve to achieve their dreams. Everyone forgets about Generation X. We were told from the beginning that our dreams were ridiculous and unachievable. We should try, of course, but we shouldn’t expect anything to come of it. So my expectations about my writing were always kind of split in two. I was sure I was a good writer; I was sure I was a terrible writer. I knew I would succeed; I knew I would fail. I sent out a manuscript in my early twenties and was kindly rejected by a small publisher, and even though I knew this was something every writer went through and I should just suck it up and try again, I somehow stopped sending stuff out after that. It was the writing I enjoyed, not the attempt to figure out a publisher’s guidelines from the brief and inaccurate entry in some publishing guide or other and the agonising wait for the rejection to come in the mail. I churned out novels and put them away on shelves. I told myself I was “practising.”

Kari Maaren
Debuting at Forty-Two or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Writing Process

She wrote her words

October 29, 2019

She wrote that her fingers became so many sable brushes on his skin, a subtle interlacing of sensations, creating even greater desire. She wrote that her hands were the tools of a sculptress, engraving tenderness in the clay of his body. She wrote that his mouth, like the poet’s pen, tenderly grazed the vellum of her skin in rhymes of intense pleasure. She wrote her words like torrid and obscene passage from a never-ending novel – sensual, voluptuous, furious. She wrote the words and they became…her lover.

assaulted by poetry

September 10, 2019

The task of being a poet is not completed at a fixed schedule. No one is a poet from eight to twelve and from two to six. Whoever is a poet is one always, and continually assaulted by poetry.

Jorge Luis Borges
Trans. Eliot Weinberger

when you fuck a poem

August 31, 2019

her ink is wrapped around
your limbs like
tattoos of who is
written into you

stains stuck to the page
then transferred to your skin
stanzas scattered
across the floor
lines divided

creating sounds no linguist
has ever heard

your screams will be
songs with no shape

let her taste you solid
as a consonant
let her make you soft
as a vowel

with your mouth wide open
swallow every syllable

drip like coffee
when the morning’s long
and the writing won’t stop

spill a little
then soak
until you are two pages
pressed together

pin her by the corners and
recline between her lines

when she moans it will sound like
“you’re my title now”

Gowri Koneswaran