magically burst forth

January 19, 2020

Writing and reading are the only ways to find your voice. It won’t magically burst forth in your poems the next time you sit down to write, or the next, but little by little, as you become aware of more choices and begin to make them – consciously and unconsciously – your style will develop.

Dorianne Laux
The Poet’s Companion: A Guide To The Pleasures Of Writing Poetry

the true intensity of life

January 16, 2020

We…talk of the purpose of art and poetry, and how when we read a poem or look at a painting we are led into the true intensity of life, the one right here as we walk down the street and are struck again, as if for the first time, by the changing of the leaves from green to gold, that brief glimpse into the final hallway. Maybe the purpose of art is to help us apprehend the loud silences, the shimmering depths, the small intensities of ants going about their business, tunnelling out whole cities beneath our sidewalks, and awake us to the absolute mystery that is life. Art asks us to contemplate death rather than to simply imagine it or even press ourselves up against it as we do in our youth. It’s coming, no matter how fast we run from it or toward it, and art asks us to stop and confront death rather than being merely tolerant of, tempted or titillated by it.

Dorianne Laux
Interview in The Smoking Poet (Winter 2010-2011 Issue)

a poem is ‘true’

January 3, 2020

There’s a tendency to confuse the speaker of a poem with the author of the poem. And there’s a tendency to believe that a poem is ‘true’ — whatever that means to the reader — instead of seeing it as framed language or storytelling. I’m not immune to the confusion either. Painting is a way to commit to imagination without being called a liar.

Richard Siken
Interview with Kathleen Rooney for the Poetry Foundation

how you revise

January 1, 2020

My sense of a poem — my notion of how you revise — is: you get yourself into a state where what you are intensely conscious of is not why you wrote it or how you wrote it, but what you wrote. You just read it as a piece, as someone else might read it, and you see where it’s alive. If that voice that you created that is most alive in the poem isn’t carried throughout the whole poem, then I destroy where it’s not there, and I reconstruct it so that that voice is the dominant voice in the poem.

Philip Levine
Interview with J.M. Spalding and Guy Shahar for The Cortland Review – Issue Seven – May 1999

equal the experience

December 24, 2019

Poetry is an orphan of silence. The words never quite equal the experience behind them.

Charles Simic
The Uncertain Certainty: Interviews, Essays, and Notes on Poetry

Money & Poetry

December 8, 2019

There’s no money in poetry, but then there’s no poetry in money, either.

Robert Graves
1962 interview on BBC-TV

Words

November 30, 2019

Language games, playing with language. Using the dictionary is fun. Words play leapfrog with each other. Letters disappear. And, unexpectedly, poems appear…

Poetry’s all very well
but it rhymes and scans, its lines
strap you into carved Imperial chairs, tie you
to the headboard of a four-poster bed. What I need
is words that never sleep, a futuristic babble, glossolalia
ancient words that only unborn babies understand, pure sound.

Nancy Mattson

word of witness

November 19, 2019

The poem is a thing between You and I. It builds, line by line, a ground across which You and I can meet, can see one another, can be in the moral bind of the gaze.

An elegy is a poem to a “you” gone missing. When the poem sings, “you” appears.

But what if there were a world in which, on a forced march, a guard calls out not a name, but yells out only “you,” and a young man, a prisoner, steps out from the line in which he trudges through the cold forward, and realizing he wasn’t the one being spoken too, blushes as if embarrassed at his mistake, and then the guard shoots him. What if there were a world in which children were packed into train cars and shipped to camps, and those that were too young to know their names had them written on a scrap of cardboard hung on a string around their neck, but with no food, no water, and the train ride so long, the children ate their names for they had no other food, and when they arrive, no one knows what to call them, those children to be called only “you.” But what if there were a world in which a crippled boy in a camp speaks over and over a variant of one word but no one knows what that word means, and he limps from person to person saying mass-klo or matisklo, and others in the camp think it is the child’s name, and some thing it means bread, or meat, but no one knows with any certainty this one word the boy speaks, his only word, and now nothing of him remains, because in the camp he died. What if there were a world in which that word remains speaking forever in the air. What if there were a world…o one, o none, o no one, o you…in which that word were the only word of witness.

Dan Beachy-Quick
Sibboleth

my other rule

November 11, 2019

Though my rule for this poem
is honesty, my other rule is Fuck You.

Alice Notley
Disobedience