Carry her poems away

January 15, 2019

a way of being or thinking

January 10, 2019

This is the truth — I really don’t know how to write a poem. I scribble out 80 percent of what I write. What comes up in a book is just what survives. I want to write in a way that makes me discover something that I don’t know. I think poetry is a way of being or thinking, a way of speaking or thinking out loud as you go.

Marie Howe
Interview with Shivani Singh
Daily Free Press March 16th 2016

deeply mysterious

January 10, 2019

Poetry survives because it haunts and it haunts because it is simultaneously utterly clear and deeply mysterious; because it cannot be entirely accounted for, it cannot be exhausted.

Louise Glück
American Originality: Essays on Poetry

The poem is a body and the body a poem. This is not something I can prove, nor even something that is necessarily true, but it does have the ring of truth about it. This is a more intuitive relationship but one I think we are all fairly conversant with and one with which most poetry lovers will agree. The one true topography of self we can chart, navigate, and map is the body. The visible self leads to the more ethereal and ineffable parts of self, the parts that poetry tries to give symbolic meaning to, to invoke that presence. And if we look closer, we see that it’s not just that language gives the body presence, shape, resistance, love, affirmation, and intervention. And it is not just that the bodies of particular poets give their language a certain shape and definition, but rather that in the end, our particular idiosyncratic languages are our bodies. We exist only in the space of that language, and we use it to move a craft forward, to draw and redraw the limits of the self, both internal and external. We can argue that this is poetry’s true power, to shape reality — and that is truly what power is: the choice and ability to redraw and recast our personal narratives.

Chris Abani
Introduction to: New Generation of African Poets

desire to make a poem

January 5, 2019

Poetry is a river; many voices travel in it; poem after poem moves along in the exciting crests and falls of the river waves. None is timeless; each arrives in an historical context; almost everything, in the end, passes. But the desire to make a poem, and the world’s willingness to receive it – indeed the world’s need of it- these never pass.

Mary Oliver
A Poetry Handbook

Poetry is silence

December 30, 2018

Poetry is silence, a silence comparable to an underlying light around me, in me, on the paper. I know that if I lean over my desk, this silence will be summoned to spill forth drop by drop and that, subtly, the sharpened point of the pen will break free of my heart and spread across the expanse the brief trembling of a drawing. Poetry is a drawing that expresses the silence…

Silvia Baron Supervielle
The Lights of Home: A Century of Latin American Writers in Paris trans. Jason Weiss

Poems I’m not writing

December 30, 2018

Why should I believe there are poems waiting for me which I am not writing? Because I miss them, these shadows like birds dying of cold on the branches, their life diminished as I move closer to them. I frighten them with my nearness.

Mary Kinzie
The Poems I Am Not Writing

the gift of language

December 29, 2018

Anne Sexton sometimes seemed like a woman without skin. She felt everything so intensely, had so little capacity to filter out pain that everyday events often seemed unbearable to her. Paradoxically it is also that skinlessness which makes a poet. One must have the gift of language, but even a great gift is useless without the other curse: the eyes that see so sharply they often want to close.

Erica Jong
Remembering Anne Sexton
New York Times 27th October 1974

Breathe & Burn

December 23, 2018

Poetry is thoughts that breathe, and words that burn.

Thomas Gray
Selected Poems

My voice. What I’ve been getting as voice for a few years is more like voices. I am so empty from all the things I’ve been through in my life, and from living in a foreign culture that remains forever foreign, that I am bombarded constantly by other voices when I sit down to write. I kind of don’t have a self now, it’s a rote thing, but I seem to hear what everyone else is saying, particularly the dead. This is quite interesting. The dead have to translate themselves, or be translated by me or into me when they speak, so they are somewhat flat musically. I hear their voices in the front of my head and then somehow translate that into poetry. I’m never sure whether I’m really hearing other voices or am inhabiting my imagination. Sometimes I know for sure a dead person is talking to me, but not always. I am obviously walking some line between charlatanism and authenticity that is scary and satisfying….

I sometimes think that good poets open themselves to all the voices in the air, and they are there, of the live and dead, of animal and plant and inert matter, of whatever inhabits the rest of the universe. And to a vast unconscious or sleeping assemblage of souls. My job has become to interpret the nature of the cosmos as it is presented to me by these voices, but I suspect that “the dead” speak through the voices of any poets that are open to them, the way you can open up when you write a poem and tap words from just anywhere.

But I began writing as a young woman whose voice, or kind of voice, had never before appeared in poems. I invented a voice for myself when there had scarcely been any female poets, and then a voice for myself as a young mother. I allowed my children’s voices in, and then the voices of all my friends, the people on the street, anyone, really, who hadn’t been in the poem before was welcome, to the extent I could hear them. I knew I couldn’t hear everyone, but I tried. By the time I wrote The Descent of Alette I was creating voices for the homeless and oppressed as I encountered them, for my dead brother who had suffered from PTSD, for anyone I felt needed representation in poetry. I feel that poetry is, and is for, everyone. But we are poetry, we are somewhat measurable vibrant bundles of “wave lengths,” moving and perceptually collaged selves perceived as wholes. Anyone is the universe.

Alice Notley
Talk to the dead
Interview with Adam Plunkett