no one behind the language

October 21, 2018

Poems are nearer to prayers than to stories, but in poetry there is no one behind the language being prayed to. It is the language itself which has to hear and acknowledge. For the religious poet, the Word is the first attribute of God. In all poetry words are a presence before they are a means of communication.

John Berger
and our faces, my Heart, brief as Photos

learned on my own

October 20, 2018

sky and sea

What I had to learn about poetry is that the poem wasn’t necessarily going to tell me something. It was going to be something that I learned on my own in the poem but maybe the next reader would learn something different. This also draws me to writing: I am free from having to know something. That’s the most natural mode of learning for me – questions, not answers.

Natalie Diaz
This Life is Supposed to Hurt

poetry and love

October 20, 2018

I am in the middle of it: chaos and poetry; poetry and love and again, complete chaos. Pain, disorder, occasional clarity; and at the bottom of it all: only love. Sheer enchantment, fear, humiliation. It all comes with love.

Anna Akhmatova
The Akhmatova Journals, Vol. 1

Getting published

October 20, 2018

Book porn

I was trying to get my own work published, first with poetry, then with articles and stories. But they got nowhere at all. There was a steady flow of rejection slips. Once in a while, a handwritten word, Sorry, appeared on the slip. I was grateful for even that bit of attention. My secret was that no sooner did I put something in the mail than I wrote something else and sent it off. Each rejection was cushioned by my expectations for the other manuscripts.

Louis L’Amour
Education of a wandering man

Poetry

September 29, 2018

Poetry is a veil in front of a heart beating at a very fast pace.

Jericho Brown
interview with Kate Kellaway for the Guardian newspaper 28th July 2018

beyond speech

September 20, 2018

Luca Merli

The language of poetry specializes in doubt. Without the doubters, everyone is cut off at the first question. Poetry does not presume to know, but is angling to get a glimpse of what is gradually coming into view; it aims to rightly identify what is looming; it intends to interrogate whatever is already in place. Poetry, whose definition remains evasive by necessity, advocates the lost road; and beyond speech — waiting, listening, and silence.

C.D. Wright
The Poet, the Lion, Talking Pictures, El Farolito, a Wedding in St. Roch, the Big Box Store, the Warp in the Mirror, Spring, Midnights, Fire & All

(How’s that for a title, boys and girls?)

the power of poetry

September 4, 2018

a dance on the edge of time

I think that people have this idea of poetry with a capital P that is very outdated, and it’s white, very male, and very digestible. That’s not the power of poetry — the power of poetry is to be able to respond to real life and to politics and to one’s body and the most intimate thoughts; to render it in a way that is surprising and sonically interesting, and allowing the reader to feel playful in language, and to push the limits of what language can do.

Morgan Parker
interview for Nylon

A Few Don’ts (2)

July 31, 2018

O young man, in thy youth - Manuel Laval

RHYTHM AND RHYME:

Let the candidate fill his mind with the finest cadences he can discover, preferably in a foreign language [This is for rhythm, his vocabulary must of course be found in his native tongue], so that the meaning of the words may be less likely to divert his attention from the movement; e.g. Saxon charms, Hebridean Folk Songs, the verse of Dante, and the lyrics of Shakespeare—if he can dissociate the vocabulary from the cadence. Let him dissect the lyrics of Goethe coldly into their component sound values, syllables long and short, stressed and unstressed, into vowels and consonants.

It is not necessary that a poem should rely on its music, but if it does rely on its music that music must be such as will delight the expert.

Let the neophyte know assonance and alliteration, rhyme immediate and delayed, simple and polyphonic, as a musician would expect to know harmony and counterpoint and all the minutiae of his craft. No time is too great to give to these matters or to any one of them, even if the artist seldom have need of them.

Don’t imagine that a thing will “go” in verse just because it’s too dull to go in prose.

Don’t be “viewy” – leave that to the writers of pretty little philosophic essays. Don’t be descriptive; remember that the painter can describe a landscape much better than you can, and that he has to know a deal more about it.

When Shakespeare talks of the “Dawn in russet mantle clad” he presents something which the painter does not present. There is in this line of his nothing that one can call description; he presents.

Consider the way of the scientists rather than the way of an advertising agent for a new soap.

The scientist does not expect to be acclaimed as a great scientist until he has discovered something. He begins by learning what has been discovered already. He goes from that point onward. He does not bank on being a charming fellow personally. He does not expect his friends to applaud the results of his freshman class work. Freshmen in poetry are unfortunately not confined to a definite and recognizable class room. They are “all over the shop.” Is it any wonder “the public is indifferent to poetry?”

Don’t chop your stuff into separate iambs. Don’t make each line stop dead at the end and then begin every next line with a heave.

Let the beginning of the next line catch the rise of the rhythm wave, unless you want a definite longish pause.

In short, behave as a musician, a good musician, when dealing with that phase of your art which has exact parallels in music. The same laws govern, and you are bound by no others.

Naturally, your rhythmic structure should not destroy the shape of your words, or their natural sound, or their meaning. It is improbable that, at the start, you will he able to get a rhythm-structure strong enough to affect them very much, though you may fall a victim to all sorts of false stopping due to line ends, and caesurae.

The Musician can rely on pitch and the volume of the orchestra. You cannot. The term harmony is misapplied in poetry; it refers to simultaneous sounds of different pitch. There is, however, in the best verse a sort of residue of sound which remains in the ear of the hearer and acts more or less as an organ-base.

A rhyme must have in it some slight element of surprise if it is to give pleasure, it need not be bizarre or curious, but it must be well used if used at all.

Vide further Vildrac and Duhamel’s notes on rhyme in “Technique Poétique.”

That part of your poetry which strikes upon the imaginative eye of the reader will lose nothing by translation into a foreign tongue; that which appeals to the ear can reach only those who take it in the original.

Consider the definiteness of Dante’s presentation, as compared with Milton’s rhetoric. Read as much of Wordsworth as does not seem too unutterably dull.

If you want the gist of the matter go to Sappho, Catullus, Villon, Heine when he is in the vein, Gautier when he is not too frigid; or, if you have not the tongues, seek out the leisurely Chaucer. Good prose will do you no harm, and there is good discipline to be had by trying to write it.

Translation is likewise good training, if you find that your original matter “wobbles” when you try to rewrite it. The meaning of the poem to be translated cannot “wobble.”

If you are using a symmetrical form, don’t put in what you want to say and then fill up the remaining vacuums with slush.

Don’t mess up the perception of one sense by trying to define it in terms of another. This is usually only the result of being too lazy to find the exact word. To this clause there are possibly exceptions.

The first three simple prescriptions will throw out nine-tenths of all the bad poetry now accepted as standard and classic; and will prevent you from many a crime of production.

“. . . Mais d’abord il faut ětre un poète,” as MM. Duhamel and Vildrac have said at the end of their little book, “Notes sur la Technique Poétique.”

Since March 1913, Ford Madox Hueffer has pointed out that Wordsworth was so intent on the ordinary or plain word that he never thought of hunting for le mot juste.

John Butler Yeats has handled or man-handled Wordsworth and the Victorians, and his criticism, contained in letters to his son, is now printed and available.

I do not like writing about art, my first, at least I think it was my first essay on the subject, was a protest against it.

Ezra Pound
Pavannes and Divagations

A Few Don’ts

July 28, 2018

sitting in the rain

LANGUAGE:

Use no superfluous word, no adjective which does not reveal something.

Don’t use such an expression as “dim lands of peace.” It dulls the image. It mixes an abstraction with the concrete. It comes from the writer’s not realizing that the natural object is always the adequate symbol.

Go in fear of abstractions. Do not retell in mediocre verse what has already been done in good prose. Don’t think any intelligent person is going to be deceived when you try to shirk all the difficulties of the unspeakably difficult art of good prose by chopping your composition into line lengths.

What the expert is tired of today the public will be tired of tomorrow.

Don’t imagine that the art of poetry is any simpler than the art of music, or that you can please the expert before you have spent at least as much effort on the art of verse as an average piano teacher spends on the art of music.

Be influenced by as many great artists as you can, but have the decency either to acknowledge the debt outright, or to try to conceal it.

Don’t allow “influence” to mean merely that you mop up the particular decorative vocabulary of some one or two poets whom you happen to admire. A Turkish war correspondent was recently caught red-handed babbling in his despatches of “dove-grey” hills, or else it was “pearl-pale,” I cannot remember.

Use either no ornament or good ornament.

Ezra Pound
Pavannes and Divagations

Isabelle Menin - Petites Natures

I think I write for the kind of truths that poems give voice to, the kind that startle me about myself when I’m connecting thoughts with sounds, and vice versa. The English language is (I hope a worthy metaphor) an untapped oil well of riches that, through a very careful and personal arrangement of words, must be worked for, even won. It might even be an extended creation of one’s own being out of the sense that sounds make. When I’m working on a poem, when I don’t know what day or time it is, when I forget to eat, is when I’m happiest. In fact, often, in combination with my weekly runners’ highs, I’ve nearly collapsed from joy. When I finish a poem, when the whole thing rolls musically and effortlessly off my tongue, I sit back like I’ve just tunnelled through the cells walls to another human oil well, and sometimes I cry.

Susan Doble Kaluza
Bio for Rattle 43, Spring 2014