The courage to live like a wound that never heals…I remember that. It’s very typical of me and my poetry because I want to make the reader laugh — and cry. I want to make the reader go into the unconscious and then show how joyous poetry is, but then you have to live like a wound that never heals in order to write it.

Erica Jong
Poet to Poet Practice: A Conversation with Erica Jong; Kim Dower interviews Erica Jong

Los Angeles Review of Books 19th December 2018

It’s very hard to write novels. With novels, you never know if it’s going to give you back anything. You’re trying to get the reader to turn the page. You don’t really worry about that with poetry because you know nobody reads it.


There’s a kind of freedom. When I became well known and continued to write novels I was always nervous when I was writing the novel, thinking: Will people resonate with this? I never worry about that with poetry because poetry is perfectly obscure. You know you’re not going to earn a penny, you know it’s out of the commercial world, which is a very important thing. The Japanese believe that when you are an amateur, you do something for love — you make a screen, you print something, you do calligraphy. You don’t think about it in a commercial way. And so the joy of poetry is that it cannot be commercial. And so it feeds the writer.

Erica Jong
Poet to Poet Practice: A Conversation with Erica Jong; Kim Dower interviews Erica Jong

Los Angeles Review of Books 19th December 2018

Get advice from ‘how to’ books

There are a lot of books available on the art of writing poetry. Some are listed below. These books may be available at your local public library:

Lavinia Greenlaw, How to write poetry (Guardian News and Media, 2008)
Chris Hamilton-Emery, 101 ways to make poems sell: the Salt guide to getting and staying published (Salt Publishing, 2006)
Jessie Lendennie, Poetry : reading it, writing it, publishing it (Salmon Poetry, 2009)
Helena Nelson, How to get your poetry published (Happenstance, 2009)
Helena Nelson, How (not) to get your poetry published (Happenstance, 2016)
Fred Sedgwick, How to write poetry and get it published (Continuum, 2002)
Matthew Sweeney & John Hartley Williams, Write poetry and get it published (Hodder Education, 2010)
Debbie Taylor, Indie press guide: the Mslexia guide to small and independent book publishers and literary magazines in the UK and Republic of Ireland (Mslexia Publications, 2018)

National Poetry Library
Advice for Emerging Poets

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

I write poetry because I feel like I have to. It spills out of me like a rushing river, sometimes even a waterfall. I could no easier stop that flow than I could hold back the ocean…

I can edit a single poem for years sometimes. Finding that perfect word to fit in the perfect spot can be the most agonizing process. It’s not just about getting it right, it’s a bending, a stretching of myself. A way of growth and personal challenge. And sometimes I edit because the damn thing just doesn’t make any sense…

Abigail Wildes
Interviewed by Colleen Anderson 17th February 2020

I must begin with first the illusion of an intention. The poem begins to form from the first intention. But the intention is already breaking into another. The first intention begins me but of course continually shatters itself and is replaced by the child of the new collision…The poem is more than the poet’s intention. The poet does not write what he knows but what he does not know.

W S Graham
Notes on a Poetry of Release

write poems

March 26, 2019

I think there is a general misconception that you write poems because you ‘have something to say.’ I think, actually, that you write poems because you have something echoing around in the bone-dome of your skull that you cannot say. Poetry allows us to hold many related tangential notions in very close orbit around each other at the same time.  The ‘unsayable’ thing at the center of the poem becomes visible to the poet and reader in the same way that dark matter becomes visible to the astrophysicist.  You can’t see it,  but by measure of its effect on the visible, it can become so precise a silhouette you can almost know it.

Rebecca Lindenberg
The Believer 27th March 2012

The Poet’s Tears

January 21, 2019

One baroque poet said:
The words are
The eyes’ tongues
But what is a poem
If not
A telescope of desire
Focused by language?
The sinuous flight of the birds
The tall waves of the sea
The lull of the wind:
Everything fits into words
And the poet who sees
Weeps tears of ink

Ana Hatherly
Trans. Ana Hudson

Poets, I think, are inherently used to defending their work in a different way. They enter first-book contests on their own and hope a publisher takes an interest. They also have to make the case, constantly, that what they’re doing is valid. All artists face that, I think, but among the arts, I feel like poets have to do so much legwork, and so much time is spent defending poetry, broadly, as a valid pursuit while also advocating for their own work. Which is to say nothing of actually doing the work.
Also, there’s this insecurity that poets feel — and that I’ve definitely felt — because we’re lauded, exoticized, and fetishized as something that every society needs.

Historically, no society has ever been considered culturally significant without poets. The golden age of any civilization is synonymous with great achievements and output in poetry. Yet none of this lines up with the actual lives of poets today. We have no income, no material wealth, and nobody really treats us like we’ve got any cultural capital or value, even though, theoretically, poets are something to be valued and admired. I think that creates a really weird psyche — a disturbed psyche!

Jenny Zhang and Nate Brown
Every Day, A Funeral: Jenny Zhang and Nate Brown in Conversation
Los Angeles Review of Books

Once upon a time there was a six-foot-tall woman with blue hair and a sense of smallness. In her house was a teacup saying ‘girl, you got this!’ and on her wall was a kitten hanging from a clothesline. The kitten’s word balloon said something like, ‘Hang in there!’ or ‘Don’t let go!’ Always something with an exclamation mark. Isn’t that the moral of the story, always? There is always a small woman, hiding her grandness, trying to fill up on uplifting wordplay. But today, this small woman sits down and writes a poem in which she details her smallness and why she came to be that way. Another small woman reads it, and from the tip of her hair a fire starts, but just as quickly dies. Isn’t that why we are here? To write another poem for a small woman to read, and then another. Until the amount of sparks are too much for the quick extinguishing, and she is a woman on fire, exploding into the world.

Heather Bell
Afterword to: While trying to write a novel