Light and Clay

July 21, 2019

“Will the dust praise thee?”—Psalm 30:9

The page was a place
before morality
before Gilgamesh
before the second prophet
of revealed law

The page was a hybrid
of value and valuelessness
a hybrid of community
and selfishness
a foster child of devotion

The page was experience
in semantic terms
a folie a deux
a terminal location

Cowboys and princes
offered their lives
the cult of the dead
worshipped there too
lacking in value
it saw only faces

The page was a room,
a picnic, a heaven
the utopia of words
in a region of want

The page was a bride groom,
a bride and a lover,
the child of the union
of religion and anarchy

“I will reflect it,” the page
said on Sunday
“I will absorb it,”
the page meant to add

Between death and rebirth
the page stood waiting
words came to call
speechless at best

Maxine Chernoff

I had to write

July 19, 2019

I spend a year researching my books before I start them, and they slowly take shape over the course of the year. With Monsters (The Monsters of Templeton) I had to write four completely different drafts — with different techniques, different modes of storytelling — before jettisoning the drafts and starting anew. But with Arcadia, I knew, pretty much from the beginning, what the overall arc of the story was going to be (paradise lost, semi-regained), and so I had the architecture of the book in my head before I began. The trouble was balancing everything in storytelling, which was breathtakingly difficult in that book.

Lauren Groff
Interview in Superstition issue 11

compulsiveness

July 14, 2019

I’ve often said “poetry saved my life” and I mean it. I was a driven man for most of my life, and still am to some extent, and part of that compulsiveness has been a kind of graphomania, where if I didn’t write on any particular day I would start to feel like a junkie withdrawing from his drug of choice, really really bad.

Michael Lally
Interview with Burt Kimmelman in 2011

literary categories

July 12, 2019

 

Ian McEwan on literary categories:

I think that the novel — and I think we should usually talk about ‘the novel’ rather than ‘the literary novel’ or ‘the science fiction novel’ — but the novel is a very good means of examining colossal social change, but also of [examining] the moral dilemmas that new technologies are going to make us confront. I think there could be a resurgence, a revitalization, of the form, in which — quite possibly — concepts and categories of ‘literary’ novels up against ‘science fiction’ novels will completely vanish, because we’ll need the technical grasp of technologies that the best science fiction yields to us, and we’ll need the traditional examinations of moral dilemmas that the literary novel has always prided itself upon. So I look forward to these categories just dissolving.

Ian McEwan
WIRED 4th April 2019

Character creation

July 11, 2019

The process by which I created my characters was instinctive, the sum of my whole experience of others and of my own potential self; and so it had always been. Sometimes I don’t actually meet a character I have created in a novel until some time after the novel has been written and published.

Muriel Spark
Loitering with Intent

act of writing

July 11, 2019

Writing is a body-intensive activity, totally. Absolutely, totally. The whole body is engaged in the act of writing, whether it’s on the computer, or with using a pen in the hands. The breath is involved in all activities.

Maggie O’ Sullivan
Close Listening conversation recorded on October 11, 2007

yearning for despair

July 2, 2019

One writes because one has been touched by the yearning for and the despair of ever touching the Other.

Charles Simic
The Poet’s Notebook: Excerpts from the Notebooks of 26 American Poets
eds. Stephen Kuusisto, Deborah Tall, & David Weiss

It is not the purpose and certainly not the magic of poetry to speak about the thing (information), but rather to speak the thing, to perform the impossible task of making the absent present — palpably, tangibly present.

B.H. Fairchild
A Midwestern Poetics
New Letters (vol.78, no.1,Fall 2011)

I love all poetry

June 22, 2019

I have read your poems with my door locked late at night and I have read them on the seashore where I could look all round me and see no more sign of human life than the ships out at sea: and here I often found myself waking up from a reverie with the book open before me. I love all poetry, and high generous thoughts make the tears rush to my eyes, but sometimes a word or a phrase of yours takes me away from the world around me and places me in an ideal land surrounded by realities more than any poem I ever read.

Bram Stoker
Letter to Walt Whitman February 1872

trying to write

June 20, 2019

You should always be trying to write a poem you are unable to write, a poem you lack the technique, the language, the courage to achieve. Otherwise you’re merely imitating yourself, going nowhere, because that’s always easiest.

John Berryman
Why I’m the poet I’ve become: John Berryman and the lucky thirteen
Article by Philip Levine in New York Times 26th December 1993