Archive for the ‘Poetics’ Category

The secret of it all, is to write in the gush, the throb, the flood, of the moment – to put things down without deliberation – without worrying about their style – without waiting for a fit time or place. I always worked that way. I took the first scrap of paper, the first doorstep, the first desk, and wrote – wrote, wrote…By writing at the instant the very heartbeat of life is caught.

Walt Whitman

(with thanks to John Winokur’s always excellent Advice to Writers site.)

Only one thing remained reachable, close and secure amid all losses: language. Yes, language. In spite of everything, it remained secure against loss. But it had to go through its own lack of answers, through terrifying silence, through the thousand darknesses of murderous speech. It went through. It gave me no words for what was happening, but went through it. Went through and could resurface, ‘enriched’ by it all.

Paul Celan, 1958

Prize-winning poet Brenda Hillman has been deeply engaged with war resistance, Code Pink, and the Occupy movements for many years. In this interview she discusses poetry and politics with terrific lucidity and deep knowledge.

One of the smartest statements on the need for an engaged poetics that I’ve read. Highly recommended.

Here are a few small extracts, but, really, go read the entire interview:

“We cannot wait for our engagement to be packaged by the State and sold back to us as corporate political parties. We have to use our great imaginations. Poets should be resisters and harridans when things are amiss in the State.”

“I now believe that our protests must involve the whole broken monetary system; society is not fixable under the current model, in that it cannot bring justice to a large number of people who are serving the few.”

“We may feel bitterly how little our poems can do in the face of seemingly out-of-control technological power and seemingly limitless corporate greed, yet it has always been true that poetry can break isolation, show us to ourselves when we are outlawed or made invisible, remind us of beauty where no beauty seems possible, remind us of kinship where all is represented as separation.” —Adrienne Rich (1929-2012)

Poets of the English LanguagePoets of the English Language by W.H. Auden
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve read this collection through several times and find it entirely useful. Auden’s prefaces to each volume, providing historical, cultural and technical background, are by themselves worth the price of the anthology. Why this collection is out of print is beyond me.

View all my reviews

Bring It Back to What You Feel

Posted: Saturday, November 26, 2011 in On Writing, Poetics, Poetry
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Almost the whole problem of writing poetry is to bring it back to what you really feel, and that takes an awful lot of maneuvering. You may feel the doorknob more strongly than some big personal event, and the doorknob will open into something you can use as your own.

Robert Lowell

Good advice from Charles Simic, former Poet Laureate and monster poet, on writing poems. Click here.

“Remember, a poem is a time machine you are constructing, a vehicle that will allow someone to travel in their own mind…”

If you’d like to read more about Charles Simic, click here and here and here.

Poet and professor Dean Rader has begun curating a very interesting forum in the public uses of poetry, 99 Poems for the 99 percent, which will run 99 poems “that address the social, political, economic, aesthetic, and cultural realities of the 99 percent” in 99 days. So far, the site includes poems by Bob Hickok, Rachel Loden, Dana Levin, Derek Mong and Matthew Zapruder. The poems are good, with more to come, but what interests me is Rader’s cr-aa-aa-zy notion that poetry, of all things, might have some legitimate use in the public sphere. Now that’s a radical idea. Go, Dean! Highly recommended.

The Portable MFA in Creative Writing, written by instructors from the New York Writer’s Workshop, is currently available for FREE in Kindle format at amazon.com. Check the link.

The book is 280 pages long and contains chapters on writing fiction, poetry, plays, memoir and magazine articles. I haven’t read the book and so can’t personally recommend it, but the reviews at amazon seem pretty good and the book is, after all, free.

If you haven’t tried Kindle books yet, note that you don’t have to have a Kindle device to read them–you can read Kindle books on your laptop, your IPad, whatever.

Speaking for myself, the questions which interest me most when reading a poem are two. The first is technical: “Here is a verbal contraption. How does it work?” The second is, in the broadest sense, moral: “What kind of a guy inhabits this poem? What is his notion of the good life or the good place? His notion of the Evil One? What does he conceal from the reader? What does he conceal even from himself?”

W.H. Auden, 1956 Oxford Inaugural Lectures