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I published my first poem in 'The Paris Review' in 1980.
I read a poem every night, as others read a prayer.
Tahar Ben Jelloun
When you're writing, you're in a totally different zone... I can start a difficult poem and look up at the clock and see to my astonishment that three hours have passed.
I find that my reading, particularly nonfiction, can inspire a poem as well as anything else.
I think 'accessible' just means that the reader can walk into the poem without difficulty. The poem is not, as someone put it, deflective of entry.
We hold that the most wonderful and splendid proof of genius is a great poem produced in a civilized age.
Thomas Babington Macaulay
For me a poem has to sing out of itself and the lilt of it carries the magic.
If you're a songwriter, you have to do homework. You can exist for a while on the inspiration, but at some point, you have to sit down and have the discipline to write - to finish the poem, as they say.
I'm old enough, by a long shot, to remember going to the library and spending days researching. If I was looking for a line from a poem or something else I needed, that would be the trip I would have to take.
The first poem I ever wrote, about loss, when I was 5 years old, expressed the themes of everything I would ever write.
What is the point of teaching how to analyse a poem or a piece of Shakespeare but not to analyse the Internet?
When I was in Marine training I memorised 'The Waste Land,' which was a significant experience in terms of really breaking apart language and thinking about how the different voices in that poem function.
The animal encounter poem is now so distinct a genre that it would be possible to create a full-length anthology from deer encounter poems alone, and many varieties of experience would emerge from such an exercise.
The poem builds in my mind and sits there, as if in a register, until the poem, or a piece of a longer poem, is finished enough to write down. I can hold several lines in my head for quite some time, but as soon as they are written down, the register clears, as it were, and I have to work with what is on the paper.
When I'm actually writing by hand, I get more of a sense of the rhythm of sentences, of syntax. The switch to the computer is when I actually start thinking about lines. That's the workhorse part. At that point, I'm being more mathematical about putting the poem on the page and less intuitive about the rhythm of the syntax.
With fiction, you can talk about plot, character and narrative, whereas a poem brings home the fact that everything that happens in a work of literature happens in terms of language. And this is daunting stuff to deal with.
The only real evidence that any critic may bring before his gaze is the finished poem.
We know the particular poem, not what it says that we can restate.
A lot of my poems either have historical sequences or other kinds of chronological grids where I'm locating myself in time. I like to feel oriented, and I like to orient the reader at the beginning of a poem.
Attempts to put my poems to music have had disastrous results in all cases. And the poem, if it's written with the ear, already has been set to its own verbal music as it was composed.
I am increasingly attracted to restricting possibility in the poem by inflicting a form upon yourself. Once you impose some formal pattern on yourself, then the poem is pushing back. I think good poems are often the result of that kind of wrestling with the form.
I don't think I've ever written a poem whose intention was just to be funny. I've written poems that start out funny and often shift into something more serious.
I think it's good not to make demands on the reader too early. But as the poem goes on, I want the journey of the poem to lead into some interesting places.
I think what gets a poem going is an initiating line. Sometimes a first line will occur, and it goes nowhere; but other times - and this, I think, is a sense you develop - I can tell that the line wants to continue.
I try to write very fast. I don't revise very much. I write the poem in one sitting. Just let it rip. It's usually over in twenty to forty minutes. I'll go back and tinker with a word or two, change a line for some metrical reason weeks later, but I try to get the whole thing just done.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
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