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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Ten Hot Tips for Aspiring Poets

Out of the mouths/books of famous poets ...

(1) Good writers borrow; great writers steal. (TS Eliot)

(2) Lie for the sake of assonance. (Donald Hall)

(3) Lower your standards. (William Stafford)

(4) Give yourself permission to write a very shitty first draft. (Stacey Luftig)

(5) Make word lists and use those words when you get stuck or blocked in the middle of writing a draft. (Kelli Russell Agodon)

(6) Poems are not about communicating; if you want to communicate, use the telephone. (Richard Hugo)

(7) Communication should be your #1 priority when composing and revising a poem. (Ted Kooser)

(8) You know absolutely no allegiance to the truth; if what really happened is not interesting, compelling, or musical, revise until it is all of these things and more. (Richard Hugo, summarized)

(9) Most reckless things are beautiful in some way, and recklessness is what makes experimental art beautiful, just as religions are beautiful because of the strong possibilities that they are founded on nothing. (John Ashbery)


I asked how can you ever be sure
that what you write is really
any good at all and he said you can't

you can't you can never be sure
you die without knowing
whether anything you wrote was any good
if you have to be sure don't write

(W.S. Merwin's "Berryman")


Kathleen said...

Love this list! Its fine risks and contradictions! Its recklessness!

Martha Silano said...

Thx, Kathleen. I plan to post another set of quotes in the next few days. Coming off a big 8 days of advice to my students up in Marquette, MI. We had Hugo ghosting around our workshop table, along with Roethke, Eliot, and Blake.

Kimberlee said...

This is a fantastic compilation of wisdom. :)

Martha Silano said...

Thx, Kimberlee. I try my best to write with all of these tips in mind.

Poetic Soul said...

Very nice list, most ofthem contradict each other but they all make perfect sense, depending on what you wanna hear of course

Kells said...

Wow, Right before HUGO! Love word lists!

Martha Silano said...

Yeah, I was trying to make a point with the advice/tips being contradictory. So it goes ...

Right on with the word lists. Keep 'em coming.