Thursday, September 29, 2005


I remember as an undergraduate student thinking that poets must be some of the nicest people on the planet. I had these romantic notions that since they are able to write so beautifully and think so deeply about subjects such as love, death, creativity, class, religion, etc. they must all be kind, gentle, and wise people. I also assumed that in order to be a poet (or maybe a creative writer in general), you have to be wounded in some manner. Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to work closely with or meet many poets. My belief now is that poets are like any other group of people; there is great diversity among the group. Some poets are quite nice, and some are not. Many poets are somewhere in the middle. As for the wounded assumption, I’m not sure I believe that anymore. Maybe a better word than wounded is dissatisfaction. Maybe it could be said that all poets are dissatisfied with the world in some manner, and this is part of the reason why they write poetry.

I’ve observed that poets guard their time very carefully. This makes sense. Writing is solitary activity and requires lots of time for writing and the many drafts of revision. Also, it is necessary to read—a lot. You need to know the history of poetry and what previous masters accomplished. You need to know theory such as the major feet, metrics, traditional forms, alliteration, consonance, stanzas, free verse, etc. You also need to know about contemporary poetry and what the current issues are in contemporary poetry. I’ll add that you probably need some interests outside of poetry so that you can bring something to poetry other than your personal experiences like a knowledge of visual art, jazz, astronomy, Buddhism, history, and so on.


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