Monday, October 26, 2009

Monday Morning Quote: A. Alvarez on Doneness

As someone who writes prose for a living and poems when I get lucky, I assure you that the two activities are curiously different. No matter how many times you rewrite prose or how easily it seems to read when you are done with it, prose is never quite finished. There is always a word ill-chosen or out of place, a repetition you missed, an adjective that could be cut, a comma that should have been a semicolon—something to set your teeth on edge when you reread it later in cold print. Poems don't work like that. They are as intricate as the giant locks on a bank vault: each one of the dozens of tumblers has to click into place before the door will swing open. A poem, I mean, isn't finished until every word is precisely weighted and precisely placed, and if the poet is serious, he knows, to his sorrow, when he has it wrong and it won't let him rest. Once he's got it right, however, he knows with equal certainty that there is nothing more to be done; he has produced something that, for the time being, is as near perfect as he can make it. And that is a satisfaction worth sweating for.

—A. Alvarez, The Writer's Voice


Kevin said...

That was so perfect.

Julie said...

What Kevin said.

Or, to improve on it, "That was perfect."

Okay, now this comment is really done.