Monday, April 18, 2011

Monday Morning Quote: Nicholson Baker on Not Procrastinating

And never think, Oh, heck, I'll write that whole poem later. Never think, First I'll write this poem about my old orange life jacket, so that I'll be ready to confront the more haunting, daunting reality of this poem here about the treehouse that was rejected by its tree. No. If you do, the bigger theme will rebel and go sour on you. It'll hang there like a forgotten chili pepper on the stem. Put it down, work on it, finish it. If you don't get on it now, somebody else will do something similar, and when your crack open next year's Best American Poetry and see it under somebody else's name, you'll hate yourself.

—Nicholson Baker, The Anthologist

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Poetry Critique at Our House

Unlike almost all of my writer friends, I'm married to a non-writer. But Ben is still my first reader. This worked better—or at least was less fraught— when I was writing non-fiction. Reaction to my poetry seems to be limited to a discussion of its level of grimness. A recent example:

Me: What do you think?

Ben: It's pretty grim. You know that, right?

Me: Yes, but can you see why I'm excited about it?

Ben: It's ... evocative.

Me: What does that mean?

Ben: It evokes a degree of horror and dread greater than any of your other poems.


Monday, April 11, 2011

Monday Morning Quote: Gray Jacobik on Technique

Principles of technique? My technique consists of writing the best sentences I can write, trying to vary type and length of sentences, adding as much rhyme, consonance, alliteration, and assonance as I can without sounding too obviously poetic. Then I spent a lot of time searching for synonyms that might be more interesting, more precise or more musical than my first word choices. I know that I stop myself a few times and ask whether or not I've got something to say; any central idea. The ideological level of poem making is important to me. I don't care for poems that carry only impressions or sensations and little or not thought. I try to make sure there's at least one line that aims at what I like to think of as the intellectual underpinning of the poem. Lastly, after everything else has settled down, I begin shaping the poem into lines and form, although some lines, as lines, form themselves from the beginning. This is a simplification, of course, since thousands of decisions, some conscious, far many more unconscious, are made while writing a poem; at least that's my sense of things.

Gray Jacobik, interviewed in Brian Brodeur's excellent blog, How a Poem Happens

Monday, April 4, 2011

Monday Morning Quote: Nicholson Baker on Copying Poems

One useful tip I can pass on is: Copy poems out. Absolutely top priority. Memorize them if you want to, but the main thing is to copy them out. Get a notebook and a ballpoint pen and copy them out. You will shocked by how much this helps you. You will see immediate results in your very next poem, I promise.

—Nicholson Baker, The Anthologist