Today is April 1st and the beginning of National Poetry Month. Today is also Poetry Friday. How perfect when the two come together!
As I usually do in April, I’m planning to do some extra writing. The goal is to write a poem a day or at least spend some time on poetry-writing every day (though I may take Sundays off, with no guilt). I will also contribute a line to the 2016 Kidlitosphere Progressive Poem arranged by Irene Latham (looking forward to that–the schedule of who contributes a line when is in the right sidebar).
To begin this month I’m going to share with you some of the quotes I’ve collected about poetry over the years and end with a little ars poetica piece I wrote myself.
About the writing process:
“I don’t believe in inspiration. (I love telling my students that–everyone is always shocked.) If I sat down and wrote a poem only when I felt like writing a poem or when I felt inspired, I would have written maybe one poem in my life.
“What I believe is that to keep yourself writing, to fully live a writing life, you have to do whatever it takes to keep the engine running, so to speak. For me, that means: writing when my students write in class, writing on the subway, assigning myself writing exercises, forcing myself to sit at my desk and write.”
– Nicole Cooley from the How A Poem Happens blog.
“If you have writer’s block, lower your standards.” – Poet Marvin Bell (quoted by Nicole Cooley in the above blog post).
“In my opinion, no doubt a minority view, inspiration is overrated. Occasionally, lightning strikes with a word/phrase/or rhyme, but for me poems come from dedication. Strapped to a chair. I do wish my Muse were a reliable fixture on my desk, but she is usually off shopping, perhaps because she feels unwanted, which isn’t true of course, but there it is….
“A poem does not begin with an idea but with a word, a phrase. Of course, I know beforehand what subject I intend to write about, but I can sit here endlessly thinking of words before liftoff….”
– J. Patrick Lewis – in an interview by Matt Forrest Essenwine.
“As a writer, as a keeper of a daily reflective journal, I find that as soon as I put words and ideas onto paper in my notebook, or type them into my computer, they begin to gather to themselves more images, more words and ideas. As I write I have the sensation of being at the center of a small vortex of enlarging connections…” Luci Shaw in Breath for the Bones, KL 1401
You Say Grace
You say grace before meals
But I say grace before the play and the opera,
And grace before the concert and pantomime,
And grace before I open a book,
And grace before sketching, painting,
Swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing;
And grace before I dip the pen in ink.
– G.K. Chesterton
“Writing poetry is not putting down whatever comes into your head, and leaving it at that, never taking it any further. Poetry involves layers, and a lot of revision.” – Barbara Crooker quoted on Your Daily Poem.
“Compose with utter freedom and edit with utter discipline.”
– Erica Jong
“I think that as a young poet I looked for what Keats called ‘a fine excess,’ but as an old poet I look for spareness and rigor and a world of compassion.”
– Stanley Kunitz (from Writer’s Almanac – July 29, ? year).
About the reading process:
“I don’t think people read poetry because they’re interested in the poet. I think they read poetry because they’re interested in themselves.” – Billy Collins on Writer’s Almanac.
“Take me: my theory is a poem should set you free: reading a real poem should leave you feeling less tired and more exquisitely yourself. Aerated. You’ve been speeded up and perhaps somewhat dispersed, your bits enjoying more distance from each other than they had previously. You seem to have been augmented, but not in any one place like a lump; no, just some extra electrons here and there; you could never say where. No; that can’t be right. You couldn’t be heavier if it was a real poem. So maybe it’s more of an electron swap or adjustment; hard to say, because these are very small, fast exchanges. In any case, every poem does some small thing to fit us to the galaxies.”
- Kay Ryan in a 2006 Harriet article.
“Poetry and music are sister arts. So are poetry and painting. It’s as if the eye and the ear were related through poetry, as if they had become siblings or lovers.” – Edward Hirsch, How to Read a Poem, Harcourt, Brace & Cop. Durham N. Carolina 1999. p. 17.
“Writers are great lovers. They fall in love with other writers. That’s how they learn to write. They take on a writer, read everything by him or her, read it over again until they understand how the writer moves, pauses, and sees. That’s what being a lover is; stepping out of yourself, stepping into someone else’s skin. Your ability to love another’s writing means that those capabilities are awakened in you. It will only make you bigger; it won’t make you a copy cat. The parts of another’s writing that are natural to you will become you, and you will use some of those moves when you write. But not artificially. … So writing is not just writing. It is also having a relationship with other writers.”
– Natalie Goldberg – Writing Down the Bones.
The road I’ve taken (a riddle)
Each April morning I’ll hit the road
with one for the road
take the scenic route
detour down a narrow
that may be a cul-de-sac to nowhere.
It’s definitely not the highway
parkway, turnpike or freeway
to notoriety, is the long way round
to trendy, this course
that has become my driveway.
– © 2016 by Violet Nesdoly (written during National Poetry month in April 2014) All rights reserved
(Select the space with your mouse or trackpad and the word will become visible.)