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The secrets of success are a good wife and a steady job. My wife told me.
– Howard Nemerov
I sometimes talk about the making of a poem within the poem.
A lot happens by accident in poetry.
It may be said that poems are in one way like icebergs: only about a third of their bulk appears above the surface of the page.
Occasionally a student writer comes up with something really beautiful and moving, and you won’t know for years if it was an accident or the first burst of something wonderful.
I think there’s one thing which distinguishes our art – we don’t consider. We don’t think. We write a little verse because it comes to us.
Shakespeare tells the same stories over and over in so many guises that it takes a long time before you notice.
I do insist on making what I hope is sense so there’s always a coherent narrative or argument that the reader can follow.
Once in awhile you have a thought, and you rhyme it.
Nothing in the universe can travel at the speed of light, they say, forgetful of the shadow’s speed.
I’ve thought of the last line of some poems for years and tried them out, It wouldn’t work because the last line was much too beautiful for the poem.
A teacher is a person who never says anything once.
I think there was a revolution in poetry, associated chiefly with Eliot and Pound; but maybe it is of the nature of revolutions or of the nature of history that their innovations should later come to look trivial or indistinguishable from technical tricks.
Robert Frost had always said you mustn’t think of the last line first, or it’s only a fake poem, not a real one. I’m inclined to agree.
Language is remarkable, except under the extreme constraints of mathematics and logic, it never can talk only about what it’s supposed to talk about but is always spreading around.
I like all my children, even the squat and ugly ones.
I liked the kid who wrote me that he had to do a term paper on a modern poet and he was doing me because, though they say you have to read poems twice, he found he could handle mine in one try.
I have a plot, but not much happens.
Write what you know. That should leave you with a lot of free time.
A chronicle is very different from history proper.
History is one of those marvelous and necessary illusions we have to deal with. It’s one of the ways of dealing with our world with impossible generalities which we couldn’t live without.
I am not at all clear what free verse is anymore. That’s one of the things you learn not to know.
Mostly the thought and the verse come inseparably. In my poem Poetics, it’s as close as I come to telling how I do it.
I never abandoned either forms or freedom. I imagine that most of what could be called free verse is in my first book. I got through that fairly early.
I would talk in iambic pentameter if it were easier.