why write? “To remember that a poem is always a compromise”

25 Jan

Stephen Dunn on Writing (yes capital W Writing), from the archives of the wonderful Green Mountains Review:

To be wary of the “important” subject.  To take it on anyway.  To know that it takes all the precision I can muster to be faithful to the ambiguities of experience.  To know that anything that resembles honesty is an achievement.  To worry when the poem seems to find its essence.  That is, to worry that I’ll execute what I’ve just learned about my poem.  Time, then, to give it wings.  Or say something the poem can’t yet accommodate.  To let the imagination reach for what it can’t yet accommodate.  To remember that a poem is always a compromise between the drift of language already employed and my willfulness.  When in doubt, follow the language and its sounds.

What I said about play and discovery aside, most poems, in my experience, are worried into existence.  Let them run wild, then make them behave.  Advice to self:  in art, no one cares or should care about your life.  But if you’re really good that day or the next, someone might, though it may not matter.  Always be aware of your betters.  Then try to stick it to them.

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