Philip Larkin has a tough honesty and sense of humor that I find irresistible, as a contemporary poet.
Our most famous writers are Faulkner and Eudora Welty and Flannery O’Connor. It would make sense that the poetry would reflect some of those same values, some of the same techniques.
The young people have MTV and rock and roll. Why would they go to read poetry? Poetry belongs to the Stone Age. It awakens in us perceptions that go back to those times.
It was less a literary thing than a linguistic, philosophical preoccupation… discovering how far you can go with language to create immediate, elementary experience.
Alchemy is the art of far and near, and I think poetry is alchemy in that way. It’s delightful to distort size, to see something that’s tiny as though it were vast.
Pound’s translation of Chinese poetry was maybe the most important thing I read. Eliot a little bit later.
If a poem is not memorable, there’s probably something wrong. One of the problems of free verse is that much of the free verse poetry is not memorable.
I think that it’s more likely that in my 60s and 70s I will be writing poetry rather than fiction.
I did not have a very literary background. I came to poetry from the sciences and mathematics, and also through an interest in Japanese and Chinese poetry in translation.
You have to really dive deep back into yourself and get rid of so much modern analytical categorization. It’s one of the great things poetry does.
The great watershed of modern poetry is French, more than English.
Among the American contemporaries I read with most enjoyment are several North Carolinians. I think the best poetry being written these days is being written by Southerners.
The Language Poets are writing only about language itself. The Ashbery poets are writing only about poetry itself. That seems to me a kind of dead end.
Poetry, almost by definition, calls attention to its language and form.
The decision to write in prose instead of poetry is made more by the readers than by writers. Almost no one is interested in reading narrative in verse.
Teaching writing over the years intrudes on your own writing in important ways, taking away some of the excitement of poetry.
I don’t think poetry is something that can be taught. We can encourage young writers, but what you can’t teach them is the very essence of poetry.
I don’t think the creative writing industry has helped American poetry.
Some people swear by writing courses, but whether it really helps American poetry, I have doubts.
I don’t think American poetry has gotten any better in the past 35 years. Oddly enough, creative writing programs seem to have been good for fiction, and I would not have predicted that.
I love to compare different time frames. Poetry can evoke the time of the subject. By a very careful choice of words you can evoke an era, completely throw the poem into a different time scale.
One of the most powerful devices of poetry is the use of distortions. You can go from talking about the way a minute passes to the way a century passes, or a lifetime.
A poem in form still has to have voice, gesture, a sense of discovery, a metaphoric connection, as any poetry does.
The fact that something is in a rhymed form or in blank verse will not make it good poetry.
What actually makes poetry poetry is of course impossible to define. We recognize it when we hear it, when we see it, but we can’t define it.
The idea of avant-garde art is a very suspicious thing to me, the idea that poetry is new and it keeps being new the way Chevrolets every year are new.
Part of what we love about poetry is the fact that it seems ancient, that it has an authority of ancient language and ancient form, and that it’s timeless, that it reaches back.
I learned to impersonate the kind of person that talks about poetry. It comes from teaching, I think.