advice to a would-be poet

4 December, 2009

From my tutor, this week:

  • when you choose to write a sonnet remember you’re going into a furnished room rather than an open space, and act accordingly
  • given the above, it’s best to start loose, so that you’re not boxing yourself in
  • if you’re going to do something weird, do it at the beginning so that it’s on the menu straight away
  • be a daredevil
  • have a go at making up your own form
  • you don’t need to find a new concept – you just need to find it fresh
  • set yourself firm limits that you can attack with intelligence
  • if in doubt, impose a demanding regime on what you’re writing
  • intelligence is as important as feeling; control each word/concept as it comes

From Vladimir Mayakovsky (via How Are Verses Made?):

  • fill your storehouse [of words] constantly, fill the granaries of your skull with all kinds of words, necessary, expressive, rare, invented, renovated and manufactured
  • the work of the verse-maker must be carried on daily, to perfect his craft, and to lay in poetical supplies
  • don’t set in motion a huge poetry factory just to make poetic cigarette lighters. You must renounce the uneconomical production of poetic trifles. Reach for your pen only when there is no other way of saying something except verse

From T.S. Eliot (via ‘Tradition and the Individual Talent’):

  • the historical sense compels a man to write not merely with his own generation in his bones, but with a feeling that the whole of the literature of Europe from Homer and within it the whole of the literature of his own country has a simultaneous existence and composes a simultaneous order. This historical sense, which is a sense of the timeless as well as of the temporal and of the timeless and of the temporal together, is what makes a writer traditional. And it is at the same time what makes a writer most acutely conscious of his place in time, of his contemporaneity
  • poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality. But, of course, only those who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from these things

This post brought to you by a large dose of December

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