How Voice Escorts Us into the “Interior of the World”

It seems fitting that Tony Hoagland's farewell book to the world would tackle the concept of voice. If any poet knew of what he spoke, Hoagland was the man. Whether you read his poems or his sage essays about poems or writing poetry, you "heard" Hoagland and felt as if you were lucky to have …

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Metaphors for Violence

Why do so many metaphors speak the language of violence? That question occurred to Ocean Vuong as he was writing his "novel" that walks and talks like a memoir, On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous. Though many examples abound, Vuong chose just a few as shown in this excerpt: "But why can't the language for creativity …

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“Stop Thinking with Your Fingers”

This Memorial Day weekend,  I've been poking around Robert Caro's new book, Working. In the introduction, I came across an interesting anecdote and a phrase I took a shining to. Caro (pictured above as a young man) talks about his Princeton days when he was taking a Creative Writing course with the literary critic and …

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“Lines Feeding on a Crust of Lamplight”

Yesterday morning, I wrote a "little poem." You won't find that in a glossary of poetry terms, of course, because "little" is fraught with multiple meanings. Think of a little apartment, for instance. For one prospective renter, it's "cramped," and for the next, it's "cozy." In the poetry world, the Kingdom of Little Poetry can …

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An Abundance of Moments, an Embarrassment of Neglect

Pinch yourself. You're alive. But how do you know, and what is it you're hardly noticing as days roll in and out with numbing regularity? Answer: a lot. Solution: the five senses. Even more so the four neglected senses. You know how partial we are to our eyes. To sight. The favored child among our …

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No! Don’t Do It! (Never Mind)

Sometimes watching a college basketball coach's reactions reminds me of the Guardians of Poetry -- those priests and priestesses who guard the keep and issue pronouncements about poetry. You know, the "Thou Shalts" and the "Thou Shalt Nots." Consider the coach when he sees his shooting guard launch a 3-point shot from well beyond the …

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Donald Hall on Poetry: Revising, Sharing, & Critiquing

While reading The Selected Poems of Donald Hall, I jumped to the "Postscriptum," where Hall offers up some thoughts on poetry writing -- and especially on poetry sharing with someone who could give competent feedback. In Hall's lucky case, he was married to that person, fellow poet Jane Kenyon, until she died of leukemia at the ridiculously …

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Dillard and Chee: Writing Teacher and Student

I just finished Alexander Chee's essay collection How To Write an Autobiographical Novel. The thing about essays written in the first person is the effect. As is true with first-person POV novels, you begin to feel as though you know the author. Of course you do not, but the conceit is there, and at times …

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The Importance of Imagery in “Sit and Write” Poems

There are ekphrastic poems, yes, where you write about another painter's vision on canvas, but what about your own vision when you're just hanging out in a favorite spot? That's the premise of what I call a "Sit and Write" poem---one that puts your description skills to the test. For example, I give you Charles …

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