Saturday, November 10, 2018

John Ciardi says

I insist that a poet needs at least as much training as does a concert pianist. More, I think, but that is already too much for the ignorantly excited. It isn't easy to make a poem. It is better than easy: it is joyously, consumingly difficult. As it is difficult, too, though without joy, to face one's failures. I learned that the rate at which one recognizes his own badness is the rate at which he grows as a writer. When a bad writer thinks he has caught the miracle, or some piece of it, his wrong impression is invariably due to the fact that he felt a poem but did not manage to write one. The miracle stayed inside his head.... He has lived a poem; he has not made one. The wastebasket is a prime resource.... It forces me to recognize what I have done badly.

The poet cannot know where he is going: he must take his direction from the poem itself. The minimum requirement for a good poem is a miracle. The poem must somehow turn out better than anyone -- the poet included -- had any right to expect. No matter how small the miracle, the hope of it is my one reason for writing.

What passes as our poetry has too largely been taken over by loud illiterates and by officiously important editors Writers whose re-mouthing of sentiments catches some tawdry emotional impulse in commercial quantities, believe seriously in the inanities they write. I doubt that they have sold out to the dollar sign: more tragically, they have sold out to themselves. Early on I was offered more chances to publish than was really good for me, and I lacked the character to say no.... I need to go back over everything and take only the ones that stay memorable for me, probably less than half I've published. And I'd like to signalize that the other ones are fakes.... I denounce them.... I did not write them.

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