Distance not only gives nostalgia, but perspective, and maybe objectivity.
One of the most powerful devices is to distort time, to go from human time to atomic time, geologic time. Sometimes you can actually accomplish that, with one unexpected word choice.
Poetry, almost by definition, calls attention to its language and form.
In the best fiction, the language itself can become almost invisible.
Fiction is about intimacy with characters, events, places.
I seem to keep returning to my father in poems because his personality was so extreme, so driven. He did everything to excess.
When you have an idea for a story, you want those characters to reach as many people as you can. I think you normally think of prose as a way of doing that. It fits our time, the culture.
I tell students they will know they are getting somewhere when a scene is so painful they can just barely bring themselves to write about it. A writer has to draw blood.
Philip Larkin has a tough honesty and sense of humor that I find irresistible, as a contemporary poet.
The fact that something is in a rhymed form or in blank verse will not make it good 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.
A poem in form still has to have voice, gesture, a sense of discovery, a metaphoric connection, as any poetry does.
With prose you can incorporate more details, develop scenes, sustain the tension in a special way. Prose has its own speed.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Southern poets are still writing narrative poems, poems in forms, dramatic poems.
I write as a way of keeping myself going. You build your life around writing, and it's what gets you through. So it's partly just curiosity to see what you can do.
I have taught students from the New York City area so long I have a special affinity and rapport with them. It surprises me sometimes that there are students from anywhere else.
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.
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 best books of our times have included the three mature volumes of Philip Larkin. They're very short books of poems, and very carefully arranged.
Some people want to call me an Appalachian writer, even though I know some people use regional labels to belittle.
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.
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