Poetry is ordinary language raised to the Nth power. Poetry is boned with ideas, nerved and blooded with emotions, all held together by the delicate, tough skin of words.
Without vision you don't see, and without practicality the bills don't get paid.
The sharpest memory of our old-fashioned Christmas eve is my mother's hand making sure I was settled in bed.
Writing is rewriting what you have rewritten.
I knew about holiness, never having missed a Sunday-school class since I started at four years. But if Jews were also religious, how could our neighbor with the grease-grimy shirt use the word 'damn' about them?
Other families bought automobiles; we had a horse-headed hitching post in front of our house and drove horses.
I can still remember the feel in my hand of that most wonderful American coin ever minted, a nickel with a buffalo on one side and the head of an Indian on the other. That nickel was a daily proof of our country's past. Bring it back!
The corncob was the central object of my life. My father was a horse handler, first trotting and pacing horses, then coach horses, then work horses, finally saddle horses. I grew up around, on, and under horses, fed them, shoveled their manure, emptied the mangers of corncobs.
All families had their special Christmas food. Ours was called Dutch Bread, made from a dough halfway between bread and cake, stuffed with citron and every sort of nut from the farm - hazel, black walnut, hickory, butternut.
Corncobs are the greatest fire-making tinder.
Poetry is ordinary language raised to the Nth power.
Our small ears never had such a workout as on the Fourth of July, hearing not only our own bursting crackers but also those of our friends, and often the boom of homemade cannon shot off by daring boys of 16 years, ready to lose a hand if it blew up.
I grew up in the prolonged survival of the great age of the horse, with harness and saddle and sleigh bells and horse pictures, not as antiques but the facts of our lives.
For my Oxford degree, I had to translate French and German philosophy (as it turned out, Descartes and Kant) at sight without a dictionary. That meant Germany for my first summer vacation, to learn the thorny language on my own.
All poetry is an ordered voice, one which tries to tell you about a vision in the un-visionary language of farm, city, and love.
Soldiers of the American Revolution fought that 18th century war with heavy muskets. In the early 20th century, we kids fought it every Fourth of July not only with exploding powder and shimmering flares, but with all of our senses.
I have published in 'The New Yorker,' 'Holiday,' 'Life,' 'Mademoiselle,' 'American Heritage,' 'Horizon,' 'The Ladies Home Journal,' 'The Kenyon Review,' 'The Sewanee Review,' 'Poetry,' 'Botteghe Oscure,' the 'Atlantic Monthly,' 'Harper's.'
When your first marriage goes into tragedy, you become very battle-scarred... I even thought of suicide. Luckily, I had known some happy marriages.
I had been warned about Jews by my gentile friends - they did terrible things with knives to boys.
Human life is too difficult for people.
I wanted to write poetry almost a little more than I wanted to eat.
But maybe it's up the hills or under the leaves or in a ditch somewhere. Maybe it's never found. But what you find, whatever you find, is only part of the missing, and writing is the way the poet finds out what it is he found.
Contrary to slanderous Eastern opinion, much of Iowa is not flat, but rolling hills country with a lot of timber, a handsome and imaginative landscape, crowded with constant small changes of scene and full of little creeks winding with pools where shiners, crappies and catfish hover.
Every Christmas should begin with the sound of bells, and when I was a child mine always did. But they were sleigh bells, not church bells, for we lived in a part of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where there were no churches.
Has the painter not always gone to an art school, or at least to an established master, for instruction? And the composer, the sculptor, the architect? Then why not the writer? Good poets, like good hybrid corn, are both born and made.
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