A certain construct of emotions that really define who you are and who you will become and I feel very much that my childhood is very alive inside of me, very close to me, very much part of me. And it's a sometimes painful, sometimes joyous inexhaustible resource for poetry.
I don't have a set schedule to work on poetry at any given time, at the same time every day, but I do try to work on poetry every day and I do find some time every day that I can with some exceptions to work on poetry.
Read poems to yourself in the middle of the night. Turn on a single lamp and read them while you're alone in an otherwise dark room or while someone else sleeps next to you. Read them when you're wide awake in the early morning, fully alert. Say them over to yourself in a place where silence reigns and the din of the culture — the constant buzzing noise that surrounds us — has momentarily stopped. These poems have come from a great distance to find you.
Ultimately you're trying to reach across and find some other person, some other human warmth. But it is, especially in written poetry, it is inscribed in a text and the text can't do that work by itself and you as a poet can only do your best.
There's never been a culture without poetry in the history of the world. In every culture, in every language there is expressive play, expressive word play, there's language use to different purposes that we would call poetry.
Now, I do say, "It's possible. You might be the first. I'm not saying it's impossible, but the odds are very much against you." All great poets have been great readers and the way to learn your craft in poetry is by reading other poetry and by letting it guide you.
And when my second book had come out, "Wild Gratitude," I went to Pearl London's class and she worked through different drafts of poems and there were the drafts of my poem, Wild Gratitude, and I saw that I had begun the poem with the title August 13th.
Cafeteria-style education, combined with the unwillingness of our schools to place demands on students, has resulted in a steady diminishment of commonly shared information between generations and between young people themselves.
Often you've read another poem that you think is so beautiful that you'd like to make something like that. And so you try to make a sonnet that works in a certain kind of way, or you try to make something that's songlike, or you create a refrain, or you love the way a poem works in two line stanzas and you try to do that.
I would say there are different kinds of poems. There are things that poets in the history of poetry hit upon when they're very young that can never be outdone and it's a remarkable, strange experience when you think of say Arthur Rimbaud who write poetry between the ages of 17 and 21 whose career was over by the time he was 22.
There are many poets that use as my models. In my first book of poems, I had several for the "Sleepwalkers," I had several poems that were apprentice poems like this in which I take a walk with a poet who is no longer alive.
I was once doing a question and answer period with the novelist Jane Smiley in a bookstore and someone asked us what our processes were and Jane said hers and then I said mine and Jane said, "Well, if I had a student like that I'd force him never to write like that again because you could never write a novel in the way that you write poetry."
In Náhuatl, the language of the Aztec world, one key word for poet was 'tlamatine,' meaning 'the one who knows,' or 'he who knows something.' Poets were considered 'sages of the word,' who meditated on human enigmas and explored the beyond, the realm of the gods.
Emily Dickinson calls previous poets her kinsmen of the shelf. You can always be consoled by your kinsmen of the shelf and you can participate in poetry by going to them and by trying to make something worthy of them.
One of the deep fundamentals of poetry is the recurrence of sounds, syllables, words, phrases, lines, and stanzas. Repetition can be one of the most intoxicating features of poetry. It creates expectations, which can be fulfilled or frustrated. It can create a sense of boredom and complacency, but it can also incite enchantment and inspire bliss.
I have the idea that lyric poetry is a poetry that's driven by a sense of the presence of death. That there's something unbearable about the fact that we're going to die and that we can't stand it and I think you find that out in childhood and you don't really - at least I found it out in childhood and I found it hard to get over.
I walk with Federico Garcia Lorca around the Upper West Side in Manhattan because that was a neighborhood he lived in and I imagine walking around Paris with Cesar Vallejo, a great Peruvian poet who lived in Paris. And I kind of create the walk as a kind of drama of my apprenticeship.
I mean, in the history of poetry there have been a lot poetries where you have to inherit the position of poet from your ancestors and I think that if you just leave anyone to become a poet based on an aristocratic society, then a lot of people are left out who might have something to offer.
She [Carol Parsinan] somehow read my poems and came back to me and convinced me that I could be a poet, that I had the passion and the enthusiasm and the creativity to become a poet, but that what I was writing was not poetry because I was just expressing my feelings and I wasn't try to make anything.
Television watching does reduce reading and often encroaches on homework. Much of it is admittedly the intellectual equivalent of junk food. But in some respects, such as its use of standard written English, television watching is acculturative.
Scholars of the Hebrew bible define something they call wisdom literature and I would say clearly the poetry of wisdom is something that comes with age or that might come with age which has to do with reflecting on experience.
The imagination is an organ of understanding. And the imagination needs all the faculties at hand, all the sensibility, all the conscious and unconscious intelligence it can galvanize to fulfill its luminous mission.
I didn't ever consider poetry the province exclusively of English and American literature and I discovered a great amount in reading Polish poetry and other Eastern European poetry and reading Russian poetry and reading Latin American and Spanish poetry and I've always found models in those other poetries of poets who could help me on my path.
So, some of the most difficult formal poems that I've written, say one sentence sonnets, I've been able to do those fairly quickly whereas some of the clearest, simplest lyrics that I've written have taken me the longest to get to the clarity of feeling that you're looking for.
It's not important - it's not necessary that you read everything. What is necessary is that you care about things that you read and that you find something that really matters to you and you try and make something like that.
Then I found another one, grandpa's poem. It turned out it had been written by Emily Brontë and it wasn't my grandfather's poem at all, although my response to it, I think, was pretty much the same, I just had the author wrong.
I started then to try and shape something rather than just express it and when I started to shape something and to imitate other poems that were written by other people, when I had tried to integrate my reading and my writing I was on my path.
I write a line and then I revise the line and then I write two lines and then I revise lines one and two and then I write one, two and three and I revise one and two and then I write seven and eight and then I see that should be line four and I continually work it over as I go.
After my grandfather died I went down to the basement of my family house where my family kept books, anthologies and things and there was an anthology without any names attached to it and I read a poem called Spellbound and I somehow attached it to my grandfather's death and I thought my grandfather had written it.