Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Go Back to School

Fall is fast upon us and it's impossible to ignore the feeling that it's time to return to school. The brochures for the community colleges, the adult ed programs, the YM/YWCA are in the malls and barber shops and it's time to wonder which poetry writing course to take this time around, how to pick, what will be the most helpful.

This fall don't take another writing course. Take a reading course, something as basic as American Literature, the sonnets of Shakespeare, the criticism of Coleridge, Victorian Poetry, modern American poetry. But don't write a goddam thing. Don't study writing, don't learn about writing. Just read and read and read.

We all want to write our hearts, our passions, free our souls and all that good shit. Stuff it. Do the work of learning what the good stuff is, what the great writers wrote. This is where the love of the art begins. And learn how the poems mean, how they get their impact, why formal verse works and how much work it really is. We tend to measure our work by its passion rather than its command of the elements of poetry. Read Aristotle's "Poetics" not necessarily for the way it informs contemporary poetics but for the depth and complexity of poetry, the nuances we so often are unaware of, the attention to the WORK OF POETRY we so often omit from our own efforts.

Go to school to read the good stuff. You'll learn more about writing that way than by writing. DO THE WORK.

So long for now.

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