Things to think about when writing or reading poetry

Below are some poetry thoughts from Wayne Dodd, from a course I took from him in 1991 at Ohio University.  I posted this before on PC, but it’s been a while.  Enjoy!

  • Language as magic, as a glimpse of something just beyond vision.
  • Attention beyond intention.
  • Language, where speaking speaks what is speechless (as opposed to unspeakable).
  • Avoid the habit of always hearing what we already understand.
  • It is the unspoken that comes closest to a true speaking language.
  • Avoid reductive digression and fender straightening.
  • Think about truth and the search for it.
  • The interval created by “if” makes the poem.
  • The first fact of the world is that it repeats itself.
  • The more it’s your own voice, the more I want to hear it.
  • All poems are language problems.
  • A poem should move to a further dimension beyond description and telling. There needs to be further seeing and insight.
  • Take that next step beyond something managed, safe and careful.
  • There is no room in a poem for the merely descriptive.
  • To be able to stay with uncertainty longer.
  • Hear a more delicate music.
  • Free the hand of imagination.
  • You’re lost in a poem the minute you know what the conclusion will be.
  • Writing requires a certain kind of listening, waiting, and receptiveness.
  • Don’t be guilty of balance prepense.
  • Cliché thinking holds the author from the possibility of a further encounter.
  • A good poem is always about more than one thing.
  • Ego and intention get in the way of listening to what is really in a poem.
  • Be on the catch for things that happen in a poem.
  • Memory is a ready and dependable source of material.
  • It is a test of character to take good stuff out of a poem.
  • Be responsible to things, both within and without.
  • A poem is something overheard, not something to be heard.
  • Be vigilant against the merely self-indulgent.
  • Honor both that which is within one’s self and that which is outside one’s self.
  • The over explicit poem is incomprehensible.
  • Art evokes the mystery without which the world would not exist.
  • The mystery of being must be present in a poem.
  • Pay attention to the detail of the landscape.
  • Use a vocabulary precise to the landscape.
  • Hold back the rush of one’s intentions towards something.
  • Be quiet a little longer, be silent a little longer.
  • Every good poem is a risk with sentimentality.
  • Whatever you are writing about is done for its own sake, it’s done out of love and respect for it.
  • The unbearable beingness of being.
  • Pay attention to the interior and exterior in balance.
  • Where you see a problem in a poem is not necessarily the source of the problem.
  • A neurotic essence of emptiness.
  • A poem must create a habitable space, that’s the poem.
  • A poem should not be too restrictively about something.
  • A gambit to see something else, something more.
  • Hold back a little longer.
  • A good poem honors silence. What is doesn’t say is what makes you like it.
  • Being and non-being: mutually exclusive and mutually defining.
  • You don’t see something until you have an image of it already.
  • A spiritual and prayerful preparation of seeing.
  • Looking for beauty till it perches like a bird on your gun.
  • I don’t want to write any poems I know how to write.
  • One breaks silence only to bring attention to something more important.
  • There are forms of meaning that we’ve had no part in creating: one can hear it, as much as anywhere, in the silence.
  • Poems are all about becoming, and all long for being.
  • Poetry is a singing, not a solicitation; not persuasion, just existence.
  • A craving, a longing, a blood relationship with nature. Have you tried being fire?
  • The best poems are written and read in fear.
  • You change one thing in a poem and everything else changes.
  • Generalizations are the allies of tyranny and oppression and falsehood: poetry honors the specific.
  • All good poems are personal to everybody, not to an individual.
  • A poem is a loving invocation of “thingness.”
  • Push toward that place where a poem merges with the large emotional content of human life.
  • Absolute unmixed attention is prayer; maybe it’s also poetry, dammit.
  • Give it a chance to become metaphoric.
  • In a dream there is not an alternate reality, it is a sensually complete world.
  • The most trustworthy material is that which we do not intend, but are a host for.
  • Danger sign for a bad poem: feeling too good about it once it’s done.
  • A poet’s only responsibility is challenging his habitual patterns of thought and feeling.
  • Put pressure on language to make it yield up an energy of content to make something available.
  • Use a language or music that is least likely to mistake one’s concerns.
  • The line is the last bastion against chaos.
  • The poem suddenly achieves the translation of the reader from a familiar mode of perception to an unfamiliar mode of perception.
  • Pretty is easy, beautiful is much more demanding.

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