Wallace Stevens, “Final Soliloquy of the Interior Paramour”

Here’s the twenty-third psalm of American poetry, & the place where Wallace Stevens brought so much of his complexity (despite his usual high-falutin title) to a stunning simplicity. It’s also a great love poem:   Final Soliloquy of the Interior Paramour Light the first light of evening, as in a room In which we rest … Continue reading Wallace Stevens, “Final Soliloquy of the Interior Paramour”

The Poet Speaks #13: Richard Wilbur & John Berryman: “The artist is extremely lucky who is presented with the worst possible ordeal which will not actually kill him”

Even though I’ve never read a word of his poetry, John Berryman has been haunting me lately. Two friends who are also poets that I admire deeply have both praised his work, and recently I’ve come across remarks from a handful of Berryman’s peers, reflecting on his life and his suicide in 1972. Here are … Continue reading The Poet Speaks #13: Richard Wilbur & John Berryman: “The artist is extremely lucky who is presented with the worst possible ordeal which will not actually kill him”

The Poet Speaks #11: George Eliot, Ernest Hemingway, Philip Levine, Stephen King, Seamus Heaney: “struggling erring human creatures”

George Eliot, on empathy: The greatest benefit we owe to the artist, whether painter, poet, or novelist, is the extension of our sympathies…. Art is the nearest thing to life; it is a mode of amplifying experience and extending our contact with our fellow-men beyond the bounds of our personal lot. The only effect I … Continue reading The Poet Speaks #11: George Eliot, Ernest Hemingway, Philip Levine, Stephen King, Seamus Heaney: “struggling erring human creatures”

The Poet Speaks #9: Geoffrey Hill, Robert Frost, Allen Ginsberg, James Merrill, Ursula K. Le Guin: “We are difficult”

On the supposed “difficulty” of his poetry: We are difficult. Human beings are difficult. We’re difficult to ourselves, we’re difficult to each other. And we are mysteries to ourselves, we are mysteries to each other. One encounters in any ordinary day far more real difficulty than one confronts in the most “intellectual” piece of work. … Continue reading The Poet Speaks #9: Geoffrey Hill, Robert Frost, Allen Ginsberg, James Merrill, Ursula K. Le Guin: “We are difficult”

The Poet Speaks #8: Patti Smith, Toni Morrison, T. S. Eliot, Hart Crane: “I shall make every sacrifice toward that end”

As even “nerd culture” and all the rest just becomes another snobby fad and pop culture corner to hide in, Patti Smith suggests where the real “next” actually is, out of view completely:…when people ask me Who’s the new people?, well to me the new people are the unknown people. The new people that I … Continue reading The Poet Speaks #8: Patti Smith, Toni Morrison, T. S. Eliot, Hart Crane: “I shall make every sacrifice toward that end”

Go Ahead and Fuck Up

I’m not sure who the equivalent is for you, but Albert Camus was one of the first authors I found outside of Stephen King and Dean Koontz. The high school teacher who introduced me to him also laid an egg it took years to get over: the apparently insurmountable gulf between “popular” and “serious” literature; … Continue reading Go Ahead and Fuck Up

The Poet Speaks #2: Leonardo, Williams, Bishop, Meredith, Ashbery

Quotes from all over on art & creativity: [Leonardo] was always less concerned with the finishing of a picture than with its conception. His ideal would consist of imagining the picture and getting someone else to paint it: invention was what mattered most to him. Painting was above all “a thing of the mind.” As … Continue reading The Poet Speaks #2: Leonardo, Williams, Bishop, Meredith, Ashbery

What’s a Genius to Do?

It’s been said of Picasso: “At the age of sixteen, he produced two paintings which were of academic perfection…. So what do you do with your life if you’re producing academically perfect works at the age of sixteen? Every step afterwards is an innovation.” Indeed, whether you like where Picasso went or not, it’s undeniable … Continue reading What’s a Genius to Do?