I tell students they will know they are getting somewhere when a scene is so painful they can just barely bring themselves to write about it. A writer has to draw blood.
In the best fiction, the language itself can become almost invisible.
A lot of my students are Asian-American, and it has been thrilling to watch them break through the stereotypes into something alive and surprising.
I did not have a very literary background. I came to poetry from the sciences and mathematics, and also through an interest in Japanese and Chinese poetry in translation.
I write as a way of keeping myself going. You build your life around writing, and it's what gets you through. So it's partly just curiosity to see what you can do.
I considered going to film school; I took a course in film and was very interested in filmmaking as well as film writing.
Young writers find their first audience in little magazines, and experimental writers find their only audience there.
The great watershed of modern poetry is French, more than English.
Distance not only gives nostalgia, but perspective, and maybe objectivity.
I encourage students to pursue an idea far enough so they can see what the cliches and stereotypes are. Only then do they begin to hit pay dirt.
Part of what we love about poetry is the fact that it seems ancient, that it has an authority of ancient language and ancient form, and that it's timeless, that it reaches back.
I don't think American poetry has gotten any better in the past 35 years. Oddly enough, creative writing programs seem to have been good for fiction, and I would not have predicted that.
I don't think the creative writing industry has helped American poetry.
Maybe the example of Southern fiction writing has been so powerful that Southern poets have sort of keyed themselves to that.
One of the most powerful devices is to distort time, to go from human time to atomic time, geologic time. Sometimes you can actually accomplish that, with one unexpected word choice.
Some people swear by writing courses, but whether it really helps American poetry, I have doubts.
I learned to impersonate the kind of person that talks about poetry. It comes from teaching, I think.
It was less a literary thing than a linguistic, philosophical preoccupation... discovering how far you can go with language to create immediate, elementary experience.
One of the biggest changes that ever occurred in my life was going from the isolation of working part-time as a house painter in Henderson County, to Cornell, where everybody was a literary person.
Alchemy is the art of far and near, and I think poetry is alchemy in that way. It's delightful to distort size, to see something that's tiny as though it were vast.
The young people have MTV and rock and roll. Why would they go to read poetry? Poetry belongs to the Stone Age. It awakens in us perceptions that go back to those times.
Among the American contemporaries I read with most enjoyment are several North Carolinians. I think the best poetry being written these days is being written by Southerners.
I have taught students from the New York City area so long I have a special affinity and rapport with them. It surprises me sometimes that there are students from anywhere else.
I seem to keep returning to my father in poems because his personality was so extreme, so driven. He did everything to excess.
The Language Poets are writing only about language itself. The Ashbery poets are writing only about poetry itself. That seems to me a kind of dead end.
The fact that something is in a rhymed form or in blank verse will not make it good poetry.
I love to create interesting textures with language. You can do it as long as it seems like a discovery.
In the later books I am much more at home in the use of language to describe things. I had never thought of that until a critic pointed that out.
The Black Mountain poet I like most is the early Creeley. Those early poems seem very lyrical and very traditional, with a lot of voice and character.
If a poem is not memorable, there's probably something wrong. One of the problems of free verse is that much of the free verse poetry is not memorable.
One of the most powerful devices of poetry is the use of distortions. You can go from talking about the way a minute passes to the way a century passes, or a lifetime.
In the late 60s and early 70s, I did get interested in voices, and in narration and embodying the voice, making the poem sound like a real person talking.
I love to compare different time frames. Poetry can evoke the time of the subject. By a very careful choice of words you can evoke an era, completely throw the poem into a different time scale.
Neither of my parents has been very sensitive about my writing.
Some people want to call me an Appalachian writer, even though I know some people use regional labels to belittle.
Philip Larkin has a tough honesty and sense of humor that I find irresistible, as a contemporary poet.
With prose you can incorporate more details, develop scenes, sustain the tension in a special way. Prose has its own speed.
I think that it's more likely that in my 60s and 70s I will be writing poetry rather than fiction.
You have to really dive deep back into yourself and get rid of so much modern analytical categorization. It's one of the great things poetry does.
Pound's translation of Chinese poetry was maybe the most important thing I read. Eliot a little bit later.
The idea of avant-garde art is a very suspicious thing to me, the idea that poetry is new and it keeps being new the way Chevrolets every year are new.
Young writers only take off when they find their subjects. Since almost everyone has a family and stories about family, that is often a place to start.
The decision to write in prose instead of poetry is made more by the readers than by writers. Almost no one is interested in reading narrative in verse.
Teaching writing over the years intrudes on your own writing in important ways, taking away some of the excitement of poetry.
What actually makes poetry poetry is of course impossible to define. We recognize it when we hear it, when we see it, but we can't define it.
Poetry, almost by definition, calls attention to its language and form.
The best books of our times have included the three mature volumes of Philip Larkin. They're very short books of poems, and very carefully arranged.