Monday, February 4, 2008
ADVICE FROM THE U.S. POET LAUREATE
Charles Simic is the poet who currently holds the post as U.S. Poet Laureate. It's a one year appointment that begins in October and carries with it a $35,000 prize. The poet also gets to hang out in the Poetry Room at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. Usually the poet will adopt a cause of some sort for the advancement of poetry -- I don't know what Simic is doing, but maybe it will be something special like Ted Kooser's American Life in Poetry.
What's cool about Simic is he is an immigrant from Yugoslavia, and he offers the following really excellent advice on writing poetry:
1. Don't tell the readers what they already know about life.
2. Don't assume you're the only one in the world who suffers.
3. Some of the greatest poems in the language are sonnets and poems not many lines longer than that, so don't overwrite.
4. The use of images, similes and metaphors make poems concise. Close your eyes, and let you imagination tell you what to do.
5. Say the words you are writing aloud and let your ear decide what word comes next.
6. What you are writing down is a draft that will need additional tinkering, perhaps many months, and even years of tinkering.
7. Remember, a poem is a time machine you are constructing, a vehicle that will allow someone to travel in their own mind, so don't be surprised if it takes a while to get all its engine parts properly working.
He's also a funny guy - check out this interview.
And to get a taste of his work, here are 29 poems . There are only two in the bunch that I really like, but taste in poetry is quite the individual thing. Here's one of the two:
On the fruit stand.
We eat the smile
And spit out the teeth.
- Charles Simic