Monday, July 16, 2007

Thought for the Day

There is a fine essay by C.K. Williams in the July / August 2007 American Poetry Review. In "A Letter to a Workshop," Williams is concerned with "not so much how one goes about the creation of poems, but rather what, when you're trying to write a poem, do you think with, and how?" It's the sort of writing that poets should read again and again.

It is smart and hopeful writing.

Williams writes:

Along with the right not to concentrate goes a corollary: the right to vacilate, to wobble, to shilly-shally, be indecisive in one's labors, and still not suffer from a sense of being irresponsible, indolent, or weak. Poems can take a long time to arrive, and to find their final form, so surely patience is the word here, but it's worth emphasizing that what actually happens doesn't seem to have the maturity and dignity the term patience implies. There's much more flailing about, and hesitating, and clearing the throat, and taking out the trash: we have the right to all of this. At the same time there is the obligation that comes with this circling towards patience, which is to know at some point you have to make your move, even if you don't feel completely ready, and you have to make it with energy and tenacity and––this might be the hardest––spontaneity. It might be asked how spontaneity can be willed? But isn't that one of the basic issues of art, of being an artist? Isn't that what revision is all about? Trying a thing again and again until the solution finally arrives that surprises and embodies that quality of surprise in itself?


Blogger Talia said...

Yes, and easier said than done.

8:28 AM  
Blogger greg rappleye said...

But of course!

8:43 AM  
Blogger Leslie said...

Hear, Hear! I want to tape this up above my desk. And my couch, the reading chair, the trash can, the sink where I do dishes as a form of patience. I want to write it in ink on my forearm and carry it through the miles of hiking, which is also a form of patience, or of prayer for such.

And don't you just love the word shilly-shally?

9:32 AM  
Blogger Robert said...

I love the idea of revision not as "polishing" but rather as probing for a deeper spontaneity and surprise.

12:41 PM  
Blogger garylmcdowell said...

Thanks for the 'Welcome to MI' message. As of tomorrow morning, I'll be in MI. Maybe we'll run into each other at some poetry event or another. Here's hoping.

2:06 PM  
Blogger Talia said...

Mr. Rappleye,

I'm doing a school project on "Language Patterns" and would like to ask you a few questions from a professional's perspective. Could I send you an email? Where might I send it? You can email me if you don't want to give it out here at taliareed (at) hotmail (dot) com

2:36 PM  
Blogger greg rappleye said...


Mr. Rappleye?!? Mr. Rappleye?!?

Do you want to talk to my father?

2:45 PM  
Blogger greg rappleye said...


I do love the word "shilly-shally."


I sent you an e-mail. And call me Ishmael. I mean, Greg.

2:52 PM  
Blogger Talia said...

Thank you, Greg...I've been a college student for a long time.

8:09 PM  
Blogger jenni said...

Cool, thanks. I'm driving up to Winston today and stopping by Borders. I'll have to pick up a copy of APR so i can read the rest!

10:21 AM  

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