I wanted to write poetry almost a little more than I wanted to eat.
Verse is not written, it is bled; Out of the poet’s abstract head. Words drip the poem on the page; Out of his grief, delight and rage.
The corncob was the central object of my life. My father was a horse handler, first trotting and pacing horses, then coach horses, then work horses, finally saddle horses. I grew up around, on, and under horses, fed them, shoveled their manure, emptied the mangers of corncobs.
Without vision you don’t see, and without practicality the bills don’t get paid.
Contrary to slanderous Eastern opinion, much of Iowa is not flat, but rolling hills country with a lot of timber, a handsome and imaginative landscape, crowded with constant small changes of scene and full of little creeks winding with pools where shiners, crappies and catfish hover.
There must be an alternative between Hollywood and New York, between those two places psychically as well as geographically. The University of Iowa tries to offer such a community, congenial to the young writer, with his uneasiness about writing as an honorable career, or with his excess of ego about calling himself a writer.
Touch was important. The evening of the Third of July we would go around the neighborhood and look at the fireworks others had bought, taking them out of the brown paper sack and handling them cautiously as if they were precious stones. There was envy when we saw sacks with more in them than we had.
To eat in the same room where food is cooked – that is the way to thank the Lord for His abundance.
For my Oxford degree, I had to translate French and German philosophy (as it turned out, Descartes and Kant) at sight without a dictionary. That meant Germany for my first summer vacation, to learn the thorny language on my own.
When your first marriage goes into tragedy, you become very battle-scarred… I even thought of suicide. Luckily, I had known some happy marriages.