I am a frustrated saxophone player. If I could, I would abandon all of my books, and I would trade it all if I could play the way people I admire play.
‘Write’ is almost the wrong verb for what I do. I think ‘compose’ is more accurate because you’re trying to make the sounds in your mind and in your voice. So I compose while I’m driving or in the shower.
The best argument for teaching poetry is to put a three-year-old or a four-year-old and read Dr. Seuss, or Robert Louis Stevenson, and to feel how the child and you are engaging in something that’s really basic to the animal, which is passing on in these rhythmic ways, something that came from somewhere.
For a lot of people, well-meaning teaching has made poetry seem arcane, difficult, a kind of brown-knotting medicine that might be good for you but doesn’t taste so good. So I tried to make a collection of poetry that would be fun. And that would bring out poetry as an art, rather than the challenge to say smart things.
I delight sometimes in saying to – as when I’m a teacher, I love saying, ‘This is really important, so don’t write it down.’ To me, what you retain is a very important filter.
To me, writing is a matter of voice. I think like that. The expression I sometimes use to myself is ‘actual song.’ That what I do is somewhere on the line between speaking to you as I am now and actual song. And the things I love when I say one of those poems to myself – it’s a little bit like singing, it’s a little bit like speaking.
I’m far from immune to the American, perhaps historically male, prejudice toward practical and physical competence; I hope I’ve also considered that prejudice enough to have some distance from it.
I don’t like to have a calm, orderly, quiet place to work. I often compose while driving, compose in my head. It is true that I wrote my little book, ‘The Sounds of Poetry, A Brief Guide,’ almost entirely in airplanes and airport departure lounges.
Poetry is not easy. Or should I say, real poetry is not easy.
New Jersey is the most poetic state: close enough to New York to be urban and cosmopolitan, far enough to be desirous and unsure; densely populated, but full of farms and woods, with the most deer of any state.