A poem in form still has to have voice, gesture, a sense of discovery, a metaphoric connection, as any poetry does.
If you write a letter of resignation or something with an agenda, you’re simply using a pen to record what you have thought out. In a poem, the pen is more like a flashlight, a Geiger counter, or one of those metal detectors that people walk around beaches with.
Sunday is a likely day to write a poem. Because poetry is a piece of language flying around: you’ll find notebooks, something on your phone. It’s about finding them and getting them off that crumpled piece of paper and onto my computer.
No good poem, however confessional it may be, is just a self-expression. Who on earth would claim that the pearl expresses the oyster?
Today is the first of August. It is hot, steamy and wet. It is raining. I am tempted to write a poem. But I remember what it said on one rejection slip: ‘After a heavy rainfall, poems titled ‘Rain’ pour in from across the nation.’
When I’m actually writing by hand, I get more of a sense of the rhythm of sentences, of syntax. The switch to the computer is when I actually start thinking about lines. That’s the workhorse part. At that point, I’m being more mathematical about putting the poem on the page and less intuitive about the rhythm of the syntax.
Robert Frost had always said you mustn’t think of the last line first, or it’s only a fake poem, not a real one. I’m inclined to agree.
Style is not something applied. It is something that permeates. It is of the nature of that in which it is found, whether the poem, the manner of a god, the bearing of a man. It is not a dress.
You go to a poem to get the mystery – and sometimes you go to get more confused.
Students often have such a lofty idea of what a poem is, and I want them to realize that their own lives are where the poetry comes from. The most important things are to respect the language; to know the classical rules, even if only to break them; and to be prepared to edit, to revise, to shape.