The major poets of New Jersey have all suffered, whether it’s Whitman, who lost his job for ‘Leaves of Grass,’ or William Carlos Williams, who was called a communist, or Ginsberg, whose ‘Howl’ was prosecuted, or myself. If you practise poetry the way I think it needs to be done, you’re going to put yourself in jeopardy.
I wish our clever young poets would remember my homely definitions of prose and poetry; that is, prose = words in their best order; – poetry = the best words in the best order.
Even famous poets such as Marianne Moore and William Carlos Williams were rarely asked to read their poems.
I still have a feeling that I haven’t written the best that I can write. I think all poets must feel this: that there is constantly something new to be discovered in the language. It’s like a thrilling encounter, and you can find things.
In our period, they say there is free speech. They say there is no penalty for poets, There is no penalty for writing poems. They say this. This is the penalty.
Irish poets, learn your trade, sing whatever is well made, scorn the sort now growing up all out of shape from toe to top.
I have learned so much from working with other poets, travelling and reading with them, spending days discussing poems in progress. There is the sense that we are all, as writers, part of something which is more powerful than any of us.
Poets go through a very tough apprenticeship in the use of words.
I teach a lecture course on American poetry to as many as 150 students. For a lot of them, it’s their only elective, so this is their one shot. They’ll take the Russian Novel or American Poetry, so I want to give them the high points, the inescapable poets.
Many poets write books. They’ll tell you: Well, I’ve got my next book, but there are two poems I need to write, one about x, one about y. This is a wonder to me.