Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Advice from George Amabile

What advice would you give young poets? Mid-career poets? Poets-of-a-certain-age?

For me, the fascination I have always had with language, its mysterious ways of opening marvelously unexpected and often entirely unpredictable episodes of meaning and nuance and resonance, along with the delight I take in the rhythmic complexity and subtle sound patterns of a well written sentence or stanza or paragraph, has been an endlessly intriguing adventure that has remained vivid and fresh and has sustained my efforts for half a century.

All I can really say to a young writer is that, if you are able to take something like this brand of satisfaction from difficult and challenging work, you will go on writing long enough to arrive at something that is your own.

For mid-career poets I'd tell them how I had a lengthy lapse of desire and wrote nothing for nearly two years.

Though I did a lot of reading during that time and kept scribbling in my journal, it felt like my poetry days were done. I didn't want to go on doing what I was doing, making lighter, faded copies of earlier poems, and I had to face the possibility that I no longer wanted to publish anything.

Maybe it was a midlife crisis of belief in the value of writing itself, as a useful activity. Whatever it was, it ran its course, and I continued to work as a poet, but not until I had accepted the possibility that I had said all I had to say, or wanted to say, and could not go on writing simply out of habit or an act of will.

Poets of a certain age? It's never over till it's over. And it's never too late to surprise yourself by sounding like someone else who is still you.

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I'm currently writing up a story for Prairie books NOW on George Amabile, whose 'lyrical retrospective' with Porcupine's Quill was launched last month.

And while I love this quote, there was absolutely no way that it could survive whole in a 500 word I'm posting it here in its entirety.


Marjolaine H├ębert said...

Lovely. I found myself sitting with George's book this afternoon at McNally's...and was reminded of my love for his poetry!

Ariel Gordon said...

Yah. I'm really enjoying Dancing, with Mirrors...