“Don’t tell the poem in other and worse English of your own to show you understand it. But say something of your own based on the poem (not an opinion of it though!).” -Robert Frost, Dartmouth College Archives
A session with Robert Frost and students of the Hebrew University. (American Friends of the Hebrew University)
Richard Hugo’s The Triggering Town is a wonderful book, especially useful on the topic of what Adrian Blevins calls “counterfactuality,” or the benefit of wandering away from whatever might have been the initial agenda, or “trigger,” of the poem. I think the question “How might the opposite be true?” can be very helpful in relation to agendas that might ruin a poem, by preventing a turn from the expected or planned path. I always try to ask that question of my own poems at some point during revision. “Odi et amo,” Catullus said, “I hate and I love”—the shadow of yin stirred into the yang, and vice versa, is, to me, what makes any poem feel true to life.
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