“Scholars and artists thrown together are often annoyed at the puzzle of where they differ. Both work from knowledge; but I suspect they differ most importantly in the way their knowledge is come by. Scholars get theirs with conscientious thoroughness along projected lines of logic; poets theirs cavalierly and as it happens in and out of books. They stick to nothing deliberately, but let what will stick to them like burrs where they walk in the fields.” -Robert Frost’s 1939 Essay “The Figure a Poem Makes”; Preface to Collected Poems
“If I lose track of what I’m working on—or just let working slip, then I feel like my skin is crawling.”
I write in my head all the time, like a walking meditation, without the walking. I always have a poem I am working on, and I finish almost every poem I begin. Sometimes there is a lot of living that gets in the way of focused writing time, but I hold the poem I’m working on in my head. If I lose track of what I’m working on—or just let working slip, then I feel like my skin is crawling. Sometimes the work is slow, sometimes fast, but the point for me is never to let go of it. If I’m off in my life it’s often because I’m off in my writing life.
When I sit to write, it’s at a computer, preferably in front of a fire or a window. I work and work at revision, and though poems sometimes come all at once and of a piece, I mistrust them for a long time. I tend to trust work I’ve sat with for a good long time—kind of like how we come to trust friendships, over time and after much rearranging and poking and prodding.
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