“… and I haven’t even started on poetry.”
If anyone would like to follow up on Guy’s post (near the end of the previous discussion) and mention any poetry that they find useful/inspirational, I’ll happily run that as an extra discussion. I feel that poetry is often sadly neglected, and that it is critically important for writing beautiful prose.
Terry Bisson, Guy Gavriel Kay, Gary K. Wolfe, Cecelia Holland, Peter Straub, Cat Rambo, Karen Lord, Russell Letson, Michael Dirda, Karen Joy Fowler and others weigh in on poetry. By the end, Guy is engaging in spontaneous verse. You’ve been warned. As always, this discussion is broken up into multiple pages for ease of reading. If you’d like to read it all on a single page, select ‘View All’ from the drop down menu above. If you don’t see the drop down menu, please click here.
Bad prose too.
Guy Gavriel Kay
Does I hear you dissin’ William McGonagall as an influence, Terry?
Sabres at dawn on the bridge of the silv’ry Tay!
A responsiveness to language is important, but in fairness people can get that in various ways, or exhibit it. Some writers either disdain the notion of ‘beautiful’ language, either because because their work aims for something else, or because they buy in to that ancient dichotomy within sf (more than fantasy) between ‘literature of ideas’ and ‘writing as well as the best mainstream writers do’. This is still being played out, of course. (Hartwell’s Age of Wonders tracks some of this, and I am sure others can cite other chronicles.)
There’s also a publishing mantra that being ‘accused’ of using poetic language will kill you with a large segment of readers. (And, to come clean as a reader here, sometimes those allegedly lyric writers feel overwrought, or worse.)
Not sure if various lists of favourite poets fits this thread, though I suppose at the very least it might offer names to scribble and chase down!
I’ll bite this far here:
Stephen Mitchell’s version of the first of Rilke’s ‘Spanish Trilogy’ poems is one of the great, personally talismanic poems I know (even in English!), and feels as if it should be for any writer.
I often quote or recommend Richard Wilbur’s ‘Junk’ – as to craft as something to focus upon, and value.
There are bits of poetry I use as charms, when times are tough,or I’m scared,or whatever–Delmore Schwartz’ Dark December, the bit about the ark, and the dread and white of the terrified animals’ eyes–that’s gotten me through some real bad moments.
Poetry wise, the Coleman Barks translation of Rumi is one of my go-to books for inspiration.
As to poetry, here’s a list of what I’m slowly chewing these days, some of them from a long time back: everything by Mark Doty; everything by C.D.Wright; everything by Ashbery; Philip Larkin’s new Complete Poems; Littlefoot, Charles Wright; Mercury Dressing, J. D. McClatchy; Horse Latitudes, Paul Muldoon; Easy, Marie Ponsot; Attack of the Difficult Poems, Charles Bernstein.
When I say “everything by” I don’t mean all at once, but a long-term involvement that involves every book by these poets & a slowly gathering & developing appreciation of what they do.
Ooh, poetry. In no particular order, the ones I return to are: Khalil Gibran, Ben Okri (poetic prose?), Emily Brontë, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Robert Browning and Langston Hughes. Music, rhythm, passion, dance and play. I also read poetry in Spanish, French or Scots. I don’t have to fully understand it to enjoy it. Sometimes the sound alone is enough.
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