Category: why we write

When the writing is slow or when I’m between p…

When the writing is slow or when I’m between projects, I pull on my boots and head to an art museum. Museums dilate us. Our job is to stay open and look…. What happens as we look depends entirely on the looker and what is being looked at. But something inevitably happens—you love it and look more deeply, you hate it and wonder why, you remember something, your mood shifts, an image emerges, a line of thinking starts to lead you in an unexpected direction….

James Baldwin told a writer’s group in the wom…

James Baldwin told a writer’s group in the women’s prison at Riker’s Island: ‘One can change any situation, even though it may seem impossible. But it must happen inside you first. Only you know what you want. The first step is very, very lonely. But later you will find the people you need, who need you, who will be supportive.’

“People always say the novel is dead. Who know…

“People always say the novel is dead. Who knows, but if it is the case, moments of crisis for any art form or any convention are always good. If that’s the case, it will force us to think of different ways of approaching, different ways of writing.”

Valeria Luiselli, in “Angles of Experience” in the March/April issue of Poets & Writers Magazine (2019)

“Poetry is not about an event. It is the event…

“Poetry is not about an event. It is the event. Art is the resistance of complacency: It always stands in opposition to numbness. That is why it just doesn’t die, poetry—despite so many death notices. It is always there, waking us up when we get numb, poking us in the eye.”

Ilya Kaminsky, in Garth Greenwell’s “Still Dancing” interview in the March/April issue of Poets & Writers Magazine (2019)

‘Don’t shine. Don’t seek to shine. Burn….

‘Don’t shine. Don’t seek to shine. Burn.’ (Richard Mitchell)

When I can’t write, I write. I write without e…

When I can’t write, I write. I write without expectation. I sit down and make the tips of my fingers touch the cool keys of my laptop, feel the connection, and let the words fall out without judgment. I ask. I explore. I release. I figure I can throw it all away anyway. I write for nothing more than relief. I don’t worry about being stuck in my writing because it is the writing itself that unsticks me.

“‘If you’re interested in African storytelling…

“‘If you’re interested in African storytelling, realize that the trickster is telling the story, so the whole sense of authenticity and authority that we attach to storytelling—throw that out of the window. I knew I was going to write a hedonistic, queer, selfish character. I’m not interested in inner nobility. That’s a European, Christian narrative from the Crusades’”

Marlon James, in Kima Jones’s “Shape-Shifter: A Profile of Marlon James” in the March/April issue of Poets & Writers Magazine; read the rest at pw.org!

I’m a poet! What do I know about narrative? No…

I’m a poet! What do I know about narrative? Nothing! But I want to learn.

Since there are so few opportunities to experi…

Since there are so few opportunities to experience a feeling of freedom in my life, I do not allow rules and regulations to dictate my writing—it’s one thing I can control. I’ve always been a striver, and it just hasn’t brought me the satisfaction I thought it would. Also, my livelihood has never depended on a publication record. So, I’m trying to be done with striving when I have the ability to make that choice. Listen, I am middle-aged, I’m not trying to be a big deal, why should I make writing poems, something I love (and how many things do you really get to love in this life?), into another opportunity to suffer? I write when I can, wherever I am, and I am trying to accept this commitment to lawlessness.

“I remind myself that language isn’t my job. W…

“I remind myself that language isn’t my job. Writing a poem isn’t my job. My job is the human job of waiting and listening, and language is just what poets use—like wind chimes—to catch the sound of the larger, more essential thing. Wind chimes themselves are not the point. The point is the wind.”

Jenny George, in “Wilder Forms: Our Fourteenth Annual Look at Debut Poets” in the January/February issue of Poets & Writers Magazine (2019); read the rest at pw.org!