This an unassuming book from 1978 - I found it in a box at an estate sale. It has been sitting on my shelf waiting for me to abandon my ineffective dreams of writing a novel and resume my focus on poetry. I wrote poetry in college, as well as off and on throughout my years as a stay-at-home mom. I recently jumped headlong back into the practice.
Just this week, at Poemoftheweek.org, I was introduced to poet Carrie Fountain's work. As I dug a little deeper and read her poems, listened to her interviews and readings, I heard her mention William Stafford's books on "the writer's vocation". And I thought: a-ha! I have his two best on my shelf. I pulled them down, and began reading.
And I was hooked. Not only did he remind me that poetry is my niche, but he has some thought-provoking ideas about writing: art.
Here are some of my favorites from this work:
p.27 When you write, tell me something.
p.51 The action of writing... is the successive discovery of cumulative epiphanies in the self's encounter with the world.
p.55 ...from the emergency of the encounter emerges the new realization, the now poem.
p.61 A poem is anything said in such a way or put on the page in such a way as to invite from the hearer or reader a certain kind of attention.
p.67 Writing is a reckless encounter with comes along.
p.88 ...writing...is a process of relying on pervasive feelings...
p.112 It seems to me a writer is engaged in adventuring into the language and all sorts of things occur to him or should occur to him, that's his job: the judging of these things, the selection of these things, and conduct in the light of these things, is everybody's job.
p.116-7 I believe that the so-called "writing block" is a product of some kind of disproportion between your standards and your performance. (He tells us to "lower your standards".)
p.125 The poem was in the way, so I wrote it.
p.157 ...in poetry we were always within a syllable or two of something overwhelming.
It is one of the most empowering and encouraging books on "how to write" I have ever read!
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