Sunday, November 28, 2010


I found this quote from Henry Van Dyke over at Donna Marie Merritt's Facebook page, and liked it so much that I added it to my commonplace book:

"Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best."

And my friend Pamela (aka ) tweeted a link to an interview question for Billy Collins, whose work I happen to love. I have to say that I find the question to be inartfully phrased at best (and quite possibly disrespectful or impertinent at worst); rather than bristling, however, Collins answered it with some words of advice that I think might be useful to authors as well as poets:

The Rattle Bag: Why are the beginnings of your poems uninteresting?

Collins: I tend to start simply. I don’t want to assume anything on the reader’s part. So, I start with something that everybody knows or a simple declaration, like I am standing here at the window with a cup of tea. You could look at that two ways: I am luring the reader in by giving the reader something easy to identify with, or I’m expressing a kind of etiquette – I don’t want to get ahead of the reader. I want to keep the reader in my company. If you look at the first three or four lines of many of my poems, they are pretty flat and ordinary. The hope is that having started with something simple and common, that gives the poem potential for improvement (laughs) so that it can get a little more challenging and move into more mysterious areas as it goes along.

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