Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Poet's Advice for Writers

Poet Rae Armantrout, awarded the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for her collection Versed, spoke recently with Jeffrey Brown of Art Beat on the PBS News Hour. A professor of writing and literature at the University of California, San Diego, Armantrout offered this wonderful advice, which I think serves well anyone who is thinking of making a life in writing:

. . . People who want to write should read. If they want to write poetry, they should find a poet who speaks to them, and they should read everything by that poet. And then they should find another one who speaks to them and they should everything by that poet. I don't think people do that enough these days, somehow. Also, I  think to be a good writer, you have to sort of look outside yourself, as well as inside yourself, and combine the two. It can't be all you. But, you know, if you look at the world, the way you look at the world will be influenced of course by who you are and by what's happening to you, but you still need to look out at the world.

Yes: look out, observe, take in. . . and write.

The complete interview is here.


Excerpts from Versed (4 Poems)

Rae Armantrout Website (SUNY Buffalo, Author Homepage)

Sam Feldman Interview with Armantrout, Chicago Weekly Online (January 28, 2010)

"Seeds of Doubt" in Sunday Book Review, The New York Times (March 18, 2007)

Dan Chiasson on Armantrout, "Entangled" in The New Yorker (May 17, 2010) [Subscription required for complete article]


Kathleen Overby said...

This is good to remember, always. We are being formed by what goes in. It will out.

Joyce Wycoff said...

Great advice. When I was thinking seriously about a poetry career (before reality raised its ugly head), I realized that almost everyone wants to write poetry but few people want to read poetry ... and, alas, even fewer want to buy it.

Another one of those great hobbies but poor career choices. Perhaps if more of us read it seriously and supported it by buying poetry books, things might change. ;-)

M.L. Gallagher said...


Great advice for non-writing too.

to live best, observe, find someone you admire, keep finding people you admire and keep learning from what they do. keep exploring who you are, excited, anticipatory, always seeking to be surprised by the depth of your creativity and beauty.

Thanks my friend!

sarah said...

interesting advice. :-)