An Unofficial Companion to The Poet’s Companion
Hi there. This site came about when I decided to reach out to Sally again after all those years. What I told her was:
I’ve finally decided to get serious about my writing.
What does “serious” mean? First, and most importantly, it means doing it. It means actually writing.
Mary Oliver (who I reference far too much, I know, but who I also draw huge vats of inspiration from) said that writing a poem is “a kind of love affair” between the heart and the mind. The heart, which is “cautious” needs to know that the mind is committed to the relationship. “Say you promise to be at your desk in the evenings, from seven to nine. It waits, it watches. If you are reliably there, it begins to show itself–soon it begins to arrive when you do. But if you are only there sometimes and are frequently late or inattentive, it will appear fleetingly, or it will not appear at all.”
For many reasons which, at the time, seemed good but which, in retrospect, seem not to have been good at all, I have not been at my desk when my heart was looking for me there. I regret that. That’s not a regret I want to harbor any longer.
So that’s number one; I want to write and, I’m assuming, so do you. We can help each other by being present for one another. As in so many other things, the presence of another provides the spark. I mean, I’ve run by myself, and it’s okay, but when I run with a partner I run farther. I run faster. Most importantly, I actually go running.
Second, I not only want to write, but I want to write well. If I know that there’s an audience, I’m going to take more time. I’m going to revise and obsess and, essentially, care more. (Having said that, I’m not going to fret over perfection. I’m not Shakespeare. I’m going to try to write the best poems that I can write, such as they are.) I’m also going to be more disciplined.
Writing is an art and, as you know, art takes practice. While Hollywood portrays it as all or nothing – Mozart can do it and Salieri can’t – that’s not reality. The truth is that all talent requires cultivation. That’s why I’ve proposed a somewhat systematic approach by working our way through The Poet’s Companion. (It’s the text that I used in college, and I remember the exercises as being worthwhile. Also, it contains many wonderful poems.) I don’t want to force anything though. There are times when the poetry flows, and other times when it doesn’t. I know of no way to get the sap flowing again other than to be patient, sensitive to the world, and trusting that the words will return in their own time. If drought happens to one or either of us, so be it. We’ll just be quiet for a while.
[Also, even though I’m personally drawn to poetry, if you want to diversify to other things like letters, ghost stories, or whatever, I’m open to that. The main thing is to create a writing experience that is meaningful and fun.]
Neil Gaiman said that “anything that gets you writing and keeps you writing is a good thing.” I came to you with this idea because I thought that it might be something to get us writing and keep us writing. Even if it doesn’t, it’s got us talking again after all this time. Already – it’s already been a good thing.