|Interview with Edward Hirsch at BigThink.com February 25, 2010, 34 mins, video.|
|Edward Hirsch on falling in love with poetry, HoCoPoLitSo, May 1, 2012|
|A Conversation on Writing with Edward Hirsch, Connec Literature, May 7, 2012|
Daydreaming is one of the key sources of poetry – a poem often starts as a daydream that finds its way into language – and walking seems to bring a different sort of alertness, an associative kind of thinking, a drifting state of mind.
The commitment to working at poetry is important because a poet is a maker, and a poem is a made thing. We have to honor our feelings by working to transform them into something meaningful and lasting.
When I was young, I wrote everything, and I thought I would be an all around writer, that I would write everything.
Once your poems are completed, you send them into the world. You don't write for a coterie of other writers – you write for other human beings.
The elegy does the work of mourning; it allows us to experience mortality. It turns loss into remembrance, and it delivers an inheritance.
When I taught at the University of Houston in the Creative Writing program, we required the poets to take workshops in fiction writing, and we required the fiction writers to take workshops in poetry.
The very good thing about MFA programs is their democratizing. They bring a lot of different people to the table.
The Portuguese and Galician term 'saudade' suggests a profoundly bittersweet nostalgia.
You are always trying to make something that is more than the sum of its parts.
The idea of how to read a poem is based on the idea that poetry needs you as a reader. That the experience of poetry, the meaning in poetry, is a kind of circuit that takes place between a poet, a poem and a reader, and that meaning doesn't exist or inhere in poems alone.
You're trying to write about something that's sacred. You're trying to bring the seriousness of life and death to it, and you're trying to find a way to dramatize it, and you're trying to give language to it, which is inadequate. But it's important to try.
When poetry separates from song, then the words have to carry all the rhythm themselves; they have to do all the work. They can't rely on the singing voice.
I started writing poetry as a teenager in suburban Chicago out of emotional desperation.
A person who's only suffering can't write a poem. There are choices to be made, and you need to be objective.
'Liberty Brass' is a small machine that unfolds in a single unpunctuated wave, which is interrupted by the rotating sign, the refrain. Each part is meant to do its work in relentless progression.
The line is a way of framing poetry. All verse is measured by lines. The poetic line immediately announces its difference from everyday speech and prose.
I don't think you can read poetry while you're watching television very well.
I found a comfort in trying to solve some poetic problems because there were human ones I just couldn't solve.
I believe in rooting poems in actual places, even if you move into some other extraordinary realm.
Anyone who has lost a child will tell you that they don't recover their sense of endless possibility. Some people hide that well. But after a certain age, almost everyone is carrying something like that around, I suppose.
Poetry takes place in time. It is a durational. Things take place in sequence.
I grew up in a middle-class house without books, without art. No one around me wrote poetry or even read it.
I aspire to a poetry of great formal integrity, deep passion and high intellect, and I have many models for how to do that.
Poetry is meant to inspire readers and listeners, to connect them more deeply to themselves even as it links them more fully to others. But many people feel put off by the terms of poetry, its odd vocabulary, its notorious difficulty.
As soon as something happens to us in America, everyone begins talking about healing. But before you heal, you have to mourn.
There are a lot of poems where I am questing for God. I don't think there is any finding of God.
I love the leisurely amplitude, the spaciousness, of taking a walk, of heading somewhere, anywhere, on foot. I love the sheer adventure of it: setting out and taking off.
I began to imitate what I was reading, and I started to become a poet, even though what I was writing were not good poems.
Poems mesmerized me, and I felt better when I was writing them, or trying to – more in touch with something deep and dark within myself.
Rhythm is sound in motion. It is related to the pulse, the heartbeat, the way we breathe. It rises and falls. It takes us into ourselves; it takes us out of ourselves.
I find great consolation in having a lot of poetry books around. I believe that writing poetry and reading it are deeply intertwined. I've always delighted in the company of the poets I've read.
Our culture has become increasingly intolerant of that acute sorrow, that intense mental anguish and deep remorse which may be defined as grief. We want to medicate such sorrow away.
You're shadowed by your own dream, especially as you get older, of trying to create something that will last in poetry. And so, you're working on its behalf.
The terms of poetry – some simple, some complicated, some ancient, some new – should bring us closer to what we're hearing, enlarging our experience of it, enabling us to describe what we're reading, to feel and think with greater precision.
I didn't read poetry seriously until college, when I really began to devour it in a very intense way. I also discovered that a poet is a maker. Before that, I thought a poet was someone who wrote about his own experiences.
One of the things that happens to everyone who is grief-stricken, who has lost someone, is there comes a time when everyone else just wants you to get over it, but of course you don't get over it. You get stronger; you try and live on; you endure; you change; but you don't get over it. You carry it with you.
Poetry is a form of necessary speech… I have sought to restore the aura of sacred practice that accompanies true poetic creation, to honor both the rational and the irrational elements of poetry.
I don't think poetry will die, but I think that poetry does demand a certain kind of attention to language. It does demand a certain space in order to read it, and I think that space is somewhat threatened by the lack of attention that people have and the amount of time that they give to things.
One of the things that distinguishes poetry from ordinary speech is that in a very few number of words, poetry captures some kind of deep feeling, and rhythm is the way to get there. Rhythm is the way the poetry carries itself.
Each book should be an entity unto itself, with its own structure, character, life, name.
I had feelings that I didn't know what to do with, and I felt better when I started writing them. I thought of it as poetry. I did notice girls really liked it. Better than football. They liked the combination.
I come from Chicago, and the landscape of the Midwest has always meant a great deal to me.
The sole literary presence from my childhood was my grandfather, a Jewish immigrant from Latvia, who eccentrically copied poems into the backs of his books. After he died, when I was 8 years old, my grandmother gave his books away, and his poems were lost.
There have always been great defenses of poetry, and I've tried to write mine, and I think all of my work and criticism is a defense of poetry to try and keep something alive in poetry.
Poetry itself hasn't been well served by poets who fled to the margins.
I still feel that I'm capable of being as emotionally present as when I was young.
There are still many tribal cultures where poetry and song, there is just one word for them. There are other cultures with literacy where poetry and song are distinguished. But poetry always remembers that it has its origins in music.
It's very important to me to be an American poet, a Jewish poet, a poet who came of age in the 1960s.
I think ancient cultures incorporated death into the experience of life in a more natural way than we have done. In our obsessive focus on youth, on celebrity, our denial of death makes it harder for people who are grieving to find a place for that grief.
As far as I'm concerned, freedom is the most important thing to creativity. You should feel free to write in whatever way, whatever language, feels comfortable to you.
Someone who's awake in the middle of the night is a soul consciousness when everyone else is asleep, and that creates a feeling of solitude in poetry that I very much like.
Writing poetry is such an intense experience that it helps to start the process in a casual or wayward frame of mind.
I'd say people do need some help with poetry because I think poetry just helps takes us to places that Americans aren't always accustomed to going.
In every culture, in every language, there is expressive play, expressive word play; there's language use to different purposes that we would call poetry.
The idea that a poem was a made thing stayed with me, and I decided then that I wanted to be an artist, not just a diarist. So I put myself through a kind of apprenticeship in writing poetry, and I understood even then that my practice as a poet was deeply related to my reading.
Throughout his work, Philip Levine's most powerful commitment has been to the failed and lost, the marginal, the unloved, the unwanted.
My cultural experiences were as important to my formation as many of the other things that happened to me.
The sense of flowing, which is so crucial to song, is also crucial to poetry.
The muse, the beloved, and duende are three ways of thinking of what is the source of poetry, and all three seem to me different names or different ways to think about something that is not entirely reasonable, not entirely subject to the will, not entirely rational.
My focus is on the reader and that the poet's job is not to inspire himself or herself. The poet's job is to inspire some future reader.
Poetry takes courage because you have to face things and you try to articulate how you feel.
There's something really unnatural about losing a child, and there's something unnatural about having to write an elegy for your child, but I felt that I wanted people to know what he was like.
A novel takes place over time. It's a historical narrative, and it needs to have a series of peaks and valleys and the move through. You can't just start at the highest pitch and stay there, but you can in a lyric poem.
James Salter is a consummate storyteller. His manners are precise and elegant; he has a splendid New York accent; he runs his hands through his gray hair and laughs boyishly.
I've been fascinated over the years by the way refrains work. Think, say, of the refrains in Yeats' ballads. Ideally, each time the refrain comes back in a poem, it is both the same and different. It works by counterpoint and reiteration. It accrues meaning.
There's never been a culture without poetry in the history of the world.
The idea of a poem as a message in a bottle means that it's sent out towards some future reader, and the reader who opens that bottle becomes the addressee of the literary text.