An Author's Assemblage: Brief Notes and Notices

The accumulation of posts to this web page serves merely as an author’s assemblage of brief notes and notices: the collection of informal bits of information, quotations, and observations gathered as one way to display a personal reflection of perceptions on poetry, publication, and related selections of material drawn from my perspectives as a poet or professor of literature and creative writing.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Nicholson Baker's Anthologist on Writing Poetry

“The master class I gave had a rocky moment. I told them to copy poems out, and to start by saying what they actually wanted to say, and to read their drafts aloud in foreign accents, and to clean out their offices, and to make two supporting columns when they packed their books in a box, and I described trying to edit an anthology and how crazy it made me, and I heard myself sounding more or less like a professional poet. Which amazed me.

“And then a man of forty or so, with a French accent, asked, ‘How do you achieve the presence of mind to initiate the writing of a poem?’ And something cracked open in me, and I finally stopped hoarding and told them my most useful secret. The only secret that has helped me consistently over all the years that I’ve written. I said, ‘Well, I’ll tell you how. I ask a simple question. I ask myself: What was the very best moment of your day?’ The wonder of it was, I told them, that this one question could lift out from my life exactly what I will want to write a poem about. Something that I hadn’t known was important will leap up and hover there in front of me, saying I am—I am the best moment of the day. I noticed two people were writing down what I was saying. Often, I went on, it’s a moment when you’re waiting for someone, or you’re driving somewhere, or maybe you’re just walking diagonally across a parking lot and you’re admiring the oil stains and the dribbled tar patterns. One time it was when I was driving past a certain house that was screaming with sunlitness on its white clapboards, and then I plunged through tree shadows that splashed and splayed over the windshield. You, windshield shadows, you are the best moment of the day. ‘And that’s my secret, such as it is,’ I said.” —From Nicholson Baker’s novel, The Anthologist (Simon & Schuster, 2009)

1 comment:

  1. You have opened my mind up to so many things, with this post. The graffiti skreeching tyre marks on the road around the corner from where I live, the birds - always the birds. The way water, when it runs downhill is almost trying to tell me something.
    Wow, is the most profound thing I can say, Wow, and thank you.



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