“If you are not reading likely you are not writing.”
Be wary of others’ methods or manifestos. Any sort of declaration. Two degrees, ten books and less sure than ever. It happens rarely every day. A few things resonate more than others – Tom Raworth’s Earn Your Milk (especially ‘Letters from Yaddo’ and ‘Letter to Martin Stannard’); William Fuller talking with Eirik Steinhoff; Andrea Brady interviewed in Poetry London; Fred Moten talking with Charles Henry Rowell in B Jenkins.
The less time and space given to it, the better. Get it down to a quickening of the nerve. Days into primary school and coming home to write LOOK in large letters over and over in the rust red shag carpet using a finger. Nothing has changed.
Catholicism, no matter how long lapsed, lends writing an ornate luster, a leaning towards ecstatic visions. The divine Julian or John of the Cross or Paul. Later Ginsberg or Whitman or Blake. Unsustainable past adolescence, all sorts of bills in urgent need of paying, the bright tumult burns off to tedium. Now an urge to wrap it in inattention or instinct or intuition. Now to get the motor running. Now do not be given over to grand standing.
Cixous on writing is excellent. Beckett on writing is excellent. Blanchot on writing is excellent. Lisa Robertson on anything is excellent and feels like bobbing in an ocean. If you are not reading likely you are not writing. A lot to learn from those who keep (kept) at it (to it) continuously, such as Bernadette Mayer or John Wieners. The best bit of writing on writing is Beckett: “The last time I was there I left behind me a pair of soiled drawers and Sartre’s Nausée. These at least I hope to recover.” (Letter to George Revey, 27 September 1938)
Now get a job or something that keeps you out of it for long periods of time. This may as well say, “don’t think you can make any money from it, so get ready to do it regardless.” It feels better when it is not chalked up as a necessity or divine purpose. Write in any of the following places: walking on the street using the phone note function; drafts folder of work email; notepad on bus and or train; lap; endpapers of books; margins; whispering to friends or family. Write where works and be prepared for where works to change. If you are going to do it then get on and do it, do not wait for someone else to do it, and do not expect in doing it that it will feel done. Tom Raworth in Logbook, another excellent bit of writing on writing, “beating your radar pulse there to yourself and back and describing the journey.”
Revise it when it feels it needs revising. Do not be afraid to desert it. Show it no familial affection. The best thing about poetry is how little time it need take. It needn’t happen every day. This year I took up bread baking. Never happier.