I like being straight across from the reader . . .
I converse with live poems . . .
The appetite for reading or listening or learning—seeking out meanings—is an attempt to get beyond superficial, beyond appearances, to realize what is significant. The senses are fallible, and I don’t have the belief in my ability or anyone’s ability to get very far beyond appearances, but again, I have the appetite for it . . . like, I don’t think we ever find out what things are really like, but trying to get nearer is hunger. . . .
If you can get dumb enough you can write marvelous poems about things that are really close to you.
Where you live is not crucial, but how you feel about where you live is crucial.
The key to writing poetry may be a readiness. Relax, don’t resist. Be a receiver.
Writing is effective in so far as it has verbal events in it, not the assertion of feelings.
We need to write poems that won’t last forever.
Treat the world as if it really existed.
Try to listen to poems in neutral.
What starts a poem must validate itself. We need the sense of being in worthy company. Also the poem must earn its way. Every advance must be earned.
Competition is bad, I think. Even competition with yourself is bad.
Language is never the same. The same sentence repeated is not the same.
Inside the language we speak lies a secret language, an induced language: the language of bare syllables which have their own meaning. . . . That is, all syllables tend to slide by inherent quality toward certain meanings, either because of varying demands on the throat of utterance, or because of relations among clusters of syllables which have become loaded with associated meanings, and so on. . . . Words like slide, slick, slither, slime, sludge, etc., embody an sl sound which will steadily induce something of its potential meaning into any other words it gets itself into. . . . My belief is that the language is continuously under the influence of such currents or tendencies and that alert or lucky speakers and writers ride such currents. . . .
An artist is a person who makes the decisions about the work the artist is doing. If you give that away, it’s not art.
Any chunk of carbon under pressure will turn into a diamond.
Poems are expendable, but the process is not expendable; it is lifelong. . . .
We torture the limits of the language. Simplicity is more difficult than complexity. . . .
Writing takes a lot of forgiveness, freedom, and welcoming. You should welcome the impulses that come to you. Don’t try to stiff-arm your own feeble little thoughts. They are all you have. . . .
Be content to say the things we always wanted to say.
21 June 2005
William Stafford, an old friend
William Stafford, The Answers Are Inside the Mountains: Meditations on the Writing Life: