[from Book Two, Epistle III, To the Pisos]
The Art of Poetry:
Notes for Aspiring Poets and Playwrights
. . . "Poets and painters," you say,
"Have the right to do whatever they dare to do."
. . . whatever the work is supposed to be,
Let it be true to itself, essentially simple.
. . . Aspiring writer, be sure to be careful to pick
Material that you're strong enough to handle . . .
The man who does this will find he doesn't have trouble
Thinking of what to say and in what order.
Order's important: the virtue and beauty
. . . often
Depends on the author having judiciously chosen
To say the thing that ought to be said right now,
And keeping other things back for later on,
Favoring one thing over against another.
. . . And do it very carefully, you can work it
So that the context makes a word that's worn
From being too familiar seem brand-new
. . . don't attempt to overdo it
. . . He does much better who doesn't
Try so hard . . .
His aim is light from smoke, not smoke from fire
. . . He goes right to the point and carries the reader
Into the midst of things, as if known already;
And if there's material that he despairs of presenting
So as to shine for us, he leaves it out . . .
Beginning, middle, and end, all fit together.
. . . As for instruction, make it succinct, so the mind
Can quickly seize on what's being taught and hold it;
Every superfluous word spills out of a full mind
. . . in what you invent stay close
To actuality . . .
Produce no human babies from monsters' bellies