Literature

A writer-editor-teacher’s quote of the week #118

According to Christian Bök, there are four ways to be a poet. A lyric poet typically intends to express a thought or a feeling. It is possible, however, “to express oneself unintentionally—surrealist writing, automatic writing, and stream of consciousness,” Bök says. “Also, Ginsberg at his most rapturous, ‘first thought, best thought’—outbursts of feeling that aren’t meditative.” A third category of poet cares primarily about intention—having a plan, that is, and seeing it through. These poets use constraints to produce poems that aren’t necessarily expressive. An example is a poem written using the avant-garde technique N+7, in which a poet takes out certain words in a piece of writing and replaces each with the seventh word following it in the dictionary. A poet named Rosmarie Waldrop did this with the Declaration of Independence and produced a satirical piece that begins, “We holler these trysts to be self-exiled.” The fourth category includes appropriation—giving an existing text a new form.

— from “Something Borrowed” by Alec Wilkinson, in the October 5, 2015 issue of The New Yorker

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