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Taking dictation from some celestial narrator

[caption id="attachment_599" align="alignleft" width="107" caption="Michael Blumenthal. BOA poet."]Michael Blumenthal. BOA poet.[/caption] Poet David Kirby has been teaching Michael Blumenthal's new book AND to his students at Florida State University - and the students have been eating it up. (What smart students!) In the process of teaching, David has been asking Michael, via email, to discuss some of his writing process on the book. I was fortunate enough to catch the tail end of that discussion and asked Michael to put together a concise paragraph that I could share on the BOA blog. Thanks to Michael for sharing these words on AND, which Publishers Weekly praised by saying, " "Few new books of American poems have more unity—or more happiness—than the latest from Blumenthal..." Michael Blumenthal on the writing of AND: [caption id="attachment_600" align="alignleft" width="199" caption="AND by Michael Blumenthal"]AND by Michael Blumenthal[/caption] "I tend to be—as was my poetic “mentor,” Howard Nemerov—a “waiter” when it comes to the writing of poems, which is to say that I prefer waiting for something akin to inspiration, or at least the genuine spark of an idea or piece of language, before sitting down to write. I thus "waited" 18 years to write AND from the time the triggering idea first came to me, in 1989. It was then that I wrote the poem "And the Wages of Goodness Are Not Assured" (the title poem of my 1992 book, THE WAGES OF GOODNESS). At the time, I remember thinking to myself that I would one day like to write a book ALL of whose poems began with that wonderful conjunction. And so I waited until 2003-2004, when the poems began to "come." In every case, the title came first, and then I simply allowed it to "flow," relatively unmediatedly, into the poem until it had exhausted itself. There was, really, not much "editing" involved, nor much conscious reflection—I tend to think of these poems as what Yeats called “a dredging operation into the unconscious”-- but the subjects themselves were issues I had, in some ways, been thinking about all my adult life. Then, around 2006 or so, the poems stopped, almost as suddenly as they came. This was exactly as was the case with my book-length poem LAPS, where 212 of those short poems originally "came," then stopped. God,--or the gods-- only know where it all "comes" from... but it does feel, without hubris, a bit like taking dictation from some celestial narrator, whoever he, she or they may be."

1 comment

  • Hey Michael.
    Miss seeing you around Ghent, Second Saturday, etc. in Norfolk. Never did get over to talk to you about Lake Balaton and W.D..

    Myreen Moore Nicholson on

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