Nuts and Bolts

Lectures on poetry & writing by Richard Hugo (cont.)

  • Don’t write with a pen. Ink tends to give the impression the words shouldn’t be changed.
  • Write with what gives you the most sensual satisfaction.
  • Write in a hard-covered notebook with green lined pages. Green is easy on the eyes. Blank white pages seems to challenge you to create the world before you start writing. It may be true that you, the modern poet, must make the world as you go, but why be reminded of it before you even have one word on the page?
  • Don’t erase. Cross out rapidly and violently, never with slow consideration if you can help it.
  • Start, as some smarty once said, in the middle of things.
  • Play with syntax.
  • Never want to say anything so strongly that you have to give up the option of finding something better – if you have to say it, you will.
  • Read your poem aloud many times. If you don’t enjoy it every time, something may be wrong.
  • If you ask a question, don’t answer it, or answer a question not asked, or defer. (If you can answer the question, to ask it is to waste time).
  • Maximum sentence length: seventeen words.
  • Minimum: One.
  • Don’t be afraid to take emotional possession of words. If you don’t love a few words enough to own them, you will have to be very clever to write a good poem.

Richard Hugo

4 Comments

  1. To which I might add, record your poem and listen to it while doing dishes, or some very lightly challenging physical task. If you can’t follow the thought line of your own poem while lightly distracted, there’s a good chance no one else will be able to while fully attentive. I learned this back when I was raising my girls and had to make writing time where I found it. Another: Use paper and a pen, yes, a pen, and give your kid a box of crayons, and have at it on the same sheet of paper. Everyone’s happy, but you’ll need ink to be able to see through the colour later. Bonus: your first drafts can be framed.

  2. I found your blog through lost gander. Great stuff here I must add. Thanks for your posts. I’ll definitely being visiting again soon. Have a great weekend!

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