1. I see no reason to spend your life writing poems unless your goal is to write great poems." (Poetry and Ambition p.1)

2. "True ambition in a poet seeks fame in the old sense, to make words that live forever." (Poetry and Ambition p.4)

3."When we have read the great poems we can study as well the lives of the poets. It is useful, in the pursuit of models, to read the lives and letters of the poets whose work we love." (Poetry and Ambition p. 6)

4. "The United States invented mass quick-consumption and we are very good at it... Thus: Our poems, in their charming and interchangeable quantity, do not presume the status of 'Lycidas'- for that would be elitist and un-American. We write and publish the McPoem." (Poetry and Amb.. p. 7)

5."The workshop schools us to produce the McPoem, which is 'a mold in plaster, /Made with no waste of time,' with no waste of effort, with no strenuous questioning as to merit. If we attend a workshop we must bring something to class or we do not contribute. What kind of workshop could Horace have contributed to, if he kept his poems to himself for ten years?" (Poetry and Amb.. p. 10)

6." Most poets need the conversation of other poets. They do not need mentors; they need friends, critics, people to argue with... The history of poetry is a history of friendships and rivalries, not only with the dead great ones, but with the living young." (Poetry and Ambition p. 12)

7."A product of the creative writing industry is the writerly newsletter which concerns itself with publications, grants , and jobs - and with nothing serious... It resembles not so much a trade journal as a hobbyist's bulletin, unrelievedly cheerful, relentlessly trivial." (Poetry and Ambition p. 16)

8. "Sigh.If it seems hopeless, one has only to look up in perfect silence at the stars... and it does help to remember that poems are the stars, not the poets. Of most help is to remember that it is possible for people to take hold of themselves and become better by thinking." (Poetry and Ambition p. 17)

9." There is no audit we can perform on ourselves, to assure that we work with proper ambition. Obviously it helps to be careful; to revise, to take time, to put the poem away; to pursue distance in the hope of objective measure." (Poetry and Ambition p. 19)

 

10. On writing children's books: "There's a permanent four-year-old in my head, to whom I tell my stories... If you have the proper shape, the fable, maybe they're not so hard to write...But finding the fable is hard!" (Rector p. 122)

11."What's bad about growing older is the knowledge that you have less time, the frustration that you will not live to write the books or the poems; or to read all the books you want to. What is good, paradoxically enough, is patience." (Rector p. 125)

12. On literary criticism: " Oh, I don't believe in taking a cannon to kill a flea. It's a waste of time to write a savage review of a book that nobody is going to read. But I believe in taking a cannon to kill a flea continually described as an eagle. I've tried to do it once or twice." (Rector p. 126)

13. On reading the poetry of younger poets: " I keep looking. I'm curious: What's happening? What's going to happen? I've seen nothing so extraordinary as the increased numbers of poets, people with at least some ability; the numbers especially of young women, compared to earlier generations, including my own." (Rector p. 129)

14."If you read something that upsets you, that violates every canon you ever considered...look again, look harder: It might be poetry." (Rector p. 130)

15."When I was young I had the illusion that at some point or other you would know if you were good. I no longer believe that such knowlege is possible. Some days you feel you're terrific; some days you feel that you're crap. So what? Get on with it." (Rector p.135)

16. "ALL prizes are rubber medals. All grapes are sour as soon as you taste them. I haven't won the Pulitzer; if I ever win it, within five minutes I will recollect all the dopes, idiots, time-servers, and class-presidents of poetry who have won the Pulitzer; I will know that getting the Pulitzer means that I'm not damned good. Needless to say, I still wantto undergo this disillusion!" (Rector p. 142)

 

17. "There are jobs, there are chores, and there is work. Reading proof is a chore; checking facts is a chore. When I edit for a magazine or publisher, I do a job. When I taught school, the classroom fit none of these categories. I enjoyed teaching...because I got to show off, to read poems aloud, to help the young, and to praise the authors and books that I loved." (Life Work p.4)

18."Sometimes I make lists of things to do in years ahead: a prose book I mean to write; a new book of poems, with a guess at the year when it ought to finish itself; new short stories; revision of a textbook. These lists get lost." (Life Work p. 10)

19. "It takes me many drafts to write a poem and 'Another Ellegy' is the all-time statistical leader... 'Another Ellegy,' which began in 1982, had accumulated - when I put it away in 1988, furious with it, ashamed and humiliated by failure- over five-hundred drafts... [plus] thirty more drafts [in 1992]." (Life Work p. 20)

20.upon hearing of his "self-discipline" for living on the family farm and writing "For me, I told them, it required no discipline to spend my days writing poems and making books.If I loved chocolate to distraction, I said, would you call me self-disciplined for eating a pound of Hershey's Kisses before breakfast?" (Life Work p. 29)

21."I repeat stories I grew up on, stories that created me." (Life Work p. 118)

 

22. "Writing poems for fifty years, I've altered as much in the last twenty-five as I did in the first. Education doesn't stop- or it better hadn't." (Death to the Death of Poetry p. 2)

23. "Yeats, Schwartz, Crane, Thomas, Auden. My eclectic education continued, although I had not yet learned the most important thing: American poets never sport a middle initial." (Death.. p. 9)

24."There are a thousand ways to love a poem. The best poets make up new ways, and the new ways mostly take getting used to." (Death p. 25)

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