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23 April 2008

Poets sit down and open a vein

Win0023 There's nothing to writing.  All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.  -Walter Wellesley "Red" Smith

Every writer has experienced moments in which all they can find is excuses. Not words or poetic turns of phrase or metaphor, but only excuses. Except for writers like Joyce Carol Oates with her 70 published books or whatever ridiculous number it's gotten up to now; people like that just write incessantly and successfully for sheer spite by this point, just to point out that writing is a practice, not an art, and the practice merely starts with sitting down. But when I sit down, all hell breaks loose. The wallpaper needs scraping and the Pistachio Lara bars need eating and the dandelions need blowing and the trees need waterproofing and the shoes need shining and the four-leaf clovers need pruning and the grapefruit spoons need sharpening. All of a sudden like. So when I read this poem, I laughed straight out loud.

All She Wrote       

Forgive me, I’m no good at this. I can’t write back. I never read your letter.

I can’t say I got your note. I haven’t had the strength to open the envelope.

The mail stacks up by the door. Your hand’s illegible. Your postcards were

defaced. Wash your wet hair? Any document you meant to send has yet to

reach me. The untied parcel service never delivered. I regret to say I’m

unable to reply to your unexpressed desires. I didn’t get the book you sent.

By the way, my computer was stolen. Now I’m unable to process words. I

suffer from aphasia. I’ve just returned from Kenya and Korea. Didn’t you

get a card from me yet? What can I tell you? I forgot what I was going to

say. I still can’t find a pen that works and then I broke my pencil. You know

how scarce paper is these days. I admit I haven’t been recycling. I never

have time to read the Times. I’m out of shopping bags to put the old news

in. I didn’t get to the market. I meant to clip the coupons. I haven’t read

the mail yet. I can’t get out the door to work, so I called in sick. I went to

bed with writer’s cramp. If I couldn’t get back to writing, I thought I’d catch

up on my reading. Then Oprah came on with a fabulous author plugging

her best selling book.

-Harryette Mullen

UPDATE: Sally Braley just alerted me to this wonderful addition from Writer's Almanac, another poem about writing poetry from Jay Leeming. I can so relate:

Man Writes Poem

This just in a man has begun writing a poem
in a small room in Brooklyn. His curtains
are apparently blowing in the breeze. We go now
to our man Harry on the scene, what's

the story down there Harry? "Well Chuck
he has begun the second stanza and seems
to be doing fine, he's using a blue pen, most
poets these days use blue or black ink so blue

is a fine choice. His curtains are indeed blowing
in a breeze of some kind and what's more his radiator
is 'whistling' somewhat. No metaphors have been written yet,
but I'm sure he's rummaging around down there

in the tin cans of his soul and will turn up something
for us soon. Hang on—just breaking news here Chuck,
there are 'birds singing' outside his window, and a car
with a bad muffler has just gone by. Yes ... definitely

a confirmation on the singing birds." Excuse me Harry
but the poem seems to be taking on a very auditory quality
at this point wouldn't you say? "Yes Chuck, you're right,
but after years of experience I would hesitate to predict

exactly where this poem is going to go. Why I remember
being on the scene with Frost in '47, and with Stevens in '53,
and if there's one thing about poems these days it's that
hang on, something's happening here, he's just compared the curtains

to his mother, and he's described the radiator as 'Roaring deep
with the red walrus of History.' Now that's a key line,
especially appearing here, somewhat late in the poem,
when all of the similes are about to go home. In fact he seems

a bit knocked out with the effort of writing that line,
and who wouldn't be? Looks like ... yes, he's put down his pen
and has gone to brush his teeth. Back to you Chuck." Well
thanks Harry. Wow, the life of the artist. That's it for now,

but we'll keep you informed of more details as they arise.

-Jay Leeming


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Oh, how I can relate!

Perfect. Both of them.


Thanks for these. Do you know Amy Steinberg, the singer? Here's her myspace: (OK, that bothers me, *her* *my* space. oh, well.) Listen to the song Exactly, then find the lyrics online and read them, and listen again. And she's *awesome* live. Anyway... she's writing a book. I'm passing these on to her.

I can totally relate to this entry.

By the way, I have read that quote before, but found it attributed to Ernest Hemingway.

See here:

Nickers and Ink

Ohmygod! The second one especially just lit me up with glee... :)

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