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Anxious gatekeeping

Analogous to nervous cluelessness is something we might call “anxious gatekeeping.”   This is desire to police the borders of poetry, or of...

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Composition (manifesto 4)

In poetry every word, every punctuation mark, counts. Even the typeface matters. That a noun is masculine or feminine has no particular importance as an inert linguistic fact, but in a poem a masculine and a feminine noun cannot be interchangeable. If you are a scholar of poetry, then you know how to pay close attention to every word and every space. You have, then, a certain prose responsibility to poetry. You must write well and accurately. You don't have to be a poet, but pretty close.

Everything I regret in my own work is the result of failure to live up to this ideal. I realize others don't share it, and I won't worry about them for the time being. I remember being outrage when a doctoral student used the word "thusly" in a chapter. That was an exaggerated response, but I still would never use that word.

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