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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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