More Better Blues

I asked a group what they do to move their poetry to the next level. I got a lot of advice about writing prompts at first. But is the key to writing better poetry writing more? I guess it’s a multi-lock door requiring several keys. More is surely not necessarily better. You could just be generating more of the same. Engaging in translation projects has sometimes, I believe, helped me re-engage with my own work with new spirit, which can lead to work that feels more interesting. “Read widely in other arenas” is another useful piece of advice, I find. Reading in the sciences often jumpstarts me to try interesting things, which can often make for better work. Other good advice I’ve received is to examine my poems’ ambitions and in what ways the poems may fall short. Also, are there things I tend to do in my poems that end up being a crutch or a habit rather than a conscious decision that enhances the poem? Someone suggested reading outside my comfort zone, which seems like an interesting idea. Although given my tendency to be an impatient and crabby reader, that may not be the route for me. Another key must be to read more and to read with more of a “how’d this poet pull that off?” eye. I think the old arts tradition of imitation is a good idea too — painters recreate old master paintings, musicians copy great phrasing, we can write imitations by substituting our own words and leaps and silences into the structure of others’ great poems to try to get an intimate sense of how they did what they did. So anyway, write more, yes, but write more better. Now, if I only I could stop procrastinating.

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