June 8, 2012

Fail Better

"To be an artist is to fail, as no other dare fail... failure is his world and to shrink from it is desertion, art and craft, good housekeeping, living... " (Samuel Beckett)

I've said I'm a poet, but I don't know exactly what that is. From now on, let's define a poet as somebody who writes in broken lines as opposed to unbroken. 

I deliberate over what comes onto the page. Right now, I work on tensions and opposites. I'm interested in traction and think that I can create it out of history, memoir, image, string and paper clips. Language is a system of wheels and pulleys, a contraption of sorts, that one can ride. 

I'm moving, in other words. I'm going to several places at once. I turn to Samuel Beckett and return to Zadie Smith. 

"Fail Better" by Zadie Smith (The Guardian, 2007)

June 7, 2012

The Pleasure Principle by Philip Larkin

According to Philip Larkin:

It is sometimes useful to remind ourselves of the simpler aspects of things normally regarded as complicated. Take, for instance, the writing of a poem. It consists of three stages: the first is when a man becomes obsessed with an emotional concept to such a degree that he is compelled to do something about it. What he does is the second stage, namely, construct a verbal device that will reproduce this emotional concept in anyone who cares to read it, anywhere, any time. The third stage is the recurrent situation of people in different times and places setting off the device and re-creating in themselves what the poet felt when he wrote it. The stages are interdependent and all necessary. If there has been no preliminary feeling, the device has nothing to reproduce and the reader will experience nothing. If the second stage has not been well done, the device will not deliver the goods, or will deliver only a few goods to a few people, or will stop delivering them after an absurdly short while. And if there is no third stage, no successful reading, the poem can hardly be said to exist in a practical sense at all.

To read the entire essay, go to