Wednesday, 30 July 2008


I thought Saturday's Guardian interview with American poet Sharon Olds was extraordinary. Not least because of the quote below, on where writing comes from; it tallies uncannily with my own experience. The interviewer asked if she could see words in her head and she answered:

"It's a little more hearing - it's almost as if I hear them just before they come out the end of the pen. I don't hear them, but it's as if they're in a chamber just outside my hearing. I don't usually try to write a poem unless that's happening. The poems come to me, I don't go to them. As soon as I see that what I'm mulling - a line or a sentence is repeating itself in my mind, like an obsessive thought, or a kind of conceit or concept - as soon as I see that it's a poem, I go and write it. And there's a lot of crossing out, I write the first draft in maybe half an hour, 45 minutes - these are all pretty short poems. When I feel that I've made a false move, I try to cross it out back up to where it's okay. And then try to bring it down again, OK, all the way to the end."

Read the full interview here.


BarbaraS said...

That's a great quote, very heartening for me too. It's a bit like what Richard Hugo once said, and I paraphrase, the good poems come to you after working on all the 'bad' ones, the ones you had to strive after.

I always start with a first line in my head that won't go away, or an idea that's been bugging me for days. If there's nothing in the tank, then I'm not writing. Writing's a funny old game...

Women Rule Writer said...

It sure is, B! Hard to explain to non-writers too.