Quotes on Writing from Richard Poirier

Writing must not be simple. Yet most commentators on the literary, political, or cultural matters treated . . . give every impression that writing is somehow easy, that words can somehow be set into place and count on not to move.”


“Reading can be a civilizing process, not because the meanings it gathers may be good for us—they may in fact sometimes be quite pernicious—but because that most demanding form of writing and reading called literature often asks us to acknowledge, in the twists and turns of its language, the presence of ancestral kin who cared deeply about what words were doing to them and what they might do in return . . . Good reading and good writing are, first and last, lots of work.”



“We are always and everywhere trapped in language; it is our central means of self-expression, yet it is imprecise, maddeningly slippery, not equal to our thoughts or our feelings.”

Get Over Myself (d1)

Note: this is a first draft of a poem about time and self. I’ve always enjoyed looking at completed poems and wondering how they got there (“One Art” by Elizabeth Bishop is a good example of the efficacy of drafts), so I thought I’d make the process transparent for something I’m working on. I also want to include a piece of art with each draft, with this version’s accompaniment being “Woman Descending Staircase” by Gerhard Richter. While I like the little experiments in each stanza, they aren’t yet connected in a meaningful way.


Get Over Myself

Pipes jut in the sad remnants of our once-was basement

and I find myself by the goodwill sofa, whispering to

myself that I never properly got the bookshelf stocked.


Indiscernible invisibility, specks of ourselves play

in a song that never finished once we were done with it.

Rain pickled on the porch, the porch processed

the scene as we trampled up the stairs, eyes stared

at the exposed brick of next door’s brownstone.


You kissed me like a retronym in the bedroom, right

by the rotary phone and my stack of floppies

with wimpy ideas. Tasked with pushing the light

across the room, I sat and traced the shadow lines

until they came around again.


Far above, I thought (still think) that I failed

too many times, not for abundance of failure but

for lack of trying. I made it about me, and

there you (were) lost.


The great thing about time

is that it goes on.