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The Work of Inspiration: Five Pieces about Poetry

Emily Perper | Longreads | February 8, 2015 | words

The best artists of any kind–poet, painter, performer–will inspire awe, not envy. They will make you want to make things of your own. When I’m feeling stuck, I’ll read about poets who inspire me/who are new to me, and today, I’ll share a few with you.

Posted inNonfiction, Reading List

The Work of Inspiration: Five Pieces about Poetry

How do you write? My best friend might look at her old poems and draw from those. My former newspaper advisor tweeted at me: “Nulla dies sine linea,” or “Never a day without a line.”
Photo: Kevin Harber

How do you write? My best friend might look at her old poems and draw from those. My former newspaper advisor tweeted at me: “Nulla dies sine linea,” or “Never a day without a line.”

“Write something every day,” my English teacher wrote, in blue marker on paper in the shape of a pencil. The best artists of any kind–poet, painter, performer–will inspire awe, not envy. They will make you want to make things of your own. When I’m feeling stuck, I’ll read about poets who inspire me/who are new to me, and today, I’ll share a few with you.

1. “Open Letter: A Dialogue on Race and Poetry.” (Claudia Rankine, Poets.org, 2011)

Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric has garnered lots and lots of (well-deserved) praise. Here, several years earlier, she analyzes a poem by having a conversation with Tony Hoagland and through Hoagland’s hostile reaction to (well-deserved accusations) of racism: “I begin to understand myself as rendered hyper-visible in the face of such language acts. Language that feels hurtful is intended to exploit all the ways that I am present. My alertness, my openness, my desire to engage my colleague’s poem, my colleague’s words, actually demands my presence, my looking back at him.”

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