In keeping with the Word for Words theme of conversations on creativity, our guest this week is poet Charles Rafferty, whose insightful and elegant prose stirs the creative soul. A National Endowment for the Arts grant winner in 2009, Charles offers much wisdom to writers:
- Some poems fail because of just one word - as troubling as a hornet on the railing of a crib.
- One vase lets you see the scum and filmy water that power the bouquet of goldenrod. Another one doesn't. Which is better? Beauty or the beauty that tells us where it comes from?
- The predictable occurrence of stressed and unstressed syllables becomes more pleasing when the pattern is violated, here and there. We prefer a bouquet with a few broken petals for the same reason. We don't guess for a moment it might be fake.
- The thing that is most accessible is not always the best material for a poem. There's a reason the pyramids were not constructed of sand.
- On listening to poetry that I know is not: The wind can howl in the midnight pines but morning will find them standing.
- Details should be chosen as carefully as if you were covering up a murder. A poem is a lie you must make the world believe.
- There is a difference between the predictable and the probable, between the vague and the mysterious, between deviation and variation. The poet must learn when each is acceptable. Reading widely helps.
- Exclamation points are too often a cry of wolf. I prefer people to scream when they are actually on fire.
- Some poems end like surgery-the problem solved, the pain a memory, the stitching so tight that nothing leaks. Other poems end like a diagnosis.
- We respond to clichés the way we respond to form letters and junk mail - something the writer didn't bother to craft, a kind of boilerplate for the soul.
- Having too strict a meter can be like having the bass up so high on your stereo that you can't make out the harpsichord. Too loose a meter can be like static.
- There are no five-leggers. Nature prefers symmetry.
Charles' books are available on Amazon.