One of the key pieces of advice the creative writing faculty give to our entering graduate students is to make time for writing. Grad school requires so much of us all, there are many tasks, and they pull in different directions. One has to present a public face to the workshops and classes, one must prepare for lectures, and the students have to hand in other assignments to other classes. So, ironically, those who enter a writing program may have a hard time finding time to write.
And for the professor, that writing time is elusive, too. So, how to manage? I start out by assigning the grad students the "poem-a-day" task. Every day we all write a new poem, and after a week we bring in all the rough drafts and one typed poem from the batch, one poem that may become a keeper. This way we all generate new work--and writing hard and fast, we bypass the censor. We arrive at a few lines, some of which may hold up over time. I always work this way when I'm in France, writing a poem each day no matter what. And many of those poems have developed into "real" songs and poems. Not all. But many.
My old friend William Stafford wrote a poem a day every day of his adult life. When asked by an interviewer for advice about writer's block, he replied, "Lower your standards."
My friend Art Smith, a great poet, tells his students to write six lines each day, and I think that he follows his own advice. Six lines. We can all do that. And then some of the poems grow longer, more interesting, they become magnets for complex feelings, imagery, and music.
I have to go now and write my six lines. Maybe I'll start with the Apollinaire quote, "The city changes faster than the human heart..." and then? I can picture the rest of the song. And I'm thinking maybe it will become part of The Love That Moves Me, my next volume to come out from Black Widow Press, 2013.
Causes Marilyn Kallet Supports
Southern Poverty Law Center, US Holocaust Memorial Museum, ACLU, Amnesty International, Save Darfur.