by Reginald Shepherd, from his essay ‘To Make Me Who I Am (Poetry As A Way Out)’ from the Jan / Feb 2008 issue of Poets & Writers.
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“It was his way of reminding me that art is the lie that tells the truth, and that the truth art tells need not be about oneself. While “honesty” might make the writer feel good about himself, it is beside the point in a poem.”
“Poetry was a species of redemption of self and world, an enterprise not to be entered upon lightly or without the utmost commitment, a commitment that required that one shed one’s own petty desires and ambitions (for praise, for fame, or even to write “a good poem”) in favor of what the poem wanted and needed: “Learn to be No-one in the voice of none… / Your living syllable.” “
“Though my life was unavoidably conditioned by my social circumstances, to be conditioned by such circumstances is not to be completely determined by them: The social-material world I too often took as fixed and given was a made thing, and thus contingent and subject to change. Art could be a mode not of escaping alienation (an impossiblity) but of transforming it.”
And a few short words about picking up his 2nd MFA in Iowa, simply because they reflect my exact thoughts:
“When I was first considering going to the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, I looked at a map of the United States with a friend and said, “Iowa? Thats not near anything. Nor was it.”