Friday, January 2, 2015

On Creativity: Embracing All That We Do Not Know

I read this beautiful quote in the current issue of The Writer's Chronicle. Merwin was interviewed by Christian McEwen in her book, Sparks from the Anvil: The Smith College Poetry Interviews.

Here's a little more from Merwin to help contextualize the quote: "...[P]oems--I think this is the most important thing to recognize and accept--poetry does not come from what you know. All that you know is very important, and not to be put down or ignored or got rid of, but finally it is from the unknown that poetry comes to you."

McEwen had asked about any advice that Merwin might pass along to students. After the above response, she replies, "So part of the message would be to keep the door open to the unknown in whatever way you can."

I love her response here--it calls to mind Rebecca Solnit's essay "Open Door" from A Field Guide to Getting Lost (one of my favorite books of all-time, and a very influential muse for me). Solnit advises, "Leave the door open for the unknown, the door into the dark. That’s where the most important things come from, where you yourself came from, and where you will go."

In the coming year, I hope that this concept will steer me. More and more, I am trying to let my poems be what they want to be. It sounds ridiculously flaky in some ways, but it has to do with trusting my words and not trying to impose a structure or an outcome or cleverness on them.

Happy new year, friends! Let us make things and share them.


  1. Thank you for your wonderful thoughts and poems. Wallace Stevens said something similar, that once a reader thinks she understands a poem, it loses its value. The unknown, like the truth, needs no defense. I too need to work on being more comfortable with not knowing. The best to you and yours in 2015.

  2. Well, hello there! So nice of you to comment. I've been missing being caught up on blogs...popping over to read yours now.

    A very happy new year to you, too!


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