Education of the Poet

“Most writers spend much of their time in various kinds of torment: wanting to write, being unable to write; wanting to write differently, being unable to write differently. In a whole lifetime, years are spent waiting to be claimed by an idea … It is a life dignified, I think, by yearning, not made serene by sensations of achievement.”

– Louise Glück, from “Education of the Poet” (Proofs & Theories)

7 thoughts on “Education of the Poet

  1. Sally Evans

    well, I don’t know. I think you have to rise above wanting to be what you are not, which is almost the same as wanting to write what you are not. We could look again at Aristotle(or was it Plato?) : “We learn to do things by doing the things we are learning how to do.”

  2. verylikeawhale

    That is so true. There’s no such thing as resting on laurels for more than, oh say, five minutes. Then it’s yearn, yearn, yearn, for the next thing.

  3. Michelle Post author

    Hi Sal and Nic, I think there’s something to be said for wanting to improve one’s writing. “Torment” and continuous “yearning” are not ideal states. I think it’s important to be happy with your work, if you can be, at least some of the time.

    It’s an interesting essay from Glück’s collection of essays, Proofs & Theories. Here’s another quote:

    “It seems to me that the desire to make art produces an ongoing experience of longing, a restlessness sometimes, but not inevitably, played out romantically, or sexually. Always there seems something ahead, the next poem or story, visible, at least, apprehensible, but unreachable … [T]he poem embodying that sound seems to exist somewhere already finished. It’s like a lighthouse, except that, as one swims toward it, it backs away.”

  4. tammy

    Glück is quite insightful – I suspect many writers do spend much time pondering about writing without doing the deed itself.

  5. Christine

    I relate to both passages, especially the latter one you posted here in the comments section. Even when I read poetry, I keep putting down one finished book in search of that next almost perfect volume.

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