Joyce Carol Oates on writing poetry

Joyce Carol Oates by Marion Ettlinger

“Poetry is my other world, my solace of a kind. I love both to read and to write – or to attempt to write – poetry as a means of escape from the strain of prose fiction. It is also an extremely personal mode for me, as fiction is not. I can employ autobiographical landscapes and even experiences in my fiction, but I never exist – there is no place for I.
In a phase of poetry writing, I feel that I am most at home in poetry. There is something truly enthralling about the process – the very finitude of the form, the opportunity for constant revision – an incantory solace generally missing in fiction.”
– Joyce Carol Oates
   from ‘Joyce Carol Oates and the Hardest Part of Writing’
   Writer’s Digest interview with Michael Schumacher, April 1986
   Read more about Joyce Carol Oates.

4 thoughts on “Joyce Carol Oates on writing poetry

  1. Julie

    What an awesome quote from an amazing writer. It is so true. When we write poems, sticky little bits of our souls are often all over the words. When I write poems, I literally feel the pain or joy of the world of the poem.

    We have to step back from fiction to tell the story. We create the world and let it unfold. But what I love about Oates’ fiction is the poetic feel it has. I think all fiction writers should read and write poetry as well. Wonderful post!

  2. Annie

    oh my god, she has time to write poetry as well.. I wonder when I read this what I’m doing with my life. She’s one of the most amazing and possibly THE most prolific fiction writer, and yet she reads and writes poems as well.. I love the quote Michelle. I think I might be deeply in awe and possibly frightened by JCO… I think she’s some kind of ‘other being’

  3. bookreviewed

    I’ve only read two of Joyce Carol Oates’ books: Blonde (a fictionalised biography of Marilyn Monroe) and Little Bird of Heaven. Can you recommend others? What a beautiful and inspiring writer! And to Julie – I agree 100% with what you said about fiction writers and poetry. You know you’ve come across poetry in a novel when you are forced to stop and look away from the page and take in the beauty of a particular line or phrase. This happened to me more than once reading Blonde!

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