Against Haste and Quota (Assigned)

INTERVIEWER

You’ve said that you average about six poems per year. Why so few?

WILLIAM MEREDITH

Why so many? Ask any reviewer. I remember a particularly wicked review of Edna St. Vincent Millay, whose new poems weren’t as good as they should have been, “This Millay seems to have gone out of her way to write another book of poems.” You’re always afraid of that. That could be said, I believe, of certain people’s poems. So I wait until the poems seem to be addressed not to “Occupant” but to “William Meredith.” And it doesn’t happen a lot. I think if I had a great deal more time it would happen more often because I would get immediately to the typewriter. But it might happen eight times a year instead of six—not much more than that. I’ll say this because it may be interesting or important: I think it is because poetry and experience should have an exact ratio. Astonishing experience doesn’t happen very often. Daily experience is astonishing on a level at which you can write a poem, but astonishing experience would be the experience that is not astonishment of reality but astonishment of insight. It is for me, as a lyric poet, to make poems only out of insights that I encounter. Robert Frost used to say, “How many things have to happen to you before something occurs to you?”

–William Meredith, The Paris Review

http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/2911/the-art-of-poetry-no-34-william-meredith

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