Lance Larsen had a poem published a couple of years ago in The Best American Poetry 2009. The poem published was entitled, “Why do you keep putting animals in your poems?” The interesting thing about this poem was that about a year and a half before it was published, I was in a small room of the Harold B. Lee Library on BYU’s campus listening to Lance read his poem. There were only five of us in a small study room, and we were all listening to his words of wisdom on how to write poetry. I recently came across my notes from that private poetry club meeting where we interviewed him, and I would like to share a few of the points he gave:
1. Read; you’re going to be influenced by something, so surround yourself with things that you want to be influenced by.
2. Read widely.
3. Write, every day.
4. Be comfortable not knowing where you’re going, let the writing lead you.
5. Start with an authentic question, then write from there.
6. Revise yourself into eloquence.
7. Write, write, write, and then find the language that’s alive and then cut out the non-original language. Distill and then expand, distill and expand, until you have a lot of lines that you find interesting. Then begin putting those lines together, and you will find what you need to say, or think, or whatever. It will come together by itself.
9. Critiquing is most useful when the critic shows you what to take out.
10. Fall in love with the world and take notes.
11. You have to become aware of Art developing all around you, then record it.
12. Be a collector. Be a good eavesdropper. Become an antenna. Learn to find good stuff around you and accumulate it. Pursue anything that makes you think.
13. Don’t be an English Major. Immerse yourself in other disciplines because it will feed your poetry.
14. Get as much theory in you, and then when you sit down to write, forget it all. Your subconscious mind will call forth what is necessary to create what you need.
15. How do you know when a poem is finished? When you can’t see how to make it significantly better.