October 18, 2008

A Manifesto on Poetry

I. Be pragmatic about the act of writing, so the writing itself may be unfettered.

II. There is bound to be an occasional sense of failure. Strike deals with it as often as you can. Never compromise.

III. Words and phrases will make themselves known to you while you are walking. Accept them.

IV. Interrogate every word that comes your way. What is its politics?

V. Never let a poem rest in a place of frozen meaning. Ensure that every poem is aware of at least some of its uncertainties.

VI. Have convictions.

VII. Leave gaps or interstices for something to flow out of the poem into the world, and vice versa.

VIII. Never let insecurity talk you into using fillers or more words than necessary. Write precisely.

IX. En-strange language, syntax, diction, rhythm so as to give pause.

X. Use forms memorably, or disform, or create significant forms.

XI. Craft the poem. Know your craft. Learn it then practise it.

XII. Engage urgently with the external and the internal.

XIII. Refuse paradigms if they are narrow and if you don’t like them. Unhinge them. Create your own.

XIV. Never disdain popular culture just because it is popular.

XV. Be aware of margins.

XVI. Believe in countercultures.

XVII. Write about relationships. Write about power.

XVIII. You will be tempted to write about suffering. Stand a part of yourself at a distance for perspective.

XIX. Cast off old ideas periodically. Be curious about new ones.

XX. Read nimbly.

XXI. Perform for an audience. Find ways for your work to perform. Speak it, or sing it.

XXII. Take risks. Make movies of your poems. Or write tunes or take photographs of them. Collaborate with someone. Be restless.

XXIII. Never rely entirely on someone else’s arsenal or strategies. Never have a fixed arsenal or fixed strategies. Try everything. Keep trying.

XXIV. Destroy the generic.

XXV. Be tentative about your first finished draft. Leash it to yourself for some time. Let it out only after you can account for it.

XXVI. Revise intelligently.

XXVII. Write every day.

XXVIII. Live voraciously, with discipline.

XXIX. Films, art, music and theory arc you to interesting places. Enjoy them.

XXX. Listen, or travel, or walk.

XXXI. Now and again, write silly poems. Cats make good subjects, if you happen to like them.

XXXII. Live ethically.


  1. I am going to put this up on my softboard. I've never needed such lines more.

  2. Hi Monica, I accidentally stumbled upon your blog by clicking on the keyword "freedom of expression" which appears on my blog too. I just wanted to say I liked your poem "satan". Good luck with your work and creative writing!

  3. Here's an essay on a young poet's journey and lessons along the way. Please read it here at http://wp.me/pC3Xj-dK