Writers on Writing: Billy Collins

Billy_Collins_1

INTERVIEWER

Could you go through the genesis of a poem?

COLLINS

There’s a lot of waiting around until something happens. Some poets like David Lehman and William Stafford set out on these very willful programs to write a poem a day. They’re extending what Catullus said about “never a day without a line.” But most poets don’t write a poem a day. For me it’s a very sporadic activity. Until recently, I thought “occasional poetry” meant that you wrote only occasionally. So there’s a lot of waiting, and there’s a kind of vigilance involved. I think what gets a poem going is an initiating line. Sometimes a first line will occur, and it goes nowhere; but other times — and this, I think, is a sense you develop — I can tell that the line wants to continue.

For more about Billy Collins, click here…

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