Hello dear readers and welcome to the middle of the week. If you are feeling a little run down, if Friday is feeling a little too far away, I encourage you to check out Writer’s Quote Wednesday, a weekly event hosted by Colleen at Silver Threading. My contribution for the week is from the American poet John Ashbery.
John Lawrence Ashbery was born on July 28, 1927, in Rochester, NY. He has published more than twenty volumes of poetry and won nearly every major American award for poetry, including a Pulitzer Prize in 1976 for his collection Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror.
Renowned for its postmodern complexity and opacity, Ashbery’s work still proves controversial. Ashbery has stated that he wishes his work to be accessible to as many people as possible, and not to be a private dialogue with himself. At the same time, he once joked that some critics still view him as “a harebrained, homegrown surrealist whose poetry defies even the rules and logic of Surrealism.”
Langdon Hammer, chairman of the English Department at Yale University, wrote in 2008, “No figure looms so large in American poetry over the past 50 years as John Ashbery” and “No American poet has had a larger, more diverse vocabulary, not Whitman, not Pound.” Stephen Burt, a poet and Harvard professor of English, has compared Ashbery to T. S. Eliot, calling Ashbery “the last figure whom half the English-language poets alive thought a great model, and the other half thought incomprehensible”.
His work has been translated into more than twenty languages. He lives in New York, with his partner, David Kermani, and since 1990, he has been the Charles P. Stevenson Jr. Professor of Languages and Literature at Bard.
“It’s important to try to write when you are in the wrong mood or the weather is wrong.”
// John Ashbery, The Art of Poetry No. 33
This isn’t new advice. Every writer knows they should be writing every day, they should be working those writing muscles and sitting at the ready in case inspiration should come looking for you. What they don’t tell you is that as much as you love to write, and as much as you long to share your stories with the world, writing hurts. Writing is hard work and gives you all sorts of unpleasant feelings about yourself, mainly the feeling that you are a terrible writer.
Because writing is so hard you must work up the energy and the courage to do it and most days you will not have the strength to cope with such blows to your ego. Maybe it isn’t so dramatic as all that, not all the time anyway, but it is hard work and not always fun while you are doing it.
Most days it feels like a chore. Some days you are in the mood to clean your house, some days you are only doing it because you have to. There are things you’d rather be doing but you know if you don’t you will be mad it didn’t get done. You do it anyway because if you don’t things will only be worse the next time.
And just like your chores, when it is part of a daily routine, when you have developed an efficient way of moving through the work, then it starts to feel good to get it done a little more often than it used to. For the days when your mood is all twisted up and the clouds turn dark and gloomy, write anyway because it is what writer’s do and one day all the bad feelings and bad weather will mean something.
P.S. It was nice to read in the interview that Ashberry admits to procrastinating just like everyone else, maybe even more. I beat myself up for not writing nearly as much as I should but this guy has won all the awards and still does anything else but write when he should be. That gives me hope.