QUESTION: ...Contrary to public opinion, good poetry seems to be constructed, rather than spontaneously created. This obviously takes a lot of time. Therefore, how would you suggest a serious student of poetry manage or even afford to have this time? Should he just Wallace Stevens it?
PAUL MULDOON: It’s certainly true that it takes more work than most people might consider. That’s largely because all the work goes into making the poem look as if no work whatsoever has gone into it. And reading, both of other poems and the poem that’s even now coming into the world, is vital. But it’s still not like getting ready to run a marathon in Kenya. The exercise analogy doesn’t quite work. No amount of physical practice or mental preparedness will ensure that one will be able to run the marathon of the poem.
QUESTION: How does one get started as a poet? Clearly, trying to get published in The New Yorker off the bat is a long shot.
PAUL MULDOON: One gets started by having a lot of nerve but a nerve tempered by nervousness. Hubris tempered by humility. The chances of getting published in The New Yorker are slim in the sense that we publish only a hundred poems a year. But the chances of being published here are nonetheless real if you manage to write a really stunning poem. Nobody ever knows when, or how, that might happen. Soon, I hope.
Here's to stamina and "soon" for anyone flummoxed by their own stubborn drafts. Read the whole transcript here.