Sunday, January 30, 2005


C. Dale Young wonders about his "voice": "When I first started seriously writing poems, I spent a lot of time worrying about 'voice.' So many people, especially in graduate school, had a running discussion about finding one's voice. I became a little paranoid about it. Listening to them, I knew I didn't want to become an imitation of a poet I liked. I went so far as to never read one book of poetry at a time because I feared I would start emulating that poet. I always read two books around the same time, hoping to offset the other. So, I would read Sylvia Plath next to George Herbert, Marianne Moore next to John Donne, John Ashbery next to Whitman. ...

Recently, a friend of mine read the galleys for my new book. In a phone conversation, he reported: 'Your work is all about shadow.' My response: 'What are you talking about?'"

I posted the following in Comments: "Several years ago I thought to myself, the poem I'm writing today sounds like it's in the style of a poet I read a month ago. I wasn't sure whether that excited me (hey, I can write that sort of poem, too!) or if it made me nervous (anybody can see this is just an imitation of so-and-so).

There are certain poems I've written that sound most characteristic of my own 'voice'. There are times I think all my poems sound the same. A teacher once said one of my poems seemed typical of me and I said, 'What's typical for me?' A sort of meditative, contemplative poem, he said. I had to think about that."

Kent and I ate our brunch at on Chester's deck this morning. We were able to see San Francisco clearly, despite a quite usual thin haze. Young has a nice post today about the weather where he is: "Outside, the sun is out and the light is that gauzy light you see in San Francisco many times during the year. All that salt water in the air refracting the light and the hills partitioning up this light so that everything glows as if in a very well-planned fish bowl. Out over Golden Gate Park, the Marin Headlands, grey but somewhat golden from the sea's reflected light. And off to the left, the breakers landing at Ocean Beach while two teenage boys are running along the tops of the dunes. Out by the Cliff House, a red kite. And everywhere, the sound of the Pacific, the dim roar one hears in a shell held to one's ear."

Why do I suspect that "gauzy light" is as much smog as "salt water in the air refracting the light"?

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