Rushed sloppy writing abounds in the current communications landscape. The cycling-process nature of the internet has increased demand for new information and near constant updates — exacerbating what was already a post-or-lose mentality. For some uses, sweating the small stuff is a self-defeating exercise but, as a proponent of good writing, reviewing the fundamentals of the craft is both heartening and instructive. With Thomas Lux’s passing this week, I found this interview with the American poet where he speaks about the rigorous discipline and knowledge required to write well in English. I’m struck, as I’ve been before, by the historical foundations of poetic forms as they’re rooted in philosophy and music. The craft of writing, employed in service of its lower expression, can take inspiration from the craft of poetry, its highest. Posted is a short excerpt but the full interview can be found at the link below.
Hummingbird: watercolour, mixed media on handmade paper (2015) Meredith Holmes
RIP Thomas Lux. Your sensitive heart will be missed.
Peter Swanson’s interview with American poet, Thomas Lux, on the lessons he learned (about the craft of writing poetry) from Professor Helen Chasin at Emory College:
PS: What were some of the rules to be learned in her class?
TL: The rules were the rules of the craft: attention to music, line breaks, distillation, syntax, metrics, clarity, received forms, etc. The craft in all its elements
Distillation: The extraction of the essential meaning or most important aspects of something
Metrics: five basic rhythms of varying stressed (/) and unstressed (x) syllables. The meters are iambs, trochees, spondees, anapests and dactyls. Each unit of rhythm is called a “foot” of poetry.
Received Forms: Sonnet, blank verse, free verse, ballad…
Syntax: sentence structure: agreement, case, reflexive pronouns, word order.
Diction: word meaning
And literary devices: alliteration, metaphor, et al.