November 30, 2009

you’ll never make a living writing poems

"You’ll never be able to make a living writing poems. We’d better get this money business out of the way before we go any further. I don’t want you to have any illusions. You might make a living as a teacher of poetry writing or as a lecturer about poetry, but writing poems won’t go very far toward paying your electric bill. A poem published in one of the very best literary magazines in the country might net you a check for enough money to buy half a sack of groceries. The chances are much better that all you’ll receive, besides the pleasure of seeing your poem in print, are a couple of copies of the magazine, one to keep and one to show to your mother. You might get a letter or postcard from a grateful reader, always a delightful surprise. But look at it this way: any activity that’s worth lots of money, like professional basketball, comes with rules pinned all over it. In poetry, the only rules worth thinking about are the standards of perfection you set for yourself."

ted kooser (Ames, IA, 1939), excerpted from the poetry home repair manual: practical advice for beginning poets (University of Nebraska Press, 2005)

Further reading:

Ted Kooser's official website

Ted Kooser: Online Resources (Library of Congress Web Site)

Times Topics: Ted Kooser (The New York Times)

The Poetry Home Repair Manual: Practical Advice for Beginning Poets (Google Books)

At Home with Poet Laureate Ted Kooser (All Things Considered, NPR)


Jessie Carty said...

That is a great book. Thanks for the reminder :)