Sunday, February 18, 2007

Charles Baxter on poets and prose writers

Every so often I need to re-read this essay. I write prose and poetry, and probably (undoubtedly!) suffer from the worst of both worlds. Here's the beginning of Baxter's essay:

"For the last three hundred years or so, prose writers have, from time to
time, glanced over in the direction of the poets for guidance in
certain matters of life and writing. Contemplating the lives of poets,
however, is a sobering activity. It often seems as if the poets have
extracted pity and terror from their work so that they could have a
closer firsthand experience of these emotions in their own lives. A
poet's life is rarely one that you would wish upon your children...

Prose writers, however, are no better. Their souls are usually heavy and
managerial. Prose writers of fiction are by nature a sullen
bunch...Fiction writers cluster in the unlit corners of the room,
silently observing everybody,including the poets, who are usually
having a fine time in the center spotlight, making a spectacle of
themselves as they eat the popcorn and drink the beer and gossip about
other poets."

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