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No Brainer Variations
by Jim Cory

what they say

they said: write in the morning, when the mind is most clear
they said: compose in a barren room like Shaw like Flaubert
they said: write 2 hours a day, 4 hours a day, 8 hours a day, write
        constantly, make a job of it
they said: write in the final hours of night, like Proust, when
        distraction abates
they said: compose in the afternoon, the early evening, the late evening,
        or only in summer, spring, fall or winter
they said: the typewriter most closely approximates the look of print
        on the page
they said: compose in long hand, it disciplines the imagination
they said: no one under 20 ever wrote anything remotely important
        except perhaps Chatterton or Rimbaud
they said: it takes 5 years, maybe 10, to reach a certain level of
they said: learn Latin Greek Italian Chinese & French
they said: Spanish is the language in which all the important writing
        is being done
they said; read these, & directed me to the snide screed of
        the anti-Muse
they said: go to readings & I walked away deafened by the preachy
        screechings of the narcissi
they said: try the Kenyon Review, the Partisan Review, the Hudson
        Review, the Massachusetts Review, the New American Writing,
the Old American Writing, Poetry East, Poetry West, Poetry
        North, Poetry Northwest, Poetry North by Northwest,
or just
        plain Poetry
they said: “these poems demonstrate a certain minimal competence but
        otherwise lack polish & precision…”

they said: narrative is dead, Romance poison, audience beside the point
        & the 1st person singular an old fraud bleeding tears into last
        year’s soup
they said: you must have pens for fingers, clocks for eyes
they said:

many things
than is possible
to record

some honest
some wise

I remember best the words of a poet in San Francisco (since deceased)
        who’d published 2 books of fiery brilliance then abandoned poetry
        for criticism, saying on the day we met in the Café Floor: You know how it is,
        after 30 the poems slow down, then stop coming altogether

they never said: study the masters, being Dante, Neruda, Shakespeare
        Lorca & Whitman
they never said: teach yourself to pay attention, that you may pick up
        occasional blips on the soul’s strange radar
they never said: it is only the ability to replicate spirit, no more no less
they never said: be more humble than the ant the weed the sparrow
        or the one-legged beggar in his wheelchair
they never said: the only true reward comes the moment the poem is
        complete, & vanishes instantly, leaving memories of its incense
        scattered thru the day
they never said: anger is the most transient Muse, & love the most
        diligent, lady of silken voice, she who resides longest, surviving
        into new lifetimes