The Nude that Stays Nude
Don’t do what all the other little buggers are doing.
Don’t try to make the poem look pretty. You’re not decorating cupcakes, Cupcake.
Don’t think you’re the only bastard who ever suffered — just write as if you were.
Don’t eat someone else’s lunch. For eat read steal. For lunch read wife. For wife read style.
Don’t be any form’s bitch.
Don’t think if you cheat on form or slip the meter, no one will notice. They’ll know and think you a fool. Don’t think it impossible to cheat on form. If you do it well, they’ll think you a genius.
Don’t think if you declare yourself avant-garde, your sins will be forgiven.
Don’t blubber if you never receive prizes. Look at the poets who won the Pulitzer fifty years ago. See who’s there. See who’s not.
Don’t think you’re special. Stand in a library amid all those poets who thought they were every inch the genius you think you are.
Don’t double-space your lines and think the poem better. It just takes up more room.
Don’t think regret is 20/20. Regret is myopic. Hope is astigmatic. Trust is blind.
Don’t think what you have to say is important. The way you say it is what’s important. What you have to say is rubbish.
Don’t think you don’t have to read. You read in order to steal. Read more, steal better.
Don’t think your poems are good because they sound good read aloud. Get your hearing checked.
Never write poems about poetry.
Don’t play to the audience. Your audience is full of dopes, cheeseballs, and Johnny-come-latelies — besides, they’re laughing at you all the way home.
Don’t think you’ve been anointed by early success. Look at the critical darlings of a hundred years ago. Look at the darlings of twenty years ago.
Never wish you were there. Wish you were here.
Don’t think you can ignore grammar. You need grammar more than grammar needs you.
Never eat the pie if you can own the fork.
Don’t think new is better. Don’t think new is not better. Don’t think, read. Don’t think, ink.
Poetry is the nude that stays nude.
Never write the first line if you already know the last. The best poem is the unwritten poem.
Don’t break the window before you look at the view.
Don’t think that if you have two manuscripts, you have two manuscripts. You have one manuscript.
Don’t eat jargon, because you’ll shit jargon.
Don’t think poetry is a religion. It’s more important than religion.
Poet and critic William Logan was born in Boston in 1950 and earned degrees from Yale University and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Since 1975, his work—both poetry and criticism—has regularly appeared in major journals and publications such as the New Yorker, the New York Times, the Paris Review, Poetry, and...