Louis Menand On Poetry

A83EB05D-DC4B-4B57-9175-A06AE0EDFFF0Louis Menand (January 21, 1952 -)

I started out as a poet, too, but I eventually realized that whatever my poems were expressing, it wasn’t me. They were too obsessed with looking like poems, I think—and sometimes they did, just poems that somebody else had written. I switched to nonfiction prose, and found, to my astonishment, that I could express myself much better by writing about things I had nothing to do with. (Maybe I shouldn’t have been so surprised.)

But I got the same painful pleasure out of writing prose that I did out of writing poetry—the pleasure of trying to put the right words in the right order. And I took away from my experience with poetry something else. I understood that the reason people write poems is the reason people write. They have something to say.