The Work of Inspiration: Five Pieces about Poetry


How do you write? My best friend might look at her old poems and draw from those. My former newspaper advisor tweeted at me: “Nulla dies sine linea,” or “Never a day without a line.”

“Write something every day,” my English teacher wrote, in blue marker on paper in the shape of a pencil. The best artists of any kind–poet, painter, performer–will inspire awe, not envy. They will make you want to make things of your own. When I’m feeling stuck, I’ll read about poets who inspire me/who are new to me, and today, I’ll share a few with you.

1. “Open Letter: A Dialogue on Race and Poetry.” (Claudia Rankine,, 2011)

Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric has garnered lots and lots of (well-deserved) praise. Here, several years earlier, she analyzes a poem by having a conversation with Tony Hoagland and through Hoagland’s hostile reaction to (well-deserved accusations) of racism: “

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