I would say to someone who was wondering if they could become a poet, you have two things in front of you. First of all, you have your heart and the things that you want to say. Nothing is too small. Nothing is too, quote-unquote, ordinary or insignificant. Those are the things that make up the measure of our days, and they’re the things that sustain us.And they’re the things that certainly can become worthy of poetry.

And the other thing is your tools, which is the writing itself – the language, the way you use that language; even grammar. And so you use one in order to get to the other. And when someone tells you your poem is bad, it doesn’t mean that your heart is bad, it just means that your language, the way – your tools, you have to hone them a little more. So be able to separate those two, and to work to hone the tools. To practice your scales, so to speak, in order play the symphony, is what you have to do as a young poet.

And to read. To read, read, read. If you don’t love to read, if you don’t get taken in by any text that you see – on the back of a cereal box or in a book – then I would say you probably won’t have the right passion to write as well.

-Rita Dove, “Rita Dove on New Anthology, Advice for Young Poets,” NPR, December 31, 2014


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