Letters About Literature: “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”

Dear Robert Frost,

I used to live in a world where every winter there was the assurance of snow. I would sit in the woods across from my house with my dog, watching the woods fill up with snow. I would watch as the snowflakes gracefully danced through the frozen sky, slowly descending upon the earth.

Read rest of poem by Katja Saana Sinikka Martin at The Library of Congress “Letters About Literature” website


Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening


Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

“In school no time is spent, alas, on the aesthetic analysis of literary works. “

“In school no time is spent, alas, on the aesthetic analysis of literary works. Central themes are stressed along with their historical context. Such knowledge is of course crucial, but it will not suffice for anyone wishing to become a good, independent reader, let alone for someone with creative ambitions. Our young correspondents are often shocked that their poem about rebuilding postwar Warsaw or the tragedy of Vietnam might not be good. They’re convinced that honorable intentions preempt form. But if you want to become a decent cobbler, it’s not enough to enthuse over human feet. You have to know your leather, your tools, pick the right pattern, and so forth. . . . It holds true for artistic creation too.”

WISŁAWA SZYMBORSKA (found at “How To (and How Not To) Write Poetry” 

The Joy of Writing

-Wislawa Szymborska

Why does this written doe bound through these written woods?
For a drink of written water from a spring
whose surface will xerox her soft muzzle?
Why does she lift her head; does she hear something?

Read rest of poem at NobelPrize.org

Mahmoud Darwish’s “To a Young Poet”

To a Young Poet



Don’t believe our outlines, forget them
and begin from your own words.
As if you are the first to write poetry
or the last poet.
If you read our work, let it not be an extension of our airs,
but to correct our errs
in the book of agony.
Don’t ask anyone: Who am I?
You know who your mother is.
As for your father, be your own.

Advice for Young Poets by Sharon Olds

“Take your vitamins. Exercise. Just work to love yourself as much as you can—not more than the people around you but not so much less.”

Sharon Olds, from “Advice to Young Poets: Sharon Olds in Conversation,” Poets.org, Michael Laskey.

Find more advice to writers in this poem: 

I Go Back to May 1937 (from The Gold Cell)

I see them standing at the formal gates of their colleges,
I see my father strolling out
under the ochre sandstone arch, the
red tiles glinting like bent
plates of blood behind his head, I
see my mother with a few light books at her hip

Read rest of poem, plus others by Olds, at Modern American Poetry

Read more about Sharon Olds



Advice to young poets from Rita Dove

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