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I don’t have a gun and I don’t have even one wife and my sentences tend to go on and on and on, with all this syntax in them. Ernest Hemingway would have died rather than have syntax. Or semicolons. I use a whole lot of half-assed semicolons; there was one of them just now; that was a semicolon after “semicolons,” and another one after “now.”

And another thing. Ernest Hemingway would have died rather than get old. And he did. He shot himself. A short sentence. Anything rather than a long sentence, a life sentence. Death sentences are short and very, very manly. Life sentences aren’t. They go on and on, all full of syntax and qualifying clauses and confusing references and getting old. And that brings up the real proof of what a mess I have made of being a man: I am not even young. Just about the time they finally started inventing women, I started getting old. And I went right on doing it. Shamelessly. I have allowed myself to get old and haven’t done one single thing about it, with a gun or anything.


But, after all, the drug or the physical exercise is not the cause of the spiritual experience; it is only its occasion.

How To Be a Poet


(to remind myself)

Make a place to sit down.
Sit down. Be quiet.
You must depend upon
affection, reading, knowledge,
skill—more of each
than you have—inspiration,
work, growing older, patience,
for patience joins time
to eternity. Any readers
who like your poems,
doubt their judgment.
Breathe with unconditional breath
the unconditioned air.
Shun electric wire.
Communicate slowly. Live
a three-dimensioned life;
stay away from screens.
Stay away from anything
that obscures the place it is in.
There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.
Accept what comes from silence.
Make the best you can of it.
Of the little words that come
out of the silence, like prayers
prayed back to the one who prays,
make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came.


Going Wrong

The fish are dreadful. They are brought up
the mountain in the dawn most days, beautiful
and alien and cold from night under the sea,
the grand rooms fading from their flat eyes,
Soft machinery of the dark, the man thinks,
washing them. “What can you know of my machinery!”
demands the Lord. Sure, the man says quietly
and cuts into them, laying back the dozen struts,
getting to the muck of something terrible.
The Lord insists: “You are the one who chooses
to live this way. I build cities where things
are human. I make Tuscany and you go to live
with rocks and silence.” The man washes away
the blood and arranges the fish on a big plate.
Starts the onions in the hot olive oil and puts
in peppers. “You have lived all year without women.”
He takes out everything and puts in the fish.
“No one knows where you are. People forget you.
You are vain and stubborn.” The man slices
tomatoes and lemons. Takes out the fish
and scrambles eggs. I am not stubborn, he thinks,
laying all of it on the table in the courtyard
full of early sun, shadows of swallows flying
on the food. Not stubborn, just greedy.

Jack Gilbert

Interviewer: One of the things I love about Radiohead is that you make beautiful, adventurous, mind-expanding music, without, as far as I know, taking mind expanding substances. Which proves you don’t need crutches of that kind to be truly creative.

Thom: Well, I’ve never taken acid, for instance. Chiefly because I was told that if I did, I’d never come back. I have often wondered what it would be like to really get out there. But I … I don’t trust I’d ever come back. That’s been my thing, really. I have enough troubles with my dreams, so it would probably not be a good idea. Also I think anyone who, like me, is prone to depressions, should not go near drugs. Because drugs perpetuate whatever’s going on in your head, and I suffer from depression and that’s actually a pretty strong drug in itself.

Read more here.

Do you think that confession plays a role in your poems? Your poems might be characterized as a part of the narrative, confessional poetry tradition, and I wonder as a priest-poet if you feel a sense of testimony or even, perhaps, absolution when you write?

I’ve heard that word “narrative” thrown around some now. Confessional less. Confessional recalls Plath and Sexton and Lowell and Berryman and Snodgrass right away, doesn’t it? I am not sure half the time what I am doing as an artist and, by and large, I’d say that has stood me in good stead. Naturally, my religious life is spilling into the verse, and I suppose it is a testimony, to use a fundamentalist word and turn it on its head, a testimony of a middle-aged gay man who became a priest.

Read more here.

Routine, in an intelligent man, is a sign of ambition. – W.H. Auden