Friday, June 1, 2018

Something to Consider

~ Writing about writing ~

For The Young Who Want To

Talent is what they say 
you have after the novel 
is published and favorably 
reviewed. Beforehand what 
you have is a tedious 
delusion, a hobby like knitting. 

Work is what you have done 
after the play is produced 
and the audience claps. 
Before that friends keep asking 
when you are planning to go 
out and get a job. 

Genius is what they know you 
had after the third volume 
of remarkable poems. Earlier 
they accuse you of withdrawing, 
ask why you don't have a baby, 
call you a bum. 

The reason people want M.F.A.'s, 
take workshops with fancy names 
when all you can really 
learn is a few techniques, 
typing instructions and some-
body else's mannerisms 

is that every artist lacks 
a license to hang on the wall 
like your optician, your vet
proving you may be a clumsy sadist
whose fillings fall into the stew
but you're certified a dentist. 

The real writer is one
who really writes. Talent
is an invention like phlogiston
after the fact of fire.
Work is its own cure. You have to
like it better than being loved. 

– Marge Piercy
from Circles on the Water (NY, Knopf 1982).
First published Mother Jones V, no. 4 (May 1980).
Copyright © 1980, 1982 by Marge Piercy and Middlemarsh, Inc.

Used here for purposes of study.

Note: Phlogiston is an imaginary element once supposed to cause spontaneous combustion.

No commentary from me this time. I invite your own responses. I present this piece particularly for the many fine poets amongst us who somehow don't think they are "real poets" yet. 

(Marge Piercy is one of my greatest favourites, whose books – novels and volumes of poetry – are available on Amazon.)


  1. I'm a fan of Marge Piercy's novels, especially Woman on the Edge of Time, but I wasn't familiar with her poetry. I like what she says about talent and her attitude to people who don't understand creative writing and what it means to the writer, that it's not 'a tedious delusion, a hobby like knitting'. I agree that 'You have to like it better than being loved'.

    1. Oh, what treats you have in store. Kim! She is a WONDERFUL poet! I love her novels too, and I love her poetry even better.

  2. I so love this poem-and Marge Piercy's droll wit. Real writers do write - we cant NOT write, not for very long. Love the tedious delusion, the hobby like knitting, too. My sister looks askance at my poetry, this weird thing that i do. That and my bad hair, lol.

    1. Yes, I agree that we can't NOT write. I think it's important that we ourselves recognise our calling – as I know you do – regardless of who looks askance.

  3. Once again you have shared a treasure Rosemary....I am one who hasn't quite accepted that she is a poet....that I am a poet.....a writer....a creative. But I am learning to work on my creative passion just for me. I'll get there one day perhaps.

    1. You ARE there, Donna! Your own words reveal it: 'my creative habit', 'my passion just for me'. Not to mention the words of your poems, which give enjoyment to so many of us. (Of course it's good to keep working and developing, too.)

  4. Spot on! Thanks once again Rosemary for this important message.

  5. Such wise words. Indeed, the real writer is one who really writes. I like that. We here at PU have every right to call ourselves POETS. We really don't have licenses to hang on the wall, but....we have our words! Thanks for sharing this, Rosemary.

  6. Love this! Can we hang it on our walls?

  7. There is such brilliant insight in this, Rosemary. It really struck a chord. I've been writing poems, here and there, throughout my life and have very much taken to writing with zeal, since I retired years ago ... mainly, I think, because it has become my 'go-to place' that rarely fails to center me. And yet - several hundred poems in - I still question if I am a 'real' poet. Great choice on this one, Rosemary. I loved it!

  8. Fabulous poem. Every poet will appreciate and empathise with this one. I no longer admit to writing poetry to anyone . I can do without the shock horror response akin to being a signed up member of the neo nazi party:)


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