“I do various things to keep the muse going, but mostly, I read, read, read! I make myself the ‘expert’ of the particular form I am attempting. I am a big poetry nerd and proud of it! The history of literature is rich and various. The more rigorous we are in our practice, the more interesting our poems will be.
For instance, in my latest book of poems, Hard Love Province, I prepped myself by reading thousands of quatrains from different traditions: from the Chinese jueju ‘cut verse’ tradition of the High Tang poets of Li Bai, Du Fu, and Wang Wei to western ballads written by anonymous songsters (the ‘Unquiet Grave’ is a chilling ballad); from Auden’s work and Dickinson’s weird hymns to children’s nonsense verse and even that reviled form, the limerick. The quatrain and the ballad are versatile and beloved forms that are here to stay. I listened to folk songs from all over the world, work songs, blues songs, and rap. And that Nicki Minaj is nasty! I love her. I’m researching hard, but I’m also having fun learning about my genre. It’s about loving and honoring my art. It’s about appreciating the work that came before us. It’s about adding and talking back to the tradition and passing on the good news.”
—Marilyn Chin, author of Hard Love Province (Norton, 2014)