a nice ornery essay

If there is no method of work that we can rely on, maybe at least we can encourage in ourselves a temperament that is not easily satisfied. Sometime when we are discouraged with our own work, we may notice that even the great poems, the sources and the standards, seem inadequate: “Ode to a Nightingale” feels too limited in scope, “Out of the Cradle” too sloppy, “To His Coy Mistress” too neat, and “Among Schoolchildren” padded. . . .

Maybe ambition is appropriately unattainable when we acknowledge: No poem is so great as we demand that poetry be.

– Donald Hall, “Poetry and Ambition.” He says many things with which I do not agree, including some standard MFA-disparaging remarks, but it’s an interesting essay and if I was still teaching creative writing I would assign it.


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