Cultivating Avidity

by Mark Chmiel

Books of poetry will teach you more than your mentor or professor or the well-known poet you have traveled to a conference to work with. Reading is like food to a writer; without it, the writer part of you will die—or become spindly and stunted. If you’re afraid that reading will make you less original, don’t be. Failing under the spell of—or reading against—other writers is part of what will lead you to your own work. Reading in the long tradition of poetry shows you what has lasted, and those poems are there to learn from. Reading your contemporaries shows you what everyone else is up to in your own time, so you can map the different directions of the art. There’s never one route to poetry, one style. Reading widely will help you see this….  You need to soak up as many books as you can. Even the one you don’t like can teach you something. If you were a painter, you’d spend time looking at works of art from every period in history….

–Kim Addonizio, Ordinary Genius: A Guide for the Poet Within, pages 93, 95.

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