Musings about music, writing, Portland, my new house, my travels, my family, politics, whatever.....

Thursday, April 26, 2007

You have to like it better than being loved

I recently began reading So You Want to Write, by Marge Piercy and Ira Wood, because I am seriously considering taking a writing workshop with them at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY based on this book.

The book began with this poem, and I was immediately sold. I wanted to share it, and I looked online and didn't find it, was all set to type it up myself. But then I perused her web site, and lo and behold it was the one poem from the book The Moon is Always Female that was posted there.

I should also note that she has a memoir called Sleeping With Cats. I find it unfortunate that that title is taken.

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.

Copyright 1980, Middlemarsh, Inc.
Alfred A. Knopf, New York


  • At April 26, 2007 at 2:47 PM, Blogger Terry Whitaker said…

    fabulous post, Jess!

  • At April 26, 2007 at 6:07 PM, Blogger riversgrace said…

    Love her. I'm hanging this over my desk.

  • At April 26, 2007 at 6:22 PM, Blogger holly said…

    ditto, prema

    I'm prtinting and hanging this.

  • At April 27, 2007 at 4:21 AM, Blogger Trish Ryan said…

    It's so great to hear from someone who remembers what life was like BEFORE their writing success - yay for inspiration :) And you're right, "Sleeping with cats" is a great title!

  • At April 27, 2007 at 6:42 AM, Blogger grammer said…

    great poem, esp. with the fillings and all...

    it goes for musicians, too. i'll never forget talking to my aunt jeanne just after dave and i found out we were going on tour with joan baez. she said, "It's never too late to get a teaching certificate."

    people have their ideas about what you should do. people are so funny and mysterious that way.

    xxoo t

  • At April 27, 2007 at 4:58 PM, Blogger Michelle O'Neil said…


    I think maybe we need to print out offical licenses to write. Like diplomas, to hang on our walls.

    I hearby delcare you are a writer.....blah blah blah....only we are each the declarers and the recievers of our own certificates.

    Don't mind me. I've had 3/4 glass of wine.

    Don't drink & blog.

  • At April 27, 2007 at 7:02 PM, Blogger Jess said…

    Drinking and blogging, is that kind of like drunk dialing?

    You need to come to Portland and drink and blog with me and Holly... :)

    Oh, and I hadn't fully appreciated the relevance of the filling thing (lost one in my curry yesterday). Thanks TG.

  • At April 28, 2007 at 1:19 PM, Blogger Kim said…

    Terrific poem. After many years in the book publishing industry, I have a bit of a complicated reaction to it, but I love it and am working to become the kind of person who prints this out and lives by it.

    And I LOVE Omega. It's worth it to go there just for the food alone.

  • At April 28, 2007 at 3:33 PM, Blogger Carrie Wilson Link said…

    Ditto everyone! I say get Michelle another glass of wine and have her get going on the "diplomas"!

    BTW, you are also going to OUR NY workshop, so don't don't forget to save some of your amazing juju!

  • At April 29, 2007 at 6:29 PM, Blogger Jenny Rough said…

    Love the poem. Must read those books.


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