Matt Mullins, talented poet and prolific blogger, is currently running a series of "Ask a Poet 5 Questions" on his blog, Unstable Euphony. Here are the answers I supplied Matt to his 5 questions. Also check out the responses from Tom Lisk, Mark Smith-Soto, Sarah Bartlett, Chris Salerno and more!
1. Can creativity be taught?
Yes – an emerging writer can learn many how to’s from reading literature, poetry, and well-written articles in established magazines and journals. The student can also learn under a good writing teacher who gives the student writing prompts, deadlines and appropriate feedback. Once the new writer has acquired this creative tool kit, then she will have an easier time generating new work instead of feeling like all of her good ideas flow through her like a sieve.
2. Do you write the majority of your poems in one sitting?
Yes, I draft my poems all of the way through in one shot, but my revision process has been known to take me days, weeks, and years. Additionally, I use my poetry critique group to help me revise my poems.
3. Do you read more than you write?
Right now, it’s about 60/40, with 60 being the reading which includes books, writing magazines, writing books, newspapers and other magazines. In the weeks when I can’t find time to squeeze in my own writing, I find that I can draft poems and fiction as my students do their timed writing exercises in my workshops.
4. Is it possible to live off of being a poet anymore?
After my book, Right Lane Ends was released last year and after getting several poems published, I was given more opportunities to conduct writing workshops within the Triangle community and I was also invited to judge several poetry contests, most notably The Independent Weekly’s contest. I was also invited to help Cary Academy with their poetry slam event. During all of this poetry productivity, I received a grant from the United Arts Council and I gained several new writing/editing clients. I also believed I’m now teaching English at Raleigh Charter High School because of my poetry and writing workshops. My writing business is now making money and I’ve only been in business a year. So to answer your question – yes, you can make money as a poet if you market yourself vertically, which is what I’ve done -- and be willing to teach.
5. Is today’s poetry lackluster compared with “classic” poetry?
No. I’d say today’s poetry is more accessible to the general public. There’s also so much choice out there. For instance you can choose to read language poetry, narrative poetry, experimental poetry, etc. For me, I prefer the narrative poets such as Ai, Yosef Komunyakaa, and Frank O’Hara Robert Lowell. I also enjoy the so-called confessional poets such as Dorianne Laux, Robert Lowell, and Sharon Olds. I also enjoy and try to emulate the rich density and details in the poems of Federico Garcia Lorca and Lisa Jarnot.