Susan Okie


Advice to Poets from Stanley Plumly (1939­–2019)

Come to the page with a full heart and an empty mind.

Stay off the subject.

In the small, the immediate, the local, is everything.

The poet should proceed in some blindness,

as confused as the reader.

See, not think, your way out.

The truth is always better—why not say what happened?

What is the language of the experience?

If you can’t film it, you can’t write it.

Free verse is the art of the sentence.

Pay attention to the shape.

You do not want a straight line.

Understatement is called for;

if you can’t find the understatement, try to be neutral.

Once you enter the form, you are the actor—not just the narrator.

Don’t be afraid to screw up.

The language will tell you what to say, the rhythm, how to say it.

Never be superior—be vulnerable.

When we get worried in a poem, we drag in the stars.

Part of coming to an arrival is the process of subtraction.

Beware the need to wrap up.

Keep it open. Break the edge off.

Let the jagged part stay.