Love Note To Strunk

Oh Will, why did we never meet? I would've worshipped your pithiness, gone down on my knees before the towering rightness of your ideas, taken the mediocre grades you slapped on my themes without even a "see me" to hold out hope we might talk privately. I was born too late to breathe your air, paddle your canoe, bear your child, be known as the stylemaster's own and never recant.

"Omit needless words."

As you can see, research can be simple. When you come across a passage in one of your favorite (or least favorite) books, cite a sentence that can serve as an epigraph and contemplate how you would respond or rebut accordingly. As the E.B. White citation illustrates, an epigraph serves to overshadow and generate the work in question. The poet's obligation, of course, is to transcend the researched material with enlightened verse.

Facts alone do not a poem make. As Sander Zulauf observes, "There is a truth in poetry that's always beyond the truth of the facts gleaned from the research. I believe a poet uses the facts in combination with everything the poet knows about making a poem and making a life, and if the poem is exactly right, it's always greater than the sum of its parts."

Now that you know how to recognize and generate ideas, let's consider ways to keep a journal.

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