Introduction

If you are just starting out as a poet, you should make a trip to the stationery store, the bookshop and the nearest library. Enjoy the aroma of a fresh ream of paper, the feel of a pen in your hand and the power of a library card in your pocket.

A working poet also needs notebooks, pads, pencils, pens, a ream of 20 percent bond paper, business envelopes (Nos. 9 and 10), manila envelopes (9" X 12"), file folders, stamps, postal scale, a typewriter or computer, ribbons, correction tape or fluid, diary or journal, dictionary, thesaurus, rhyming dictionary, encyclopedia, reference books and Poet's Market.

If you can't afford all of these things, eliminate the postal scale (ask the postmaster to weigh your manuscripts); eliminate ribbons and arrange access to a typewriter or computer (ask a friend if you can use one, check to see if your library has a work station, or pay per hour at a local photocopying store); use scrap paper for your notebook, diary or journal; and take advantage of your library card so you can refer to the dictionaries, directories and reference books mentioned above.

You also will need a quiet place to think, read and write. If you don't have a room of your own, use the library again or ask the local clergy if you can spend time in a church facility. Perhaps you can use the town recreation center during off-hours, in return for some volunteer work. Or you can take advantage of the milieu of a café or restaurant whose owner doesn't mind your setting up shop at a table, as long as you order food or drink.

Make a commitment to devote at least fifteen minutes a day to write. Increase this, if you can, to an hour a day. If you have children and no support at home, hire a babysitter whenever you can and then hide yourself away. If you can't afford a sitter, trade off with other parents; let them watch your children during your writing time and then watch theirs during hours you are going to be home anyway. If you still think you have no time to write, try getting up one hour earlier when the house is quiet. Or eat a meal away from family, friends and associates, and use that hour to work.

Rely on your imagination to locate a corner somewhere for yourself. When Raymond Carver was just starting cut, he used to write in his car. I did the same in a beat-up Plymouth when I was a teenager, using one hand to hold a flashlight and the other a pen, scribbling verse in a pad on my knee while guarding a factory all night. If you're serious about composing poetry, you'll find the time and the place.

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