Where Do Poets Get Their Inspiration?
—Azure Antoinette, spoken-word poet
"When you go to bed, you can't force a dream, right? In fact, the dream is a gift because it's a surprise. There are different theories about where dreams come from, but a general one is that the day's residue often becomes the little grain of sand around which the dream will then build. i think a poem is like that."
—Timothy Liu, author of eight poetry collections
"They come from my wanting to write them. I want to make something. The way I work is I start, and then something starts to happen. In other words, I have to mehanically, intentionally, and willfully begin."
—Kay Ryan, U.S. poet laureate, 2008–2010
"I think lines of poetry come to you whenever they come. You could be waiting for the dentist and suddenly you'll get an image or a line and you write it down. I write on the backs of envelopes, parking tickets—whatever I have at hand because you cannot lasso the muse. I really believe you can't force a lot of this. Now, I passionately believe in revision, and that you have to try to write in a disciplined way as much as you can. But I do think there are moments that you suddenly get something, given to you as a gift from the imagination, and you have to honor those moments as well."
—Carol Muske-Dukes, California Poet Laureate and professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Southern California
More from O's poetry issue