I would like a simple life
yet all night I am laying
poems away in a long box.
– from The Ambition Bird, Anne Sexton
Ambition is normal. It’s the fuse we light when we begin. We want our poems to succeed, whatever that means. When we start out, it’s a good thing we don’t know how to file all the burrs down. Our early work, with its deep flaws and inconsistencies, is all we have. Self belief. Ambition. Faith. Trying to second-guess ourselves in the early stages kills the pilot light. Self-consciousness is the last thing we need, when we’re beginning. The only time being fully self-conscious is valuable is when we’re editing, staring down a poem’s failings late in the drafting stages, taking a cane-knife to sentimentality and lazy line-breaks. As we develop as poets, as our work comes under public scrutiny, being self-aware is…
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