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2003.04.22 =>

ways and means

After tea we went into the garden, where he [Thomas Hardy] asked to see some of my new poems. I fetched him one, and he wondered whether he might offer a suggestion: the phrase 'the scent of thyme', which occurred in it, was, he said, one of the clichés which poets of his generation had studied to avoid. Could I perhaps alter it? When I replied that his contemporaries had avoided it so well that I could now use it without offence, he withdrew the objection.

'Do you write easily?' he enquired.

'This poem is in its sixth draft and will probably be finished in two more.'

'Why!' he said, 'I have never in my life taken more than three, or perhaps four, drafts for a poem. I am afraid it might lose its freshness.'

He said that he could once sit down and write novels to a time-table, but that poetry always came by accident, which perhaps was why he prized it more highly.

—Robert Graves, Good-Bye to All That

 

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