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This article is taken from PN Review 145, Volume 28 Number 5, May - June 2002.

On Neither Writing Nor Revising Chris McCully

I was thinking about poetry. The fact is that I wrote verse continually for twenty-five years. If someone had asked me what I thought, deep down, I was put on the surface of this hot, abandoned rock to do, I'd have mumbled 'poetry'. With two collections indifferently dropped into an indifferent world, and with another masterpiece scheduled from the same excellent publisher for 2002, poetry is Something I Do. I've also been known, occasionally, to Do It pretty well. If someone asked me to write a double sestina on the theme of recently-purchased garden tools, they'd get their commission... and it would be good. Even beyond the mechanical fluency, even I see that some of the work has merited its reviewers' labels, its [modest English cough] international prizes, though I also know that the often-used work 'integrity' also means 'death to sales'.

I wrote verse. Past tense. The last poems I put together sprang messily from the drinking parts of the end of 1999, from August through October. One long-ish poem (and reader, don't get too moist, but it was a proper, formal ode) I wrote over forty-eight hours while drinking in two bars in San Francisco. Another was a fragment of terza rima I began and ended on a scrap of paper in a pub called something like The Golden Balls somewhere in Manchester. Both were recently published: they're immaculately polished pieces of work. Nor did I work on either piece while I was drunk. As ...

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