Interview with Tyrone Williams (page 9)
JMW: How does a poem begin for you? What's your technique for revision? How do you know when a poem's complete?
TW: I'll take the last question first. I have few poems that I think are really "complete." Even when On Spec came out and I had a look at it there were/are so many things—mostly tinkering—I wish I'd changed. That said, there are poems I go back and reread after years and think, yes, that's just it, just how I wanted to write it. Tinkering, of course, is not revision—that's an entirely different process. Like many poets, I imagine, keep a journal of phrases, images, snatches of conversation, etc. that I go to when I'm in the process of writing. I'm not a procedural or conceptual poet in the sense that I don't begin with an interest in a specific set of formal problems to engage, though I admire poets who appear to work this way. However, once I have a specific idea for a poem I do think about the formal matters most appropriate—or most inappropriate—to the subject matter (and by appropriate and inappropriate I mean, of course, sedimented traditions). And I do believe in serendipity as I believe a poet must make his or her luck. My sense is that, for me and many others, the antennae are always up even if we are not aware that they're in reception mode.