[MUSIC] First we'll go in this little book, Steering the Craft, which is a wonderful set of exercises. Lays out all the options for point of view, and writes the same paragraph over, and over, and over again. Because I think there is something, how would you describe that shift from the first person, in which you would be narrating the poem about your grandmother? To putting it in the first person again, but this time inside of her. What do you think happened in that shift? >> I think you gain a certain amount of empathy for the character. You really dive into their psychology a little bit more, and you're looking at your own emotions towards the subject a little more objectively, and therefore, gives you a little more perspective in a way that opens up the poem in different ways. And I've found that I always question that in every single poem. And I often tell students, you'd be surprised, don't always go for the default. Even in the same token, sometimes that sort of transparent you, that's really an I, can work sometimes, but sometimes it's really annoying. When a poem starts, you woke up this morning and got stung by a bee, no, I didn't get stung by a bee, you got stung by a bee. [LAUGH] >> And you are making me into your fall man. [CROSSTALK] You are making me think, and it's- >> And it's too easy to do that, to say it's you. So, but I think it's that, it's just really gaining more empathy for the character and the complexity of the character once you enter their mind. So it's just me sort of accusing my grandmother, or saying what my grandmother said to me, and feeling all sort of victimized, or feeling that sort of getting backed into that corner. >> Ezra Pound, or as we were talking about earlier, I had to look long and hard. But as it turns out, he had something remarkably lucid to say on the nature of poetry. And he said, go in fear of abstractions, the natural object is always the adequate symbol. And I wondered how you feel about sort of the more concrete, or the more abstract in writing, whether it's in poetry or in prose. >> It's something I work on a lot in my own work, and sort of have a fix on it in my work. And in fact I have a little lecture that I love to do about show don't tell, which is this golden rule that we sort of just throw out there, but we never really quantify or qualify. And I sort of changed that around for students. because there's this idea, first of all, of course, that abstractions don't show us, and so we go through that, we show them that we're biological beings, it's our five senses, we can't absorb any information in any other way. But then showing can get out of hand. And then I try to take them through the exercise of, it's not just showing for the sake of showing, but it's telling, it's sort of you, show to tell, [LAUGH] rather than the idea of telling images, rather than just throwing and showing. Because then there's poems, or one of the pitfalls is just let's just go on ad nauseum for six pages about the cardinal outside the window. But your images, or your sensory details, you're not selecting them purposely or carefully enough. And then beyond that, I also have tell by showing is how I changed the rule. And then after that I say, and then, if you show you get to tell a little bit. Because then some poems just don't tell enough, and don't use enough abstractions in the sense of, I've given you all this sort of explicit, sensory detail, I get to say something about this, but say something interesting. >> Right, but it becomes the tail, not the kite. >> Right, exactly. And you have to earn that, as they say. Have them give me eight lines of sensory details, then say something brilliant about that. [LAUGH] Almost like a response to your own environment that you've created. >> Right, or an expansion on the images that you've presented. >> A leap somewhere, yeah. >> Yeah, the leap seems to me, that's how I always feel about endings too. That the best endings are the ones in which, you've finished, you've come almost to the end, and then there's the leap, and then there's the ending, which changes everything that went before. And I think it's the same thing with the telling. >> Yeah. >> It changes everything that is concrete. >> Yeah, yeah, certainly. >> because it shapes it differently. >> Certainly, even closure in poetry is like that in the ending. You want that last sort of couplet, or that last line that suddenly closes a poem, but reverberates all the way back to it, and touches on every meaning the poem was working towards. >> Right, you want to ring the bell. >> Yeah. [LAUGH] >> I was wondering how you, yourself develop voice for a character. How you hear, are you an eavesdropper? Are you a note taker? Or do you have some other approach? >> I'm sort of a scribbler in journals, and I get journals for birthdays and Christmas and all this. Or I buy them, because I just love them. I have about 80 journals with about five or six pages filled in, because then I move on to the next journal that I like better. But I've always tried to jot down sort of when I hear that voice. And for poetry in particular, not so much in prose, or I've not written fiction, which I haven't had that experience of a character sort of really dominating or coming into my psyche. But I would say my own psyche, my own persona, my own artistic persona, my own voice, when I can hear it and I don't hear it all the time. I mean, it has something I can recognize in, and I sort of try to cultivate it, and invite it in. But it's almost like you can swarm around a poem and swirl around a poem, I compare it almost to like when you're tuning an instrument, but you're not quite hearing the right note. And then suddenly, you recognize that voice that you've heard a thousand times, and that is your truest, sort of, that is the poet, the persona, the artist persona voice. And, that's what I try to record in those journals. I try to record that instant, and sometimes they're the cheesiest, most sort of cliche lines, but there's some spirit in them that reminds me to sort of go back, can let me go back into the voice when I sit down to write the poem. >> I think that's a great idea, that it's the voice that actually gets you back, in some sense, most closely to the project. So, this is the end of our session of Shop Talk, with Richard Blanco, the American poet and memoirist. Richard, thanks so much for being here. >> Great to be here.