What advice was most helpful to you when you began to write?

I think it was Allen Ginsberg on New Year's Day, 1964, in New York City, and it was the morning, and I'd been asked to do a reading in a New York coffee house at about ten o'clock in the morning. New Year's Day, hey - who's going to turn out? Well, a couple of English friends turned out, and about six Americans, who included Allen Ginsberg, and his boyfriend, Peter Orlovsky. And Allen was very kind. He stayed, he listened, and at the end he said "Well, I think a lot of your poems are very uptight because you're writing in such strict form and things like that. It doesn't seem natural. But I think you should listen to the way you talk and take those rhythms and use them. You've got to listen to those rhythms in your own voice and use them to drive the poem along, use them to find out how long the lines of your poem ought be, and so on. And there's this poem you've done about your mother, which is in free verse, and I like it better than any of the others." And I said, "Well, it's not finished." And he said "Well, no, but, maybe it is!" And, yeah, Allen was very understanding, was a very understanding poet. He was a great poet, and he helped a lot of people. So that was the best advice I had.


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