The Unknown: The Red Line.
  It has puzzled scholars for decades what position, exactly, Rettberg was really taking on poetry. On the one hand, he often feigned disdain for the stuff of meter and line breaks, but on the other hand, he privately often confessed that he wished that he himself were a poet. And made public statements to that effect. As well as the opposite.

No one should make the mistake here of falling into what the New Critics called “the intentional fallacy.” All we can do here is look into these contrapuntal quotations. Make what sense of them you may:

“All aspiring fiction writers should first study poetry. Poetry is what distinguishes good prose from bad prose. By this I mean a certain attentiveness to the composition of the individual line, an awareness that all writing is writing metaphor, and also that language is not a mere utility, which can move us from plot point A to plot point B, but that words are living things, that there are rhythms in every line, that there should be music in every living sentence. This is what the poets teach us. This is what we workaday fiction writers need to learn.”

and he also said that:

“Without poetry, this world would be nothing but a cold, damp, and yet ultimately sterile shithole.”

Then on the other hand, he’d say things like:

“William, I really think Dirk has matured as a poet. I think he’s nearly ready to begin writing some decent prose.”


“I wish I was a poet. Poets can spend all day on one word. If I did that, people would think I was a slacker.”


“No I don’t think we should start the anthology with a poem. We don’t want Joe Sixpack to take one look at our book and think it’s all poetry and put it aside without reading word one. Hook ‘em with the fiction, then sic the poetry on ‘em”


“What’s with all the obscure Japanese shit?”


“Dirk, a prick’s a prick, and I don’t care if he did get nominated for a National Book Award; it was for poetry anyway, right?”

Go figure.

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