“Minds wiped calm as sea-leveled sands”

Child in the womb,
Or saint on a tomb —
Which way shall I lie
To fall asleep?
The keen moon stares
From the back of the sky,
The clouds are all home
Like driven sheep.

Bright drops of time,
One and two chime,
I turn and lie straight
With folded hands;
Convent-child, Pope,
They choose this state,
And their minds are wiped calm
As sea-leveled sands.

So my thoughts are:
But sleep stays as far,
Till I crouch on one side
Like a foetus again —
For sleeping, like death,
Must be won without pride,
With a nod from nature,
And a lack of strain,
And a loss of stature.

Philip Larkin. Via Maud Newton. Filed under: sleep.

Paris Review – The Art of Poetry No. 30, Philip Larkin

I think a young poet, or an old poet, for that matter, should try to produce something that pleases himself personally, not only when he’s written it but a couple of weeks later. Then he should see if it pleases anyone else, by sending it to the kind of magazine he likes reading. But if it doesn’t, he shouldn’t be discouraged. I mean, in the seventeenth century every educated man could turn a verse and play the lute. Supposing no one played tennis because they wouldn’t make Wimbledon? First and foremost, writing poems should be a pleasure. So should reading them, by God.

You’re probably better off if you can tolerate, or even enjoy, your own mediocrity as long as it takes to get something made. What’s obvious to you could be amazing to others. And fortunately, whether it’s good or bad, joy’s soul lies in the doing.

Paris Review – The Art of Poetry No. 30, Philip Larkin