What I Remember the Writers Telling

What I Remember the Writers Telling Poem By William Meredith

Look hard at the world, they said—
generously, if you can
manage that, but hard. To see
the extraordinary data, you
have to distance yourself a
little, utterly. Learn the
right words for the umpteen kinds
of trouble that you’ll see,
avoiding elevated
generics like misery,
wretchedness. And find yourself
a like spectrum of exact
terms for joy, some of them
archaic, but all useful.
Sometimes when they spoke to me I
could feel their own purposes,
gathering. Language, the darkhaired woman said once, is like
watercolor, it blots easily,
you’ve got to know what you’re
after, and get it on quickly.
Everything gets watered
sooner or later with tears,
she said, your own or other
people’s. The contrasts want to
run together and must not be
allowed to. They’re what you
see with. Keep your word-hoard dry.

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