Contributor Spotlight: T.N. Turner
Comments on Anti-Matter Diet & Being a Poet
Regarding me, or Anti-Matter Diet, I have little to say. Briefly, I looked back into my notes for Anti-Matter Diet. Started 5/8/2003 while driving to work, listening to lectures on particle physics. Completed 5/19/2003. Changed 10/28/2003, 5/2004. Finished again 6/2004, 8/2004, 9/2004, 6/2005, 10/2005. Changed 9/2008.
Process is critical. By rigorously maintaining a notebook of all versions of a poem, a poet is free to make changes, to destroy, knowing that wherever the mind-wind rightly, or falsely, blows, the poetry notebook always provides a compass home. A poet must always feel free to destroy, for great poetry, great Art, can only be created through destruction.
I’ve known poets so in love with their words that, once set down on paper, the words were sacrosanct, hallow, golden. Poets should never be so much in narcissist love with their words, phrases, or lines that they will not destroy them when they do not cohere 100% with a poem, to the detriment of the poem’s, and poet’s, integrity. Without continual destruction, a true work of Art cannot be created.
Often, I’ve deleted what I previously considered the best lines of a poem because, in the end, they did not contribute or cohere 100% to the poem—even ten years after the self-imposed completion of a poem!
Before working on a poem, I always copy the current version of the poem to the current version of my poetry notebook. The only way I'm free to destroy my own work prior to new creation is to save what I’ve previously done such that I can return to earlier versions if I so desire.
The most important thing to a writer is the organization and process necessary to the creation of true art—Art with a capital A.
I have 66 historical notebooks. When a notebook gets too big to print efficiently, I create a new notebook from a model. These notebooks are a golden treasury which can be mined for words, phrases, lines, and ideas for new poems.
95% of writing is garbage and must be tossed out in the cold, cruel light of dawn when dark green garbage trucks make their rounds—that is, tossed into a poetry notebook.
A poet must develop an absolutely unfailing, trustworthy, critical faculty, and must read their own work as an external, almost out-of-body, impersonal, literary critic, quick with the knife to slice out any garbage. This critical faculty can only be developed from close, long, study of the great masters of poetry, as well as reading great masters of literary criticism and art criticism.
Once, I wrote a poem 12 pages long, but, over time, after cutting out the garbage, the poem was only ¾ of a page.
Regarding Anti-Matter Diet itself, and my poetry in general, everything I write is social criticism. I don’t write for the fun of it, to cast out personal demons, to be a ‘poet,’ or to impress my few real friends. I write because I’m angry with the world.
I absolutely remember why I started writing poetry long ago: I wanted to read new poetry, but could not find any poetry after the death of Eliot, Frost, and Stevens that I liked to read. I started writing poetry so I could read a poem that I liked.
A poet should only write the unvarnished truth. Don’t pull punches. Don’t fall into the trap of being nice. Truth is brutal, even when humorous.
My notes say I finalized Anti-Matter Diet in 7/2012, but I know I changed it after that.
T.N. Turner's poem, "Anti-Matter Diet," appeared in Issue 56 of Hayden's Ferry Review.