Writing can be a daunting task, especially for poets. Of all the possible things to say, how can it be pared down to a few simple words? South Carolina poet Starkey Flythe suggests thinking of it in terms of the ant and the elephant.
Flythe comes to Beaufort on Saturday to teach a poetry seminar. His focus is on thinking small as a means to conquer the most daunting task of all -- the blank page.
Flythe, an editor with the Saturday Evening Post, discusses how to think in terms of the ant.
Question. The title of your seminar is "The Ant and Elephant." What do you mean by that?
Answer. You should start with a very small topic. It's like any other exercise you do in writing, or even any exercise you do physically. You focus on a part of yourself first. This was an idea of how to reduce your thoughts.
Q. Do you find people are intimidated by writing poetry?
A. I always try to say we're always surrounded by poetry. If you go to church, you sing hymns. That's poetry. If you see a commercial, they sing a jingle for it. They use poetry as memory devices. Politicians come up with sound bites, a few words or phrases to get a point across. Essentially, it's poetry.
I go to rock concerts sometimes, often by mistake. The songs are poems. Everyone would suffer if poetry didn't exist. They just aren't away where that suffering would begin.
Q. What are you involved in nowadays?
A. I'm still involved with the Curtis Publishing Company (publisher of the Saturday Evening Post and other magazines). I have a book of short stories and book of poetry. I had a poem in The New Yorker in August. It was only the result of 50 years of trying.
Q. How long have you been writing?
A. I'm 150 so I've been writing forever (laughs). I was in the Army and I had a lot of spare time. I became serious then. I had an uncle who was an inspiration, Edison Marshall, who was a successful fiction writer. He lived in Beaufort for a bit. He lived on the Point, but he moved because the mail couldn't get out fast enough to get to the magazines. He had to move to a better postal zone.
Q. I saw you have a poem called "I once took a shower with Dan Rather." What is that about?
A. When I was working at Curtis Publishing years ago, Julie Nixon also worked there. The president was going to the Middle East. She said, "Would you like to go on a trip with Daddy." I said, "I'd love to go on a trip with Daddy." Of course, I was the odd man out of the press entourage -- Walter Cronkite and all those famous people were there. At one stop, they put us up in an old Army barracks. I was gong in to the shower and here comes Dan Rather in a towel. So, I sort of took a shower with Dan Rather.