What I don’t like about writing is how hard it is: hard to get where I think I want to get to—hard to decide where I’m going and difficult to pull off what I think I’m trying to do. Right now I’m trying to do something that I have no idea whether I can actually manage. I’ve gotten this thing to a certain point but I need to transform it, bring it alive, make it move on its own, and so far it isn’t cooperating.
What I do like, sometimes, is that the act of writing itself reveals things to me by sending me in directions I didn‘t know I was going in or even could go in. It takes over, somehow—which I suppose means that trying to write opens up internal subterranean passageways I can’t access with my conscious, willing self. That’s why I find putting something away after starting it and returning to it after it’s gone cold can be so helpful. Suddenly, something is there that you don’t recognize as your own but that’s sometimes surprisingly interesting and challenging, something you might be able to work with. It’s by this wasteful, time-consuming process of digging, ignoring, and then slowly accruing that writing gets done for me. There’s no simpler, easier way. Which is what I hate about writing: it’s so hard.
—Jonathan Galassi’s most recent book is Left-Handed: Poems, which follows two earlier volumes, Morning Run and North Street. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and is an honorary chairman of the Academy of American Poets. He is also well-known as a translator of verse, especially that of Eugenio Montale. He is the president of Farrar, Straus & Giroux.