What If I Don’t Like the Poem?

Last semester, Diana Goetsch, the 2017 Grace Paley Teaching Fellow, read an essay to the community that dropped jaws and brought tears. That essay, “Teaching William Zinsser to Write Poetry,” is now published at the New Yorker. Just a taste below, but go read the rest.

When I returned the next week, his dosage had been worked out, and he was back to his lucid self. I read aloud his poem from the week before, and he couldn’t for the life of him understand why I would praise it.

“What makes it good?” he wanted to know.

“It has space, Bill. And it’s not explaining or apologizing for itself.”

“What’s it about?” he asked.

“I think it’s about surrendering to something,” I said.

Bill sat with that for a while, then said, “What if I don’t like the poem?”

“That’s O.K.,” I said.



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