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Poetry tip from John Williams (not the musician but the novelist)

John Williams is the late American writer (1922-1994) of the novel ‘Stoner’ billed as “the best novel you’ve never read.” How true. I came across this novel by accident, read it, loved it to bits, and I’ve been raving about Williams ever since. Again by accident and with a little help from Paul Hasler, I came across his fourth, most successful, and last novel, ‘Augustus’ an epistolary novel of the first Roman emperor and nephew of Julius Caesar. It couldn’t be more different from Stoner, an autobiographic novel about a poor farm boy who goes to university and never leaves. This may sound boring but it certainly isn’t; it’s the most fascinating book I’ve ever read.
Anyway, early in Augustus I came across the following quote about writing (poetry) quoted from the mouth of Horace,

“But the point is this: the end that I discover at last is not the end that I conceived at first. For every solution entails new choices, and every choice made poses new problems to which solutions must be found, and so on and on. Deep in his heart, the poet is always surprised at where his poem has gone.” I know this surprise.

Great stuff. Williams other two books ‘Nothing but the Night’ and ‘Butcher’s Crossing’ are yet to be found, but I’ll find them.

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