“I have almost finished my longbook,” Maxine Hong Kingston declares. “Let my life as Poet begin…I won’t be a workhorse anymore; I’ll be a skylark.” To Be the Poet is Kingston’s manifesto, the avowal and declaration of a writer who has devoted a good part of her sixty years to writing prose, and who, over the course of this spirited and inspiring book, works out what the rest of her life will be, in poetry. Taking readers along with her, this celebrated writer gathers advice from her gifted contemporaries and from sages, critics, and writers whom she takes as ancestors. She consults her past, her conscience, her time—and puts together a volume at once irreverent and deeply serious, playful and practical, partaking of poetry throughout as it pursues the meaning, the possibility, and the power of the life of the poet.
A manual on inviting poetry, on conjuring the elusive muse, To Be the Poet is also a harvest of poems, from charms recollected out of childhood to bursts of eloquence, wonder, and waggish wit along the way to discovering what it is to be a poet.