How do you explain the fact that poetry has changed so much? It seems to me that a lot of people want to be poets; they want to be poets for a very human reason; they want to get recognition, and if there’s no recognition, I think there would be a few poets. There’d be a few, perhaps, but not many. I hate to say it, but it’s true, at these writing conferences it’s all about fixing up a poem so it will sell. Nobody wants to talk about how a poem works, what its purpose is. They all want to deal with the outside of the poem. Does it look good? Should I take the left line out and put it over here? How should I make the rhythm correct and such. But hardly anybody talks about the strategies of poetry, or how you make poetry live, how to use concrete detail rather than similes, goddamned similes, the weakest kind of resource there is in poetry. People are so much in love with similes. It’s a pity. The mechanics of poetry have little to do with design. There’s no pressure, it seems to me, to write poems that matter today. Everybody wants to write poems that will be celebrated, but that doesn’t mean that they matter. Poetry has changed my life and I think it’s changed other peoples’ lives. I don’t see it changing people’s life today.
Full interview with Jack Gilbert here