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“On a cold January morning, I once asked a fashionably dressed middle-aged woman, standing outside a building on Madison Avenue smoking a cigarette and shivering, whether she had a pen I could use. She didn’t think this was an odd request and was happy to oblige me. After she extracted a pencil not much bigger than a matchstick from her purse, I took out a little notebook I carried in my pocket, and not trusting the reliability of my memory, wrote down some lines of poetry I had been mulling over for the previous hour, roaming the streets. Today, she’d probably be staring at an iPhone or a blackberry while puffing away on her cigarette and it would not cross my mind to bother her by asking for a pencil.”

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source: New York Review of Books Blog, October 12, 2011.

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“Inside this pencil crouch words that have never been written.”

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source: “The Unwritten,” in The Second Four Books of Poems (Port Townsend, WA: Copper Canyon Press, 1993), 250–51.

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medium: poetry

“Wearing down seven number-two pencils is a good day’s work.”

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source: The Paris Review Interviews, vol. I (New York: Picador, 2006), 40.

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notes: Originally published in Issue 18 of The Paris Review, 1958.

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