Writing Advice from my Poetry Instructor Karl Shapiro



Although, I majored in Electrical Engineering and U.C.Davis…I minored in Mathematics and English.

I was lucky enough to have Putlitzer Prize Winner Karl Shapiro as a poetry instructor. In our first class meeting he said something along these lines and it really stuck with me and has influenced my explorations in writing, cartooning, as well as other creative endeavors.

And helped enable my making of a full-time living pursuing these things for 10 years,
before becoming an electrical engineer, which gave me the financial freedom to write only what I wanted to write…. and write for that audience of one.


It went something like this…Karl Shapiro…

If you are in this class to get published, win a Pultizer Prize in poetry, and to get rich and famous writing poetry, you’re in the wrong class. You don’t write poetry to become famous or make money. You write poetry because you love poetry and the gentle caress of well-chosen words in expressing yourself. Most of you will never be published on substantial basis, so write for an audience of one. You! Write for you! Write with honesty and if you work at it and practice hard enough you may find your voice and find you are able to please that audience of one. If you reach this level, you are a successful poet. If you should find an audience beyond your audience of one, that’s gravy. If you have been able to write something that pleases you, you are already a successful poet.

Thank you Karl.


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