Why I’m not a great writer yet

reis 2012 026

To be a great writer, get a great critic. Work by the biggest names in literature was often greatly improved by a trusted friend or agent. A new book on William and Dorothy Wordsworth proves the point.

Poets write for themselves first, and often for their close friends second. Christopher Isherwood was the first audience for W H Auden’s early poems. He would tell him to strike out certain lines, and Auden even suggested, only half-jokingly, that some of the poems should really have been regarded as an anthology of Christopher’s favourite lines. Those who find Auden’s pre-war poetry better than his later stuff may think this is because Isherwood was no longer the poet’s first reader and first critic.

Allan Massie, The Telegraph 24 augustus 2013

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