Wisdom is knowing when you can't be wise.
A barn with cattle and horses is the place to begin Christmas; after all, that's where the original event happened, and that same smell was the first air that the Christ Child breathed.
Our small ears never had such a workout as on the Fourth of July, hearing not only our own bursting crackers but also those of our friends, and often the boom of homemade cannon shot off by daring boys of 16 years, ready to lose a hand if it blew up.
Soldiers of the American Revolution fought that 18th century war with heavy muskets. In the early 20th century, we kids fought it every Fourth of July not only with exploding powder and shimmering flares, but with all of our senses.
The sharpest memory of our old-fashioned Christmas eve is my mother's hand making sure I was settled in bed.
Touch was important. The evening of the Third of July we would go around the neighborhood and look at the fireworks others had bought, taking them out of the brown paper sack and handling them cautiously as if they were precious stones. There was envy when we saw sacks with more in them than we had.
The way to praise a poet is to write a poem.
Poetry is ordinary language raised to the Nth power. Poetry is boned with ideas, nerved and blooded with emotions, all held together by the delicate, tough skin of words.
Without vision you don't see, and without practicality the bills don't get paid.
To eat in the same room where food is cooked - that is the way to thank the Lord for His abundance.
Verse is not written, it is bled; Out of the poet's abstract head. Words drip the poem on the page; Out of his grief, delight and rage.
All families had their special Christmas food. Ours was called Dutch Bread, made from a dough halfway between bread and cake, stuffed with citron and every sort of nut from the farm - hazel, black walnut, hickory, butternut.
But maybe it's up in the hills under the leaves or in a ditch somewhere. Maybe it's never found. But what you find, whatever you find, is always only part of the missing, and writing is the way the poet finds out what it is he found.
Contrary to slanderous Eastern opinion, much of Iowa is not flat, but rolling hills country with a lot of timber, a handsome and imaginative landscape, crowded with constant small changes of scene and full of little creeks winding with pools where shiners, crappies and catfish hover.
I can still remember the feel in my hand of that most wonderful American coin ever minted, a nickel with a buffalo on one side and the head of an Indian on the other. That nickel was a daily proof of our country's past. Bring it back!
I grew up in the prolonged survival of the great age of the horse, with harness and saddle and sleigh bells and horse pictures, not as antiques but the facts of our lives.
I have published in 'The New Yorker,' 'Holiday,' 'Life,' 'Mademoiselle,' 'American Heritage,' 'Horizon,' 'The Ladies Home Journal,' 'The Kenyon Review,' 'The Sewanee Review,' 'Poetry,' 'Botteghe Oscure,' the 'Atlantic Monthly,' 'Harper's.'
I wanted to write poetry almost a little more than I wanted to eat.
When your first marriage goes into tragedy, you become very battle-scarred... I even thought of suicide. Luckily, I had known some happy marriages.
Every Christmas should begin with the sound of bells, and when I was a child mine always did. But they were sleigh bells, not church bells, for we lived in a part of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where there were no churches.