‘Working for Surprise’ by Devin Kelly

Hannah Cohen

I don’t run a race to finish it. I run a race to dwell in the forever-encounter.

I love when craft essays go beyond the general type of “how to write a poem” and turn into a moving piece about the writer’s life and beliefs. An important voice in our poetry community, Devin Kelly has penned an extremely thoughtful and down-to-earth craft essay, one that I will print out and pin to my work corkboard. There is no bullshit wordiness to be found. Kelly even says, “I don’t think there is such a thing as a good poem” in the sense that we must think of the poem outside the world, that a good poem doesn’t mean it should be excluded from the prescription of old measures of practice and craft.

The real gem of this essay is in the following: “[T]here is a language of surprise and generosity that exists within the confines of the first draft.” I agree. As writers, we are always chasing after the immovable energy in a first draft of any written work, and Kelly locks in on that pure moment.

Cleaver Magazine