Traditional Publishing

Teaching William Zinsser to Write Poetry – Tuesday March 6, 2018

In the spring of 2012, I got a call from William Zinsser, asking if I thought I could teach him to write poetry. “Yes,” I replied, confident not so much in myself as in him: if Zinsser, the beloved nonfiction guru, the author of “On Writing Well” and eighteen other books, couldn’t be taught to write poetry, nobody could. There was just one catch: Bill was blind.

He wasn’t completely blind, not yet; he could still make out shapes and shadows. Progressive glaucoma had recently caused him to retire from writing prose, a practice he’d maintained, weekdays from nine to five, into his eighty-ninth year, working in a one-room office on East Fifty-fifth Street. Bill’s daily commute to that office—a half-mile walk—had become too harrowing.

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