Paul Harding

The renowned copy editor from The Atlantic and the author of In Conversation and Word Court discusses the art of editing and the sanctity of getting it right.

Simon Perchik is a man of many words, in verse and in the law, but he also shared some thought on his long career with Mount Hope’s Lauren Calabrese.


MH: I was reading that you were from Paterson, NJ and went on to earn your B.A. in English and a law degree from NYU all while writing poetry. What was it like writing poetry in New York City during the late 40s and early 50s, and how has that changed, if at all, for you now in 2018?


SP: “Writing poetry in the late 40s and early 50s while living in the Village was quite exciting. I was attending NYU and it seemed like the Village (where the campus was located) was the place to be. 


MH: Were you as prolific in your work as you are at this age? 


SP: I didn’t write that many poems. There were several literary magazines and I could hang out with those guys. Fast forward to 1980 and I retired and was writing poetry every day, 6 to 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year. To this day that’s my schedule. 


MH: How have you been able to maintain that output of work? 


SP: I just exploded and still am. What helps is that I don’t have to wait for inspiration. I can force the idea for the poem by comparing the image in a photograph with a contradictory image or idea from myth or science. And then I resolve the two.” 


MH: You talked about how now when you write poetry you don’t have to wait for inspiration, did you find inspiration to be a struggle when writing poetry in the past and how did you combat this? 


SP: “When I lived in the Village during those years I didn’t write much. But in the late 50s or early 60s, I met a photographer whose work I really liked. It was then that found a way not to depend on inspiration but be inspired by being absorbed in the process of reconciling a photo with a seemingly irreconcilable idea from myth. The inspiration rose out of that effort. So I would never need to look further than the photo and the myth. My subconscious did all the work.” 


For more information, including free e-books, his essay titled “Magic, Illusion and Other Realities” please visit his website at