POETS AND POETRY
Poets write poems about poetry, and making poetry, and they give advice to people who might want to write poetry. Here are several.
Robert J. Conley
I am not a shaman
and my poems are not magic
how can I presume
by scratching out my thoughts
by this small act
how can I or anyone presume
to claim the knowledge
and the power that’s gained
by years of study
and by fasting sacrifice
and from holy visions?
If I believe in sin
then such a claim to me is sin.
Language is sacred
a gift from God
and its misuse is sinful.
A poem should be honest.
A man who tries a poem should be humble.
My poem might be a prayer
an offering or a joke
and it is sacred
only insofar as it is honest—
no more—no less.
RECIPE FOR BREAD
(for G. C.)
When I was taking a breadbaking class, I learned two important things. The first is how
not to follow recipes. I began the class taking careful notes, asking my teacher questions
like, "How much honey did you just add?" and always getting answers like, "a glob or so," and
feeling silly writing that down. I soon gave up the notebook, and with each loaf I baked, I
learned to trust the feel of the dough that told me to add more flour or water or to knead it
a little longer. I grew adventurous, throwing in a banana here or maybe more buttermilk there.
Some loaves turn out better than others, I admit, but each is different and a chance to try
something new. For the best bread comes not from precisely measuring 6 1/4 cups of flour
according to a cookbook but comes instead from following a recipe that's always changing, the
one in my hands and heart.
The second thing I learned is about myself. I like fresh bread for dinner, with lots of
butter and jam. I like wrapping a warm loaf in my mother's cotton fukin and bringing it to
a friend or neighbor. What I love most, though, is not the bread but the making--the sharp
smell of yeast filling the kitchen as I knead; being wrist-deep in sticky dough when the
phone rings and letting it ring; watching the dough rise and wanting to hurry it along but
just the same leaving it alone. The making is what keeps me attentive, always adding to
the dough or getting my hands in it or simply waiting for it. The first slice is barely
cut and tasted and already I'm thinking of what I'll do different, and better, with the
Writing poems is just like this.
ADVICE TO YOUNG WRITERS
One of the things I’ve repeated to writing
students is that they should write when they don’t
feel like writing, just sit down and start,
and when it doesn’t go very well, to press on then,
to get to that one thing you’d otherwise
never find. What I forgot to mention was
that this is just a writing technique, that
you could also be out mowing the lawn, where,
if you bring your mind to it, you’ll also eventually
come to something unexpected (“The robin he
hunts and pecks”), or watching the “Farm News”
on which a large man is referring to the “Greater
Massachusetts area.” It’s alrignt, students, not
to write. Do whatever you want. As long as you find
that unexpected something, or even if you don’t.
from Collected Poems by Ron Padgett
published by Coffee House Press.
Permission of Coffee House Press and Ron Padgett.
Joan Drew Ritchings
to put down
a few words
and if they
SOME POETRY SITES ON THE INTERNET
Garrison Keillor reads a poem every day and comments on writers
Poetry Daily A poem posted each day
Posts a new poem every day
A poem for each day of the school year selected by Billy Collins, former poet laureate.
Many links to poetry sites Access to Poetry Magazine
The website of the Academy of American Poets. Links to many poets and poems..
Links to many poems.
Books of poetry without going to the library.
Links to many poetry sites
Probably the largest collection of poems on the internet.