How to be a Poet

December 16, 2018

(to remind myself)

Make a place to sit down.
Sit down. Be quiet.
You must depend upon
affection, reading, knowledge,
skill—more of each
than you have—inspiration,
work, growing older, patience,
for patience joins time
to eternity. Any readers
who like your poems,
doubt their judgment.

Breathe with unconditional breath
the unconditioned air.
Shun electric wire.
Communicate slowly. Live
a three-dimensioned life;
stay away from screens.
Stay away from anything
that obscures the place it is in.
There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.

Accept what comes from silence.
Make the best you can of it.
Of the little words that come
out of the silence, like prayers
prayed back to the one who prays,
make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came.

Wendell Berry

soft graves

December 16, 2018

i wish
to dig
the cemeteries
of my lips
in hopes
of collecting
gnarled skeletons
of the words
i wish to speak

j. p. berame

called me something new

December 16, 2018

From that day forward she never used my name. Eventually I forgot it. She called me something new. She named me cruel and smirking, she named me not for beauty or for cleverness or for sweetness. She named me a thing I could aspire to but never become, the one thing I was not and could never be: Snow White.

Catherynne M. Valente
Six-Gun Snow White


December 16, 2018

Blades of grass stuck on our elbows, a hose of water trickling around a statue in the dirt. Do you understand? We’re almost fucking but we’re not. We’re all tongue. We’re all tongue down the glass, mouth open and taking. No, we’re not. We’re wasted on memory tonight. We’re fucking memories.

Lisa Marie Basile

Mary Magdalene is the madwoman – angry mad – in Christianity’s attic. She was hidden there because of an open and not fully appreciated secret, and its implications, at Christianity’s core: that the male disciples fled and the women did not.

Jane Schaberg
The Resurrection of Mary Magdalene

cannibalistic advice

December 16, 2018

Throughout life I have endeavoured to follow Ann Sexton’s cannibalistic advice:

“We must all eat sacrifices.
We must all eat beautiful women.”

And this morning I wake with the taste of you in my mouth, the scent of you on my face, following my midnight feast. We dance, we two, with each other’s spirits in the nighttime. But my lips have blistered from the fire living inside you – so, it would seem, I am both victim and plunderer?

Oh, well. I must again follow Ann Sexton’s advice:

“Take me back to that red mouth…”

Oh, yes, please –

Poetry, by its very nature, is defiant. It is spit in the eye of the oppressor. It is the defiance of lovers who will not waste a moment, knowing they may never see each other again on this earth. It is a single letter scrawled on a wall, a signal to the others. Every poem, by daring to hold and name a moment, defies death. The shortest poem is a name.

Poetry is the lonely, radical, precious expression of a single life. The singularity of the unique human soul who must cry out. Because of love, because of wounds, because of injustice, because of hunger, because of exile and migration, because of dispossession of every kind, because we have lost someone we love and cannot bear that loss, because night comes on and we are alone, because morning comes and blessedly our children are still safe asleep beside us, because the language the migrant speaks in the street is not the language in which he dreams, because parents sing lullabies in a language their children do not understand, because any moment we might die and—where do we belong? In the place we are born, or the place where we are buried, the place where we fall in love, the place where our children are born, the place where we made a catastrophic mistake…Poetry is born of all these things and everything else, it is the consuming subjective experience of the body, which ensures we are alone and never alone. Language keeps us inextricably entangled and inextricably separate. Just as a wall does not separate but binds two things together.

Poetry can be an ambush — the glint of a knife on a dark road —because it asks: how much is your life worth?

Poetry is insurrection, resurrection, insubordination—against amnesia of every sort, against every form of oppression, dispossession and indifference. And against the drowning noise of other words.

Poetry is a dispatch from the front. Because the ones who cry out cannot wait and have always had to wait in their urgency. Because love cannot wait—an entire life passes in a moment. Because we can say yes or we can say no. Under the wire, under the radar, or out across the desperate open space of a page.

Poetry suspends time. Poetry is time. Poetry gives us time.

Anne Michaels
A Definition of Fiction and Poetry
Infinite Gradation