A Letter To the World: When I Try To Write A Poem


…trying to create a shapely classical monument in words, leaning them against one another in a way that creates a permanant verbal structure.

…trying to extend my mind the way I extend my arm, making words the living extension of my mind.

…trying to incarnate, in words, the images which have formed themselves in my mind around the shape of reality

…trying to write with all my mental faculties, and not just with one or two.

…trying to say something so good that it can only be said beautifully.

…trying to defy death, destruction, disintegration, cynicism, doubt, contempt, disinterest, incoherence, hatefulness, indecency, licentiousness, nonsense, blasphemy, contrariness, and darkness of all kind.

…trying to compose the perfect combination of form, content, substance, and effect.

…trying to remind human beings of the music that runs around the roots of the Family tree.

…trying with all my might to join an ancient company of poetic practicioners in a way that the founders and greatest constructors of the art would not be ashamed of.

…trying to commit an act worthy of volitional intelligent feeling being whose substance is formed around the rational will of the Eternal Word.

…trying to speak to other beings of my kind about the things that matter most to us in our brief burning careers through time.


…trying to express myself

…trying to share my feelings

…trying to change the world

…trying to therapize myself by dumping my feelings, raw, unexamined, and unfiltered, on the page.

…trying to make people feel a shared sense of shame, guilt, or any other feelings that would make them more suggestible to cultural bullies.

…trying to induce approved social change.

…trying to excuse the fact that my poetry does nothing for the State by writing in a socially responsible way.

…trying to equalize good and bad, happy and sad, significant and pointless, high and low, shapely and shapeless, refined and monstrous, beautiful and ugly, true and false, or any other pair of opposites.

…trying to make other people constantly reconsider the apparent, thus keeping them in a perpetual state of delicious and indecisive imbalance.

…trying to write literature that revises life.

…trying to do anything that can be described with the formula “A as B.”

…trying to substitute process for product.

…trying to prove my superior self-awareness of my awareness of doing what I’m aware I’m doing.

…trying to publicly ask myself whether I can really say I’m doing it.

…trying to confuse the average self-satisfied complacent burgeois reader by making my art an occasion for the sort of public vulgarity he would never indulge in while implying that if he doesn’t abandon his principles to approve of my work he is lacking in sophisticated aesthetic sensibilities.

…or innovating myself off the edge of the cliff in any other of a wearying number of ways.

Just saying.

P.S.: Please don’t anyone tell me that I’ve written a poem here. This is not a poem. When I write a poem, you’ll know it. Thanks!


    • Heh, you would be justified in surmising that, Leah. However, what I find is that so much of a person gets into her poem, and a person is such a very good thing, that it’s unusual for me to wholly hate a poem, anyone’s poem.

      What I hate are the stupid things people say about poetry, the ways they justify or condemn it, the impoverished reasons they offer for writing or reading it, the pressures they put on it to live down to all the wrong things and their failure to ask it to live up to all the right things.


      • Ah. I had beginning to surmise so before this post, and then after it I thought I’d just go ahead and ask. (Full disclosure: I enjoy all three *quite* a bit, but not exclusively. My favorites also include Christina Rossetti, Milton, Hopkins, Tennyson, E. Barrett Browning, Dickinson, T.S. Eliot, Walt Whitman, Mary Oliver, and, lately– you! 🙂 )

        Personally, I’ve always tripped over my own feet when I’ve tried to define for myself the things a poem should or shouldn’t be doing, the “wrong things”, and the “right things”. I end up either over generalizing or else my rules filter out too many poems that are both powerful and skillfully composed. So I dropped the pursuit some years ago, and while doubtless my standards have continued to evolve, it’s been a bit more intuitive and wordless.

        Therefore your fearless articulations here had the effect of startling me into attention! I think I’ve read this post five times by now.


        • Although I didn’t put any timidity into my declaration, that doesn’t mean I didn’t write it without some accompanying feelings of trepidation! I had to go ahead and say it knowing full well that I might have to retract something or reconsider something. But it is a snapshot of where I’m at right now in my opinions.

          I like a lot of the poets you mentioned. 🙂


      • If you read the poem, you’ll notice she uses the word “breeder.” This is an offensive term, equivalant to the “N word,” that refers to a childbearing or childbegetting person.


      • I found that word offensive too-moreso than any of the others. It’s an awful poem, but you might be happy to know that she said this in an interview: “I can’t imagine simply writing more lyrical poems in the same register. I might give up the word altogether and focus more seriously on painting, folk art, photography.”


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