“Love is the answer, and you know that for sure,” said John Lennon. I think he was on to something. Each and every time a poet writes or walks or thinks or sweeps the driveway he or she should be inventing a living kind of poetry. It’s up to you in spite of what they say. Poetry is a song of being. In this sense not only are all of us the poets, but everything is a poem just waiting to happen, to be translated by you. You’re never going to run out of inspiration, unless you only see things on the surface of their skins. A poet is like a scientist looking through a microscope or a telescope, likes to go deeper into the obvious until another dimension is revealed and explored. You can only do this much inspecting of your feelings with an open mind. Forget what you think you know. Explore your own deepest feelings, down to the other side and even out of them, until you see something amazing, write what is in your heart; remember to bring the love back with you. The poem is born out of your willingness to meet it face to face. This requires courage. I don’t want to gloss over this, or present it in a glib way, it is what it is: you must be brave. You will be tested. Temptation will come in the form of praise or awards or publishing, but you don’t have to be anything you don’t want to be. There is no other writer of poems like you—unless you are pretending or just writing things out of fear of rejection. That’s another ace up your sleeve, now you’ve got at least two going for you. Pretty cool, huh?
When I used to teach poetry at libraries and schools I always would begin by talking about the histories of poetry as passed down to us by those who had gone before. Now I think this is a very false place to start from. The only real place to begin to know what poetry means is the here and now, because either poetry is alive or it is dead. And if it’s not dead, why are you following it into the ground? Don’t get me wrong. I certainly admire and draw inspiration from the old poets I still love to read, but not because I want to be like them in any way, but because they were like I am now—curious about the giant language of living that is constantly singing its heart out all around me every minute of the day. I also used to hear some of my students always asking me for the tricks of the trade, show/ give/ slip us the coolest of writing poetry tricks, so we can memorize them for ourselves, because it will make things so much easier for us. No, I would say, it will only make you into tricky poets, make things harder for you in the end because you will end up measuring yourself against all others, you will make poems that are copies, you’ll end up Xeroxing your passions like grocery store coupons, and this I’m afraid will probably make you miserable, a phony to yourself, mundane. It’s a sellout. Poetry is no sell out. It’s the real deal. Or it’s a fake. A con. A job. A joke.
So you see it’s not as easy as you might think to talk about this, in fact it’s pretty hard, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth the discussion. But remember, I’m just one guy talking about something that millions of people have an opinion on. I could go on talking of course, but I think you’ve probably got enough to think about for now.