if it doesn't come bursting out of you in spite of everything, don't do it. unless it comes unasked out of your heart and your mind and your mouth and your gut, don't do it. if you have to sit for hours staring at your computer screen or hunched over your typewriter searching for words, don't do it. if you're doing it for money or fame, don't do it. if you're doing it because you want women in your bed, don't do it. if you have to sit there and rewrite it again and again, don't do it. if it's hard work just thinking about doing it, don't do it. if you're trying to write like somebody else, forget about it. if you have to wait for it to roar out of you, then wait patiently. if it never does roar out of you, do something else. if you first have to read it to your wife or your girlfriend or your boyfriend or your parents or to anybody at all, you're not ready. don't be like so many writers, don't be like so many thousands of people who call themselves writers, don't be dull and boring and pretentious, don't be consumed with self- love. the libraries of the world have yawned themselves to sleep over your kind. don't add to that. don't do it. unless it comes out of your soul like a rocket, unless being still would drive you to madness or suicide or murder, don't do it. unless the sun inside you is burning your gut, don't do it. when it is truly time, and if you have been chosen, it will do it by itself and it will keep on doing it until you die or it dies in you. there is no other way. and there never was.
Crafting Chaos (223)
How on earth did it happen, I used to wonder that a whole city—arches, pillars, colonnades, not to mention vehicles and animals—had all one fine day gone under? I mean, I said to myself, the world was small then. Surely a great city must have been missed? I miss our old city — white pepper, white pudding, you and I meeting under fanlights and low skies to go home in it. Maybe what really happened is this: the old fable-makers searched hard for a word to convey that what is gone is gone forever and never found it. And so, in the best traditions of where we come from, they gave their sorrow a name and drowned it.
I'm working on a poem that's so true, I can't show it to anyone. I could never show it to anyone. Because it says exactly what I think, and what I think scares me. Sometimes it pleases me. Usually it brings misery. And this poem says exactly what I think. What I think of myself, what I think of my friends, what I think about my lover. Exactly. Parts of it might please them, some of it might scare them. Some of it might bring misery. And I don't want to hurt them, I don't want to hurt them. I don't want to hurt anybody. I want everyone to love me. Still, I keep working on it. Why? Why do I keep working on it? Nobody will ever see it. Nobody will ever see it. I keep working on it even though I can never show it to anybody. I keep working on it even though someone might get hurt.
The buzz-saw snarled and rattled in the yard
And made dust and dropped stove-length sticks of wood,
Sweet-scented stuff when the breeze drew across it.
And from there those that lifted eyes could count
Five mountain ranges one behind the other
Under the sunset far into Vermont.
And the saw snarled and rattled, snarled and rattled,
As it ran light, or had to bear a load.
And nothing happened: day was all but done.
Call it a day, I wish they might have said
To please the boy by giving him the half hour
That a boy counts so much when saved from work.
His sister stood beside them in her apron
To tell them "Supper." At the word, the saw,
As if to prove saws knew what supper meant,
Leaped out at the boy's hand, or seemed to leap—
He must have given the hand. However it was,
Neither refused the meeting. But the hand!
The boy's first outcry was a rueful laugh,
As he swung toward them holding up the hand
Half in appeal, but half as if to keep
The life from spilling. Then the boy saw all—
Since he was old enough to know, big boy
Doing a man's work, though a child at heart—
He saw all spoiled. "Don't let him cut my hand off—
The doctor, when he comes. Don't let him, sister!"
So. But the hand was gone already.
The doctor put him in the dark of ether.
He lay and puffed his lips out with his breath.
And then—the watcher at his pulse took fright.
No one believed. They listened at his heart.
Little—less—nothing!—and that ended it.
No more to build on there. And they, since they
Were not the one dead, turned to their affairs.
What are you able to build with your blocks? Castles and palaces, temples and docks. Rain may keep raining, and others go roam, But I can be happy and building at home. Let the sofa be mountains, the carpet be sea, There I'll establish a city for me: A kirk and a mill and a palace beside, And a harbor as well where my vessels may ride. Great is the palace with pillar and wall, A sort of a tower on top of it all, And steps coming down in an orderly way To where my toy vessels lie safe in the bay. This one is sailing and that one is moored: Hark to the song of the sailors on board! And see on the steps of my palace, the kings Coming and going with presents and things!
An unemployed machinist An unemployed machinist who travelled here who travelled here from Georgia from Georgia 10 days ago 10 days ago and could not find a job and could not find a job walked into a police station walking into a police station yesterday and said yesterday and said: "I'm tired of being scared I'm tired of being scared."
They didn't have much trouble teaching the ape to write poems: first they strapped him into the chair, then tied the pencil around his hand (the paper had already been nailed down). Then Dr. Bluespire leaned over his shoulder and whispered into his ear: "You look like a god sitting there. Why don't you try writing something?"
First, forget everything you have learned, that poetry is difficult, that it cannot be appreciated by the likes of you, with your high school equivalency diploma, your steel-tipped boots, or your white-collar misunderstandings. Do not assume meanings hidden from you: the best poems mean what they say and say it. To read poetry requires only courage enough to leap from the edge and trust. Treat a poem like dirt, humus rich and heavy from the garden. Later it will become the fat tomatoes and golden squash piled high upon your kitchen table. Poetry demands surrender, language saying what is true, doing holy things to the ordinary. Read just one poem a day. Someday a book of poems may open in your hands like a daffodil offering its cup to the sun. When you can name five poets without including Bob Dylan, when you exceed your quota and don't even notice, close this manual. Congratulations. You can now read poetry.
The sounds of the train piped in through the PA system. The whole city slightly askew but familiar in its shadows, its symmetrical brick, its dry hot breeze and its lack of pedestrians, save you. * The blinking message said: More alcohol is needed to achieve escape velocity * The salutations and styles erupting on the top few stairs, where service is mercifully restored and the world resumes its tangents and vectors, terrific possibilities processed by objects as small and dark as the eyes of a starling, constantly soaking up data and sending it back to Seattle, which sells it to Tokyo, which sells it to someplace else